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Best holiday tech gifts 2021: Gadgets and gizmos for everyone

'Tis the season of giving, and ZDNet has you covered with the best tech gifts for family, friends, and yourself.

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Beyond socks, shirts, and chocolates, there is a huge market for tech gifts that are fun to receive and can also be functional for work, entertainment purposes, or study. Whether you're on the hunt for the best gaming laptop, tablet, or fitness tracker for a loved one, or you are looking for interesting gadgets as stocking stuffers and smaller presents, there is a huge variety of products on offer for the holiday season. 

To see out our top recommendations for tech products, gadgets, and accessories over the holiday season, check out our guide below.


Stocking stuffers for under $100

Xenvo Pro Lens Kit for mobile devices

Pro shots from your phone

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The Xenvo Pro Lens kit is a useful accessory for mobile phones that is likely to appeal as a gift to photography enthusiasts. The kit comes with a TruView 0.45x wide-angle lens, Clarus 15x macro lens, clips, an LED light, cleaning cloth, and case. 

Also: Best camera phones | Best cameras

Anker 20W Nano Pro Charger (USB-C)

The 'new phone' companion

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Gifting for someone who just upgraded their phone? If they purchased an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or even Google Pixel, chances are, they didn't get a charger in the box. A majority of smartphone manufacturers have joined the "Go Green" initiative over the past two years, resulting in more plastic-free packaging and less accessories in the box. The Anker Nano Pro can charge up to 20 watts, enough to fast charge iPhones and Android devices, and is as compact as Apple's own 5 watt charging brick.

See: ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes' Anker Nano Pro photo tour

Roku Streaming Stick+

Binge through the winter

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A great stocking stuffer, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is a compact and capable device that turns any TV into a smart one. When plugged in, the Roku stick gives you access to popular streaming services, including Disney+, Netflix, Peacock, and more -- all in 4K resolution (if your TV supports it). 

Also: Best video streaming services of 2021 | Best live TV streaming service of 2021

GameSir X2 Gaming Controller

A present for mobile gamers

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The GameSir X2 gaming controller, suitable for iOS & Android devices, transforms smartphones into mobile consoles reminiscent of Nintendo handhelds. Once slotted to your phone, the device, sporting an ABXY layout, can be used to play emulators, mobile games, and more.

Also: Best gaming laptops | Best gaming tablets


The best gifts for a little more ($100 - $300)

Apple AirPods

The latest generation

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A must-have for Apple fans, the iPad and iPhone maker has recently revealed its next-generation Apple AirPods. Now available to purchase, these third-generation earbuds have been redesigned for better battery life, bass, and overall sound quality.

See: Apple AirPods (3rd Generation) review: Improvements in all the right places

Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality Headset

Burn calories while having fun

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Now available for $299, the Oculus Quest 2 is one of the most affordable virtual reality headsets on the market. There is now a thriving game ecosystem, ranging from horror titles -- such as the Resident Evil series -- to explorers and puzzles. Or, immerse yourself in a variety of fitness games -- like Beat Saber and BOXVR.

Also: Best VR and AR headsets of 2021

Bose QuietComfort 45

Noise cancellation, work in peace

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Bose's QuietComfort 45 is an excellent option this holiday season if you are looking for quality headphones. These Bluetooth-connected headphones come with active noise-cancellation technology, a 'quiet' and 'aware' mode to both listen to music and allow environmental noise in simultaneously, and synthetic leather ear cups. 

Also: Best noise-canceling headphones | Best Bose headphones

Fitbit Charge 5

For gym bunnies and those looking to get fit

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Another holiday gift to consider this year is a Fitbit. The vendor is known for its activity trackers, and the Charge range is no exception. The Charge 5 is a Bluetooth-enabled tracker containing activity sensors, heart rate monitor, sleep tracker and also provides a 'readiness' score based on your sleeping patterns, heart rate, and exercise records.

See: Fitbit Charge 5 review: Best fitness tracker with color display, GPS, elegant form factor

Samsung Galaxy Tab A7

An Android tablet alternative for the holidays

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If you're on the hunt for a solid Android tablet this holiday season, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A7 is a great option to consider. This tablet is equipped with a 10.4-inch display, an 8MP rear camera and 5MP front camera, Qualcomm Snapdragon 662 processor, 3GB RAM, and 32GB storage.

Also: Best Android tabletsBest tablets | Best budget tablets


Gifts worth splurging for ($500 and up)

Apple Macbook Air M1 (2020, 13'')

Best laptop for students

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We're halfway through the school year but it's never too late to give the gift of Apple's new M1-powered MacBooks -- or any of the company's gadgets that have the chip baked in. The MacBook Air gets my recommendation for its sleek and lightweight design, battery-efficient performance, and robust macOS experience. It's the perfect laptop for students, workers, anyone.

Also: Best laptops of 2021 | All about Apple's Silicon M1 chip

Sony Alpha 6600 Mirrorless Camera

Explore mirrorless photography

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One of the key features of the Sony Alpha 6600 mirrorless camera is its autofocus capabilities, widely applauded as one of the best in the compact camera market. The camera also sports 24.2MP quality, an APS-C Exmor sensor, ISO capabilities of up to 102,4004, 11fps continuous shooting, and comes with an 18-135mm lens.

If you're looking for a camera as a gift this holiday season -- for someone else, or, perhaps, yourself -- then this is an option well worth considering. 

Also: Best cameras

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

A versatile laptop for work and play

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The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 would be a valued gift for anyone looking to upgrade their tablet or in need of a versatile device for work, travel, or study this year. At Best Buy, you can pick up a Surface Pro 7 with a 12.3-inch touchscreen display, Intel Core i5 processor, 128GB SSD storage, and 8GB RAM. The tablet-to-laptop operates on Windows 10 Home and, though, not the newest model, the Surface Pro 7 makes for an excellent value offering.

Also: The best Surface PC: Which is right for you? 

Apple iPad Mini

A top tablet from Apple

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The 2021 Apple iPad mini, one of the latest models in Apple's lineup, has been redesigned to be smaller than previous models but has managed to keep an 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, A15 processor, 64/256GB storage, and 4GB RAM. Apple fans looking to upgrade their iPad mini would certainly love this as a present this year.

See: Apple iPad Mini (6th Gen.) review: Unmatched portability and power

Also: Best tablets | Best budget tablets

DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

A gift for drone enthusiasts

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The DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 would make any drone hobbyist's day if received as a holiday gift. This model, one of the Phantom range -- which includes cheaper and more expensive options -- features a 1-inch CMOS sensor for shooting 4K/60fps videos, a camera capable of taking 20MP photos (f/2.8 wide-angle lens), sensors for detecting obstacles, and a remote controller.

Also: 

Unistellar eVscope 2

The "Out of this world" gift

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For something extra special this year, you could look at the Unistellar eVscope 2. This telescope brings together Nikon technology, automated field detection, and light pollution reduction systems to give the clearest sky possible to hobbyist astronomers. 


How we chose these products

Every holiday season, the hottest new technology often appeals no matter the age. It is also a time for many to ask for replacements, such as for a new laptop, phone, or gaming console. When we compiled our list, we considered not only the latest mobile device or PC, but also technology that could prove to be entertaining or valued in the recipients' daily lives.