The best gear to give to the photographer in your life

If your favorite person has a love of video or photography, a camera may be the best gift they’ll ever get. Some may want to capture their adventures with an action camera, while others may desire a mirrorless camera for portraits, movies or artistic shots. The technology is better than ever as camera makers try to stay ahead of smartphones with faster shooting speeds, sharper video and incredible autofocus. We found the best models for budgets ranging from $400 to $2,500, along with top accessories to complement their existing gear.

GoPro Hero 10 Black

GoPro Hero9 Black / Hero10 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For the adventurer on your gift list, there’s no better action camera than the GoPro Hero 10 Black. It bests the previous Hero 9 Black model in a number of key ways, thanks mainly to the faster GP2 processor. That helps it deliver improved image quality, with higher resolution at up to 5.3K/30fps instead of 5K as before. It also offers improved noise reduction, smoother stabilization, more faithful color reproduction and better handling.

Buy GoPro Hero 10 Black at Amazon - $499Buy Hero 9 Black at GoPro - $350

Sony Alpha A6100

Sony Alpha A6100 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Sony

Sony’s A6100 is a great gift idea for budding photographers, as it offers the best features of its APS-C mirrorless camera series at the best price. Chief among those is the incredibly reliable autofocus system with eye-detection and other AI tricks. Even with fast-moving action, the A6100 will nail focus for video or photos most of the time thanks to the extremely rapid tracking system. It also offers accurate colors, good low-light performance and a flip-up display that allows for selfies and vlogging, with sharp video capture at up to 4K. It’s also one of the best mirrorless camera deals around at $748, or $848 with a 16-50mm kit lens.

Buy Sony Alpha A6100 at B&H - $848

DJI Ronin SC gimbal

DJI Ronin-SC gimbal for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
DJI

A gimbal is a great gift idea for video shooters, helping them boost production value with smooth tracking, panning and other shots. If your loved one has a mirrorless camera, the best option is DJI’s Ronin-SC model. It weighs just 2.4 pounds, 41 percent lighter than DJI’s original Ronin-S — making it easier to use for longer periods. It can stabilize just about any type of video as well, thanks to the ActiveTrack 3.0 mode and AI that can lock onto and track human or other subjects.

Buy DJI Ronin SC at Amazon - $439

Panasonic GH5

Panasonic GH5 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If your gift recipient is into making YouTube videos, the Panasonic GH5 has been the vlogging camera of choice since it first came out . The 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor delivers pin-sharp 4K video downsampled from the full sensor at up to 60fps, with a 10-bit high-color option that makes editing easier afterwards. It also includes other necessities for vlogging like a flip-out display, in-body stabilization and dual high-speed card slots. With the arrival of the $1,700 GH5 II, the original GH5 is cheaper than it’s ever been at $1,300, giving your loved one a lot of camera for the money.

Buy Panasonic GH5 at Amazon - $1,300

Magnus VT-4000 Tripod

Magnus VT-4000 tripod for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Engadget

If your giftee is starting to get serious about video, the Magnus VT 4000 is the best budget tripod option out there. It’s lightweight at 8 pounds, but the anodized aluminum construction is strong enough to handle a mirrorless camera and accessories weighing up to 8.8 pounds. The lack of heft makes it practical for travel, while the fluid head allows for smooth tilts and pans. Other features include a middle spreader to keep things steady and legs that extend up to 64 inches so you can match the eyeline of your subjects.

Buy Magnus VT-4000 tripod at Amazon - $199

Canon EOS R6

Canon EOS R6 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Canon

For a serious camera gift that’s around $2,500, Canon’s 20-megapixel EOS R6 is the best hybrid model out there. It delivers up to 20 fps burst shooting speeds while the Dual Pixel AF nails focus on nearly every shot, whether in bright sunlight or dim lighting. It’s also a solid pick for video, letting you shoot 4K supersampled video at 60 fps with 10-bit log and HDR options for maximum editing flexibility — again, with Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system that’s second to none. The caveat to that is overheating, which limits use for things like weddings and journalism.

Buy Canon EOS R6 at Amazon - $2,499

Joby GorillaPod 3K

Joby GorillaPod 3K for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Joby

Some of the most useful gifts out there for vloggers are Joby’s famous mini-tripods, and the best one for the money is the GorillaPod 3K. Attaching your camera using the secure clip-in mounting plate is dead simple, and you can ensure that everything is even with the built-in level. The flexible legs let you set your camera anywhere to shoot or even wrap it around a tree or other object. The most common usage is as a vlogging handle, as vloggers can bend the legs forward to fit themselves into the video and steady out their shooting.

Buy GorillaPod 3K at Amazon - $85

SanDisk Extreme Pro SD card

SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / SanDisk

Your favorite camera nerd can never have enough memory cards, but they can be a pretty pricey gift. SanDisk’s ExtremePro UHS-I SD cards are cheaper than UHS-II cards, but the 90 MB/s read/write speeds are fast enough for most types of photography and video. If your loved one needs that extra UHS-II speed, Lexar’s UHS-II SD 1667X (250MB/s) and 2000X (300MB/s) SD cards are solid picks.

Buy SanDisk Extreme Pro (128GB) at Amazon - $25Buy Lexar 1667X (128GB) at Amazon - $50Buy Lexar 2000X (128GB) at Amazon - $95

Rode VideoMic Go and Wireless Go

Rode VideoMic Go on-camera mic for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Rode

If the vlogger in your life doesn’t already have one, Rode’s wireless and shotgun microphones are solid, affordable gifts. The VideoMic Go is ideal for interviews and run-and-gun shooting, thanks to the crisp directional audio and relative ease of use. It comes with a shock mount to eliminate bumps or vibrations that could interfere with sound and doesn’t require a battery, unlike past Rode models. Meanwhile, Rode’s Wireless Go is one of the most popular wireless lavalier mics out there, functioning as both a microphone and wireless transceiver. It offers a reliable connection and good audio quality, or you can maximize clarity by connecting an external 3.5mm microphone like Rode’s $40 SmartLav+, the Sennheiser Pro Audio ME2 or others.

Buy Rode VideoMic Go at Amazon - $79Buy Wireless Mic Go at B&H - $199

Nanlite LitoLite 5C RGBWW Mini LED Panel

Nanlite LitoLite TC for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Nanlite

A good light is an awesome tool in your favorite photographer or videographer’s arsenal, and a relatively affordable gift to boot. One of the best all-around models is the Nanlite LitoLite 5C RGBWW Mini LED Panel. It weighs just 4.8 ounces, but offers dimmable lighting across a range of colors, with adjustments either on the fixture or via a smartphone app. It mounts on any wall or light stand via a magnet or quarter-inch threads, has cordless operation and a battery that runs for 1.5 hours at full power (charged via USB). The most interesting feature is special effects that range from a cop car’s flashing lights, flames, candlelights, a lightning storm and more.

Buy LitoLite mini LED panel at Amazon - $75

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Backpacks are life for photographers and video shooters, so they make great gifts — if you get the right one. Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack 20L is a good choice, thanks to the stylish weatherproof design, internal dividers for laptops, cameras, lenses and more, a wrap-around zipper and a protected laptop sleeve. It offers excellent build quality and Peak Design backs that up with a lifetime warranty.

Buy Peak Design Everyday Backpack at Amazon - $220

Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 17.2

Blackmagic Design - Davinci Resolve 17 app
Blackmagic Design

As someone who used to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC exclusively, I never thought I’d switch to another app. I did, though, and can’t recommend Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 17.2 enough (either the free or $295 studio version). You get a lifetime of updates, so it’s far cheaper than Adobe’s subscription program that runs $630 per year. Resolve is slightly trickier to learn, but far more powerful than Premiere for key tasks like color grading and effects. Most importantly, I’ve found Resolve to be far, far more reliable than Premiere on a wide range of computers, which is easily the most important “feature” on an editing app.

Buy DaVinci Resolve 17 at B&H - $295

Smart home gadgets and kitchen tech that make great gifts

Keeping your home clean, organized and secure can be a chore, and your loved ones likely feel the same way. Fortunately, there are gadgets that can help make it a little easier. We review smart speakers, robotic vacuums and Instant Pots all year long, and for the holiday season we’ve compiled a list of our recent favorites in the home tech space that will make excellent gifts. And your giftee doesn’t have to be tech savvy to use all of them either — plenty of our recommendations amount to baby steps into the smart home world for those who would rather start off slow.

Instant Pot Pro

Instant Pot Pro for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Instant Pot

We almost always recommend the multi-purpose Instant Pot in our holiday gift guides and this year is no exception. But instead of giving your loved one the regular model, why not level up? Designed for avid cook, the Instant Pot Pro brings several key upgrades over previous models. The inner pot has an extra thick bottom that lets you heat it on the stove, plus handles that make it easier to lift. It has 28 customizable programs for different foods, and there are five favorite buttons that you can assign to frequently cooked meals. It also has steam release reminder alerts with 5- and 10-minute pre-sets. It’s available in two different sizes, but we’d recommend the six-quart version for most families.

Buy Instant Pot Pro at Amazon - $130

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

Anova Precision Cooker Nano for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sous vide cooking essentially means keeping foods in a temperature-controlled water bath, ensuring they’re done to perfection. This used to require expensive equipment, but sous vide cookers have become inexpensive over the past few years. One such device is the Anova Precision Cooker Nano, which can be found for around $100, and can be controlled through either an app or physical buttons. It’s one of the most affordable sous vide machines around, yet it delivers precise temperature controls. The app also comes with an assortment of helpful recipes to help get users started on their sous vide journey.

If you don’t mind spending a bit more, we also like Breville’s Joule for its sleek, minimalist design. It doesn’t have the physical controls that the Nano does, but it makes up for that with its compact form factor that’s a little easier to fit in a kitchen drawer. Either option will ensure medium-rare steak, juicy chicken breasts or just a perfectly soft-cooked egg.

Buy Precision Cooker Nano at Amazon - $130Buy Breville Joule at Amazon - $200

Anova Precision Oven

Anova Precision Oven for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Anova

If your loved one is a great cook with counter space to spare, consider getting them the Anova Precision Oven. It’s a luxury purchase, for sure, but it’s well worth the price for serious home cooks. This combination convection-steam oven can cook food in both wet and dry heat, letting you control temperature and humidity levels. What this means is that your special someone can make juicy roast chicken with crispy skin as well as crusty artisan-style bread all in one machine. Plus, it has WiFi and a companion app that lets cooks keep an eye on their food from anywhere.

Buy Precision Oven at Anova - $599

Google Nest Doorbell Battery

Nest Doorbell for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Nest

Video doorbells are useful for seeing who’s at the front door from the comfort of your couch. One of our favorites is the Nest Hello (now called the Nest Doorbell Wired), which is why we were pleased when Nest came out with a new battery-operated version, the Nest Doorbell Battery. It’s a great gift for both homeowners and renters, as you don’t need to hardwire it. Battery life is anywhere from one to six months depending on how active it is (it’s shorter if you live on a busy street, for example). The Doorbell notifies them whenever there’s a person, animal or vehicle near the front door. It can also let them know when a package has been placed, which is great for pre-empting theft. In addition, it offers three hours of event video history for free, with the option to purchase more space through a Nest Aware subscription.

Buy Nest Doorbell Battery at Best Buy - $180

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen)

Nest Hub (2nd gen) for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Nest

If you do get a Nest Doorbell for someone, you might want to consider gifting them a Nest Hub as well. The two are designed to work together: anytime someone rings the doorbell, the camera view of who’s at the front door will show up on the Nest Hub’s screen. Even without the doorbell, however, the smart display is a great device to have around the home — especially if your loved one already uses the Google Assistant. It works as a digital photo frame and they can use it to watch YouTube and Netflix. It can also make calls via Google Duo and offers recipe videos along with step-by-step cooking instructions. If the user so chooses, they can track their sleeping patterns when they place the device next to their bed.

Buy Nest Hub (2nd gen) at Best Buy - $100

Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For those who prefer Alexa over the Google Assistant, the Echo Show 8 is a great alternative to the Nest Hub. It also works as a digital photo frame and its 8-inch display is a good size for streaming shows from Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu while prepping dinner. It can also be used to keep up with the news, check the weather and control smart home devices. Since Amazon has a partnership with Allrecipes and Food Network Kitchen, users can find assorted recipes and instructional videos as well.

Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $130

Mila Air purifier

Mila Air purifier for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Air purifiers are great gifts for anyone who has allergies, lives in a polluted area or just wants to breathe easier at home. And if you want to give someone a smarter air purifier, consider the Mila Air. It ships with one of seven pre-configured HEPA filters that can filter out particles and allergens like pollen and dust. It also has a ton of customization options: there’s a “Housekeeping Service” mode that goes full blast when no one’s in the room, a “Sleep Mode” that turns the lights off and reduces the fan speeds at night, plus a “White Noise” mode that mimics soothing sounds like waterfalls. The Mila also has a bevy of sensors that can tell you if there’s carbon monoxide in the air, or if the humidity is too high.

Buy Mila air purifier - $349

Blink indoor camera

Blink indoor security camera
Blink

Blink’s indoor camera offers the gift of peace of mind in a compact and affordable package. Your loved one will appreciate the fact that Blink is wireless and battery-powered; since they don’t have to place it near an electrical outlet, it can sit almost anywhere. They also won’t have to worry about recharging the camera since it can last up to two years on its two included AA batteries. Aside from just letting them monitor their home, it also features customizable motion alerts so they’ll only get alerted when they want to. Plus, there’s two-way audio so they can hear and speak to the person (or pet) on the other end.

Buy Blink Indoor at Amazon - $80

iRobot Roomba 694

iRobot Roomba 694 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Maybe you have someone in your life who could use a little help cleaning up after themselves. For that, we recommend getting them one of our favorite robot vacuum cleaners, the iRobot Roomba 694. It can suck up dirt and debris from both hardwood and carpeted floors, with an edge-sweeping brush taking care of dusty corners. The companion app lets them control it remotely, or they can set up a cleaning schedule so the little robot can do its thing at a set time. It even automatically docks and recharges itself if it’s low on battery.

Buy Roomba 694 at iRobot - $275

August WiFi smart lock

August Smart WiFi smart lock 4th gen for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
August

Smart locks are a great way to add security and convenience to any home. We recommend August’s WiFi smart lock because it’s easy to use, and since it fits over an existing deadbolt, it’s great for both homeowners and renters. It lets your loved ones unlock the door completely hands-free, which is great if they have their arms full of groceries. They can set it so that it automatically locks once the door is closed, or after a set period of time. If someone’s at the door but they’re at the office or in the backyard, they can easily let them in with a single finger tap. Plus, they can grant access for specific friends or family members, which means they might never need to put the key under the doormat ever again.

Buy August WiFi smart lock at Amazon - $229

TP-Link Kasa smart plug

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug  / Smart Plug Mini for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

With a smart plug, any appliance can be part of a connected home for not a lot of money. TP-Link’s Kasa smart plug is a particularly good one because it is both affordable and incredibly compact (and if you’re really short on space, there’s a mini version that’s even smaller). Together with its companion app, they can schedule a timer to turn on and off anything from Christmas lights to a coffee maker. It’s also compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, which lets them add voice control to any outlet.

Buy Kasa smart plug (4 pack) at Amazon - $30Buy Kasa mini smart plug (2 pack) at Amazon - $20

Eero 6 WiFi mesh router

Amazon eero wifi 6 router for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Amazon

With most of us having so many gadgets and smart home devices, perhaps the best thing you can give your loved one is the gift of better WiFi to keep things running smoothly. Amazon’s Eero routers will deliver just that. The latest models support WiFi 6, the latest and fastest WiFi standard, and will support 75-plus devices simultaneously. It also covers up to 1,500 square feet with WiFi speeds up to 900 Mbps, so it’s unlikely they’ll ever have to deal with dead spots or buffering again. The Eero 6 also comes with a built-in Zigbee smart home hub that lets them connect compatible devices without having to purchase a separate device.

Buy Eero 6 router at Amazon - $129

Philips LED Smart Bulb starter kit

Philips Smart light starter kit for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Philips

Add some color to your loved one’s life with the Philips LED smart bulb starter kit, which comes with four multi-color bulbs plus a Hue Hub that connects them all together. The bulbs can fill the room with millions of different colors so they can choose from warm moody lighting for a cozy atmosphere or rainbows for parties. In the companion app, they can create timers and routines so that their lights gradually turn on in the morning or off in the evening. And it’s scalable: They can eventually have up to 50 lights connected to one Hue Hub, giving them the freedom to outfit their whole home with smart lights if they wish.

Buy Philips Hue starter kit at Amazon - $195

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

These are the audio gadgets to gift this season

The holidays are always a good time to help someone upgrade their audio setup, whether that’s earbuds, headphones, speakers or something else. We’ve curated a list of the best sounding gear you can buy right now, with options for true wireless, noise cancelling, immersive audio and more at a range of prices and in a number of product categories. There’s even a set of $20 earbuds that would make an excellent stocking stuffer.

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony WF-1000XM4 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sony’s excellent WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds were in desperate need of an update, and the company obliged earlier this year. The WF-1000XM4 are completely redesigned with a new look and smaller, more comfortable body. Sound quality is excellent and powerful active noise cancellation (ANC) can be configured to adjust automatically based on your activity or location. Sony increased battery life to eight hours (ANC on) and tacked on wireless charging this time around There’s also LDAC support for high-res audio over Bluetooth and DSEE Extreme upscaling to recover details lost to compression. The company’s speak-to-chat feature, although imperfect, is handy when you need to have a quick convo.

Buy WF-1000XM4 at Amazon - $280

Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

I said “the best just got better” during my review of the WH-1000XM4 last summer and that sentiment still holds true. No other company comes close to what Sony offers on its flagship noise-cancelling headphones when you combine sound quality, ANC performance and features. Multi-device connectivity is handy for jumping from your laptop to your phone during the workday while speak-to-chat and quick-attention mode allow you to take brief pauses for short conversations. 30-hour battery life, deep punchy bass and 360 Reality Audio support are also items Sony checked off the wish list.

Buy WH-1000XM4 at Amazon - $348

Jabra Elite 3

Jabra Elite 3 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Jabra was a surprise when it burst on the true wireless scene with its Elite 65t earbuds in 2018. Since then, the company has continued to refine its lineup of mid-range and premium options. In 2021, Jabra debuted the Elite 3: a tiny, comfortable set of earbuds that cover all of the basics for just $80. The comfy fit, impressive sound quality, reliable on-board controls and solid battery life make the Elite 3 as close to a no-brainer as it gets if you’re looking to give someone earbuds this year without breaking the bank.

Buy Jabra Elite 3 at Amazon - $80

Sony SRS-RA5000

Sony SRS-RA5000 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For the audio aficionado in your life who has seemingly everything, it might be time to give Sony’s 360 Reality Audio a try. And even if you’re not willing to splurge for a top-tier streaming plan to unlock the requisite content, the company’s SRS-RA5000 speaker is still a nice centerpiece for a modest setup. With crisp and clear audio quality, the RA5000 handles all music well thanks to upscaling tech, so you’re not limited to Sony’s immersive format. There are plenty of ways to customize the sound and the speaker automatically calibrates itself to the room where it’s placed. Connectivity options abound, so the person on your shopping list can control everything from their phone without leaving their seat.

Buy Sony SRS-RA5000 at Crutchfield - $698

Sonos Roam

Sonos Roam for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sonos’ second attempt at a portable speaker is a more compelling product which makes it a solid option for your holiday shopping exploits. On the Sonos Roam, good audio quality only gets better when you use two of the speakers in a stereo pair. Even if you just opt for one, the compact design is much more portable than the larger Move. It’s durable and waterproof, plus you get all of the benefits of other Sonos speakers — like multi-room audio, TruePlay tuning, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and more.

Buy Roam at Sonos - $179

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2

Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide. A man wearing the headphones lies on a grassy hill using a backpack for a pillow.
Audio Technica

Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50xBT were my top pick for non-ANC headphones since their debut. The combination of a fold-in design, comfy fit and warm sound quality made these so great. The company returned in August with the ATH-M50xBT2: an updated version that offers an even more compelling headphone option for anyone on your list. Alexa is now built in and multipoint Bluetooth allows you to connect to more than one device simultaneously. There’s also a low-latency mode for games and video on top of LDAC support to recover some of the sonic details typically lost to compression. And with claims of 50-hour battery life, there’s no need to plug these in often.

Buy ATH-M50xBT2 at Amazon - $199

JLab Go Air Pop

J-Lab Go Air Pop for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Earbuds aren’t typically something you’d purchase as a stocking stuffer, mostly due to cost, but JLab has an extremely affordable option if you really want to go that route. At just $20, the Go Air Pop covers a lot of the basics, including eight hours of battery life with three additional charges in the case. Touch controls and EQ presets are in play as well, alongside IPX4 water resistance so these can easily double as a workout companion for any New Year's resolutions.

Buy Go Air Pop at JLab - $20

THX Onyx

THX Onyx for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

What do you give the person who already has a set of headphones they really like? Something to make them sound even better. The THX Onyx is a tiny USB-C DAC (digital-to-analog converter) that supports master-quality audio content, though it obviously requires using wired headphones. LEDs indicate which format you’re listening to, including standard, high resolution, Direct Stream Digital (DSD) and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA). Inside, the Onyx packs a THX AAA-78 amplifier chip: the highest-powered mobile THX Achromatic Audio Amplifier configuration. THX says the AAA-78 makes the Onyx just as powerful as a desktop DAC or amplifier setup, but it's much smaller. The chip reduces three types of distortion by up to 40dB and maximizes output power for more dynamic range and sound pressure level (SPL). That’s a lot of power in a tiny device.

Buy THX Onyx at Razer - $200

Small, affordable gadgets that make great stocking stuffers

It’s easy to think that the best gadget gifts are the fanciest and most expensive things. But there are plenty of options out there for the techie in your life that don’t require you to empty your wallet. If you’re struggling to come up with the right present for the early adopter in your life, we’ve gathered some of our favorite things that are both small and affordable. The best part? Everything comes in at $50 or less.

Chromecast with Google TV

Google Chromecast with Google TV for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If you’re at a loss when it comes to a good, cheap gift for the techie in your life, you can’t go wrong with a Chromecast. The latest Chromecast with Google TV is the one to get right now and it doesn’t matter if your giftee uses Google products already. Like other Chromecasts, this one lets you stream movies and TV shows from major services like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu andHBO Max, among many others.

The Google TV interface has always been pretty easy to navigate, but it’s simpler than ever thanks to the remote that now comes included with the Chromecast. It has an Assistant button, giving you quick access to voice commands, plus a circular D-pad, shortcut buttons for YouTube and Netflix, and support for HDMI-CEC and IR, allowing you to control your entire TV with it. And, unlike larger set-top boxes or smart TVs that your recipient may already have, the Chromecast is portable, so they can take it with them to make binge-watching their favorite shows easier when they’re not at home.

Buy Chromecast with Google TV at Best Buy - $50

Apple AirTags

Apple AirTags for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Most of us have someone in our lives who misplaces everything — their keys, wallet, purse or backpack, the list goes on. If that person in your life happens to also own an iPhone, AirTags make great gifts and you can buy one for only $30. (You could even get an AirTag case for them, too, and still spend less than $50.) These quarter-sized Bluetooth trackers pair almost immediately with iOS devices and can then be tracked using the Find My app.

You can use them to keep track of nearly anything, but they work best on items that take clips or keyrings or things like backpacks that have small pockets. In addition to showing their location, the Find My app also lets you force the AirTag to play a loud chime so you can more easily find it in your home. And if you’re close enough to the missing item, Apple’s Precision Finding feature can literally guide you to it using the tech in your iPhone’s U1 chip.

Buy Apple AirTag at Amazon - $29

KeySmart Classic key holder

KeySmart key holder for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
KeySmart

Those who have a mess of jangling keys weighing down their pockets may benefit from a KeySmart holder. The $23 Classic model is the best for most people as it’s slim and holds up to 14 keys in a neat little sandwich of sorts, in between two aluminum and stainless steel pieces. It’s easy to stack all of your keys on either end of the KeySmart and, once installed, you can rotate out only the key you need to unlock your door. The Classic also comes with a loop ring so you can easily attach your stuffed KeySmart to something larger like your car key.

Buy KeySmart Classic at Amazon - $23

Anker Nano II GaN charger

Anker Nano II GaN 65W charger for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Chargers like the Nano II GaN 65W adapter from Anker may not be the first things that come to mind when you’re exploring tech gift ideas, but they are some of the most useful gadgets out there. We all have so many devices — phones, tablets, smartwatches, headphones, earbuds, and more — and most of them need regular charging. An extra charger like Anker’s lets you power up more devices at once, but it also does so more efficiently. The gallium nitride technology inside this small cube prevents it from overheating even when charging up a larger device like a MacBook Pro. It’s also 58 percent smaller than the MBP’s own charging adapter, so it’ll take up less space in a bag or backpack when you’re on the go.

Most bricks of this size aren’t able to support fast-charging for multiple devices, but the 65W capacity of this Nano II model makes it a good option for all of your devices. Just before publishing this story, the 65W model went up in price by a few dollars, pushing it over our $50 threshold — but Anker sells 45W and 30W models as well, so you can get the same charging technology for even less.

Buy Anker Nano II (65W) at Amazon - $55Buy Anker Nano II (45W) at Amazon - $40Buy Anker Nano II (30W) at Amazon - $34

Anker USB-C to Lightning cable

Anker USB-C to Lightning cable for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Anker

As with chargers, we all could use an extra cable on hand in our living rooms, backpacks, on our desks at work or anywhere else where we need to power up. Anker’s got plenty of Powerline II charging cables for all types of devices, but arguably the two most useful are the MFi-certified USB-C to Lighting cable and the USB-C to C connector. The former supports fast-charging and has been tested to withstand the bends and twists necessary to fuel your iPhone in strange places. The latter can fast-charge many devices and it works with larger tablets and laptops as well, making it a good all-purpose cable for your various USB-C gadgets.

Buy Anker USB-C to Lightning cable at Amazon - $15Buy Anker USB-C to C cable at Amazon - $20

Joby GripTight One GorillaPod stand

Joby GripTight One GorillaPod stand for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Joby

Joby’s GorillaPod stands aren’t just for aspiring social media stars or photographers. The GripTight One stand in particular is a handy tool that anyone will find useful when they need to take a quick family photo, prop their phone up to watch a YouTube video, or hold their phone at a better angle to take a selfie. Its clamp grip can hold all smartphones and its rubber feet prevent it from slipping. But the flexible legs are the kicker here — they let you wrap the stand around objects like railings so you can get the best angle possible when shooting photos or videos. And considering how compact and lightweight it is, Joby’s stand is one of the best options out there for a travel phone stand.

Buy Joby GripTight One at Amazon - $35

Mophie 15W Wireless Charging pad

Mophie 15W Wireless Charging pad for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Mophie

Charging pads are like charging cables: It never hurts to have an extra wireless charging pad lying around. Mophie’s 15W pad is one of the nicer looking ones we’ve seen with its rounded square design, ultrasuede finish and LED indicator light. It’s compact enough to fit on a crowded side table next to your couch or on your desk. With 15W of power, it’ll fast-charge most smartphones and it works with cases up to 3mm thick. And, since it supports the Qi standard, you can use it to power up almost anything else with a wireless charging case, like those wireless earbuds you just bought.

Buy Mophie wireless charging pad at Amazon - $50

Bandai Original 90s Tamagotchi

Bandai Tamagotchi Original 90s for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Suckers for ‘90s nostalgia will be thrilled to find an original Tamagotchi in their stocking. The digital pet from 1997 is back and, at least with this model, not much has changed. You’ll still be tasked with feeding, cleaning and taking care of your Tamagotchi using the three buttons on the egg-shaped device. Yes, you can even discipline the creature when it’s bothering you — just make sure not to neglect it to the point of starvation.

Buy Original 90s Tamagotchi at Amazon - $20

Bellroy Classic Pouch

Bellroy Classic Pouch (Lunar color) for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Some people have started to go back into the office and maybe you know someone who’s been trying to bring some small comforts from home into the workplace. Shuttling mice, charging cables, power banks and keys to and from anywhere can make it look like a bomb went off inside your bag. Bellroy’s Classic Pouch is a good way to tame that mess. Measuring 5.5 x 8.9 inches, this half-moon, zippered pouch can fit most small essentials that you’d want to keep with you at all times. Inside are a few organizational pockets, including one with a magnetic closure,. We also appreciate the nine sophisticated colors that it comes in, and many of the pouches are made of water-resistant, woven fabric created from recycled plastic bottles.

Buy Classic Pouch at Bellroy - $50

Samsung EVO Select microSDXC card (256GB)

Samsung EVO Select microSDXC card (256GB) for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Samsung

It can be easy to underestimate the value of having more storage. Flash drives, memory cards, portable SSDs and the like are gadgets that many people don’t have when they need it the most. Samsung’s EVO Select microSD card would make a good gift for any number of people in your life: photographers, gamers and all-around nerds. Samsung’s memory cards are some of the most reliable out there and also the most versatile — this one has read speeds up to 100MB/s and write speeds up to 90MB/s. That makes this a great option for those who want more storage on their smartphone or tablet. It also comes with a full-sized adapter so those with DSLR cameras will make good use out of it, too. Lastly, this would make a great gift for someone whose Nintendo Switch is packed with games, allowing them to download and play more titles than they could before.

Buy EVO Select microSD card (256GB) at Amazon - $40

Yubico Yubikey 5 NFC

Yubico Yubikey 5 NFC for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Yubico

Having a good password isn’t always enough, which is why you should turn on two-factor authentication for your most precious accounts whenever possible. The Yubikey 5 NFC gives you a physical way to unlock your devices when you’re asked to authenticate for a second time. This particular model has NFC, so you can simply tap it to a compatible device to verify your identity. It’s also a USB-A dongle of sorts, so you can plug it into your laptop so you’ll always be recognized when you’re using it. Yubico sells a USB-C NFC version as well, but at $55 it’s just a bit too expensive for this guide. We also appreciate that the entire Yubikey NFC series works with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS and most mobile devices, and that the keys are made from durable water- and crush-resistant fiberglass.

Buy Yubikey 5 NFC at Yubico - $45

PopSockets PopGrip for MagSafe

Popsockets PopGrip for MagSafe for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Popsockets

If you scoffed at PopSockets when they first came out, you’re not alone. But these circular doodads are actually great ways to better grip and prop up your phone. The only “problem” with older PopSockets is that they were a bit inconvenient to take off if you wanted to go socket-free for a time. But those with new iPhones don’t have to deal with that annoyance anymore thanks to the PopGrip for MagSafe, which is basically just a magnetic version of the classic PopSocket. It’ll attach to the back of any compatible iPhone and pop off which ease whenever you want to switch out your case. Also, the PopSocket itself has a swappable top, so you can add more of your personality to it with some of the company’s many interchangeable tops.

Buy MagSafe PopGrip at Amazon - $30

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 smartwatches, fitness trackers and wearables to gift

What better way to show someone you love them than getting them a gadget that they can wear on their person all day? Okay, maybe there are plenty of better ways, but a wearable can not only convey how much you care, but it can also help the user take better care of themselves.

Our list of the best wearables includes not only obvious things like smartwatches and fitness trackers, but also a touch-sensitive backpack that will let the hiker on your list keep their hands free while trekking through the mountains. Though the typical price here of about $200 to $300 might be steep for some, it might be a good range for those looking for something that a few friends can all chip in on. But we’ve also included budget-friendlier options if you prefer.

Apple Watch SE

Apple Watch SE for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

A smartwatch is a great gift for anyone that’s trying to stay on top of their busy schedules, keep tabs on their health or remain connected without having to look at their phone every 30 seconds. The Apple Watch SE is a solid choice for any first timer — it has all of the core features of the more-premium Series 7, but costs significantly less. Your loved one will be able to use it to track their workouts and sleep while getting their iPhone alerts and messages on their wrist. The watch will also detect if they’ve fallen and alert the user’s emergency contacts, not to mention warn the wearer of any heart rate irregularities. Of course, no smartwatch is meant to replace a consultation with a doctor, so think of it more as a way to get some data than as a tool for diagnosis.

If you believe your friend could benefit from a bigger screen, longer battery life, ECG readings and an always-on display, the $400 Series 7 is a better choice. But you’ll have to decide if those main differences are worth the premium.

Buy Apple Watch SE at Amazon - $279Buy Apple Watch Series 7 at Amazon - $399

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Samsung Watch 4 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Apple

The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch around. Unfortunately it won’t work with Android phones. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for those over in Google-land, and the best of them is the Galaxy Watch 4. It runs the new Wear OS co-engineered by Samsung and Google, marrying an intuitive side-scrolling interface and great health-tracking with a plentiful third-party app library. That means your friend can reply to your texts from their wrist, get updates on their cab rides or takeout orders, track their calorie intake or log workouts through their favorite apps. Those who are into their physical and muscular composition will also appreciate the Watch 4’s body fat-scanning tool.

If the person you’re shopping for prefers a more classic-looking timepiece and doesn’t mind a chunkier device, they might enjoy the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. It features a spinning bezel that lets the user whiz through widgets quickly and easily, and the etchings on the frame lend a traditional look to the smartwatch.

Buy Galaxy Watch 4 at Samsung - $250Buy Galaxy Watch 4 Classic at Samsung - $350

Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit Charge 5 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Those looking for something with a lower profile will prefer a Fitbit band. Despite its relatively small size, the Fitbit Charge 5 packs a ton of hardware including a heart rate monitor, onboard GPS and an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor. Altogether, it can help your loved one track their pulse, fitness and even stress levels. Fitbit also has one of the more insightful sleep-logging tools around, using cardio readings to determine if they’ve entered deep, REM or light sleep zones.

The company also made its touchscreen full-color on the Charge 5, which is a vast improvement over the last model’s greyscale version. This does diminish battery life, but the Charge 5 still manages to last up to seven days (though, that drops to two with the display set to Always On).

Buy Charge 5 at Amazon - $180

Fossil Gen 6

Fossil Gen 6 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For the Android smartwatch user who wants a little more fashion cred on their wrist, the Fossil Gen 6 is a worthy option. These are the company’s first to run the new Wear OS, but with some custom watch faces and tweaks for health-tracking. They have bright, crisp 1.28-inch AMOLED screens and offer continuous heart-rate monitoring, as well as a blood oxygen sensor.

Battery life has always been a big shortcoming of smartwatches, and Fossil is attempting to make up for that by offering fast charging on the Gen 6. It promises you can get up to 80 percent in 30 minutes, so your giftee doesn’t have to spend too long waiting around for their watch to power back up. And since this is a Fossil wearable, there are plenty of attractive strap and case options that will suit your loved one’s tastes.

Buy Gen 6 smartwatch at Fossil - $299

Amazon Echo Frames

Amazon Echo Frames for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Not all wearables are watches: there’s been a recent surge in speaker-glasses hybrid devices. The Amazon Echo Frames are the most comfortable, though. Like the Bose Frames and Razer’s Anzu, they offer open-ear style speakers built into the arms of the eyewear so that the wearer can hear what’s playing on their computer or phone without blocking out the rest of the world. Amazon’s version also offers easy access to Alexa, so the user can get hands-free help with setting timers or turning on their smart lights.

The Echo Frames can be fitted with prescription lenses and come in an inoffensive style that should fit most faces (there’s only one size available). Those who don’t need glasses can also opt for blue-light filtering lenses or shades instead. If you know someone who wants to listen to music or their favorite YouTube livestream at work, while still being able to hear when their boss calls them into the office, the Echo Frames are a good option.

Buy Echo Frames at Amazon - $250

Withings Steel HR

Withings Steel HR for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Withings

Some diehard watch aficionados don’t like the idea of a black mirror staring up at them when smartwatch batteries die, but still want a timepiece that can track basic health metrics. For these folks, the Withings Steel HR is an attractive, well-rounded product. It has a traditional analog watch face with a tiny round black-and-white screen that shows step counts and small status indicators. A sub-dial displays progress towards the wearer’s daily move goal, and runners can link the watch to their phone’s GPS to map their routes.

The device’s onboard heart rate and blood oxygen sensors help the user gauge their cardio performance, and swimmers or divers will appreciate the water resistance of up to 50 meters. Best of all, since this doesn’t have a large, battery-draining screen, it can last up to 25 days on a charge.

Buy Steel HR at Withings - $180

Garmin Forerunner 55

Garmin Forerunner 55 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Garmin

The hardcore runner or marathoner in your life will most likely have heard of Garmin. The company is known for its GPS and heart rate monitors, and athletes swear by their running watches. The Forerunner 55 is a great device for those looking for something that excels at sports-tracking with long-lasting battery. It’ll last up to two weeks, while monitoring the user’s respiration, heart rate, step count and more. The wearer can also get basic notifications, music playback controls and apps on the watch.

But it’s Garmin’s robust sports features that will win your giftee over. These include comprehensive run coaching with cadence alerts, pace suggestions, estimated finish time and recovery guides. The Forerunner 55 also tracks stress and menstrual cycles and offers emergency contact tools when the wearer feels unsafe.

Buy Forerunner 55 at Amazon - $199

Samsonite x Google Konnect-i backpack

Samsonite Konnect-i Slim Backpack for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Samsonite

Who knew a backpack could be smart? The Samsonite Konnect-i bag features touch-sensitive fibers woven into its strap to enable Google’s Jacquard technology. This lets the wearer tap and swipe on the surface to do things like answer phone calls, play or pause music and more by connecting to their phone. For those who need to pay attention to their commute instead of fumbling around with a phone when they’re on the go, the Konnect-i backpack can keep their hands free and eyes alert. If you have the money to spare and want to give your friend a serious style upgrade, Google also teamed up with Saint Lauren on a $1,150 branded version.

Buy Konnect-i backpack at Samsonite - $199

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