The holidays are here, which means it’s time to shop for goodies and gadgets. If you’re the type of adult who still enjoys toys, then it’s a good time to ask Santa for some tech that can improve your day-to-day life. But with so many inventions to choose from ― and so much knowledge required to sift through them ― how can tech newbies know which items to put on their lists?
We asked a handful of tech editors and reporters for the No. 1 gadget that makes their lives better. Many of them named smart speakers, like Google Home and Amazon Echo, which respond to your voice for hands-free help around the house. Surprising nods included a digital camera and a meat thermometer, proving there’s something for everyone.
Take a look at your new tech wish list.
Sony Alpha a6000 Digital Camera
“It’s convenient enough to bring on my vacations or work trips, packs super handy wireless technology that lets me send photos to my phone without connecting to a PC and, best of all, takes pretty great photos without any effort. If lugging your bulky DSLR camera everywhere stresses you out, do yourself a favor and invest in one of these.” ― Nick Pino, senior editor at TechRadar
“Never having to reach for a light switch or wonder if you left a light on is nice. Better is always coming home to a warmly lit house and having the lights dim on a work night as a friendly reminder it’s time for bed. Even the way lights can flash when an alarm goes off is wonderful ― no more burned cakes in the oven.” ― Alex Cranz, senior reviews editor at Gizmodo
Amazon Echo, Google Home Smart Speakers
“For me it would be the Google Home. It’s not necessarily my favorite gadget ever or the most interesting choice, but I found myself using it a lot over the past year. I’ve made a habit of asking it for the weather as I’m putting on my jacket before leaving the house ... [It’s] most useful for asking questions that I’d normally Google, without having to reach for my phone.” ― Lisa Eadicicco, tech correspondent at Time
“By themselves, [smart speakers] aren’t all that impressive, sort of gimmicky, really. But when paired with smart outlets, TVs, lights, thermostats, door locks and other devices, something magical happens. It really feels like living in the future.” ― Bryan Clark, U.S. editor at The Next Web
“It’s when [smart speakers] are combined with smart home appliances, like connected lights or switches, that the magic really happens. I have most of my home automated at this point, and being able to tell my speaker to do stuff for me is freeing (although frustrating when they don’t hear me correctly).” ― Cherlynn Low, reviews editor at Engadget
Ultimate Ears Blast Speaker
“Not only is the Bluetooth speaker virtually indestructible and packed with sound, but you also get all of the benefits of Alexa. That means you can use it like an Echo at home and then take it to the beach, to the park, to the woods ― wherever ― and throw a mobile dance party.” ― Adam Clark Estes, senior editor at Gizmodo
Fujifilm Instax SP-3 Mobile Printer
″[You can] print instant images from your phone ― more control than an instant camera, still guaranteed to stoke out everyone at the party. I brought the last-generation version on a trip to Mongolia, and the photos make an awesome gift.” ― Alexander George, technology editor at Popular Mechanics
Meater Meat Thermometer
“You stick it in your meat and monitor the internal temperature of your dish through an app. The Meater lets you know exactly when your food is ready to take out of the oven, grill or smoker without much work on your part.” ― Ashlee Clark Thompson, associate editor at CNET
Amazon Echo Dot
“I use it for my morning alarm, weather report, timers, shared family shopping list, smart home gadget control and listening to music. Apart from my phone, it might be the most regularly used gadget in my house.” ― Dan Seifert, senior editor at The Verge
Ring Video Doorbell
“It lets you see who’s at your front door, night and day, from anywhere in the world. Ring also offers up cloud recording at a monthly fee, which is handy to have in the event of a break-in or other emergency ... You can answer Ring from wherever you are, and that could be enough to thwart any potential unfriendly people.” ― Alex Hernandez, editor-in-chief at Techaeris