The thought of buying gadgets for Christmas can often bring on the cold sweats. But just because it’s tech, doesn’t mean it has to be expensive.
We’ve trawled through the endless corridors of the internet to find the best gadgets that are both excellent value for money, but also excellent at their job.
From the 4K-enabled Google Chromecast Ultra to the mini-but-mighty UE Roll 2 speaker these are the gadgets that are punching not only above their weight but above their price tag.
Check out these great – and great value – gadgets for Christmas.
Hands free, voice-controlled and able to connect via Bluetooth to almost any device in the home, simply summon Alexa via the Echo Dot to demand music, alarms, news, solve arguments over who scored in the 1979 FA Cup Final. You can even regulate lights, heating and household appliances, presuming they’re compatible and connected. The device updates automatically via the cloud, so it’s always getting smarter, adding new features and skills. One day it will almost certainly rule the world and enslave the human race, but until then, enjoy!
If Amazon's Alexa isn't your gig then maybe Google's is. The Google Home Mini offers the same discrete size but with the same powerful AI inside. There's a small but still meaty speaker that's perfect for giving you daily news updates or your day's schedule. Unlike the Echo Dot there's no 3.5mm headphone jack so you can attach this to your other speakers.
Price: £34.99 on sale (normally £49.99)
Versatile, eminently portable and waterproof with it, the Ultimate Ears Roll 2 looks exceptionally funky and comes in half a dozen colour schemes. It can also be wirelessly connected to other UE speakers to create an even bigger sound for communal freak outs. For something this size it packs a considerable aural punch, and the sound stays crisp and bassy even at high volume. What’s more, it’ll pump out the tunes for nine hours when fully charged – more than enough to keep everyone partying into the early hours.
For anyone who loves great film and TV, it’s a travesty that so much of it is viewed on a six-inch screen. The Chromecast Ultra plugs into a TV’s HDMI port to make streaming from other devices, be it a phone, tablet or PC, a piece of cake. This premium version can stream in 4K and HDR so it's futureproof too. It can also stream music to the TV, play games and apps. Price: £69
The Tile Mate is a Bluetooth tracker that you can attach to anything you might need to locate. Via an app on your phone, you simply press a button and the Tile Mate rings. Similarly, if you have access to the Tile Mate but have lost your phone, you press a button on the Tile Mate and it causes your phone to ring, providing it’s within a range of 100ft. But what if you attach a Tile Mate to something that gets lost or stolen and could be miles away? If you register the item as lost, when someone else with a Tile Mate comes within Bluetooth range, you will receive an alert notifying you of the location.
It’s not the sexiest gift out there, but it’s so practical that whoever you give it to as a gift will remember you fondly every time it saves their phone from dying at exactly the wrong time. Its compact, tubular design means it slides into the pocket easily, and it provides enough power to charge two iPhone 6’s or one Galaxy S7, but can be used to revive any phone or tablet. Its durability means it’s ideal for those who like to spend much of their time in the great outdoors.
The Samsung Gear VR hooks up with Samsung phones like the Note 8 and S7 to provide a fully-immersive experience, and with over 800 apps to choose from (including Minecraft, Endspace and Paint VR to name but three). There’s plenty to keep gamers hooked, as well as people looking for more cerebral VR experiences. If your giftee doesn’t own a Samsung smartphone, or you don’t want to spend quite as much money, try the popular Google Cardboard (£15), a fold-out VR headset that is compatible with most phones, and works remarkably well.
DAB radios can get quite expensive, but John Lewis’s own brand is fantastic value and gives you a high-end product at a price that won’t put too big a dent in your Christmas budget. It looks great, has a big LCD screen showing the time (so makes a great bedside alarm clock too) and the sound quality is excellent. If you want to be thriftier still, check out the Goodman’s Pebble (around £23).
Creative Outlier One Wireless Headphones
Great sound quality, a long-lasting battery and beautifully designed, these in-ear Bluetooth headphones are fantastic value for money, and perfect for both sports and high-fidelity geeks alike. They are sweat-proof and water-proof, so no problems jogging in the rain, while the battery goes for 9.5 hours before needing to be recharged. Thanks to its in-line mic and remote, the user can control songs and make phone calls without having to fish out their smartphone.
Moov Now Fitness Tracker
Given the price of most fitness trackers, the Moov Now comes in at unbeatable value. It’s got a few tricks up its sleeve too, like providing audio coaching on technique, whether the wearer is hitting the ground too hard on their running stride, or needs a bit of extra motivation to get up that hill on their bike. It fits around the ankle or wrist, and is compatible with running, swimming, cycling, boxing or general fitness workouts. Like other fitness trackers, it also monitors your step count and sleep patterns, all done wirelessly via an app on your phone.