Skip to Content

Our Guide to This Year’s Best Holiday Gifts

The 13 most drool-worthy techie gifts for family, friends, and Fido.
October 24, 2017
Tomi Um

Unsure about what to give your loved ones this holiday season, or simply hate shopping for gifts? Fear not: we’ve got you covered, with a range of tech-centric goodies for everyone on your list.

Mighty ($86) + Spotify Premium Subscription ($120 for a year)

This small clip-on music player is perfect for rocking out while running. The Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-equipped device gets access to Spotify by initially pairing with a smartphone, but once that’s set up there’s no need to bring a phone along to stream music on runs or walks. The Mighty can also store more than 1,000 songs, and it features physical control buttons. Pair it with a yearlong premium Spotify subscription, and you’ll keep the recipient in tunes until next holiday season.

tasty one top

Tasty One Top ($175)

An avid home cook—or someone who just wishes to be thought one—will be impressed by this smartypants induction cooktop. The Tasty One Top automatically adjusts to the correct temperature for the ingredients at hand when paired with a smartphone app that includes nearly 2,000 recipes. Once you’ve selected your recipe, it will begin cooking at the press of a button. It’s plenty versatile, too: it can be used to deep-fry, stir-fry, grill, or sauté and even works for slow or sous-vide cooking.

Tomi Um

Chef’d Gift Certificate ($75 and up) for Beyond Meat meals

Chef’d offers one of the more customized approaches to deliverable meal kits, letting you select specific meals in portions large enough for two or four people. The company is partnering with Beyond Meat, which uses plant-based ingredients to create faux meat that’s much like the real thing but less harmful to the environment, so a Chef’d gift certificate makes it easy to give foodies one of the hottest new un-meats on the market. A $100 gift certificate is enough for four two-person meals, including dishes like a “Beyond Beef Mexican Bowl” and a “Classic Beyond Burger.”

Petcube Bites ($249)

Nothing replaces quality time with a furry friend, but this HD camera may be the next best thing. In addition to keeping an eye on Fido’s (or Fluffy’s) daily routine via a smartphone app, this gadget features a container for treats, which pet owners can dispense from afar by swiping their smartphone screen to toss a virtual bone. There’s also two-way audio for sending personalized messages to animals (and hearing their responses), along with sound and motion alerts.

Lego Boost Creative Toolbox ($160) + Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet and case ($130)

This versatile Lego set works with a tablet app (for certain iPads and Android and Fire tablets) to guide kids ages seven to 12 through building and coding one of five different robots. What’s neat about this set is you can make one (say, Vernie the Robot, which moves and talks) and then take it apart and build a totally different one (like Frankie the Cat, which purrs and wiggles its tail). The Boost Creative Toolbox comes with more than 800 Lego pieces, as well as an encoded motor and a color and distance sensor, which lets you create robots that can interact with their environment.

Nintendo Switch ($300)

The Nintendo Switch lets you play classic video games like Mario Kart and The Legend of Zelda (along with plenty of newer titles), both at home and on the go. The console comes with a docking station that lets you connect it to a TV, but you can also hold it in your hands to play by sliding its two controllers onto either side of the included display, or play a two-player game by detaching the controllers and giving one to a friend. Pair this gadget with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ($60), and consider throwing in some extra controllers ($80) if you’re really looking to impress a game lover on your list.

23andMe Health + Ancestry Kit ($199)

Spitting into a tube has never been so illuminating: this kit uses a saliva sample to unlock detailed ancestry information along with details about specific inherited traits. 23andMe will notify the spitter if other users in its database share DNA with them, potentially uncovering long-lost relatives. On a more serious note, the health reports and the carrier status feature may indicate predispositions to a variety of diseases and conditions—potentially helpful, though the service makes it clear that its qualitative genotyping isn’t meant to be a diagnostic tool. 

Huawei Watch 2 ($300 and up)

If you’re going to give a smart watch, you should go for one that combines the looks of a conventional timepiece with some serious tech specs. Whether you select the sport or classic-style Huawei Watch 2, you’ll get a round display along with plenty of fitness-minded features including a heart-rate monitor, live GPS mapping, and real-time workout guidance. The watch is also waterproof and supports mobile payments via NFC.

Aura Digital Photo Frame ($399)

This sleek, smart digital picture frame comes in tasteful hues such as ivory with rose-gold accents and charcoal with black, making it a slick way to show off plenty of snaps. Not only does it work with a smartphone app to automatically create photo collections of the friends and family members you photograph the most, but it also uses nudity detection to weed out NSFW photos (phew). You can invite friends and family members to add their own photos to the frame, too, and Aura promises never to display duplicate, low-contrast, or blurry shots. You can even change which photo is displayed by waving your hand in front of the frame.


Google Pixelbook ($999) + Pixelbook Pen ($99)

Google bills the Pixelbook as the high-performance version of its low-cost Chromebook, with a thin, good-looking aluminum body. The Pixelbook has a flexible hinge, letting you switch between standard laptop mode and tablet mode. And Google Assistant is built in, so you can ask questions, control music, and more with your voice or by pressing and holding the button on the pressure-sensitive Pixelbook Pen. This optional accessory also lets you draw on the Pixelbook’s touchscreen in a number of apps, including Evernote and SketchBook.

PowerRay Wizard ($1,880)

This is the ultimate underwater drone, capable of streaming high-definition footage in real time and shooting 4K video. The PowerRay is designed for the moneyed recreational fisher, and the ultra-deluxe Wizard package bundles the drone with a remote bait drop line and a detachable “fish finder” that works with the companion app to share info such as underwater temperature, fish distribution, and water depth. This drone package even includes a Zeiss VR One headset, which works with a smartphone to let you turn fishing into a virtual-reality experience.


Essential Phone ($499) + 360° camera ($199)

Android creator Andy Rubin developed this smartphone with an emphasis on modular accessories and quality materials, including titanium (to protect against damage from accidental drops) and sharp-looking ceramic. In addition to the Essential Phone’s high-quality front- and rear-facing cameras, there are two tiny magnetic connectors on its back to snap on an optional 360° camera for taking crisp, immersive photos and videos. Furthermore, the Essential Phone is unlocked, meaning it’s compatible with all cell carriers. (Check out our review of the product when it launched.)

Sony PlayStation VR ($450) + PlayStation 4 Pro ($399)

The PlayStation VR headset is a perfect pick for the gamers on your list. It affords immersive experiences thanks to 3-D audio—which enables multi-directional sound (including below and above you) when you play a compatible game using wired headphones—and a high-definition OLED display strapped to your face. There are more than 100 games to choose from, including Batman: Arkham VR and Star Wars Battlefront Rogue One: X-Wing VR Mission. If the recipient doesn’t already have a PlayStation 4—which is required for using this VR headset—you’ll also want to spring for a console. 

Keep Reading

Most Popular

It’s time to retire the term “user”

The proliferation of AI means we need a new word.

Sam Altman says helpful agents are poised to become AI’s killer function

Open AI’s CEO says we won’t need new hardware or lots more training data to get there.

An AI startup made a hyperrealistic deepfake of me that’s so good it’s scary

Synthesia's new technology is impressive but raises big questions about a world where we increasingly can’t tell what’s real.

Taking AI to the next level in manufacturing

Reducing data, talent, and organizational barriers to achieve scale.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.