Best Tech Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide 2018

It's that time of year again and you can count on Shacknews to help you with shopping for all the tech lovers on your list.

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Keeping up with all the latest tech news and gadget reviews is tough enough for professionals like us, much less for regular people. Even if you have a good idea of the type of item you’d like to give a loved one this holiday season, many tech gifts are available in a wide assortment of variants or models. Sometimes it can be tough to tell a pair of iPhones apart just by looking at them. To help reduce the clutter and ensure you have the smoothest gifting experience possible, we have assembled a collection of some of the best tech gifts and gadgets of 2018 for that special person on your shopping list.

Best Tech Gifts 2018


Rechargeable batteries

If you have a tech lover on your list but you don’t know what they are into or items they may already have, there are still some great options for gifts that they can use and will be happy to receive. Just about any cool electronic device or gadget uses batteries. The quickest way to ruin the fun on Christmas morning is to not have fresh batteries ready for new toys and devices. Buying disposable batteries is a costly and is harmful to the environment. Thankfully, you can now buy high-quality rechargeable batteries at an affordable price.

The Panasonic Eneloop series are the best rechargeable batteries on the market and can give you years of reliable service. They come in all common sizes and arrived pre-charged in new packages. Amazon Basics offers a more affordable option with their rechargeable batteries with comparable performance to the Eneloops. When you get rechargeable batteries, you’ll also want a good charger. We recommend the any of the Panasonic Eneloop chargers as they offer the best possible performance without breaking the bank.

For the newest devices that have non-removable batteries like mobile phones, wireless charging makes lots of sense. We recommend the Samsung Qi charging pad. This unit is compatible with the latest Samsung Galaxy and other Android phones, as well as the iPhone 8, iPhone X, and iPhone XR. Any device that mentions Qi charging compatibility will be a good match for this pad.


Bluetooth speakers

In 2018, everyone takes their music on the go. Whether you rock an iPod Classic, stream Spotify on your mobile phone, or use another smart device, picking up a solid Bluetooth speaker is a must. Great sound can make a day at the beach even more memorable. Bluetooth speakers come in a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate your needs.

For the best portability, we recommend the Tribit Portable. It’s small size makes it easy to carry anywhere and the long lasting battery will keep you bouncing for the entire day and into the evening. If sound quality is the biggest concern and you don’t mind a speaker the size of a breadloaf, the Sony SRS-XB41 is the speaker to beat. If you need to be party-ready at a moments notice, the Sony will offer gobs of bass and the battery life you need to rock until the sun comes up.


Sound bars

Everyone would love to have a theater-quality sound experience in their homes, but stuffing thousands of dollars worth of amplification and speakers may not pass the wife test or be feasible for every dwelling. This is where sound bars come in. They offer a meaningful upgrade over the weak speakers in your flat screen TV while taking up the least amount of space possible. Most models can sit on top of an entertainment shelf or even be mounted on the wall directly under the TV. A few models come with subwoofers and surround speakers to offer a compelling alternative to full-fledge component systems.

If you want a no-nonsense setup that is easy to install and sounds good, the Yamaha YAS-207BL sound bar is what you want. It offers HDMI and optical input from your TV and projects clean sound, even in larger rooms. It has Bluetooth connectivity for your smart devices and a wireless subwoofer to kick out low bass in music or to help enhances the rumble from orchestral movie soundtracks. The Vizio SB3621nF8M is a good option for those on tighter budgets who would still like a dedicated subwoofer.

If you are looking for a soundbar to be the control center of your home theater, the Polk Audio Command is the best choice. It has Amazon Alexa voice control built-in and is fully compatible with Fire TV. It has an included DSP for making the voices in your shows and movies sound clearer and works well with the newest 4K and HDR TV sets. If these options are out of your budget range, we recommend avoiding cheaper soundbar solutions. Virtually all models under $100 will offer lackluster sound quality and will be easily bested by even the cheapest conventional speakers.


Headphones and desktop speakers

New headphones and speakers always make for a great holiday gift for the gamer or tech lover on your list. The explosion of the headphone market a few years back led to a wide range of option in every price bracket and it’s never been easier to find quality headphones at a good price. I wrote an extensive guide to headphones, amps, and DACs earlier this year that I recommend to anyone wanting to take a deep dive into the subject.

If you don’t have the time to examine all the options, there are a few standout models that are sure to be a hit this holiday season. The Superlux HD668B is my go-to recommendation for great headphones on a budget. They are a chinese knock-off of a popular AKG design and they sound just as good as options that are four times the price. For the bass-head on your list, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x provides loads of thump without breaking the bank. They offer a sealed design for good noise cancellation and a removable cord so you can get the length you need, or replace a worn cable. Music lovers will appreciate the wide soundstage and clean mids offered by the Sennheiser HD 598 SR. These headphones offer a level of sound quality that used to cost more than $200.

As great as modern headphones can be, there is still no substitute for a great pair of speakers. For years, most desktop users had to suffer through an endless stream of undersized, cheap speakers with overly boomy subwoofers. Thanks to the rising popularity of studio monitors for PC use, it is possible to get incredible sound quality for a good price, provided you have the space on your desk (or are willing to use dedicated stands). I also wrote a detailed guide to selecting the best monitor speakers this year that is a great starting point for anyone looking to make the leap into high quality music reproduction.

If a pair of monitor speakers sounds like a good gift option for your loved ones, you will get the best bang for your buck by going with the new JBL 306P mkII monitor speakers. These are active speakers (meaning they need no external amplification). You only need to hook up the power cables and signal cables and you are good to go. When positioned properly, the JBL monitors offer a sound that gets you incredibly close to what was heard in the studio when the recording you are listening to was made. JBL also offers a 5-inch (305P MkII) and 8-inch (308P MkII) models to better fit your desk or give you more bass.


TVs for movie lovers or gamers

New TVs are always a popular gift item around the holidays. Lots of retailers offer sales and discounts on popular models. You may see some crazy low prices that are advertised on giant screen sizes, but not all TVs are created equal. To make sure you get the most TV for your dollar this holiday season, we picked out a few of the best models for movie and video game lovers.

If watching movies is important to you or that special someone on your shopping list, the LG B8 OLED TVs should be on your shortlist. OLED tvs have an array of millions of pixels that can be independently activated, allowing for the deepest blacks and most saturated colors. The LG OLED TVs are the closest thing you can get to the theater experience (and can be better in some ways). The B8 model is available in 55 and 65-inch configurations and offer 120Hz screens for smooth viewing of movies or sports. You can even connect a PC to them to enjoy 120Hz gaming at 1080p. The LG OLEDs work their best in dark rooms, so if you have lots of windows or primarily watch during the day, consider going with an LED LCD TV.

The Sony X900F series comes in 49, 55, 65, 75, and 85-inch versions and offers the best HDR performance you can get in a non-OLED TV. All of the sizes feature 120Hz panels with excellent motion clarity. PC users can enable 1440p 120Hz modes for high-refresh HDR gaming at a fraction of the cost of comparable dedicated gaming monitors.

If you want a great gaming TV without breaking the bank, the TCL R617 series is a no-brainer. It offers 1000 nits of peak HDR brightness and a wide color gamut, ensuring that your HDR movies and games look their best. The TCL puts its 120Hz display to good use by offering the lowest input lag or our choices, making it perfect for the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro. The Roku-based software on the TV is head and shoulders above other smart TV offerings on the market. While it may only offer 95% of the performance of the Sony X900F, it sells for half the price, making it the best bang for the buck TV you can get in 2018. Simply put, there is no other TV on the market offering true HDR at a lower price.


If you are on the hunt for more great tech gifts for the holidays, be sure to check out our other holiday gift guides for items like the PS4, Nintendo Switch, and iPhone by heading over to our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide Hub. If you have any suggestions for more great tech gifts, let us know in the comments below.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    December 5, 2018 6:00 AM

    Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Best Tech Gifts - Holiday Gift Guide 2018

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      December 5, 2018 8:20 AM

      I've given up on installing real surround sound, so I think I might pick up that Yamaha soundbar.

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        December 5, 2018 9:23 AM

        also i don't entirely understand what's happening, but i was just researching this before bf:

        - the yas-207 is the soundbar + sub combo. there is also a yas-107 that is the soundbar alone
        - this year there's a yas-108 that's a newer model of soundbar, but there is no yas-208 bar+sub combo

        - there is what appears to be a costco-only model that's the ats-1070 (or ats-1080 for the yas-108) that is always less expensive. it seems to be the exact same hardware, but runs different firmware (so you can't flash an ats-1070 to YAS-107, but... ???)

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          December 5, 2018 10:06 AM

          The ats-1070 at cosco is basically the same thing as the YAS-107?

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            December 5, 2018 10:22 AM

            from everything i could read, yeah, they're the same physical hardware.

            a single caveat that probably doesn't apply anymore.. there was a firmware update that improved the sound quality... and at the time yamaha simply didn't publish firmware updates for the 1070, so you had to make sure to just buy a model new enough that it came with the improved sound (ex https://slickdeals.net/f/10954915-costco-yamaha-ats-1070-sound-bar-yas-107-119-99-or-lower-95-99)

            also afaik there's no such issue with the yas-1080 vs. yas-108, the 2018 versions of the bar

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              December 5, 2018 11:11 AM

              I want the one with the subwoofer, so I would get the 107, I'll probably just get it at Best Buy so I don't have to dick around with firmware.