The books and movies we’re gifting this year

Having somehow made it through a second year of global pandemic and political unrest, give the loved ones on your holiday shopping list the greatest gift of all: an alternative to doom-scrolling. In Engadget’s 2021 Media Gift Guide you’ll find a diverse selection of books — fiction and nonfiction alike — as well a host of streaming content suggestions that will keep their recipients entertained through the holidays and beyond. If you’ve got a book, show or movie that you think would make the perfect present, tell us all about it in the comments below!

Fiction

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Books and other media for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

NYT bestselling author, Rebecca Roanhorse — the literary force behind Star Wars: Resistance Reborn — has done it again. Her latest fantasy series, Between Earth and Sky, takes readers on an epic journey of trauma, healing, vengeance, and eventual redemption. The first book in the series, 2020’s Black Sun, weaves a masterfully engrossing — and markedly inclusive — tale that eschews the common Arthurian Legend retellings in favor of a unique fantasy world inspired by pre-Columbian America cultures. If you’ve got a fan of fantasy on your holiday shopping list, pick up Black Sun for them before the sequel, Fevered Star, drops next April.

Buy Black Sun at Amazon - $13

Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

The ending of Game of Thrones was nothing short of a slap in the face to fans. I mean, really, all that and Bran wins? GTFOH. If you’ve got a fan of George “Double R” Martin on your holiday shopping list, do them a favor and turn them on to Joe Abercrombie’s Age of Madness trilogy. Set in a world in which the seeds of industrialization have just taken hold even as the age magic and mysticism stubbornly refuses to be uprooted, AoM tells a tale of mighty nations at war while the powerful elites who rule them vie for control over both their countries’ external fates and their courts’ internal politics. Packed with captivating characters, political intrigue, incredible reversals of fortune and stunning betrayals, Age of Madness is a grimdark masterpiece where everybody, for once, gets exactly what they deserve.

Buy Age of Madness trilogy at Amazon - $35

1414º by Paul Bradley Carr

Books and other media for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Whether we like it or not, this is Jeff Bezos’ world and the rest of us just live in it. Our current slate of 21st century techno-robber barons have achieved unfathomable wealth and unassailable power; but as Paul Bradley Carr’s latest novel, 1414º, illustrates, you can’t spend that money or wield that influence when you’re dead. If you’ve got a fan of high-tension whodunnits and techno-thrillers on your holiday shopping list, 1414º will be a surefire hit.

Buy 1414º at Amazon - $5

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

Books and other media for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Martha Wells can’t stop, won’t stop, dropping Murderbot hits. The reigning queen of hard sci-fi released Fugitive Telemetry — the sixth book in her Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Alex Award winning series — earlier this year and let me tell you from experience, it is a banger. Our self-aware SecUnit anti-hero is back in another standalone adventure, this time on the trail of a vicious murderer aboard Preservation (space) Station. If the sci-finatic on your holiday shopping lists enjoys space intrigue and robotic mysteries, you can’t go wrong with Fugitive Telemetry.

Buy Fugitive Telemetry at Amazon - $12

Undying Mercenaries series by B.V. Larson

The year is 2052 and Earth finds itself unwillingly annexed into a galactic empire it didn’t even know existed and is presented with a simple choice: provide our new alien overlords with a viable commercial product or face extermination. Thus, Earth’s mercenary legions are born. Armed with alien-made weaponry and a mysterious technology that allows soldiers to be reconstructed after being killed in battle — like reloading from a previous save point but far more gooey — Earth’s legions set out across the stars to fight the wars that the galaxy’s elder races are too self-important to fight themselves. Already 16 books deep, author B.V. Larson continues to lead the genre of military sci-fi from the front, so if you’ve got a fan of Starship Troopers, Aliens-style space marines, or Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow on your holiday shopping list, congrats! You can cross them off now.

Buy Undying Mercenaries series (16 books) at Amazon - $110

Nonfiction

Young girl reading a robotics book in a library. Okayama, Japan
JGalione via Getty Images

Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond by Ashley Jean Yeager

Far from a household name, astronomer Vera Rubin’s pioneering research helped convince the scientific community of the possibility that dark matter — the mysterious materials that make up a vast majority of the universe but cannot be observed — actually exists. In Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond (not to be confused with Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, a collection of Rubin’s own essays), author Ashley Jean Yeager takes readers on an inspiring biographical journey through the astronomer’s early year before examining the challenges she faced working in an often hostile, male-dominated field, and her eventual vindication and professional triumphs — looking at you Vera C. Rubin Observatory. If you’ve got a younger someone on your holiday shopping list who’s interested in pursuing STEM, this could well be the book that puts them on a path towards scientific greatness.

Buy Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond at Amazon - $15

N-4 Down by Mark Piesing

During the Zeppelin’s heyday, airships weren't just a means of the well-to-do to slowly get to distant destinations in comfort and luxury, they also offered a new means of (albeit pokey) exploration. N-4 Down by Mark Piesing takes readers on a thrilling, nail-biting adventure of the largest arctic rescue operation in history as famed Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, rushed to save the surviving crew of the airship Italia, which crashed during its attempt to land men at the North Pole in 1928. The history and aeronautical buffs on your holiday shopping list are going to absolutely love it.

Buy N-4 Down at Amazon - $15

Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert

For the last 10,000 years, humanity has had an unprecedented and largely destructive impact on the environment around us. But as climate change increasingly wreaks its own havoc on us in return, humanity must now work to reverse or at least mitigate the harm that we have caused. In Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert examines just what we can do to make things right with Mother Earth and avoid a catastrophic climate crisis.

Buy Under a White Sky at Amazon - $13

The Quiet Zone by Stephen Kurczy

Books and other media for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Green Bank, West Virginia is, technologically speaking, stuck in the 1950s. And for good reason! This bucolic Appalachian town is home to the ultra-sensitive radio telescope at the Green Bank observatory, which necessitates that basically every device that can emit a radio signal — everything from iPads to microwaves — be heavily restricted. In The Quiet Zone, journalist and author Stephen Kurczy, embeds himself in Green Bank to give readers a firsthand look at what life could be like without our precious digital tech. The Quiet Zone is the perfect gift for the aspiring luddite on your holiday shopping list.

Buy The Quiet Zone at Amazon - $13

Streaming

Young woman watching tv on her laptop in bed at night.
thianchai sitthikongsak via Getty Images

Given the myriad COVID-induced supply chain challenges that retailers are girding for this upcoming holiday season, finding physical copies of these titles could prove to be a bit of a challenge. So, perhaps consider gifting the book worms on your holiday shopping list the Kindle Paperwhite and a subscription to Amazon Kindle Unlimited? Virtually every one of the books listed above are available on the digital service along with millions of others as well as magazines and periodicals.

But there’s only so much one can read during those long winter nights so why not curl up on the couch with a nice cup of hot cocoa and watch some sterling examples of our new Golden Age of Television? If you’ve got a Trekkie on your holiday shopping list, you really can’t go wrong with a subscription to Paramount+. The $5 - $10 a month service unlocks a plethora of Star Trek shows including the Emmy award-winning Picard and the hilarious Lower Decks.

For the cinephile on your list, assuming you can’t get your hands on the upcoming Criterion 4K collections, an HBO Max subscription works just as well. For $10 a month, you’ll give the gift of a massive movie selection as well as popular weekly news and interview series like Pause with Sam Jay and This Week Tonight with John Oliver, not to mention incredible documentaries like Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street.

Got someone with small children on your gift list? Throw them a bone with a Disney+ subscription. The service hosts nearly the entirety of Disney’s massive, decades-deep archives along with new family-friendly series and episodes arriving daily.

The best digital gifts to send your friends and family

In a world where so much of our lives revolve around digital services, giving someone a virtual gift no longer has a stigma attached to it. For gadget-lovers who seemingly have everything, or someone getting an exciting new piece of hardware this holiday, digital gifts can help them get even more out of things they own and love. This year, we’re including time-tested music and TV streaming services, some game subscriptions and practical options like learning services to keep your brain both calm and limber just as the new year gets here.

Apple One

Apple One
Apple

If you know someone with multiple Apple devices, chances are good they’re already paying for a little bit of iCloud storage, and maybe a few other Apple services like Music or Arcade as well. If that’s the case, consider gifting them an Apple One subscription. In a single monthly charge, Apple offers a combo of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and either 50GB, 200GB, or 2TB of iCloud storage. If you spring for the $19.95 Family plan, that 200GB can be shared with five other family members. The $29.95 plan adds subscriptions to Apple News+ and Apple Fitness+ too. At this point, all of Apple’s offerings are pretty good – Arcade has a load of fun games with no ads, TV+ has Ted Lasso, and Music is second only to Spotify in the streaming world.

Buy Apple One starting at $15

Xbox Game Pass

Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Microsoft

Getting an Xbox Series X or Series S this holiday season is likely going to be difficult. But if you know someone who managed to get their hands on Microsoft's latest console, Xbox Game Pass is an outstanding addition to their new console. A $15/month subscription offers more than 100 games that can be played on the Xbox or PC, and they can be streamed to phones and tablets as well.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes a number of other perks, including Xbox Live Gold. That's usually $10 a month on its own, and it's a requirement if you want to play games online. It also includes EA Play, which opens up access to more games for the Xbox and PC. Perhaps the best part of Xbox Game Pass, though, is that it offers access to first-party Xbox Game Studios titles the day they're released, so you don't even have to purchase them. For an Xbox owner, it's a no-brainer. If the person you’re shopping for is a PlayStation owner, PlayStation Now offers access to hundreds of streaming games for $60/year (or $10/month), while Nintendo’s Switch Online unlocks online play and a large selection of NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis and N64 games for $50/year.

Buy Xbox Game Pass at Microsoft - $15/monthBuy PS Now (12 months) at Amazon - $60Buy Switch Online (12 months) at Amazon - $20

YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / YouTube

There's something for everyone on YouTube — and there are also enough ads to make watching it pretty painful. Shrewdly, YouTube offers a solution. A $12/month subscription removes the ads, but there are a number of other benefits as well. If you're watching on a phone or tablet, you can download basically any video and save it for offline playback. Videos also can play in the background, which means you can switch to other apps without stopping. This comes in handy for picture-in-picture, or if you just want to hear the audio while you switch away to send a text message.

Premium also comes with a subscription to YouTube Music, the company's competitor to Spotify and Apple Music. It's a pretty solid service, and it does a few things that Apple and Spotify can't offer. For example, all of YouTube's music video content lives alongside its standard streaming catalog, which means users can build playlists that combine videos uploaded to YouTube alongside official artist releases. For $12, the combination of a better YouTube experience and a full-fledged music streaming app is a pretty good deal.

Buy YouTube Premium - $12/month

The Disney Bundle

The Disney Bundle, showing logos and images of popular shows.
Disney

Disney's $14/month video bundle that includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu is a great digital gift for basically anyone who likes good entertainment. The appeal of Disney+ is well-known at this point: it includes basically all of Disney and Pixar's classic animated films, alongside basically everything in the Marvel cinematic universe, the entire Star Wars saga, and new original shows like WandaVision, The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch and more.

Hulu offers a vast slate of current and classic TV shows, a solid rotating selection of feature films, and a growing roster of originals. Those include The Handmaid's Tale, Little Fires Everywhere, Veronica Mars, Shrill, Pen15 and plenty more. ESPN+, meanwhile, offers a host of live sports, including MLB games every day of the season, a wide variety of soccer leagues, golf, tennis and college games across multiple sports. Add in ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary library and a smattering of originals and the Disney bundle ends up being a great option for almost anyone — and it’s only $6 more than Disney+ on its own.

Buy Disney Bundle - $14/month

HBO Max

HBO Max
HBO Max

HBO Max might not have the best app we've ever used, but it does have one of the biggest and best video libraries you can find. Its collection of original shows and films is still unrivaled in a lot of ways, from classics like The Wire and The Sopranos to newer hits like Mare of Easttown and Succession. The service also has a huge movie library, and lately it’s offered a number of movies at the same time as their theatrical release. For example, The Matrix Resurrections is going to hit HBO Max just a few days before Christmas and will stream there for a month. Speaking of new HBO content, Curb your Enthusiasm is coming back to HBO for an 11th season this fall. And if you're a DC fan, HBO Max has all of the classic Batman movies (including the Dark Knight Trilogy and Michael Keaton's two films) as well as more recent films like Aquaman, Wonder Woman and, of course, the infamous Synder Cut of Justice League. Oh yeah, it has Friends, too.

Buy HBO Max starting at $10/month

Headspace

The Headspace app seen on smartphones.
Headspace

Chances are good that, after the year we've all had, you know someone whose mental health could use a little bit of a boost. The Headspace app is a great option for adding some peace and quiet to the day. It features a wide variety of guided meditations, including sessions for beginners as well as specific exercises that focus on reducing anxiety, learning breathing techniques, increasing your compassion and so on. It also has sleep tools like soothing music and "sleepcasts,” while other audio programs center on focusing, moving more, and starting your day. For $13/month or $70/year, Headspace can be a great tool to bring someone much-needed peace of mind.

Buy Headspace - $13/month

Endel premium subscription

Endel
Endel

Endel is a unique app in the focus and mental wellness space. In a nutshell, it plays algorithmically-generated soundscapes for a variety of different scenarios. Whether you're actively on-the-go, want to get some work done, need to relax, or get some sleep, Endel will produce a soundtrack to help you achieve your goal.

If you give it permission to collect data from your phone (and Apple Watch, if you have one), it can adjust its soundscapes based on things like your heart rate, time of day, location, weather, and so on. Endel is also frequently adding scenarios — recently, the company added study and recovery, and it also has something called an AI Lullaby that was created in partnership with Grimes. At $10 per month or $60 per year, it's a solid relaxation tool, and I've also found it to be particularly useful as a soundtrack when you want to just sit down and focus on a craft, like writing or art.

Buy Endel Premium - $10/month

Codecademy

Code Academy for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Code Academy

If you know someone interested in making a jump into coding, or a coder looking to augment their existing knowledge, a subscription to Codecademy could be a big help. A $240 annual subscription (or $40/month) opens up a huge catalog of courses, including things like a career path for front-end engineering, learning JavaScript or Python, digging into development or data science and many other options. Along with these courses, Codecademy also connects you with a large community for support and feedback, gives you real-world projects to test your skills on and offers completion certificates. It's a bit of an investment, but helping someone you care about invest in themselves is very much in the spirit of the holidays.

Buy Codecademy - $240/year

Skillshare

Skillshare
Skillshare

In the same vein as Code Academy, Skillshare is a great option if you know someone who wants to jumpstart their abilities in a creative field. The service offers thousands of classes in topics like animation, creative writing, graphic design, photography, web development and music, as well as courses to improve skills like leadership and management, marketing or business analytics. A $180 annual subscription (or $32/month, each with a free month included) unlocks ad-free classes with unlimited access to everything Skillshare has to offer. The subscription also includes access to Skillshare's community and offline courses for your phone or tablet. Finally, a subscription includes some perks of its own, like 20 percent off Squarespace and 15 percent off Adobe Creative Cloud.

Buy Skillshare - $15/month

Parallels Toolbox

Parallels Toolbox
Parallels

Parallels Toolbox is a great gift for the tinkerer in your life. You know, the kind of person who wants to tweak and optimize everything they can on their computer, so that everything works just right. For $20/year, Parallels Toolbox offers a surprisingly wide variety of utilities for macOS and Windows, including shortcuts to see your clipboard history, capture screens shots, convert video files, download audio from websites, resize images, and and many more. Most of these things can be done using built-in utilities or other apps, but having such a wide variety of quick and useful tools right in one place can be a major productivity boon, especially for the power user in your life.

Buy Parallels Toolbox - $20/year

1Password

The 1Password app seen on a laptop screen.
1Password

If you know someone who doesn't use a password manager, do them a huge favor and get them set up with 1Password this holiday season. It's one of the best options available: it works on unlimited devices and is available on pretty much any platform you can think of. Naturally, it features two-factor authentication for additional security, and gives you 365 days to restore any passwords you may have deleted. It's $36 a year for an individual, or $60 a year for a family of five. That family membership can be particularly useful if you need to share account passwords between members of a household securely. It's not the flashiest gift, but I wager that once you get someone on board, they'll wonder how they went so long without using it.

Buy 1Password - $36/year

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan

Adobe Photography / Lightroom plans for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Adobe

For the budding photographer in your life, Adobe’s photography plans are a natural fit. Adobe has been in this game for years, and Lightroom remains an excellent tool for managing and editing photos anywhere you are.

The company offers a few different plans: For $10/month, you can get both Lightroom and Photoshop, along with 20GB of cloud storage to sync images and edits across your devices. For the same price, you can also get Lightroom only, but with a whopping 1TB of storage. If the person you're gifting this to has been really good, you can spend $20 and get them both Photoshop and Lightroom alongside 1TB of storage, which is ideal for anyone shooting photos in RAW. The plans with Photoshop also include Photoshop for the iPad, so keep that in mind if you're getting this for someone who loves Apple's tablet.

Buy Adobe CC Photography plan starting at $10/month

The best board games to gift this holiday season

Board games are a great gift for anyone who wants to spend time with friends and family without staring at the TV. They’re interactive, fun, and you get to tell everyone to put away their phones and tablets for a while. But instead of pulling out the same old classics like Monopoly and Scrabble, we recommend giving some new titles a try. Here, we’ve compiled a list of games that you might not have heard of, but will still make excellent gifts this holiday season. Some are perfect for fantasy and video game nerds, while others are likely to be a hit with the whole family.

Trails: A Parks Game

The Trails board game for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Keymaster Games

Trails is a great little board game for anyone who loves hiking or even just the idea of it. In Trails, players hike on picturesque nature paths while gathering resources, taking pictures and encountering wildlife, earning points along the way. Whoever gets the most points wins. The art in this game is beautiful, featuring 11 national park illustrations from the Fifty-Nine Park Print series. Trails makes an especially great game for nature lovers, as a portion of every game sale is donated to the National Park Service.

Buy Trails at Target - $20

Sleeping Gods

The Sleeping Gods board game for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Red Raven Games

If your loved one is a fan of open-world video games such as Skyrim or No Man’s Sky, Sleeping Gods could well be the perfect board game for them. In this cooperative game, you and up to three friends play the part of Captain Sofi Odessa and her crew, who find themselves lost in the Wandering Sea. With a game atlas of connecting maps and a thick choose-your-own-adventure style storybook, players will have to explore the land to uncover its secrets, fight beasts, complete quests and make game-changing decisions. It all adds up to an engrossing and immersive experience sure to please anyone who loves a good story.

Buy Sleeping Gods at Amazon - $85

Marvel United

The Marvel United board game for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / CMON

MCU fans will definitely appreciate it if you give them Marvel United, a game where the player and their friends have to work together to defeat the forces of evil. They can take on the role of one of seven heroes such as Captain America, Iron Man and Black Widow, each with their own unique powers and abilities. To win, players must choose their cards carefully and also collaborate with their partners to combine each other’s actions whenever possible. They’ll have to fight off henchmen, rescue civilians and, of course, take down one of three super villains: Red Skull, Ultron or Taskmaster. If X-Men is more their style, you could get them the Marvel United: X-Men version instead, where they get to play as characters like Professor X, Cyclops and Storm.

Buy Marvel United at Amazon - $35

Canvas

The Canvas board game for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Road to Infamy

Canvas is perhaps one of the prettiest board games we’ve ever seen — it’s so lovely that we almost want to hang the cover on a wall. It’s apropos because in Canvas, players are painters in an art competition. They collect art cards, layering them on top of one another to create their own unique “painting.” As they do so, certain icons will be revealed or hidden, which will determine the resulting score, depending on the objectives for that round. It might sound confusing, but Canvas is a beginner friendly game that should make a great gift for art lovers of all stripes.

Buy Canvas at Amazon - $45

Space Invaders

The  Space Invaders board game for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Buffalo Games

Space Invaders is an enjoyable dexterity game for the whole family, even for those who don’t remember playing the classic arcade title of the same name. In this game, players have to work together to defeat descending aliens plus the UFO mothership before their health runs out. But instead of smashing buttons, they’ll take turns launching battle tokens with a mini catapult, and each player has a special ability they can deploy as well. It all adds to a bunch of silly fun that anyone aged eight and up can partake in.

Buy Space Invaders at Target - $20

Summer Camp

The  Summer Camp board game for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Buffalo Games

Another excellent family game is Summer Camp, which will have your loved ones recalling fond memories of canoeing, making friendship bracelets and roasting marshmallows. In this game, players are racing against each other to earn merit badges in different categories such as adventure, arts and crafts, cooking, friendship, outdoors, games and water sports. They’ll want to buy the right cards, build the best combos and beat their opponents across the finish line to get the most points possible. It might not be as fun as actually being at summer camp, but hey, at least they won’t get eaten by mosquitos while playing.

Buy Summer Camp at Target - $25

Summoner Wars 2nd Edition

The Summoner Wars 2nd Edition board game for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Plaid Hat Games

If your loved one isn’t new to the world of tabletop gaming, then consider giving them Summoner Wars 2nd Edition, a tactical dueling card game that pits them against a rival to see which one will reign supreme. Players take on the role of powerful summoners that each control a large army of units in the form of cards, which are then placed in a head-to-head board. They also choose one of six different factions, each with unique attacks and moves. Some wield dark magic that can drain enemies, while others utilize brute strength to force their way through. If they’re really into combat games with a lot of tactics and strategy, Summoner Wars would make a thoughtful gift. The only downside is that you'll have to gift this a bit late as it comes out on January 12, 2022.

Buy Summoner Wars at Amazon - $49

Wrath of the Lich King: A Pandemic System Board Game

The World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Pandemic Game board game for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Z-Man Games

For those who are really into World of Warcraft but might not have a lot of board gaming experience, Wrath of the Lich King: A Pandemic System Board game is the perfect introduction to the pastime. Based on a WoW expansion of the same name, players will take on the roles of legendary characters such as Thrall, Varian Wrynn, Sylvanas Windrunner, Tirian Fordring and Jaina Proudmoore, all of which will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played WoW. They’ll travel around the frozen continent of Northrend, completing quests and setting up strongholds in order to defeat armies of the undead and, eventually, the Lich King himself.

Why the long name? Well, the game utilizes similar mechanics found in Pandemic, a much beloved board game about eradicating the world of diseases. Those who are already familiar with Pandemic should be able to learn the game quite easily as a result, though Wrath of the Lich King has enough differences that it won’t feel like the same thing.

Buy Wrath of the Lich King at Target - $60

Cuphead: Fast Rolling Dice Game

The Cuphead Fast Rolling Dice Game board game for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Cuphead

One of the most popular video games in 2017 was Cuphead, a run-and-gun style video game that features a hand-drawn 1930s art style. If you know someone who loved it when it came out, they might be interested in this card and dice version of the same game. Players play as Cuphead, Mugman, Elder Kettle or Ms. Chalice, and will attempt to defeat a gauntlet of bosses by rolling dice. Players can roll the dice as many times as they want per round, but there’s one problem: the time limit. It all adds up to a chaotic experience that really emulates the insane adrenaline rush of the original video game.

Buy Cuphead at The Op - $50

The best tech toys for kids

It may have been another long year, but the holidays are finally approaching — and, with supply chain issues plaguing retail, it’s best to get your shopping done sooner rather than later. This year we’re all a little burnt out on screens, so the best gifts for kids are things they can hold. But, since this is Engadget, we’re always looking for that tech angle. This year’s crop of tech toys for kids is mostly grounded in the real world, with a few electronic twists to surprise and delight.

Miles Morales in Winter Suit Funko Pop

Funko Miles Morales in Winter Suit for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Funko

It’s always good to grab a few stocking stuffers, and Funko makes figures from what feels like every pop culture property on earth. Around here we’re partial to the video game ones, of course, and what’s more festive than this adorable Spider-Man all dressed up for the cold weather? It’ll look great while also adding a bit of geeky holiday cheer to someone’s bookshelf or desk.

Buy Miles Morales Funko Pop at Amazon - $11

Hasbro Lightsaber Forge

Kidds with the Hasbro Lightsaber Forge for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Hasbro

For kids who aren’t old enough to build their own lightsaber at Disney’s Galaxy Edge, this kit from Hasbro might be the next best thing. Not only is it way more affordable, but it’s also quite durable, allowing kids and adults alike to reenact their favorite Jedi versus Sith battles with gusto. Best of all, a child can rebuild their lightsaber again and again using different parts, so they can have a customized weapon that fits their mood each day.

Buy Lightsaber Forge at Walmart - $15

R2-D2 Tamagotchi

Star Wars™ R2-D2™ Tamagotchi for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Maybe taking care of a small creature was just too stressful for your kid, and you’ve had to console them many a time when the little ghost floating above a tombstone appears. Well, now Tamagotchi has a special astromech droid they can take care of instead, one they have to clean and play a variety of mini-games with. If they don’t take care of little R2, the Jawas will take him away which might still be a bummer but hey, maybe they’ll sell him off to a local moisture farmer with a thirst for adventure.

Buy R2D2 Tamagotchi at Amazon - $20

Spin Master Purse Pets

Purse Pets for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Spin Master

Kids are cute, but also weird and quirky, so why not get the child in your life something that reflects the more wild side of their personality? Purse Pets are basically living bags that can hold stuff but also blink, purr and even blow kisses at a child when it’s happy. It’s a real eye-catching accessory, one that will have them feeling like they’re on the runway — especially when you activate the Purse Pet’s runway music.

Buy Purse Pets at Amazon - $25

Mattel Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll

The Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Barbie first went to space way back in 1965 and, while she’s had plenty of spacesuits over the decades, none have been as realistic as this one. That’s because this one is based on real-life space explorer Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut who was once the record holder for the longest space flight by a woman. Your kids can reenact her various scientific experiments in space with the doll, then cheer on the real-life Cristoforetti next year as she commands ISS Expedition 68.

Buy Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll at Amazon - $30

Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel

Brio's Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel Station for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Brio

It feels like an unwritten rule that every child has to have one of those wooden train and track sets. Why not spice things up a bit by adding in this tech-enabled station that signals the included train to stop and flash its lights, just like the real thing. If your kid is a railfan you can even use the free Smart Tech Sound app to change the sounds to those from famous systems like London, Paris or Berlin.

Buy Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel at Amazon - $45

Enchanting Hedwig

The Enchanting Hedwig (owl from Harry Potter) for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

We were all super jealous of Harry Potter when Hagrid presented him with a lovely snowy owl who would become his mail carrier and friend. However, in real life owls can be pretty messy and aren’t as affectionate. So why not get your loved ones this interactive, life-sized replica instead? She loves to be petted and while she can’t fly, she can safeguard letters for you, only releasing them to people who have the secret code.

Buy Enchanting Hedwig at Amazon - $40

Got2Glow Fairy Finder

Got2Glow Fairy Finder for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Got2Glow Fairy Finder may look like a slightly fancier mason jar, but it has a special electronic twist. When you open the lid, a fairy will “fly” inside and show up on the front screen. What kind of fairy? It depends on how a child holds the jar and how bright the room is. There are 100 different magical creatures to collect and trade with their friends, so it should keep your kids active and busy for a while.

Buy Got2Glow Fairy Finder at Amazon - $50

Hot Wheels Mario Kart Vehicle Pack

Hot Wheels Mario Kart Glider Vehicle Pack for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Mattel

Your child may not be old enough to drive a real car, but chances are they’ve taken a few spins around Rainbow Road in Nintendo’s Mario Kart video games. And even if they haven’t, they’ll still enjoy playing with the whimsical vehicles from the series, recreated in 1/64-scale so they can fit in the palm of a kid’s hand. All the favorites are here, from Mario to Yoshi and even the often-forgotten Waluigi. Some of the karts even include gliders so kids can simulate some of the more treacherous jumps like Peach’s Castle.

Buy Mario Kart Vehicle Pack at Amazon - $55

LEGO Adventures with Luigi Starter Course

LEGO Adventures with Luigi Starter Course for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

We’ve been a big fan of the Mario LEGO sets since their launch, but now it’s time for his brother to have a little time in the sun. It’s just like having a Super Mario game you can physically build and hold in your hand, complete with platforms, a see-saw and blocks. Luigi will even react to the course thanks to a small LCD screen embedded in his chest, and he’s fully compatible with the other sets so you can build a whole world for him to explore.

Buy Adventures with Luigi starter set at Amazon - $60

LEGO Boba Fett’s Starship

LEGO Boba Fett Starship for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
LEGO

You can still call it the Slave I if you want, but the most important thing about this Firespray-31-class spacecraft is who it belongs to: the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, Boba Fett. He even has his own show coming out at the end of December. We know that’s a long time to wait, but your family can at least spend part of that time putting together this 593-piece kit that even includes a tiny minifig Boba and Din Djarin from the Mandalorian.

Buy Boba Fett Starship at Amazon - $50

Peek-a-Roo

A child with the Peek-a-Roo doll for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Spin Master

There are toys that laugh, eat, burp and even poop, but there aren’t a lot that give birth. That’s probably because it’s pretty weird, but Spin Master’s Peek-a-Roo also makes it pretty adorable. This plush panda will react to being petted and spoken to by a child and, if the toy is treated well, it produces a tiny baby from the pouch in its stomach. The baby toy will continue to live there once born, popping up whenever its mama is happy.

Buy Peek-a-Roo at Amazon - $60

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
LEGO

Advent calendars are a great way to get your kid excited for the holidays, but sometimes the little gifts inside aren’t so great. Why not go full-on nerdy with this Star Wars calendar, which has a smattering of tiny sets your kid has to build alongside minifigs of characters like Rey, Luke Skywalker and a holiday-themed Poe Dameron? The kits will hopefully keep them busy so they’re not asking you how many days are left until the big gift-giving occasion.

Buy LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar at Amazon - $59

VTech KidiZoom PrintCam

VTech KidiZoom PrintCam for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Kids love cameras but, with everything digital these days, there’s a little less tactility, which kids also love. Printcams tend to be too expensive for many adults, never mind children, which makes them a no-go — until now. The VTech KidiZoom prints photos for as little as a penny, so it’s not a big financial deal when your child takes 100 photos of their feet. Just make sure you keep them stocked up with fresh paper.

Buy VTech KidiZoom PrintCam at Amazon - $75

The best tech toys for kids

It may have been another long year, but the holidays are finally approaching — and, with supply chain issues plaguing retail, it’s best to get your shopping done sooner rather than later. This year we’re all a little burnt out on screens, so the best gifts for kids are things they can hold. But, since this is Engadget, we’re always looking for that tech angle. This year’s crop of tech toys for kids is mostly grounded in the real world, with a few electronic twists to surprise and delight.

Miles Morales in Winter Suit Funko Pop

Funko Miles Morales in Winter Suit for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Funko

It’s always good to grab a few stocking stuffers, and Funko makes figures from what feels like every pop culture property on earth. Around here we’re partial to the video game ones, of course, and what’s more festive than this adorable Spider-Man all dressed up for the cold weather? It’ll look great while also adding a bit of geeky holiday cheer to someone’s bookshelf or desk.

Buy Miles Morales Funko Pop at Amazon - $11

Hasbro Lightsaber Forge

Kidds with the Hasbro Lightsaber Forge for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Hasbro

For kids who aren’t old enough to build their own lightsaber at Disney’s Galaxy Edge, this kit from Hasbro might be the next best thing. Not only is it way more affordable, but it’s also quite durable, allowing kids and adults alike to reenact their favorite Jedi versus Sith battles with gusto. Best of all, a child can rebuild their lightsaber again and again using different parts, so they can have a customized weapon that fits their mood each day.

Buy Lightsaber Forge at Walmart - $15

R2-D2 Tamagotchi

Star Wars™ R2-D2™ Tamagotchi for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Maybe taking care of a small creature was just too stressful for your kid, and you’ve had to console them many a time when the little ghost floating above a tombstone appears. Well, now Tamagotchi has a special astromech droid they can take care of instead, one they have to clean and play a variety of mini-games with. If they don’t take care of little R2, the Jawas will take him away which might still be a bummer but hey, maybe they’ll sell him off to a local moisture farmer with a thirst for adventure.

Buy R2D2 Tamagotchi at Amazon - $20

Spin Master Purse Pets

Purse Pets for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Spin Master

Kids are cute, but also weird and quirky, so why not get the child in your life something that reflects the more wild side of their personality? Purse Pets are basically living bags that can hold stuff but also blink, purr and even blow kisses at a child when it’s happy. It’s a real eye-catching accessory, one that will have them feeling like they’re on the runway — especially when you activate the Purse Pet’s runway music.

Buy Purse Pets at Amazon - $25

Mattel Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll

The Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Barbie first went to space way back in 1965 and, while she’s had plenty of spacesuits over the decades, none have been as realistic as this one. That’s because this one is based on real-life space explorer Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut who was once the record holder for the longest space flight by a woman. Your kids can reenact her various scientific experiments in space with the doll, then cheer on the real-life Cristoforetti next year as she commands ISS Expedition 68.

Buy Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie Doll at Amazon - $30

Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel

Brio's Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel Station for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Brio

It feels like an unwritten rule that every child has to have one of those wooden train and track sets. Why not spice things up a bit by adding in this tech-enabled station that signals the included train to stop and flash its lights, just like the real thing. If your kid is a railfan you can even use the free Smart Tech Sound app to change the sounds to those from famous systems like London, Paris or Berlin.

Buy Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel at Amazon - $45

Enchanting Hedwig

The Enchanting Hedwig (owl from Harry Potter) for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

We were all super jealous of Harry Potter when Hagrid presented him with a lovely snowy owl who would become his mail carrier and friend. However, in real life owls can be pretty messy and aren’t as affectionate. So why not get your loved ones this interactive, life-sized replica instead? She loves to be petted and while she can’t fly, she can safeguard letters for you, only releasing them to people who have the secret code.

Buy Enchanting Hedwig at Amazon - $40

Got2Glow Fairy Finder

Got2Glow Fairy Finder for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Got2Glow Fairy Finder may look like a slightly fancier mason jar, but it has a special electronic twist. When you open the lid, a fairy will “fly” inside and show up on the front screen. What kind of fairy? It depends on how a child holds the jar and how bright the room is. There are 100 different magical creatures to collect and trade with their friends, so it should keep your kids active and busy for a while.

Buy Got2Glow Fairy Finder at Amazon - $50

Hot Wheels Mario Kart Vehicle Pack

Hot Wheels Mario Kart Glider Vehicle Pack for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Mattel

Your child may not be old enough to drive a real car, but chances are they’ve taken a few spins around Rainbow Road in Nintendo’s Mario Kart video games. And even if they haven’t, they’ll still enjoy playing with the whimsical vehicles from the series, recreated in 1/64-scale so they can fit in the palm of a kid’s hand. All the favorites are here, from Mario to Yoshi and even the often-forgotten Waluigi. Some of the karts even include gliders so kids can simulate some of the more treacherous jumps like Peach’s Castle.

Buy Mario Kart Vehicle Pack at Amazon - $55

LEGO Adventures with Luigi Starter Course

LEGO Adventures with Luigi Starter Course for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

We’ve been a big fan of the Mario LEGO sets since their launch, but now it’s time for his brother to have a little time in the sun. It’s just like having a Super Mario game you can physically build and hold in your hand, complete with platforms, a see-saw and blocks. Luigi will even react to the course thanks to a small LCD screen embedded in his chest, and he’s fully compatible with the other sets so you can build a whole world for him to explore.

Buy Adventures with Luigi starter set at Amazon - $60

LEGO Boba Fett’s Starship

LEGO Boba Fett Starship for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
LEGO

You can still call it the Slave I if you want, but the most important thing about this Firespray-31-class spacecraft is who it belongs to: the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, Boba Fett. He even has his own show coming out at the end of December. We know that’s a long time to wait, but your family can at least spend part of that time putting together this 593-piece kit that even includes a tiny minifig Boba and Din Djarin from the Mandalorian.

Buy Boba Fett Starship at Amazon - $50

Peek-a-Roo

A child with the Peek-a-Roo doll for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Spin Master

There are toys that laugh, eat, burp and even poop, but there aren’t a lot that give birth. That’s probably because it’s pretty weird, but Spin Master’s Peek-a-Roo also makes it pretty adorable. This plush panda will react to being petted and spoken to by a child and, if the toy is treated well, it produces a tiny baby from the pouch in its stomach. The baby toy will continue to live there once born, popping up whenever its mama is happy.

Buy Peek-a-Roo at Amazon - $60

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
LEGO

Advent calendars are a great way to get your kid excited for the holidays, but sometimes the little gifts inside aren’t so great. Why not go full-on nerdy with this Star Wars calendar, which has a smattering of tiny sets your kid has to build alongside minifigs of characters like Rey, Luke Skywalker and a holiday-themed Poe Dameron? The kits will hopefully keep them busy so they’re not asking you how many days are left until the big gift-giving occasion.

Buy LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar at Amazon - $59

VTech KidiZoom PrintCam

VTech KidiZoom PrintCam for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Kids love cameras but, with everything digital these days, there’s a little less tactility, which kids also love. Printcams tend to be too expensive for many adults, never mind children, which makes them a no-go — until now. The VTech KidiZoom prints photos for as little as a penny, so it’s not a big financial deal when your child takes 100 photos of their feet. Just make sure you keep them stocked up with fresh paper.

Buy VTech KidiZoom PrintCam at Amazon - $75

How to buy a monitor in 2021

With the COVID pandemic still upon us, a monitor is one of the most important computer buying decisions you can make. Luckily, there’s never been more choice, and we’ve seen vast improvements in color accuracy, size and resolution since our last update.

It’s great to have lots of choice, but it can also make your buying decision a challenge. For example, do you need HDR, and if so, how bright should your monitor be? How important is color accuracy, refresh rates and input lag? What size do you need? Should it be curved or straight?

Luckily, we’ve done the research and can help you figure all that out depending on your specific needs and, most importantly, budget. Read on to see exactly what to look for in a monitor and which makes and models to choose.

The basics

Screen size, resolution and display format

In this day and age, screen size rules. Where 24-inch displays used to be more or less standard (and can still be useful for basic computing), 27-, 32-, 34- and even 42-inch displays have become popular for entertainment, content creation and even gaming these days.

Nearly every monitor used to be 16:9, but it’s now possible to find 16:10 and other more exotic display shapes. On the gaming and entertainment side, we’re also seeing very wide and curved monitors with aspect ratios like 21:9. If you do decide to buy an ultrawide display, however, keep in mind that a 30-inch 21:9 model is the same height as a 24-inch monitor, so you might end up with a smaller display than you expected. As a rule of thumb, add 25 percent to the size of a 21:9 monitor to get the size you need.

4K is nearly a must for content creators, and some folks are even going for 5K or all the way up to 8K. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll need a pretty powerful computer to drive all those pixels. And 4K should be paired with a screen size of 27 inches and up, or you won’t notice much difference between 1440p. At the same time, I wouldn’t get a model larger than 27 inches unless it’s 4K, as you’ll start to see pixelation if you’re working up close to the display.

One new category to consider is portable monitors designed to be carried and used with laptops. Those typically come in 1080p resolutions and sizes from 13-15 inches. They usually have a lightweight kickstand-type support that folds up to keep things compact.  

HDR

HDR is the buzzy monitor feature to have these days, but be careful before jumping in. Some monitors that claim HDR on the marketing materials don’t even conform to a base standard. To be sure that a display at least meets minimum HDR specs, you’ll want to choose one with a DisplayHDR rating with each tier representing maximum brightness in nits.

However, the lowest DisplayHDR 400 and 500 tiers may disappoint you with a lack of brightness, washed out blacks and mediocre color reproduction.If you can afford it, choose a model with DisplayHDR 600, 1000 or True Black 400, True Black 500 and True Black 600. The True Black settings are designed primarily for OLED models, with maximum black levels at .0005 nits.

Where televisions typically offer HDR10 and Dolby Vision or HDR10+, most PC monitors only support the HDR10 standard, other than a few (very expensive) models. That doesn’t matter much for content creation or gaming, but HDR streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other services won’t look quite as punchy. 

Refresh rate

Refresh rate is a key feature, particularly on gaming monitors. A bare minimum nowadays is 60Hz, and 80Hz refresh rates and up are much easier on the eyes. However, most 4K displays top out at 60Hz with some rare exceptions and the HDMI 2.0 spec only supports 4K at 60Hz, so you’d need at least DisplayPort 1.4 (4K at 120Hz) or HDMI 2.1. The latter is now available on a number of monitors, particularly gaming displays. However, it’s only supported on the latest NVIDIA RTX 3000- and AMD RX 6000-series GPUs and requires a very powerful PC.

Inputs

There are essentially three types of modern display inputs: Thunderbolt, DisplayPort and HDMI. Most monitors built for PCs come with the latter two, while a select few (typically built for Macs) will use Thunderbolt. To add to the confusion, USB-C ports may be Thunderbolt 3 and by extension, DisplayPort compatible, so you may need a USB-C to Thunderbolt or DisplayPort cable adapter depending on your display.

Panel type

The cheapest monitors are still TN (twisted nematic), which are strictly for gaming or office use. VA (vertical alignment) monitors are also relatively cheap, while offering good brightness and high contrast ratios. However, content creators will probably want an IPS (in-plane switching) LCD display that delivers better color accuracy, image quality and viewing angles.

If maximum brightness is important, a quantum dot LCD display is the way to go — those are typically found in larger displays. OLED monitors are now available and offer the best blacks and color reproduction, but they lack the brightness of LED or quantum dot displays. Plus, they cost a lot.

The new panel on the block is MiniLED. It’s similar to quantum dot tech, but as the name suggests, it uses smaller LED diodes that are just 0.2mm in diameter. As such, manufacturers can pack in up to three times more LEDs with more local dimming zones, delivering deeper blacks and better contrast. 

Color bit depth

Serious content content creators should consider a more costly 10-bit monitor that can display billions of colors. If budget is an issue, you can go for an 8-bit panel that can fake billions of colors via dithering (often spec’d as “8-bit + FRC”). For entertainment or business purposes, a regular 8-bit monitor that can display millions of colors will be fine.

Color gamut

The other aspect of color is the gamut. That expresses the range of colors that can be reproduced and not just the number of colors. Most good monitors these days can cover the sRGB and Rec.709 gamuts (designed for photos and video respectively). For more demanding work, though, you’ll want one that can reproduce more demanding modern gamuts like AdobeRGB, DCI-P3 and Rec.2020 gamuts, which encompass a wider range of colors. The latter two are often used for film projection and HDR, respectively. 

Engadget picks

Best monitor around $200

Acer KG241Q

Acer KG241Q monitor
Acer

Whether you need a monitor for gaming, entertainment or work, Acer’s 24-inch KG241Q offers a lot of value. Resolution is limited to 1080p, but it delivers a 144Hz refresh rate and comes with AMD FreeSync support. Other features include a 1-millisecond lag time, 300 nits of brightness, HDMI and DisplayPort inputs and a tilting stand. The downsides are tricky access to the ports and a TN display that looks dim at an angle, but it’s a heck of a steal right now at $155.

Buy 24-inch Acer KG241Q at B&H Photo - $180


Best monitors around $300

ASUS ProArt PA278QV

ASUS ProArt PA278QV
ASUS

Moving your budget up by just $100 opens up a whole lot more options. A case in point is our pick for content creation chores, the ASUS ProArt PA278QV. You get a larger 27-inch size, increased 2,560 x 1,440 resolution and a superior IPS panel. As with other ProArt models, the PA278QV is designed specifically for photo and video editing, with a 100 percent Rec.709 gamut, Calman verified color accuracy and ProArt presets and palettes for different kinds of work. It also offers DisplayPort and HDMI ports and tilt, swivel, pivot and height adjustments. That’s a lot of monitor for a current street price of $315.

Buy 27-inch ASUS ProArt PA278QV at B&H - $319

Dell S2522HG

Dell S2522HG
Dell

There are numerous decent gaming monitors around $300, but we’ve managed to narrow it down to one: Dell’s S2522HG. For a monitor in this price range, you get a lot: a 24.5-inch IPS 1080p display with a 240Hz refresh rate, 400 nits of brightness, 1-millisecond response time and AMD Free-Sync and NVIDIA G-Sync compatibility. It comes with HDMI, DisplayPort and SuperSpeed USB 3.2 Gen1 inputs, along with a stand that allows for height adjustment, tilt, swivel and pivot. You can pick one up now at Amazon for $320.

Buy 24-inch Dell S2522HG at Amazon - $320


Best monitor around $400

LG 27UK500

LG 27UK500
LG

LG’s 27UK500 is a nice all around monitor that can cover gaming, entertainment and some content creation. The 27-inch 4K IPS display covers 98 percent of the sRGB gamut and supports HDR10 with 10-bit color, though it only outputs 300 nits of brightness so it isn’t DisplayHDR certified. If you like 4K gaming, it can handle that decently thanks to AMD FreeSync support, a 60 Hz refresh rate and a 5-millisecond response time. The downsides are a tilt only stand, but it’s very well priced at just $347. 

Buy 27-inch LG 27UK500 at B&H - $347


Best monitors around $500

BenQ PD2700U

BenQ PD2700U
BenQ

For creatives, the BenQ PD2700U pushes all the right buttons. The 27-inch 4K IPS panel delivers 10-bit HDR color and covers 100 percent of the sRGB gamut with Calman verified Delta E color accuracy less than 3. It’s also a fine choice for entertainment and gaming with 350 nits of brightness, a 1300:1 contrast ratio, viewing angle of 178 degrees and a 5-millisecond response time. It has tilt, swivel, pivot and height adjustment and most of the ports you need, including HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4. You can pick one up now at B&H for $500.

Buy 27-inch BenQ PD2700U at B&H Photo - $500

Acer Nitro XV252Q

Acer Nitro XV252Q
Acer

Acer’s Nitro XV252Q is the only gaming monitor under $500 that supports 360 Hz refresh rates, but there’s more to it than just that. The 24.5-inch HD display outputs 400 nits of brightness, so it’s DisplayHDR 400 certified for HDR games and movies. It also comes with AMD FreeSync compatibility, a 99 percent sRGB color gamut and DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.0 connections. You can tilt, swivel, pivot and adjust the height by up to 4.7 inches, and it looks pretty snazzy, with very slim side and top bezels.

Buy 25-inch Acer Nitro XV252Q at Amazon - $500


Best monitors under $700

Dell UltraSharp 27 U2720Q

Dell UltraSharp 27 U2720Q
Dell

Dell’s 27-inch, 4K U2720Q IPS monitor offers 4K HDR performance for a decent price. It conforms to the DisplayHDR 400 spec while offering 10-bits of color and 99 percent sRGB coverage, with a Delta E color accuracy of less than two out of the box. So this is a good monitor for HDR movies and doing some graphics chores, particularly HDR video work — all for under $700.

Buy 27-inch UltraSharp U2720Q at Dell - $580

Acer Predator XB273K

Acer Predator XB273K
Acer

Though it’s marketed as a gaming monitor thanks to the 120Hz refresh rate, 1-millisecond response time and G-Sync support, Acer’s 4K quantum dot Predator XB273K is really a jack of all trades. It’s also DisplayHDR 400 compatible, covers 90 percent of the challenging DCI-P3 color gamut and offers a Delta<1 color accuracy. You also get tilt and height adjustments, HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 ports and pivot and height adjustment.

Buy 27-inch Acer Predator XB273K at Amazon - $621


Best monitor for Mac users

LG Ultrafine 4K and 5K

LG Ultrafine 5K
LG

Apple’s $5,000 Pro Display XDR is much too rich for most of us, so the next most logical option is LG’s $1,300 Ultrafine 5K display, also sold on Apple’s Store. With a 27-inch 5K panel, you not only get very high resolution but also 500 nits of brightness (albeit, without HDR capability). It’s color-accurate out of the box, making it great for video- and photo-editing work on a Mac or MacBook. Finally, it supports Thunderbolt 3 with daisy chaining and power delivery, all of which is very useful for Mac users.

If that model is too much, you can also consider LG’s 24-inch Ultrafine 4K. For nearly half the price ($700), it offers many of the same features (including the powered and daisy-chained Thunderbolt ports, color accuracy and more) in a smaller size and with just a bit less resolution.

Buy LG Ultrafine 5K at Apple - $1,300Buy LG Ultrafine 4K at Apple - $700

Best ultrawide monitor

MSI Optix MPG341CQR

MSI Optix MPG341CQR
MSI

Ultrawide 21:9 monitors are a great option for some types of content creation, flight sims and financial work. The best model this year (with perhaps the worst name) is MSI’s Optix MPG341CQR. With an 1800R curve and 3,440 x 1,440 resolution it’s ideal for gaming, with the 120Hz refresh rate, 1-millisecond response time and HDR 400 also helping in that regard. It also offers a frameless design, tilt, swivel and height adjustment and HDMI 2.0/DisplayPort 1.4 ports. It also has an LED strip that provides helpful cues for in-game status like remaining health or ammo, too.

Buy 43-inch MSI Optix MPG341CQR at Amazon - $645

Best portable monitor

ViewSonic VG1655

ViewSonic VG1655
ViewSonic

To best complement your laptop, a portable monitor should be small, lightweight and not too expensive. The model that best meets all those requirements is ViewSonic’s VG1655. At 15.6 inches and weighing under 2 pounds, the 1080p 60 Hz IPS display can be toted around fairly easily but still provide crisp, clear visuals. It’s also reasonably bright at 250 nits, comes in standard and touch version, packs dual speakers and has a built-in stand with a cover.

Buy 15-inch ViewSonic VG1655 at Amazon - $250

Best HDMI 2.1 monitor

Acer Nitro XV282K

Acer Nitro XV282K
Acer

If you’re gaming on the bleeding edge at 4K and 120Hz, you’ll first need either a fast PC or PS5/Xbox Series X console. If you’ve got that and would prefer to use a monitor rather than a TV, your best bet will soon be Acer's Nitro XV282K display. Along with 4K resolution at up to 144Hz, it offers a 1-millisecond refresh rate, 10-bit color and 400 nits (DisplayHDR 400 compatible) of brightness. It comes, of course, with an HDMI 2.1 input, along with DisplayPort 1.4. It’s not yet available, but should arrive soon for $900.

Pre-order 28-inch Acer Nitro XV282K at B&H - $899

Best luxury monitor

ASUS ProArt PA32UCG-K

ASUS ProArt PA32UCG-K
ASUS

ASUS still holds the prize for best luxury monitor, but it discontinued the previous mini-LED $4,000 ProArt PA32UCX monitor and replaced it with the $5,000 PA32UCG-K display. It uses the same mini-LED tech, but ups the ante with 1,600 nits of brightness, an HDMI 2.1 port, 4K 120Hz resolution, 10-bit, 98 percent DCI-P3 coverage and an impressive 85 percent Rec.2020 coverage. Oh, and it’s one of the few monitors out there that supports Dolby Vision, along with HDR10 and HLG.

You’re probably doing it wrong if you’re using a $5K monitor for gaming. However, it does support AMD FreeSync (good for gaming creation) and has a 5-millisecond response time, very respectable for a display essentially designed for professional colorists. And to that end, color accuracy is calibrated to Delta E < 1 and it’s a true 10-bit panel delivering billions of colors.

Buy 32-inch ASUS ProArt PA32UCG-K at B&H - $4,999

Best 8K display

Dell UltraSharp 32 UP3218K

Dell UltraSharp 32 UP3218K
Dell

Faster than we think, 8K video will be upon us, so you might be pondering an 8K monitor to stay ahead of the curve. Dell’s UP3218K is part of its UltraSharp lineup for creators, so it not only delivers 8K (7,680 x 4,320) 60p resolution but other nice pro features, too.

The 10-bit native IPS panel delivers 400 nits of brightness, though the UP3218K isn’t an HDR monitor. It also delivers 1.07 billion colors and covers 98 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut, with a Delta E of less than two out of the box. It’s also one of the few monitors that flips around 90 degrees, making it good for portrait photo work.

This monitor isn’t cheap either at $3,500 (8K monitors are still very rare), but Dell’s UP3216Q 4K monitor has most of the features for less than half the price. It’s not quite as bright at 350 nits and covers just 87 percent of the DCI-P3 gamut, but it offers 1.07 billion colors and is just as precise for color correction out of the box.

Buy 32-inch UltraSharp UP3218K at Dell - $3,755

Hobbit Hole Inspired Children’s Playhouse

Hobbit Holes: everybody wants to live in one. That, or an Ewok village treehouse. And while building your own Hobbit hole home might be out of the question right now on account of adult responsibilities, maybe you can live vicariously through your children with this $1,000 Discovery Nature Play Hideaway from Plum. I can already imagine myself trying to contort my body into it when I think the neighbors aren’t looking.

Not to be confused with these previously seen Hobbit Holes, the playhouse measures 78″ long, 51″ wide, and x 49″ tall when assembled, and has it all: a fabric door covering, wooden letterbox, a curved roof with artificial turf (and liner for adding real turf), screen window that can be painted, a functional bamboo gutter system and planter, exterior arts & crafts/prep table, and bamboo wind chime, making the whole thing significantly nicer than my apartment.

Pretty cool, right? Unfortunately, like so many things designed for children, it’s a shame they don’t make an adult-size version as well. I mean this thing is legitimately Hobbit-sized. Because Hobbits are small. Smurfs too, but they’re even smaller. This would be like a mansion to Smurfs, but a lot of lower back pain and a trip to the chiropractor for me.

[via TheGreenHead]

Man Watches Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ on Game Boy Advance

To spite Christopher Nolan for wanting people to visit movie theaters in the middle of a global pandemic to watch his movie Tenet, YouTuber WULFF DEN managed to put the movie on five Game Boy Advance cartridges so he could watch it the way it absolutely was not meant to be: super pixelated and at four frames/second. I can already feel my eyes drying up like raisins.

According to WULFF, “This movie was intended to be seen on the big screen. So let’s put it on a really tiny Game Boy Advance screen and blow those pixels up so we can barely see anything :D! This is quite possibly the worst way to watch Tenet and still be able to see what’s going on.”

I actually can think of worse ways to watch Tenet and still see what’s going on, but they do all involve me watching the movie from jail, and I ain’t going back to jail just to prove my point.

[via BoingBoing]

‘Astro’s Playroom’ soundtrack hits streaming services just in time for the weekend

The infectious and delightful soundtrack to PlayStation 5 exclusive Astro’s Playroom is now available to listen to outside of the game. As Polygon notes, you can stream it on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music and Tidal (if you’re fanc...