The best, most high-tech gifts don’t also have to be the most expensive ones.
While big-ticket devices like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One cost several hundred dollars (if you can find them), many cheaper gadgets are also quite interesting. Here are a few of our favorites.
For the home automator: Phillips Hue lightbulbs
Connected lightbulbs are the gateway drug to the connected home, and Phillips wants to be your dealer. Its Hue lightbulbs, released last year, remain the most popular on the market, despite their limitations. For anyone eager to build a smarter, more connected home, there are few better places to start. $199 for a set of three.
For the tinfoil hat-wearer: Pogoplug Safeplug
After what we found out from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden this year, people have every right to paranoid about their online activity. That reality is core to the SafePlug, a “privacy in a box” device that takes the anonymous power of the Tor network and simplifies it for public use. Just plug into the SafePlug, log on, and watch your online tracks get lost in the intricacies of the Web. The NSA won’t know what hit it. $50
For the electrical engineer in training: littleBits
It’s satisfying to take a broken alarm clock, crack it open, and put it back together — fixed. Helping you learn how to do that is at the core of LittleBits’s construction kits, which teach kids (and, yes, even adults) the basics of how to make circuits, neon signs, timers, and more. Why buy an electric toothbrush when you can just make your own? Starts at $99
For the kid with an eye for A.I.: Anki Drive
While robots will probably enslave us one day, right now we’re pretty fond of them. And we’re really fond of the Anki Drive, a 3 inch slot car infused with the power of artificial intelligence. Anki thinks that the little toys are the future of consumer robotics, and after watching the Anki Drive in action, we sure hope they’re right. $199
For the stylish quantified selfer: Misfit Shine
While most fitness trackers offer roughly the same functionality, few of them can claim to be all that fashionable. One exception, though, is the Shine, a tiny, quarter-sized fitness tracker that’s soaked with Apple-like design sensibilities. Unobtrusive and stylish, it’s exactly what a wearable should be. (That’s a Shine clipped on a pocket in the top photo in this story.) Oh, and it’s also waterproof. $150
For the kid you never want to lose track of: Filip smartwatch
While smartwaches are officially a thing right now, most of them aren’t all that smart. The Filip smartwatch, on the other hand, is. Designed for kids, the device doubles as both a location tracker and totally independent smartphone, meaning that not only can parents track their kids, but they can talk to them, too. The one drawback? The device is exclusive to AT&T for now. Ah well. $199