This year, more than ever, high-tech gifts are going to be popular. 2017 has been a non-stop parade of smart speakers, wireless earbuds, drones, tablets, smartphones, game consoles and other technology.
It can all be a little overwhelming, so we put together this technology-focused gift guide 2017 edition. It lists 10 of the best gifts for those on your list who want the latest and greatest high-tech gear.
When you’re cruising Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday sales, use our guide of the best gifts under $500 to help make your 2017 holiday shopping a little easier.
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): Apple iPad
Tablets were a huge holiday shopping hit five or six years ago. And they were good enough that many people haven’t bothered upgrading since.
But Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) new iPad for 2017 is selling like hotcakes for a reason. It offers a huge performance upgrade over the older models, and its Retina display is about as good as it gets in a tablet without moving into much more expensive iPad Pro territory.
The kicker (and the reason why the new iPad has turned around Apple’s iPad sales decline for the first time in years) is the price: $329 for a full-sized iPad with a 9.7-inch Retina display, Touch ID, 64-bit A9 chip, 10-hour battery life and 32GB of storage. The new iPad would make a great gift for anyone holding onto an older tablet because it’s still “good enough.”
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): Nintendo Switch
One of the best gifts you could get for gamers, the Switch is a hybrid console that connects to a TV but can also be used as a mobile gaming console. It may lack the power of the PS4 and Xbox One, but the Switch’s portability combined with new Nintendo games like Super Mario Odyssey make it irresistible.
The Nintendo Switch has been in short supply since its March release. Don’t expect the $299.99 Switch to be discounted for Black Friday or holiday sales — many retailers advertise the fact that they actual have the Nintendo Switch in stock. Don’t leave this one to the last minute.
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): Libratone ZIPP
Smart speakers like Apple’s HomePod and the Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) Echo series are a big deal this holiday season. But I would skip those and opt for the Libratone ZIPP instead.
The $299 Libratone ZIPP offers excellent, 360-degree audio with 100 watts of power and multiple drivers. It supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless with multi-room capability, runs streaming music services like Spotify directly and — unlike most of those smart speakers or multi-room audio leader Sonos — the ZIPP has a battery so it can also be used as a portable speaker.
If you really wants smarts, Libratone announced voice control via an Echo Dot is coming with a December firmware update, followed by a Q1 2018 update that will use the ZIPP’s own microphones to for direct Alexa integration.
Want to learn more? You can read my ZIPP review here.
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): Nanoleaf Aurora Rhythm Smarter Kit
The Nanoleaf Aurora is one of the coolest smart home products I’ve seen this year. And its new Rhythm module makes it even better, adding the ability to pulse light panels in time to music.
Nanoleaf’s Aurora is a smart lighting system that works with Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. It’s a modular, flat panel smart lighting system that can be custom assembled into all sorts of configurations, then mounted to a wall.
The Nanoleaf Aurora Rhythm Smarter Kit costs $229.99, but it includes nine panels, plus the Rhythm module. Combined with that Libratone ZIPP, you could give a music lover everything they need to turn a room into their own personal disco.
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): Apple TV 4K
Is there someone on your list who has a 4K TV and loves watching movies? Are they already buying movies from iTunes? If so, the Apple TV 4K is going to be one of the best gifts you can give them.
Apple has finally released a set-top streamer that supports 4K. And HDR content. The Apple TV 4K is still more expensive than the competition, with a $179 starting price, but it can do extras like play games.
But the reason this could well top any other gift guide 2017 option for an Apple fan is what the company throws in for free. Previously purchased 1080p iTunes movies are streamed in 4K at no extra charge! That is a huge win for anyone who receives one of these.
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): Aura Digital Photo Frame
Digital photo frames had a moment, but poor quality (primarily because of cheap, low resolution panels) seriously cut into their popularity.
So why is a $399 digital photo frame in this gift guide?
Simple. The Aura frame is light years better than what came before. It has a big, 9.7-inch panel, which makes it the size of an iPad display. In fact, at 2048 x 1536 pixels it’s also the same resolution as a new iPad. In short, photos displayed on this digital frame look fantastic.
But the Wi-Fi connected Aura Digital Photo Frame is also loaded with smart features, including the ability for friends and family to share photos and automatic photo collection curation. It makes for a great gift and Aura sells multiples at a discount — one for them, one for you, perhaps? Read more about why I liked it so much here.
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): Amazon Cloud Cam
Home security is something that many people think about, so why not consider a high-tech gift that gives them peace of mind?
The latest hardware offering from Amazon is a compelling, internet-connected security camera called the Cloud Cam.
Cloud Cam takes 1080p Full HD video and stores it online. If it detects motion, Cloud Cam sends a notification, and you can check in any time to watch live through a smartphone. It includes night vision and two-way audio. Clips are free to view for 24 hours (optional plans extend storage and add features like Amazon Key in-home delivery).
The Amazon Cloud Cam is affordable at $119.99, but gets discounted with two and three-packs.
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): Fitbit Ionic
One of the biggest battles this holiday shopping season will be between Apple and Fitbit Inc (NYSE:FIT). The Apple Watch Series 3 will be going against the Fitbit Ionic, Fitbit’s first smartwatch.
While the Apple Watch has the edge with iPhone fans, anyone who uses an Android smartphone — or who already wears a Fitbit tracker — will likely prefer the Ionic.
At $299.95, the Fitbit Ionic has a price advantage over the latest Apple Watch, but it also offers sleep tracking and significantly longer battery life.
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): Google WiFi
One of the most frustrating things about so many high-tech gadgets is that they use Wi-Fi, and too often home Wi-Fi networks are outdated.
An older Wi-Fi router may technically work, but it won’t offer the speeds you need for 4K streaming, it will buckle under the demand of dozens of smart devices and there are always dead zones where performance drops off.
The Google WiFi is a mesh router that eliminates all these issues. A $299 three-pack will blanket virtually any house in high speed Wi-Fi. The tiny access points are easy to place and blend in with home decor. It’s dead simple to operate and even security is automatically updated so they can plug it in, forget it and enjoy the gift of fast, reliable Wi-Fi.
Holiday Gift Guide 2017 (Best Gifts Under $500): DJ Spark
Finally, a drone that will undoubtedly be on many gift guide 2017 recommended lists: The DJI Spark.
DJI is the undisputed world leader in consumer drones, but it’s offerings have always been large and expensive. The Spark is a mini drone. It’s hand-sized and easy to fly using a smartphone, hand gestures, or an optional controller. Despite the micro form factor, the Spark still offers speeds of up to 31 mph, 16 minutes of flight time, a 1.2 mile range and an integrated 1080p camera with image stabilization.
The DJI Spark just sneaks into our “under $500 gift guide” with its $499 price tag.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.