In the second part of our Christmas gift guide, we look at gifts for big budgets, children and those who would prefer not to add to the growing pile of electronic clutter in their homes. If you are in need of Christmas inspiration, read on for our suggestions.
Feeling generous? Or perhaps you are looking for a Christmas gift for yourself? Either way, there are plenty of options for big gestures and gifts that will suit a range of tastes.
The 2021 version of the iPad Mini (from €569) looks more like a giant iPhone or a shrunken iPad Pro, depending on your viewpoint. But it's what it does that makes it an ideal Christmas gift, if you're feeling generous. The new generation of the tablet comes with an 8.3-inch screen, Centre Stage for video calls and, crucially, the support for the second-generation Apple Pencil. It can be comfortably held one-handed, making it ideal for reading books, digital newspapers and magazines, or using as a notebook thanks to the Pencil support. The upgraded front-facing camera works well for video calls, with the Centre Stage support tracking your movement in the wider field of vision. It's more expensive than the standard iPad (€399), but it earns its price tag.
Oppo Find X3 Pro 5G
Huawei was once king of the affordable smartphone, offering a spec far higher than the prices indicated. Oppo could be coming for that crown. The Chinese brand is making a name for itself as a brand with big ambitions, and with good reason. The Find X3 Pro 5G offers an excellent phone with a 50MP camera that uses AI to automatically adjust scenes, a 3MP micro-lens that turns your camera into a microscope of sorts, and a 32MP selfie camera. It also includes 5G support, as the name suggests, and fast charging.
Another option is the Find X3 Lite ( €449) if you aren’t feeling quite that generous. This excellent mid-range camera has a good screen, fast charging and some of the advanced camera features of the X3 Pro.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Microsoft's latest Surface Pro device is more of the same from the tech giant, but in a more refined way. More powerful than its predecessor, the Surface Pro 8 also comes with a larger 13-inch screen. Designed to act as both a laptop and a tablet, the Surface Pro 8 offers the best of both worlds. Prices start from €1,199, so it isn't the cheapest option out there.
Apple's latest MacBook Pro devices have the company's own silicon inside, with a choice between the M1 Pro and the more powerful M1 Max to power your new computer. The 2021 MBPs come in 14- and 16-inch options, with a trimmed-down frame and a notch to the screen for the improved front-facing camera. The new devices also bring back some of the ports that had been disappearing in recent years, including the dedicated MagSafe charging port, the extra USB connections, a HDMI port and a slot for secure digital.
You don't need to have a large garden to hate mowing the grass, particularly in summer. But if you want to keep some sort of usable lawn, you don't have many options for maintaining it. You can either pull it all up and astroturf it, or invest in a mower that will do most of the work for you. The Husqvarna Automower 405X (€2,049) takes the latter a step further, with a robot lawnmower that will keep your grass in check and even make it healthier over time. There is no grass box to empty, and the mower has GPS for security and headlights to light its way on gloomy days.
TECH FOR KIDS
There is an increasing range of family-friendly devices available – educational rather than simply entertaining, built for smaller hands and durable enough to take a few bumps and knocks. Here are some options.
MyFirst Insta Wi camera
There are plenty of instant cameras out there – the Fujifilm Instax range has proven its popularity long after digital cameras made an appearance – but there are a few aimed solely at children. The MyFirst Insta Wi camera (€117) is easy to handle and use, and prints photos on a cheap thermal paper roll that won't cost you a fortune when you inevitably have to replace it every week. It has dual lenses for regular photos and selfies, a large display on the back, and it doesn't automatically print every photo you take, so your child can hone their skills as they go. The "Wi" bit refers to the use of the app, which allows you to turn the camera into a thermal printer. Nice, but not essential.
Vodafone Smart Neo
A smartwatch designed with children in mind, the Neo is the perfect middle ground for those who need to stay in touch with their children but don't want to give them a smartphone just yet. At €200, it's not cheap, but it works with Vodafone's network so you have decent coverage around the country. It includes a camera for taking photos, Disney and Marvel interactive graphics, and a parent app that allows you to communicate with your child and set the contacts that are allowed access to your child through the watch. It also include GPS so you can see where the watch is at all times.
Vtech Marble Run
A perennial favourite around these parts, Vtech's toys are usually a combination of education and fun. The Adventure Rush Marble Run is no different. The set comes with more than 120 pieces that can be put together, taken apart and rebuilt over and over again to create new marble runs. It has two electronic modules that trigger track splits or end the run, and throw in some sound effects. Because it is modular, it is expandable with new kits so you – sorry, your child – can add to it to other Vtech kits.
We hate to mention the C-word, but if the past 18 months has taught us nothing else it's that school closures are tough and we need to be prepared. The Lenovo M10+ is a tablet that will work for both home-schooling and entertainment, and won't leave too much of a dent in your wallet. This version of the tablet has a 10.3-inch display and 4GB of RAM, with space to expand the 64GB capacity further with a micro SD card. and Usually €229, you can find it for about €179 thanks to the sales.
Have too much stuff? Perhaps a different approach is in order. There are plenty of subscriptions that will make an ideal gift without adding to the ever-growing clutter in your home.
This digital magazine app should keep even the most voracious reader happy. It offers access to thousands of magazines from all over the world in a single app, in different languages, and covering categories from general interest and current affairs to niche hobbies. You can also access back issues of some of the magazines, making it a very useful archive.
The range of family friendly content on Disney+ has made it a firm favourite in many homes, and the addition of the Star content in recent months has broadened its appeal. There is plenty of content to choose from, from movies to limited-run TV series to long-running favourites. Memberships can be paid upfront for the year or on a monthly basis.
New year is traditionally the time for the healthy living kick, but not everyone is keen on returning to gyms just yet. Fiit offers you access to fitness and flexibility classes in your home, covering everything from weight workouts and cardio sessions to barre classes and yoga. The advantage of Fiit is that it will link in with several different fitness trackers instead of a single one to track your heart rate during workouts. You can also pay for the entire year up front instead of a monthly recurring fee.