There are fewer than four weeks to Christmas and if you haven’t made out that all-important list yet, it is time to get cracking.
When it comes to tech though, it can be hard to know what to buy. Here are some suggestions to suit a range of different interests and gift recipients.
I’m not generally a fan of practical Christmas gifts. While they have their place, no one really wants to unwrap a vacuum cleaner for Christmas, whether it is robotic or otherwise.
But there are some practical gifts that aren’t household appliances. For example, Bluetooth tags, a regular feature on any tech gift list, are extremely practical without implying you should spend your time in domestic drudgery. Apple’s AirTags (€39 each) are particularly useful for tracking your keys, wallets and even your luggage, thanks to the extent of Apple’s FindMy network. If you lose your items, you can use your phone or Apple Watch to point the way. A recent software update also allows Apple users to share tags with other iCloud accounts other than their own, so you no longer have to put up with the spare set of car keys bleeping at you to warn you that you are being tracked by an AirTag.
However, they are limited to iCloud users. For everyone else, there is Tile, which offers a range of devices from the tough longer-range Mate Pro (€35) to the Tile Sticker (€30) that can be attached to remote controls, bikes and other items. It has a fairly decent network of users, so you can mark items as lost and wait for the power of the Tile network to point the way to your items.
Chipolo is another option around a similar price, with an upcoming Chipolo One tag that will use Google’s network to link users.
Also firmly in the practical camp is the Veritable Smart Garden (€199), which will help even the worst gardener grow fresh herbs at home. It uses its own lingots, pre-planted with seeds and fertiliser, plus a combination of artificial and natural light to coax herbs, mini vegetable and even fruit to grow in less-than-ideal conditions.
Most TVs are smart these days, with some sort of internet connection and a platform with entertainment apps available.
However, not all smart TVs are created equally. Some are badly designed. Others lack features that you consider essential, such as the ability to stream your own content directly to the TV without jumping through 15 different hoops first. Perhaps there are apps missing that you would like to watch on a big screen. Older smart TVs may not be getting any updates. The solution? A streaming TV device that connects to your TV through a HDMI port.
There are options. Google’s Chromecast now comes with Google TV on board for apps and games, with a remote control, something the earlier Chromecasts didn’t include. Not all apps work as well as you would expect, but the main streaming services are certainly working correctly. The 4K version will set you back €70, compared to €40 for the high-definition version.
If you prefer to go with Amazon, the latest version of the Amazon Alexa Fire TV Stick (€82) is the 4K Max model (see our review here), which has extra space for apps and supports higher-quality video. If you are on a tighter budget, you don’t need to pay more than €50 to upgrade your smart TV, with the Fire TV Stick Lite bringing high-definition streaming at less than €40.
Apple users have the Apple TV, not to be confused with Apple TV the app, or Apple TV+, the streaming service. Apple TV 4K (€169) is not only your smart TV add-on, but also acts as the hub for your HomeKit-powered smarthome. So you can use it to control your lights, plugs, cameras and other devices should you wish to go down that route.
If you have been resisting smartwatches, certain that they would fade away in time, forget it. They aren’t going anywhere. The only question now is if you want to go for a fitness tracker or go full smart watch.
If it is the former Fitbit, although now owned by Google, is still alive and kicking. The Charge 6 (€160) is its most recent incarnation and it is perfect for those who want to keep a more casual eye on their activity. The new version of the tracker now integrates your heart rate with gym equipment and has improved heart rate tracking. It also brings back a side button of sorts, replacing the easily triggered groove that existed before.
A more fully featured smartwatch is the Samsung Watch 5 (€329). The sleek smartwatch has been refined over the years and will work with all Android phones. However, it saves some of the best features – ECG, blood pressure monitoring – for those with Galaxy phones too.
That is something that Google has decided against. The second generation of Google’s smartwatch, the Pixel Watch 2 (€399) offers the same features to all Android users regardless of their phone make of choice. It also has some improvement; not only does it have a better battery life, but the improved software makes it easier to use – and brings more functions, such as the Google apps for WearOS.
If you are an Apple person, the Watch Series 9 (€449) is the latest addition to the line-up, with a new chip and gesture control that allows you to control some of its functions by tapping your finger and thumb together.
For those who need a more serious fitness tracker, there are hardier devices. Think Hell & Back enthusiasts, ultra-marathon runners and people who sea swim in December in Ireland. The Garmin 7 series of watches, which include the 7S Solar, combines sleek looks with all the endurance of a tough, rugged watch. The solar glass helps top up the battery eking it out a little longer
Apple Watch fans could go for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 (€899). Definitely a chunkier option than the standard Apple Watch, it also has a better battery – 36 hours of normal use – and features such as emergency sirens and a programmable action button. It is also more rugged than the standard version too, so it can take more extreme conditions.
If you have a gamer in your life, you could give them the gift of more games than they can ever get through. For PlayStation users, it’s PlayStation Plus membership, which costs €14 a month for the Extra membership tier; Xbox gamers will get a similar deal for €15 a month, with Xbox Cloud Gaming. Another option, for PC Gamers, is Microsoft’s PC Games Pass, which costs €10 a month and brings Xbox games to the PC.
One thing that virtual reality headsets have suffered from is the isolation. They block out the outside world, which works well for some applications but can also leave you a bit cut off. The pass-through, which allows you to see the outside world using whatever cameras are available to the headset, is usually grey and covered in grid marks. While we wait for the Apple Vision Pro to launch, Meta has unveiled the Quest 3. Although it is definitely a headset, when you need to be more present in the room, the high-quality cameras on it make you feel as if you aren’t wearing the VR device. That means it could be used for purposes other than gaming – education, practical help with repairs and so on. At €550, it’s expensive though and will require a bit of a leap of faith in Meta’s future plans for VR.