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Best tech gift for staying connected 2021: Top picks

This holiday season is going to look very different, but you can stay connected with these cool gadgets.

Holiday Gift Guide

ZDNet Recommends: Holiday Gift Guide 2021

Looking for the perfect gift this holiday season? Here's a great lineup of gift ideas and resources to get you started.

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Instead of sitting around this holiday season wishing you could spend time with your friends and family members, take the time to find gifts that help you stay connected.

Be it a video game console that's sure to keep your kids and their cousins connected and entertained, or something more personal for you and your partner, there's something for everyone in our list below.

Heck, there's even a lamp that changes colors every time your friend touches their own version of the same exact lamp. Sometimes it's the little things that mean the most.

Below are some of our top picks for tech gifts that will help you stay connected this holiday season.

Apple Watch SE

The walkie-talkie feature is almost addictive

Image: Apple

The Apple Watch can do a lot of things, like track your heart rate, sync messages from your iPhone or double as an Inspector Gadget-like walkie talkie. With a couple of taps on the screen, you're instantly connected to a loved one, where you can take turns talking to each other directly from your wrist. Pretty cool. 

Nintendo Switch Lite

There are plenty of fun multiplayer games

Image: Nintendo

Visit each others' islands in Animal Crossing, team up on Rocket League, or drop-in on Fortnite. Gaming together is a fantastic way to create memories while staying in touch. 

Facebook Portal

If you can get past the privacy concerns, this is just cool tech

Image: Facebook

Facebook's Portal devices have some of coolest video conferencing tech. The camera will follow you around the room, zoom in when you're talking, or zoom out when someone enters the shot. There are various designs and models to pick from. 

Microsoft Xbox Series X

Microsoft's latest gaming console is here. Kind of.

Image: Microsoft

Not only does the Xbox offer a multitude of online gaming that you and your family members can play together, but it doubles as a streaming device to watch shows and movies as well. The latest generation, Series X and Series S, will be hard to find this holiday season, making it an even sweeter present. 

Aura Frame

Send photos directly to a loved one's frame from your phone

Image: Aura

Have a family member who refuses to use social media even though they are missing out on all the cute photos you post? The Aura Frame will let you send pictures directly from your phone to one of its frames (internet connection required, of course). The photos will show up a few seconds later.

PlayStation 5

We'd be remiss if we left Sony's next-gen console out

Image: Sony

Of course, Sony is also launching its latest generation gaming console, the PS5. It will be hard to find, just like the Xbox Series models, so if you have the opportunity to snag one, we suggest you do it the moment you find one. 

Apple iPad

FaceTime is popular for a reason

Image: Apple

The base model iPad is the most affordable, but it doesn't leave anything to be desired. You're still able to play games, chat, and, yes, use it for FaceTime video or audio calls with other Apple-using friends and family members. 

Amazon Echo Show 8

For those who prefer Alexa

Image: Amazon

The Echo Show 8 is an Alexa-powered device with a screen and camera built-in. You don't have to use it only for video calls, but you can also drop-in on a loved one's Echo for a surprise audio call whenever you want. 

Oculus Quest 2

For a more immersive gaming experience

Image: Oculus

It may not be as good as hanging out in person, but hanging out in VR isn't a bad way to spend some time with a friend. The Oculus GO VR headset doesn't need a powerful PC to run, and there's plenty of games that you can play. 

Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus

It's a cheap tablet that you can use for video calls

Image: Amazon

If you don't want or need an iPad, Amazon's Fire HD 8 Plus is the best bang for your buck when it comes to tablet. Use the front-facing camera for Zoom video calls, and then when you're done, you can finish shopping on Amazon. 

Friendship Lamps

A more subtle approach to let someone know you're thinking about them

Image: Friend Lamps

Friendship lamps take a more subdued method to stay connected with a loved one. Whenever you tap the lap to change its color, your friend's lamp will also change colors, letting them know you're thinking about them. It's no doubt unique. 

Long distance toys for him and her

It's just another way technology helps us stay in touch

Image: LoveSense

For the more adventurous, LoveSense offers toys for both partners that can be controlled remotely via a desktop app, a smartphone, or tablet. And when your schedules align, you can take advantage of the two-way interactivity feature. Think of it as a mutually beneficial gift. 

Need more gift ideas?

Check out our ZDNet Recommends directory or Holiday Gifts hub for some more inspiration. 

Our sister sites also have the following gift guides: