Best tech gifts for Christmas 2023: Top new gadgets and present ideas
Gadget gifting in the digital age
n the last 100 years, technology has grown exponentially. So much so that computer speed and power have generally doubled each year since the 1960s.
Here’s a staggering fact: our current phone chips are more powerful than the guidance computers NASA used to put man on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.
Every September like clockwork, there’s a new crop of Apple products brought to market. Similarly, the likes of Samsung, Google, Nokia and Sony are constantly updating their devices for faster processors, more features, better battery life and more advanced models than ever before.
While this does make the previous iterations outdated, it creates a strong hankering from technophiles everywhere to upgrade - often a costly affair, but incredibly helpful when gifting season rolls around. You really can never go wrong with the latest phone, tablet, laptop, headphones, TV or the like for ardent tech supporters or those with die-hard loyalty to a particular brand. Selecting the optimal gift for the festive season can be as easy as treating them to the latest innovation.
But which are worth your hard-earned pennies? Well, that’s where we come in.
We’ve put the recent tech unveilings to the test to find the ones that will delight come Christmas morning. From new releases (with more added as they drop), to digital devices that have revolutionised the space since their inception, we’ve scoured the market for the best tech to gift.
Best for: Bedrooms
Winning the prize for most radical reimagining of Amazon’s iconic Echo Dot, the all-new Pop comes in a funky semi-spherical shape and in Lavender Bloom and Midnight Teal colours, alongside the usual black-ish and white-ish options, letting you bring a fresh flash of colour to your AI options.
Small and stylish enough to pop - ahem - anywhere around the house, but probably best in the bedroom, the Pop’s 49.5mm front-facing directional speaker offers lossless hi-def audio to delight your shell-likes with an aural experience that not only doesn’t sound like it’s leaking out of the ill-fitting headphones of some self-deafening scrote sat on the train seat opposite you, but which can actually fill a small room with surprisingly decent sound for its size.
Featuring three physical buttons for volume up, down and mute, the Pop is only the second of Amazon’s Echo line to come powered by the firm’s fancy AZ2 Neural Edge processor which keeps the processing of voice commands local, reducing data shuffled back forth to and from the cloud, making the Pop faster to respond.
Obviously, Alexa-enabled, the Pop can do all the expected advanced stuff, such as stream music, set alarms and routines, access skills, control any and all smart elements and appliances you may have dotted around the home and, of course, operate as an in-house intercom to other Alexa devices, all over your Wi-Fi, at an uttered word. Plus, with Bluetooth available, you can stream audio from your phone too.
Which begs the question: at £10 cheaper than the Echo Dot (5th Gen, 2023), why would anyone buy a now? Well, whilst the Pop’s sound is impressive, it’s just not as full and as bold with the bass as that of the Dot, and it also lacks the temperature and ultrasound motion sensors that give the Dot the smarthome control edge.
But – and this is the ultimate raision d être of the Pop – if you can live without a few of the Dot’s extra bells and whistles and your listening requirements sit more in the peaceful and cosy camp than they do in the noise-abatement-notice-attracting arena, then you’d be foolish not to plump for the Pop, save yourself some money and bask in – what I believe – are the better aesthetics.
Best for: Style and substance
Having been a Watch4 fan boy for the past year, I was very keen to get to grips with the shiny new iteration as soon as it was available, but how do you improve on near smartwatch perfection? Also, how would it stand up against the rather remarkable TicWatch Pro 5? Yep, it’s a ‘5’ and ‘Pro’ battle to the death!
First up, there’s no avoiding it, the Samsung is £99 more than the TicWatch, so we should expect to see that extra near-ton in obvious action, and you do from the moment you pick it up – this has a premium feel thanks to its titanium frame and slick 1.4-inch Super AMOLED sapphire glass display.
Running on Wear OS 3.5 and driven by Samsung’s Exynos W920 chipset, the new Sammy is equally slick in operation, with functions running smoothly and without launch delay or glitching. And those functions are numerous, with accelerometer, gyro, heart rate, barometer, skin temperature, and geomagnetic sensors all in place to monitor your metrics as you power through your workouts. Plus, as the Pro model, obsessive exercise types can import GPX files to add hiking and biking routes and waypoints. Plus plus, with accurate GPS available, the Pro 5 will automatically track you and map out your return route on the off chance you get a bit lost.
Naturally, linked to your phone over Bluetooth, all the usual smart functions are available in abundance, such as the ability to make and receive calls, app alerts, text messages, alarms, calendars, sleep tracking, etc. Also, a nice assist for the social media mobile, you can control your phone’s camera from the Pro 5 to take picture perfect selfies.
Waterproof to 50-metres making it safe for swimming and featuring Samsung Pay as a matter of course, the Pro 5 has been positioned as Samsung’s ‘adventure’ watch, and while it’s certainly up for the fight, it’s not quite in the insane exercise league as the Polar Ignite 3 Titanium (below), but for fitness fans seeking a smartwatch that’s at home on the streets too, it could well be ideal.
So, pretty comparable with the TicWatch Pro 5 in terms of features, speed and sensitivity, the Samsung does only have half the storage of the TicWatch, which will limit app downloads, but it is undoubtedly a very accomplished piece of smart kit.
OS: Wear OS 3.5 / One UI Watch 4.5
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE, NFC
Display: 1.4-inch Super AMOLED
Processor: Samsung Exynos W920
Wireless charging: Yes
Water resistant: IP68
Best for: street photography
This premium compact model from Fujifilm has a fixed lens of 35mm equivalent with an F/2 aperture, and despite the APS-C 26MP digital sensor inside, is as close as you’re going to find to using a classic film camera in 2023.
It’s small but beautifully formed, with Fujifilm’s trademark retro styling and analogue dials setting it apart from other brands. Image quality is excellent, the fixed lens packed with exotic glass technology to increase its sharpness, and the autofocus with face detection snapping into action to lock onto the subjects of your photos.
There’s a ‘weather resistant’ upgrade kit available too, which adds a filter to the front of the lens to protect it against the elements. It’s not as well armoured as the Olympus camera above, but you’ll be fine if you’re caught in a shower.
Best for: PS iPhone fun
Yes, officially licenced by the Sony PlayStation itself, the Backbone One in this special PS Edition ignores Android for iOS and takes the original Backbone One and gives it a nice new PS5-aping black and white skin. There’s DualSense labelled action buttons, a similar directional button pad, standard R1/2 and L1/2 triggers, and oddly asymmetrical joysticks as utterly opposed to those of the DualSense. This is a minor detail in the grand scheme of things, as the PS Backbone looks good, feels solid and well-weighted and offers a lot to the phone player.
Snapping in your iPhone using the spring-loaded mechanism (watch your fingers, it’s strong), the Lightning connector slots in neatly. Next, launch the Backbone app as your gaming hub using the dedicated button and a galaxy of games awaits.
Now, despite the PS branding, the hub allows you access to games from any online service that supports controllers, including Xbox Cloud Gaming, Xbox Game Pass, Google Play, Apple App and Arcade, and Steam Link, so not just PS titles. And the flexibility doesn’t end there as, with both PS and Xbox Remote Play included, you can stream games from your home consoles too.
Featuring a 3.5mm headphone jack, you can add privacy and a microphone to the action too, plus the Lightning port pass-through means you can charge your phone as you play, if near a plug socket, obviously.
With the capability to capture screenshots and clips to show off with later, the Backbone One PlayStation Edition is the ultimate next-gen gaming enabler for the iPhone owner.
Play Modes: Handheld, Tabletop
Size: 18 x 10 x 3.7cm
Screen: Dependent on phone
Weight: 281g (without phone)
Best for: All-round epic enjoyment
Launched way back in the carefree days of 2016, the only portable games console to have (so far) outsold the Nintendo Switch are Nintendo’s earlier DS and, earlier still, Game Boy and Game Boy Colour, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the Big N’s untouchable reputation in this arena. And why is the Switch such a long-term love of gaming obsessives?
Simply because Nintendo called upon all its years of expertise when engineering it, ensuring it delivered on every demand portable players could ever ask straight out of the box and, basically, it has never been bettered.
So, what do you get in the box? Well, there’s the Switch Dock that allows you to hook the console up to your TV via HDMI (included) when not on the move, two Joy Con controllers for ergonomic one-person play or Nintendo for two in TV or Tabletop mode, a Joy Con grip, wrist straps, and an AC adapter. Then there’s the console itself: an NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor CPU driven gaming powerhouse with stereo speakers, hidden behind a gloriously vibrant 6.2-inch LCD touchscreen display with a 1280 x 720-pixel resolution.
Games are accessed via the insertion of a Switch game card or over the ether using your Wi-Fi and a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online where, depending on membership option, you can buy and play games both brand-new and timelessly classic. And when armed with enough entertainment to see out the Switch’s 4.5- to 9-hours of battery life (game demand dependent), you can roam free, relishing the epically immersive gameplay and instantly responsive controls as time ticks by almost utterly unnoticed.
Sound-wise, the stereo speakers are fine for home use, but a better audio experience can be achieved through Dock connection to the TV and – I can’t stress this enough – if playing publicly, I absolutely insist you use the 3.5mm jack port and stick on some noise-confining cans!
The uncontested king of portable consoles for all the reasons named above, even with rumours now circulating about the imminent arrival of a Nintendo Switch 2, thanks to the UK government’s Competition and Markets Authority playing fast and loose with info on Nintendo and Activision mid-February, until we see it, the original Switch’s crown remains secure.
Play Modes: TV, Tabletop, Handheld
Joy-Con Controllers: Included
Nintendo Switch Dock: Output via HDMI cable in TV mode
Size: 102 x 239 x 13.9mm
Screen: 6.2-inch LCD capacitive touchscreen, 1280 x 720-pixels
Weight: Approx. 297g (With Joy-Con controllers attached: 398g)
Storage: 32GB (expandable via microSD)
Though the Cloud Alpha Wireless might look a bit cheap, its battery life is what makes this headset stand out. Boasting 300 hours – are you kidding? That’s long enough to play for twelve and a half days consecutively before needing to charge it up.
Insane battery life aside (though that is, of course, a major plus), the headset features an aluminium frame with comfortable padding for the earphones, plus a detachable microphone, making it ideal for switching between multi- and single-player games. The buttons are all located in sensible, easy-to-reach places – the left ear cup features the mic, power button, mute button and charging port, while the right has a volume wheel.
Of course, this would mean nothing if the audio quality wasn’t up to snuff; fortunately, it is. This headset features 50mm neodymium dual-chambered drivers with two chambers (one for mid-high frequencies and one for low), which combine with the Ngenuity downloadable software (only available on PC) to create crystal-clear audio. It has got surround sound for days, and the USB-A wireless adapter means it connects easily to pretty much any console (though watch out: this is detachable and therefore easy to lose).
One of the main downsides here would have to be the microphone: the audio quality is disappointingly scratchy and tinny, not what you’d expect from a premium headset – despite featuring a bi-directional mic. But in every other way, it shines.
Mini but mighty, this dinky style of charger is becoming more common. No wonder; it’s tiny and slots compactly into the bottom of your device with no wires to get tangled in. It means you can continue to use your device with it easily held in your hand.
Battery capacity is on the lower end of the scale at 5000mAh, which means you’re unlikely to get a full charge. But it will stop your phone from dying completely, with a 60 per cent charge from full for an iPhone 14. Available in a choice of fun colours.
Best for: bargain-priced security
Going for just £60 at the time of writing, this is one of the cheapest ways to beef up your front-door security. It offers a 1080p picture, with IR night vision, plus two-way audio. There’s a cloud service, but you don’t need to use it, instead pairing the doorbell with a Blink Sync Module 2 (an extra expense, but it will work with Blink security cameras too) and use a USB stick to store video clips.
There’s Alexa compatibility built-in, meaning you can use Echo devices with screens to monitor who’s at the door, and it takes AA batteries, meaning you’ll never be offline waiting for the batteries to charge up.
Best for: selfie-obsessed outdoor creative types
While the idea of physically printing photos started falling out of fashion around about the time George Michael crashed his 4x4 into the Hampstead branch of Snappy Snaps, the recent resurgence is seeing all manner of exciting new printer options appear and the pocket-sized Zoemini S2 from prodigious photo and printer producer Canon is quite the contender for your cash.
Small enough to slip in a pocket at 121 x 80.3 x 22.4mm (W x H x D) and weighing a piffling 188g, the S2 is actually a 2-in-1 wot not which lets owners shoot photos, customise them on the spot and then print them out wherever they darn well please.
Hook it up to your Apple or Android smartphone over Bluetooth (5.0), download the Canon Instant Camera Printer and the Canon Mini Print App and edit away on your phone using the built-in vivid and vintage colour filters to adjust your images depending on your photographic fancy. Effects and frames can also be added before flinging your photos back to the S2 for instant printing on sticky-backed photo paper to then slap on your possessions. Or, should the paper run out or your phone not be available, you can store your snaps on a MicroSD card to be toyed with later.
Definitely designed to service the selfie-spirited, the Zoemini S2 lens is surrounded by an in-built mirror and ring light so you can align your duckface perfectly and ensure the best possible picture, while a top-mounted button lets you segue between portrait, outdoor and selfie modes as you see fit.
With battery life good for, what I would say was an ample, 25 prints, the Zoemini S2 comes in a Gen Z-pleasing Rose Gold, Pearl White or Dark Teal colour options.
Best for: fast wireless charging
Beyond being a chic answer to your wireless charging needs thanks to slick, stainless steel accents, those in possession of an Apple device for every technological need can benefit from faster wireless charging thanks to Belkin’s rapid 15-watt charging stations. Handling three devices at once – the Belkin BOOST CHARGE PRO is primed for docking iPhones in portrait or landscape, as well as Apple Watches and Airpods.
While LED lights that differentiate between white and amber ensure there’s no questioning whether your gadgets are charging or not, it’s worth noting that if you protect your devices with cases (always advisable), then they’ll need to be MagSafe compatible to make seamless use of magnetic docking.
Phone models available: iPhones X-14
If you’ve splashed out on one of the purple, green, red or yellow iterations of iPhone, you may prefer a clear case to show this off. That’s where this accessory comes in. It lets your phone do the talking and feels less bulky, all while still offering the protection that you need if you’re prone to dropping.
The case can be personalised with the wording of your choosing and in an array of colours and fonts and then you just need to purchase the rope (£6) to go alongside it in which there are nine different colour and pattern varieties.
Best for: In the beginning…
Dimensions: 47 x 37 x 48cm
So fresh out from AnkerMake that it probably needs to sit on the side a little to cool down, the latest addition to the range sees a 3D printer that’s been designed with utter ease of operation in mind.
Featuring a 49-point automatic bed levelling system, the M5C can be customised to function exactly how you want it to. It operates at the touch of a single button (the whole printing, re-printing, levelling, homing, pausing, or stopping caboodle is all controlled via the same button), while the magnetic plate provides a thoroughly flexible and stable platform onto which you can see your 3D creations come to rapid life. How rapid? Thanks to AnkerMake’s PowerBoost 2.0 tech being tucked away inside, speeds of up to 500mm/s can be reached, with acceleration up to 5000 mm/s², up to a print size of 220 x 220 x 250 mm³, that’s how ruddy rapid.
Controllable over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from multi-devices, you can transfer their models directly from a smartphone or laptop and then sit back and monitor the whole printing process remotely. There’s also complete flexibility as to what filament you use, be it PETG/PET, ABS, TPU, PA, PLA-CF, PETG-CF or PA-CF, all creative bases are covered.
A one-piece design, built from sturdy aluminium alloy, the AnkerMake M5C is simplicity itself to set up and, as such, is the absolute ideal choice for those taking their initial steps into the oddly thrilling world of 3D printing. Pricier than many of the other models I’ve looked at here, sure, but for full filament print and user-friendly fun, this is an option worth every 3D printing penny.
With over 50,000 positive reviews from Amazon users across the globe, it’s fair to say that purchasing the Ailun Glass Screen Protector is a safe bet for smartphone owners looking to protect their tech.
What sets the Ailun screen protector aside is its hydrophobic and oleophobic finish, which ensures water and oil residues simply roll off the surface. Not only does this protect your precious phone from splashes and splutters, but it also prevents pesky fingerprint marks.
This screen protector has also been precision cut with the help of a laser to fit slightly smaller than the entirety of your smartphone screen to ensure compatibility with your favourite protective phone case. This pack contains three screen protectors.
Best for: solo security
Another camera with IP65 weather resistance, but this one is completely standalone, and doesn’t need a hub to store its videos thanks to 8GB of onboard storage, which is encrypted so only you can access it.
You get night vision and motion detection too, and the 2K video resolution means you’ll see plenty of detail in the video files when you play them back. An onboard AI system provides person detection, filtering out false alarms, there’s integration with Alexa and Google Assistant, and as this is a slightly older model, it’s often available for a bargain price.
Best for: Fender Stratocaster fans
Fender is one of the most recognisable names in music, thanks to its rich seam of genre-defining and trend-setting guitars that have defined much of today’s guitar industry. The cultural impacts of the Stratocaster, Telecaster and Jazzmaster need no explanation. Fender is lesser-known for its acoustic contributions, with rival brand Gibson leading the charge on top-end models – but Fender’s lower-end electro acoustic models are nonetheless rightfully well-regarded. The Newporter Player trucks in Fender’s rich electrical heritage, while providing a versatile acoustic player instrument.
The finish on the Newporter’s neck itself is pleasingly smooth, and travel up and down the fretboard perhaps the most luxurious experience of the guitars reviewed here. Fender’s distinctive Stratocaster headstock gives the Newporter Player a mark of authenticity, so to speak, empowering the player to indulge. The neck plays fast and cleanly, the action comfortable and the strings a joy to manipulate.
The sound sans-amplifier is focused, even ‘flat’. Besides a slight roll-off of bass frequencies, the body presents a clear and balanced sound that lets the player shine on their own merits. This is a real all-rounder guitar, that legitimately takes whatever you give it. The ‘electro’ side of the equation is delivered by a Fishman pre-amp, with a tuner and a two-band EQ. The EQ allows you to tackle the oft-unpleasant ‘shine’ from newer strings, and to add a little heft in the bottom for chuggier playing. It is an easy thing to play, and its results are suitable for practically every purpose.
Best for: Social media movers and shakers
Very much a massive mash-up of yesteryear and the modern day, whoever at Logitech came up with the idea for the wireless POP KEYS is a chrono-colliding magician of marketing, fusing together – as they have – a money-making ménage à trois made up of cyberpunks, emoji obsessives and traditionalist alike.
Available in five colourways to suits all tastes, the distinctly retro, typewriter-inspired design of the raised, round keys comes backed with low energy Bluetooth 5.1 to keep the on-board twin AAA batteries running for longer as you flick seamlessly between up to three separate devices (computers, tablets, smartphones) at the tap of a key. There’s also utterly up-to-date FN shortcut keys that let you mute your mic, activate Voice-to Text, and snip screen, making it properly 2023-proof.
And then, suddenly, it gets even more media-savvy. How? Look at the far righthand side; those are swappable, dedicated emoji keys. Yep. There are eight in total supplied, but you can re-assign them to any emoji you use most and/or enter the emoji menu via the bottom key to pick and choose as you go.
A mechanical option with a beautifully responsive action that offers all the clicky, clacky, tappy happiness of real switches doing real work, the Logitech POP KEYS comes compatible with all OS comers (iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, ChromeOS, and iPadOS), is compact enough to comfortably cart around anywhere and, from my assessment, only features one flaw: whenever you whip it out, you’ll lose vital work/social media-ing time to an endless array of people coming over to ask you all about it.
Luxury leather travel brand Carl Friedrik has had immense success with its carry-on travel luggage since the collection launched in 2019 and you can see why. Featuring an expandable design, the Carry-on Pro can reach a depth of 27cm making it perfect for longer trips. The hard shell integrated pocket protects your electronic devices from getting damaged and the storage space is apt enough for laptops, phones and important documents.
The secure zipless TSA compliant lock frame is innovative and useful as it does way with zips jamming or breaking when we’ve tried to squeeze too many outfits into our luggage. There is also an integrated battery to charge your devices and an impressively silent set of 360 degree spinner wheels.
Upgrade your Ryanair or easyJet flight with this phone mount that attaches to the tray table so you can stream your (previously downloaded) latest binge-watch handsfree and in ultimate comfort.
Google’s very first foldable phone, the Google Pixel Fold, is here. Similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold series, the phone morphs into small tablet proportions with a 7.6 inch OLED main display to watch, connect and take pictures.
Closed, the 5.8 inch screen is about the same size as a standard phone. It’s packed to the hilt with features including the much-lauded Pixel camera for superior snaps, night or day. There’s also a foreign language translator, which will be useful on trips away and astrophotography for stunning photos of the cosmos.
This is all backed on a superior battery that promises to last for longer than a day. No more lugging portable chargers around, yippee!
Right now at Currys, you can get a bundle of the Fold and Google’s Pixel Watch for the same price as the phone alone. Well, why wouldn’t you?
The Fold’s sister phone is the Flip, which has also had an update and now goes by the name Flip5. This fun little phone bears more of a resemblance to the flip phones of old, but with miles more polish.
For your money, you can expect superior power in the palm of your hand with many of the features and durability that you will find in the Fold.
The cover display has morphed from 1.9 inches in the Flip4 to a whopping 3.4 inches in the shiny new Flip5. You can also take hands-free pics and use the cover display as your main screen, all without having to flip open your phone to full tilt.
Resolutions have been given serious firepower. The Flip4 had 260 x 512 resolution on a super AMOLED screen. The Flip5? How do resolutions to the tune of 720 x 748 on a super AMOLED screen sound? Flipping fantastic, if you ask us.
It boasts water resistance with an IPX8 rating, Gorilla Glass over the main and cover screens. Like its sister the Fold, this flip phone also benefits from an improved Flex Hinge, fitting nicely in your bag or pocket as well as your hands.
The cameras include a 10MP Selfie Camera on the front and 12MP Ultra Wide Camera and 12MP Wide-angle Camera on the rear with an 8 times zoom as the cherry on top.
The Flip also comes in a spectrum of colours, giving it appeal amongst the fashion-conscious crowd. Get it in - deep breath now - mint, dark grey, lilac, cream, blue, green, light grey and yellow.
Currently the newest and most souped-up S series phone in Samsung’s lineup, the S23 Ultra is the culmination of everything the tech giant has learnt since its first launch in 2010.
One of the things it has taken on board is the environment; this is Samsung’s most eco-friendly device using recycled glass and PET film to accent the phone’s exterior. It may feel like small moves but it’s a good start - especially for a brand this big.
Coming to the design itself, you’re looking at a beautifully bold and bright 6.8-inch FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED screen with an ‘Infinity-O Display’ that is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2. For gamers, readers and streamers, this thing is a delight with a 120Hz refresh rate, so that games and video content are smooth and sharp, allowing for full immersion into whatever you’re doing.
Camera-wise, you’re in for a treat. At the front is a 12GB selfie snapper, while the back of the device is home to a 12-megapixel Ultra Wide camera, a 10-megapixel Telephoto camera and – this is the mind-blowing one – a 200MP Wide-angle camera. Taking an idle photo at home, and you could zoom in to see the individual fibres of the living room carpet in a snap taken from the kitchen. It’s bordering on the ridiculous.
Mind you, that zoom may come in useful on your next snorkelling session: the S23 Ultra boasts an IP68 waterproof rating which means it can be submerged for up to half an hour to a depth of 1.5m. If you want to add ‘amateur underwater photographer’ to your CV, this phone will get you a lot closer.
All of this runs on a Qualcomm SM8550-AC Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip and options on storage run from 256GB up to 1TB and RAM from 8GB up to 12GB.
Bubblegum pink and oh-so Barbie-core, the Nokia 2660 Flip is the perfect modern flip phone. Despite the fact that this phone looks as though it’s been plucked straight from a high school time capsule buried somewhere on the west coast of the USA, the Nokia 2660 Flip is a relatively new addition to the brand’s roster. It comes equipped with an extra long-lasting battery, as well as a miniature displays screen which shows the time and date while closed. Plus, for every purchase, you can plant a tree thanks to Nokia’s partnership with Ecologi.
Best for: The lounge or kitchen
Okay, you can get Echo Show displays in a 15-inch iteration, as a 10-inch option, or even as an 8-incher, but do you really need or have the unrequired room in your lounge, kitchen or bedroom for all that largely ungainly length and girth? Many don’t, which is why Amazon, not wanting the space-poor to miss out on all of the Echo’s on-screen abilities, blessed the world with the Show 5 back in 2019, with a 2nd Gen model following in 2021. Well, hold the smartphone, because 2023 has seen the arrival of a much-upgraded 3rd generation model that, frankly, is a solid 5.5-inches of pure smart-thing fun.
Available in Black, White or Cloud Blue colours, the new 5 comes furnished with three buttons for volume up and down, and a mic/camera off button. Plus, as an added layer of security and peace of mind for those easily moved to paranoia, a physical slide switch to cover the 2-megapixel front-facing camera completely. Solidly built and temptingly tactile the design of the new 3rd Gen is far sleeker than that of its predecessor, with a much shallower frame blending the new infinity edge cover glass display into the now smaller, sexier looking body.
As a Show, the display is, naturally, touchscreen, thus giving you the option to jab at it with your screen-marking fingers if your voice is not working, and a nicely bright, vibrantly colourful display it is too, making it perfect for video calls and streaming video and/or TV to your bedside – perfect, as I quickly discovered, for watching the news in the morning to get my day off to the most depressing start possible.
And it’s quick. Thanks to the use of Amazon’s AZ2 Neural Edge chip, it’s 20 per cent faster than the 2nd Gen Show 5, and also benefits from 1.75-inch speaker and a whole new sound system that boosts the bass to double that of its 2022 forebear and enhances the audio emits to be clearer than ever.
Alexa is also more responsive than ever, thanks to the new processor and the addition of an extra microphone, so you can easily control all your smarthome gubbins with a few swift words, plus see who the merry hell dares to disturb your slumber by checking into your video doorbell, before rolling over and going back to sleep. Set alarms and timers, call up your calendar, check the weather forecast for the day and even the current state of the traffic near you – the new Show 5’s upgraded CPU and extra mic Show 5 ensure it’s all heard and happening in a heartbeat.
Whilst the 2nd Gen Show 5 was only a slight, iddy biddy improvement upon the 1st Gen, the new 3rd Gen is massively enhanced in all areas, bigger in all respects except for the actual size, and – without wishing to slip into overstatement – the AI tech enhancement you need in your life right now.
Best for: Home cinema for under £500
Okay, when I say: ‘best for home cinema under £500’, I may be stretching it a bit as the three models in the 4-Series are priced at £430 for the 43-inch, £500 for the 50-inch and £550 for the 55-inch. However, that’s two under 500 quid (the 50-inch is actually £499.99), and that’s a pretty attractive set of prices for whopping great TVs that deliver full-on 4K Ultra High Definition images with support for HDR10 and HLG.
Aesthetically identical to its 2-Series siblings and with a matching build quality, again we’ll skip the shallow skin-deep stuff and concentrate on what goes on beneath because, again, for the asking price, there’s an awful lot.
As you might imagine the set up scenario is the same as the 2-Series, so a few button presses, an adding of apps and an entry of your details is all that’s required to gain success to a world of TV over your Wi-Fi, and for everything else, there are no fewer than three HDMI 2.0, plus 1x HDMI 2.1 with eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) for piping high quality audio from the TV to an AV Receiver or soundbar. So, add into that heady mix a USB and an Ethernet port and connectivity is, as you can see, excellent.
Once you’ve got that all sorted, you have unfettered access to all manner of AV entertainment and the glorious 4K images that may come with it; and those images are glorious, gloriously vivid, crisp and sharp enough to take your eye out. Rich in detail, the Amazon 4-Series has a reasonable brightness of 300-nits, but I would say that it’s best viewed in darker rooms to enjoy the full benefits of what it can offer on-screen.
A refresh rate of 60Hz keeps things flowing smoothly and letting Xbox and Playstation fans find freedom from lag. Okay, it may not be the 120Hz that next gen gamers seek, but that price!
Audio here comes in the form of 2x 8W speakers which deliver surprisingly decent sound, but you should probably take advantage of that aforementioned eARC and set yourself up with a sound system on a par with the images.
The remote remains the same, meaning you too can head straight to the four favoured apps of Prime, Netflix, Freeview and Disney+ and, yes, you too can use the dulcet tones of your own voice to command Alexa to do your bidding by pressing on the blue button.
Big, bold and brilliant in its flexibility and simplicity to set up and operate, the Amazon Fire 4-Series is a veritable bargain for anyone looking for a big UHD centrepiece for their home cinema but without the big price.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-inch
Display type: LED
Resolution: Ultra HD (4K)
HDR format: HDR 10, HLG
Press & Ask Alexa: Yes
Hands free with Alexa: No
Ports: 3x HDMI 2.0, 1x HDMI2.1 eARC, USB, Ethernet
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet
Best for: App-controlled alarm clock ingenuity
A far cry from the ultra-affordable smart Lumie Sunrise Alarm, the Restore from California-based company Hatch may demand more of your moolah for, what at first, appears to be much the same soothing to- and from-sleep experience. But, this Wi-Fi-connected, app-controlled smart alarm clock soon shows why its worth every penny from the moment you download the free Hatch Sleep app (Apple and Android).
Firstly, to the aesthetics, because sometimes it’s not just what’s on the inside that counts. A very compact and stylish unit, the Restore combines tough ABS plastic with the currently hugely on-trend fabric wrap to the lower third of the front and completely covering the rear. Also, with a reasonable weight to it, you’re not going to easily send it sailing to an early demise with an errant elbow during a particularly fevered dream. Far from festooned with buttons, the Restore features a top centre soft-touch button that initiates your pre-set sleep routine, while similar buttons on one side allow you to adjust the volume and the intensity of the light. However, all this can also be done directly on the app, so if you have to position your Restore out of arm’s reach, there’s never any need to disturb your duvet in order to get it going.
The app is incredibly intuitive to use, meaning you can set up your perfect passing-out pattern within seconds, selecting timings, duration of reading light (40 Winks Fact: reading comes recommended by ‘sleep science’ experts as one of the best ways to prepare your brain for rest. Just probably not anything by E. L. James) alongside your choice of the 22 light colour options that are available, your selection of any of the 31 Sleep Sounds included, or if a little more is required to send you to the Land of Nod, you can pick one of a whopping 49 Sleep Meditation pieces. Options galore, indeed.
What’s more, despite the relatively diminutive dimensions of the Restore, the audio quality of both its soothing sounds and spoken meditations is excellently clean and clear, even at low volumes. So, if you end up dreaming you’re stuck in a snow storm (Sleep Sound No. 8), don’t say you weren’t warned.
The following morning, the Restore can be set to launch an in-house sunrise into life over 30-minutes and culminating with our opted audio alarm to bring you slowly and gently back to consciousness and ready to face the fresh horrors of a brand-new day.
No Google or Alexa to bother with random questions about chipmunks that pop into your head when the lights go out, but then that’s the point, the Hatch Restore is all about using technology to help you slide seamlessly into a sound sleep each and every night; and at that it’s a smart clock Sandman.
Best for: Bipedal personal robot perfection
Taking a meander down (failing) Memory Lane now for myself and some of our more antiquated readers, back to the 80s where robots were undeniably fun. We had the likes of Johnny 5 from the film Short Circuit, Metal Mickey from the eponymous and lovingly low-budget British TV show, and even the sass-talking space robot of the future in the shape of Twiki from the epic US series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Then the 90s suddenly arrived and all on-screen robots went from being dancing, sarcastic, plastic pal funbots to remorseless human-genocide-seekin’ killbots seemingly overnight.
Well, the good news is that I’ve spent the best part of three months with the Robosen K1 PRO Interstellar Scout in my home and at no point has it attempted to murderise either myself or my family, despite looking quite capable of giving it a good go. Instead, what K1 has done over those past months is prove to be an astonishing bit of kit. Described in some online quarters as a ‘toy’ robot, this is nothing of the kind. Easily one of (it not THE) most advanced personal robots on the market, the K1 PRO can be operated via voice commands (some 80+, in fact) or over its highly intuitive iOS/Android app.
But operation of what? Let me break it down with some Robosen revelations: Underneath the K1 PRO’s slick, matt Aluminium-alloy frame and ABS+PC shell sits some 40 separate Robosen-self-developed microchips and no fewer than 17 servos that allow this almost-automaton to not only free-walk, balance and move like the humanoid is so longs to be, it can also perform complicated physical set-pieces, such as dancing, fighting, flipping, forwards and backwards rolls, handstands and other such complex, high-brow pre-programmed performance pieces. But then the K1 PRO can also ‘pretend to fart’ (with sound effect), ‘take a pee’, ‘take a poop’, ‘play dead’, bark like a dog, meow like a cat and bust other such, erm, lower-brow but massively amusing moves. Yes, I am immature; but you knew that.
The K1 PRO can also be operated via remote control, to terrorise your pets as much as you please and, vitally, is also programmable, allowing all levels of expertise from beginners to programming pros to play with the K1 PRO, learn from its block-based programming system and, for those who have to justify such things to a significant other, use the Robosen to teach vital new STEM-style (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills to the next generation.
And there you have him: the Robosen K1 PRO Interstellar Scout – probably the most advanced, ingenious personal robot currently not planning to conquer the planet.
Control: Voice or App (iOS and Android)
Voice commands: 80+
Battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Best for: shower tunes on a budget
With its IP67 rating, you’ll have no problem getting the JBL Go 3 wet or covered in sand. It’s small and light, and though it only offers five hours of playback from a full charge, it’s cheap enough for that not to matter too much.
It looks good too, available in six colours and with a woven texture that makes it stand out from the largely plastic and silicone competition.
Being so small, its sound quality can’t keep up with larger, more expensive rivals, and it doesn’t have features like pairing up with another speaker, or support for multiple Bluetooth connections, but the trade-off is in price and convenience, and the Go 3 has a lot to offer there.Best for: Best for: CompatibilityOSConnectivityDisplayProcessorStorageWireless chargingWater resistant: Best for: Best for: Tech SpecCompatibilityPlay ModesSizeScreenWeightStorageBest for:Tech SpecPlay ModesJoy-Con ControllersNintendo Switch Dock:SizeScreenWeightStorageWeight:Best for:Best for:Best for: Phone models availableBest for: WeightDimensionsBest for:Best for:Best for: Best for: Best for:Tech SpecSizesDisplay typeResolutionHDR formatPress & Ask AlexaHands free with AlexaPortsConnectivityBest for: Best for: ControlVoice commandsProgrammableBatteryHeightWeightBest for: