18 Must-Have Tech Gifts for the Holidays

12/11/2015 02:41 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Looking for a great holiday gift idea? Look no further than the latest technology because that seems to be what people want most. According to the CEA's 22nd Annual CE Holiday Purchase Patterns Study, spending on tech during this holiday season is expected to grow 2.3 percent, with items like headphones, tablets, laptops and speakers topping people's wish list. I've rounded up my suggestions for the best in those categories and more. Take a look through these tech gift ideas, there's sure to be something for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

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Portable Music
For listening to music on the go, the JBL Everest Elite 700 make my ears sing. The soft, cushiony ear cups fit comfortably over and around my ears as opposed to on-ear headphones which hurt after a while. They're wireless, connecting via Bluetooth to most mobile devices, and have a 15-hour battery life. Active Noise Cancellation makes them perfect for drowning out the world on long plane rides while TruNote technology calibrates the sound you hear based on how they fit your ear.

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Music in the House
For premium sound inside the house the Sonos Play:5 wireless speaker can't be beat. The clarity delivered by this sleek-looking wireless speaker is the best I've heard in a long time. It's easy to set up over your home Wi-Fi and you can stream and control music services like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Prime Music and more, as well as play your own music. The Trueplay tuning feature measures where the speaker is in a room and calibrates the sound, making sure every seat is the best seat in the house.

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Streaming TV
Each year I say Roku is the best streaming media player and every year it gets even better. The Roku 4 adds the ability to stream 4K Ultra HD content for those with a 4K TV on the holiday list, as well as a remote that finds itself when lost in the couch cushions. Roku offers a huge selection of channels to stream from; Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Now, Amazon Video and more, along with the ability to use it in a hotel when traveling because no one should have to watch bad TV.

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Portable Laptop
Laptops may be getting thinner and lighter, but they're packing on the processing power and productivity capabilities. Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 is a 2-in-1 device with a beautiful, crisp touchscreen display. When paired with the optional Type Cover you have a powerful Windows 10 device that can replace your laptop. Without the redesigned Type Cover, it's a 12.3-inch tablet with up to 10 hours of battery life and a new, improved kickstand for various viewing angles. Try this in place of that heavy laptop, you won't be sorry.

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Portable Tablet
Amazon's 7-inch Fire tablet is just about the best value you'll find in a tablet right now. The 5th generation tablet has front and rear-facing cameras, a quad-core processor and an easy-to-view IPS display, along with a price tag of $50. Not convinced yet? It's got 8 GB of storage and a microSD card for 128 GB more, up to seven hours of battery life and is a great-priced tablet for reading books, watching movies and playing games.

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Portable Power
Lugging a heavy laptop charging brick back and forth to work or on business trips is a huge pain in the back. I've been using the newly-released Zolt laptop charger and it has tamed the charging cables on my desk. It's a slim, palm-sized device with enough power to charge a laptop in one USB port, while also charging a tablet, smartphones, smartwatches or fitness bands in the other two lower powered-ports. Yes, you can charge three devices at one time. Zolt comes with eight tips that connect to a 6 ft. long USB cable and are compatible with most Windows PC's. A separate Apple laptop cable is available for Mac users but check for compatibility.

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Portable Battery
The traveler in your life will always make room to pack the Tylt Smart Charger Wall Charger with Built-in Battery. Not only is it a lightweight 6,000 mAh portable battery pack that charges mobile devices on the go, it's an AC adapter with two USB ports for charging devices in the hotel or the airport. The bonus feature is that it comes with adapters for the UK and much of Europe so you can charge your devices wherever the road leads you.

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Fitness Tracker
While brands are trying to add activity tracking features to the latest smartwatches, some of us prefer standalone activity trackers. The Jawbone Up3 is newly designed so it looks more like a bracelet than a tracking device, and comes in fashionable color combinations you'll actually want to wear. Up 3 tracks your steps, calories, resting heart rate, sleep and more, all on a battery that lasts up to 7 days.

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Object Tracker
If you or someone on your list is constantly losing track of your phone, your car keys, even your carry-on bag, there is a gadget for that! Tile is a tiny Bluetooth-enabled device you attach to your belongings so you can track their location with a smartphone app. And yes, if your lost your phone, you can ask Tile to ring to help locate it. What's really cool is if the lost item is out of Bluetooth range, Tile uses Community Find, drawing on other users in the network to anonymously help track down the missing object.

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Travel Smart
When I'm traveling I always like to keep my tech with me, but juggling my smartphone, tablet, earbuds, battery charger and all the rest of it makes me crazy. SCOTTEVEST solves this problem by providing enough pockets for all that gear you carry with you. They make clothing for men and women in a variety of colors and functional styles. Check out the Suzie Q Zip with side pockets for a phone, keys, credit cards and more, or the Travel Vest, with more than a dozen hidden-away pockets. These are great for fending off pickpockets as well.

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Kid-Friendly Tablet
If you have a young child who wants a tablet of their own, but you're not ready to shell out for another iPad, check out LeapFrog's Epic Android tablet, which offers a safe environment for kids to explore. It's got a 7-inch LCD touchscreen, expandable memory, front and rear cameras and apps that adapt as a child grows.


Another great option for kids is the Samsung Kids Galaxy Tab 3 Lite. It's a 7-inch tablet with a starter pack of over 20 popular kid's apps, plus access to Samsung Kids, a monthly subscription service packed with fun and engaging educational apps and content. There are no ads or in-app purchases, and parents can set time limits. When time us up for the kids, switch back to adult mode and watch movies or read a book of your own.

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SmartWatches
If a smartwatch is on the wish list, you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on the Apple Watch. They start at $300 and go up from there. Now that Android Wear, the operating system running on many popular smartwatches can be used with iOS devices, consider the latest crop of devices on the market.
The Asus ZenWatch 2 can be had for as little as $129 and I find it to be more attractive anyway. It's available in two sizes, which is great for women, with 18 different strap options and color combinations. It has to look good because you'll wear it every day to get email, text and other notifications from your phone. For a more classic design, and a little more money, you should also check out the latest smartwatches from Huawei.

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Smart Home
If you want to start building a smart home, the third generation Nest 3 Learning Thermostat is a super-smart device that learns from you to help keep you comfortable. It actually helps save on energy by adjusting itself when you're not home. You can set a schedule or control it from your smartphone so you can turn up the heat or AC even when you're not there. It's simple to use and I love the large, bright, high-res screen on this latest model. Handy people can install it themselves but others might require outside help.

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Household Helper

I know, you may not think a new vacuum makes a great holiday gift but trust me when I tell you the convenience of a cordless stick vacuum is a true gift. For starters, you don't have to bend over while vacuuming the floor and your back will thank you. The Dyson V6 Absolute powerfully sucks up dirt from carpets and hardwood floors and has a HEPA filtration system to help cut back on allergens. The digital motor helps keep it light so you don't run out of steam before the battery, which Dyson says will last about 20 minutes on a single charge. Dyson's premium products are pricey but I've seen this model on some holiday promotions for as low as $449 which is a great deal.

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Tech Toys for the Kids
Your kids may be begging for hovercrafts and drones but they can get a little pricey. The SkyViper Video Drone is a kid-sized version that's a little more down to earth in the price department. Priced at under $100 the drone lets you perform stunts and record and stream HD video footage from high in the sky right to your smartphone.
Crayola Color Alive Easy Animation Studio is for the budding animator on your list. Kids can create animated videos without having to edit together stop motion video by designing a character and scanning it into the app on a mobile device.