The holiday season is already among us with Black Friday just around the corner. As always, we have taken the time to gather up some of hottest items that we feel will be getting a lot of the spotlight. We have selected 20 items this year. Gadgets, gaming, automation, TVs and more…let’s take a look at what’s hot THIS year!
Phantom 3 Quadcopter with 4K camera (DJI)
Drones have been taking the market by storm of the last few years and no company has done it better than DJI with their Phantom lines. This year they announced their all new Phantom 3 series, introducing some of the great features taken from their more expensive Inspire 1 model plus a few new abilities that drone lovers have been rushing to get their hands on. 4K resolution cameras, enhanced stability features and improve app interaction. The Phantom 3 is less than half the price of the Inspire 1 and has been selling slightly stronger than models past.
Canon 70D DSLR Camera
Canon is quietly amping up to release some new cameras next year (finally) for some of their model lines. This means good news for photographers and video enthusiasts alike since it always results in a hot price drop on the current models affected. One of most noticeable has been the Canon 70D DSLR. From Best Buy to Costco, Amazon and more, everyone has been offering great packages due to the Fair Market Value that Canon demands from its retailers. A great package price typically falls between $1299-1399 for the camera body, two lenses and a bunch of gear. The link we provided here was one of the better ones we found, providing all sorts of goodies for a great price. Enough gear to get any newcomer easily started. The 70D is popular since it’s the intro model to semi/pro video shooting, allowing you to capture great TV-quality video once you get the hang of it (just need to know a few settings). Of course, you can always hold out to the rumored 3rd quarter of next year to see what the 80D might offer (at a much higher price though).
Lexar Professional 1000x 64GB SDXC Card
With any good camera or video recording device, you always need a reliable storage solution that can not only provide more than enough space for what you need to capture, but write fast enough to keep up with the quality of file you are trying to save. Normal compressed images and video don’t require much (maybe a 30Mb/s SD card), but what about when you want to save as a a rapid spread of RAW images or RAW video if your device supports it (something you can accomplish with the above Canon if you load something like Magic Lantern on it)? You may find yourself looking for something with a lot more speed to it so that waiting or interruptions are never a concern on the gig. This Lexar card will provide read/write speeds around 130-150Mb/s on average. How’s that for reliable? Right now you can find them for just less than $40.
SanDisk Ultra 64GB Micro SDXC Card
If speed isn’t a concern and space is all you need while still being able to keep up with compressed image shooting, then SanDisk’s Ultra card may be a great solution for you. It offers around 32-35Mb/s write speed (up to 48Mb/s read), which should cover most devices you throw at it that support compressed images (or general everyday files). SanDisk is another reliable brand you can count on and it will work in a range of devices since it is a microSD card and comes with the SD adapter. DSLR cameras, action cams, smartphones, tablets and whatever else you may need the storage for. Right now you can pick one up for close to $20.
VIZIO’s 80-inch 4K TV (M80-C3)
We have been obsessed with showing you some of the best monster TVs over the last three years, and Vizio has been one of the leaders in this, usually riding neck to neck with Sharp. Sharp didn’t quite make it this year as Vizio’s model simply blew past it with flying colors. The M80-C3 is an 80-inch 4K TV that comes as quite the value. We have been calling it “4K for $4K”. Given, $4,000 is a lot of money to most people and most people don’t need 80-inches of TV in their home. Serious gamers and movie lovers however, are a whole new story. The Vizio can satisfy both of these, allowing them to go big while now spending $10k+. You can read our review of it here. If $4K is too much and you are willing to sacrifice a few inches, the 75-inch model surprisingly is $1400 less ($2600) at the moment of writing this, which would be considered a lot more affordable to some.
Bose QuietComfort 25 Headphones
We have spent plenty of time with Bose QC25 headphones and found them to offer some of the best noise cancellation out there. A good balance of both that and sound gives the Bose headphones an edge this year. They are also quite comfortable and pack away well when not in use. The price can be a little high for some who may not be used to spending so much on headphones ($299). You can find them via the button just below this text or if you are a Costco member, you can try Costco first to see if they still have them available on sale (I believe they were selling them for around $239).
Amazon Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote
This made our list last year. How about something to go with that new TV? Something like tons of TV and movie content via all your favorite networks like Netflix, Hulu and of course Amazon Prime (as well as many others). It’s like Roku, but better? That’s supposed to be the idea at least. It does everything Roku can, offers voice search via the remote and is backed up by one of the biggest online companies in the world. It’s a great alternative to paying for cable TV (as long as you have internet of course). It plugs into the back of your TV and you’r ready to start watching all of your favorite movies, TV series and so much more.
Vizio E-Series TVs
Let’s take a step back and give TVs one last look. Now let’s say 80-inches is far too big for your taste. You just want your typical 32-60″ TV, and one that isn’t going to challenge the wallet. In fact, let’s go with value pricing without a sacrifice in quality! That would be Vizio’s E-Series TVs. The come in all sizes and the price is going to be just right. If you wait until Black Friday, chances are, their prices will drop some more since all of the stores will be giving the E-Series some attention due to how wonderfully affordable they are (in price). (Series Review: here)
GoPro HERO4 Black Action Camera
GoPro provides one of the most popular action cameras out there on the market. I say one of them vs “the best” since the competition has been doing a great job with trying to catch up (DJI for example). #GoPro is still ahead though as one of the hottest selling action cameras out there and it appears that they will be doing just fine this holiday season. They still never sent us ours (they aren’t the best at communication), so no benchmarking and jaw dropping shots to share with you this year on this model, but there are plenty out there on YouTube to search out. Now if only that price tag could come down. Hot or not, $500 is a lot of money (maybe that just us that feels that way?).
Xbox One – Halo 5: Guardians Limited Edition Bundle with 1TB hard drive
Everyone knows the gaming systems are always some of the holiday list dominators, so of course these are going to make it. Every year Xbox and Playstation make it to the list as they compete neck to neck each season. There is always the question of WHICH version console to get though. This has been split into two both this console and the next item on the list being the basic bundle. The Halo 5 bundle however is the nicest looking Xbox One bundle we have seen so far. It looks absolutely great, comes with Halo 5 as well as a few extras and features a 1TB drive inside that provides just the right amount of space for that serious gamer. We have spoken a number of times now about how excited we are to see this bundle and still consider getting our hands on one to setup here for downtimes (assuming we can play fair with rationing our play times out). It’s available for around $499, so it isn’t one of the cheaper options (just one of the most exciting).
Xbox One – Gears of War: Ultimate Edition Bundle
This is a bundle for those not looking to spend $500 on an Xbox One and most likely will be one of the highest selling options out there this year. At the time of writing this, it is going for less than $330 and includes entire Xbox 360 Gears of War collection. The price is the same as the Xbox One bundle that comes with no games (also on sale), so it works out just right. This one come with a 500GB hard drive, which still offers a decent amount of space for a lot of gamers. You can always plug in an external USB hard drive if you need more storage later down the road.
PlayStation 4 – Star Wars Battlefront Bundle
Now it’s time to shed some light on the competitor, the PlayStation 4. The PS4 will be selling just as hot this year as always (the whole neck to neck thing mentioned earlier). One of the highlights this year is the Star Wars Battlefront edition bundle. A great value and falls around $349 currently. It comes with a 500GB hard drive like the Gears of War bundle Xbox above and a slew of games. Star Wars Battlefront obviously is the focus here, but it also comes with 4 other Star Wars classics that you are able to download digitally to the console as well. A great price for a great bundle for any PlayStation fan who needs to get their hands on the PS4. If you’re looking for a little more storage space and prefer to play the popular first person shooter Call of Duty, there is also the Black Ops III Edition bundle that features a 1TB hard drive on board and a custom look to the console and controller. It weighs in a little more though, coming in at $429 currently.
How about some home automation? Amazon Echo has been stealing a lot of attention lately with its voice activated speaker featuring a cloud-based AI called “Alexa” (similar to Siri or Cortana). Through various commands you can give it, you can access instant information on music, audiobooks, news, weather, traffic, sports, and more. Listen to all of your favorite music on Amazon Music or any of the other popular apps like Pandora, iHeart and more. You can also use Echo to control all sorts of connected devices throughout your house. It currently supports a hand full of devices from Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, SmartThings, Insteon, and Wink. Tell it to turn on a light, set an alarm, tell you the temperature or if it looks like it may rain (in case you don’t want to look out the window), add something to your shopping list or read your favorite book aloud. There are a lot of automation devices out there and Echo seems to have found its way to the top of the interest pool.
Yamaha RX-S601 5.1 Channel 4K Receiver
We love Yamaha as they have provided years of audio excellence in both consumer and commercial sound for so many years. Their Aventage models have been sitting at the top of affordable (although still expensive) high performance sound list and the models below them aren’t much different. The RX-S601 is a prime example. A slim profile receiver that takes up less space than the average AVR giving it a real sexy design and small footprint, it offers a lot of features for those looking to break into the 4K world. It offers full 4K passthrough, plenty of HDMI 2.0 input and streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. You can read our review of it here.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 vs Apple iPad Pro (+ Surface Book)
Once again we have the Mac vs PC battle as both companies have released a new beast into the market. Microsoft launched their new Surface Pro 4 tablets recently that offer great specifications that stomp all over the iPad Pro and earlier devices. Something to finally light a fire under Apple’s bottom-side as they seem to have been slacking off as of late. The iPad Pro just entered the world as well. Really though, the only thing impressive here is the larger screen (12.9-inches) and a slightly higher resolution (2732×2048 vs 2736 x 1824). Of course there is the Surface Book, which is a laptop-tablet hybrid and features some fascinating specs. A lot of people are referring to it as the Macbook Pro killer (in some cases, including Apple fans). It truly does make an image for itself, however that image comes at a price. You will be spending $1500-$3000 on average for one. So this round is a little more than just “PC vs Mac”–it also depends on how much you’re willing to spend before your stomach gives out.
Apple iPhone 6s
Apple fans obviously love upgrading their phones every single time Apple launches new hardware……..right? Ok, that statement can be argued probably, but that doesn’t change the fact that many do. The iPhone 6s is just another player in that game and it is selling strong. Personally, most of us feel the iPhone is over-priced (but that would be a special feature of almost every Apple product). Biased? Yes we are (we aren’t a 100% pro Windows editorial, we just take in the facts), but that doesn’t change the fact that they are selling like crazy.
Samsung Galaxy S6
Another expensive player in The Game of Phones (Thrones pun anyone?), the Galaxy S6 is selling strong and seems to have wiggled itself into being the phone to have this year if you’re an Android fan. It has the specs you need to stay on top of it all, a wonderful looking screen and of course all of those expensive accessories to go with it, if you so choose to indulge yourself (ie, Samsung Gear watches)
UE Boom 2 Speaker
We have covered most of the UE/Logitech speakers within the last 3 years or so, all of which have always outshined most if not all of the competition. The Boom and Mini Boom have made it to some of our top lists a number of times and now they are out with a revised version of what was already nearly perfect. Now waterproof (up to a meter of water), UE wants you to once again brag to all of your friends why your Bluetooth speaker is better than there. You can read our review of the original UE Boom here where we cover its various benefits, such as 360-degree sound, wide dynamic range and strong Bluetooth range.
Microsoft Band 2
Microsoft has made another move on the smartwatch market with a sequel to last year’s model. Everything you would typically look for in a fitness watch with a few extras such as Cortana support (Microsoft’s personal assistant AI). It’s a smartwatch, it’s a fitness tracker, it’s your quick access to Cortana. It’s awesome if you’re a Windows phone user since you still have limited access to these devices until Windows 10 Phones begin to enter the market (where then you would have proper access to other watches and devices, such as the Fitbits).
Western Digital 6TB My Book External Hard Drive
Finally, the last item in our list. Who doesn’t love a little boost in hard drive space during the holidays? Last year we featured the 4TB Seagate (external) drive, but this time WD is taking the spotlight with their massive 6TB drive. A great size for just about anyone looking for a backup solution for their PC or even entire network. You can find our review of it here, as well with details on if you want to simply use it as an internal upgrade. The price isn’t that high at all, coming in at less than $200, so this makes a great upgrade for the holidays.
Obviously there will be so many other items rushing off the shelves this season. We can however only spend so much time covering it all before we fall into a deep coma of holiday excitement. Hopefully our 20 recommendations help you in your holiday shopping this year. Some of us have already gotten a head start as the pre-Black Friday sales have been rolling in at places like Amazon. Don’t forget to keep a strong eye out for Cyber Monday as well (the Monday right after Black Friday) as it is expected to be another tech-strong rush of discounts at all of your favorite online and brick-and-mortar stores.
Good luck and happy shopping!