I can’t believe it is that time of year once again but here we are, and actually it feels like we are quite a bit late at doing this (we are). Honestly, we have been having a rough time trying to piece things together since it has been such an amazing year for tech. With so many great things to pick from, how can you pick any one from most of the categories. We are going to do our best though and the following is the result of our sessions of warring things out.
We did a good job (at least in our own eyes) of narrowing everything down to as few top choices as possible, in order to make it easy to help recommend what we think are the hottest options. We also narrowed the categories down since, again, there has been so many unique ideas to choose from this year. Some of the following recommendations will be a single highlight while others will be a this vs that as it was too difficult to choose just one over the other due to differences in shopper preferences.
4TV UHD TVs
Of course, like every year there is a solid focus on TVs as there is a mad push to get rid of previous inventory and prepare for what’s next. Especially since CES is around the corner and will introduce so many new technologies into the market. That, and TVs will always be a hot commodity during the holidays.
Vizio has made it onto our list this year due to the success of their XLED screens. We recently reviewed Vizio’s 65-inch version of their E-Series XLED displays and found it to be fantastic. The one that made it to our list however is their 70-inch model due to size and price (a great value). It is one of the only 70-inch models you will find at less than $1K (at the current sale price at Best Buy at least). For now the price is $999 for 70-inches of 4K and the deal is currently available both on the website and in stores.
It is important to point out on this one that they refer to it as a “home theater display” and not a “TV” since it does not have a tuner built into it. Which means you will need an external box to feed TV (or OTA) channels to it with. Just a small sacrifice to make in order to get your hands on a really nice screen at a really low price. It’s like having a computer monitor for your living room to connect all your gadgets to. Plus, if you subscribe to cable or satellite, you more than likely already have a box, so don’t worry…the big game is going to be just fine.
The second runner up (option), is LG’s 65-inch B7A-Series 4K Ultra HD OLED TV. This TV was hand picked from the battle due to its mind blowing display. Unlike the Vizio, this one does have a TV tuner (so it is a “TV”), and its quality blows the Vizio away. That being said, the Vizio (as mentioned) is a great display. There is just a good reason this one is more than twice the price and 5-inches less. This LG TV is OLED and screams everything we love to see while we are at events like CES. The price is currently on sale for $2296.99 via Amazon, and there is no way to describe this TV in words. You simply have to see it with your own eyes. If you are looking for a mind blowing display, we can easily guarantee that you will not be disappointed. You just have to be willing to spend the cash. The positive side of things, is that it doesn’t cost as much as their W-Series OLED TVs.
This was a tough category as it has been a hot year in gaming. With the Xbox One X delivering something absolutely amazing when it comes to hardware and performance, we really wanted to lean into its direction this year for the guide. We have been (and still are) quite excited about the new console and everything it has to offer. However, based on the current trends and where everything lies, the Xbox One S seems to be the one killing it this year thanks to some amazing specials on bundles. You can currently get the console for as low as $189, and bundles range anywhere from $220-$240 on average. Despite the One X breathing down its back with all of the awesome perks it comes with, the One S is dominating in sales compared to it simply because it’s so darn affordable right now.
The next runner up was thought to be the Playstation 4 with VR bundle, but nope–Nintendo brought the Switch back into stock for the holidays and it is doing quite well thanks to its amazing fun factor and popular titles like the new Zelda and Mario game. This doesn’t mean it is on sale though like the Xbox One S, as the price is the normal $299, but it at least isn’t much more. This option is great for kids and adults of all ages and is the console this season most likely to sell out before the others so think quick if you want one of these.
This year we are breaking this category down between 3 sections to help delegate the right spotlight to the right consumer need. The first of these sections is gaming and the fact that with new systems and greater graphics comes larger file sizes. The Xbox One X brings a whole new average for the size of each game thanks to 4K and HDR, causing some of these games to now reach over 100GB each. That can fill a 500GB or 1TB drive pretty quickly. So the demand for an external hard drive is impossible to miss if you are making the upgrade to the new systems. Based on our performance tests and price, Western Digital’s (WD) 4TB Black My Passport USB 3.0 drives have been the best for bringing in the capacity with while keeping the price low and speeds higher than the drive inside the console, thus lessening load times for a lot of games. With 4TB you have more than enough space for a large number of games, reaching as high as 35+ games depending on the type of games you install.
Next up, you have the growing need for upgrading the space you have available on your PC or Mac. Now you have more to worry about than just a place to put all of your games. Now you have everything else you store on a personal computer, including applications, videos, pictures, music and so much more. Some of these programs now consume upwards to around 50GB+ in space when you consider application suites like Adobe. Of course if you are a PC gamer, then you more than likely have a bunch of boxed and digital games you install as well as additional ones coming from gaming hubs like GOG and Steam. If you plan on growing your media library with all sorts of music and/or have a habit of collecting all sorts of personal images and videos via your favorite cameras or smartphones, you will find that space fills quickly and you are going to need a place to back it all up to. For this purpose we have had a lot of luck with Seagate’s Expansion 8TB external USB 3.0 hard drive. A great solution for backing everything of importance, with plenty of space (plenty!) and a pretty good price. It has been selling quite well since it has fallen below $200 and you can bet you can find a good deal during the holiday specials.
The third highlighted section highlights gamers and other power users looking to get the most out of their system. With the coming of the SATA SSD, the world experienced a whole new way of pushing their systems with fancy new boot times and higher performance of applications and games. However, now SATA SSD seems to be yesterdays news now that we have PCIe driven nVME SSD options that feature up to 6+ times the performance of an SSD. Thew new drives change everything and provide a big change when it comes to speed of data. No longer are you bottle-necked by the speed of your hard drive. The performance is through the roof and hard to ignore, however so is the price. So these are currently broken down to two options. You have Western Digital’s nVME drives that cater to those not looking to blow their entire paycheck on a hard drive, with their drives falling between $100-$200. They are quick running as high as 1.5GBps to 2GBps (compare that to an SATA SSD that typically runs as high as 500MBps). Then you have the Samsung nVME drives that can transfer as quickly as 3.5GBps–a massive boost in speed compared to SATA SSD, however you’ll be spending up. Either option is a massive upgrade compared to SATA SSD, so how much of an upgrade depends on how much you are willing to spend (of course when it comes to upgrading a computer, this is nothing new).
Action camers continue to find themselves into the hot list once again. With the new GoPro Hero6 now available, GoPro has proven they don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. However, like the Xbox One X, their latest model isn’t getting nearly as much attention as the one before it. Some of this is can be thanks to apparent software issues that have been popping up within its firmware–but most of the attention is thanks to the awesome price it has found itself during Black Friday and similar sales (also, it doesn’t have all of the commotion about the firmware like the new 6 has). These mentioned commotions will go away of course as they tweak their firmware through updates, but for now, the GoPro Hero5 seems to be the hottest action camera in demand at the moment.
Headphones are always a tough topic for us as we typically get in quite a handful every year. However, we do eventually make up our minds on which ones we like the best. Of course, we find ourselves with more categories to organize them into than any other product (mostly because a lot of us are audio heads). This time we will be focusing on two options that we felt were worth bragging about.
The first one is in-ear (wired) headphones which no matter how hard we tried, led us right back to our favorite pair of wired earbuds to date. 1MORE’s Triple Driver headphones once again found their way onto our holiday list, making two years in a row. Sure we have listened to many since we originally awarded them with Editor’s Choice, but nothing quite compared to 1) their quality of range, and 2) their amazing price. These buds sound absolutely fantastic, and they have been available for less than $100 since they launched. They also have their new Lightning version with in-line DAC for iOS devices which is nice, but the regular model still takes the cake in our eyes.
Our second option is for those looking for a little more umph and an over the ears solution to pull it off with. The winner for this spot is Bose’s QuietComfort (QC) 25 headphones with amazing noise cancellation. They are also wired and by no means new, however they have been found at a great price, as low as $179 this season making them a steal for what they offer. Of course, if wires aren’t your thing, they do have their latest QC 35 headphones which are basically the 25’s without the wire (Bluetooth). However, those will run you around $329+ still (so it’s up to you to decide if wireless is important enough to justify the difference. These headphones offer a pretty good range mixed with excellent noise cancellation that help to drain everything out with. They are also quite comfortable, and not usually this affordable.
This was another tough one as we have played with a lot of routers this year. Mesh has been one of our favorite options, however mesh solutions generally lack some of your administrative controls you might want access to if you run media servers (or other similar solutions) on your network or find yourself deeply immersed within your favorite games. Those looking for a power solution with both speed and control won’t be jumping at Mesh just yet (although this is changing soon). Instead routers like Netgear’s Nighthawk series get the spotlight with some ground shaking performance. This round, we tip our hats to the Nighthawk X10 AD7200 router. It is fast, really fast. All of the AC performance routers have been doing a great job but this one really new how to steal the light. It is a quad-steam MU-MIMO solution that not only supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz, but the new 60GHz making it one of the only/few AD routers currently available. It is compatible with Amazon’s Alexa, offers Plex’s Media Server built in and has a range that covers a very large area without the need of Mesh. What makes it better, is that you can expand it later on (most of the latest Nighthawk routers can do this now) into a mesh setup using Netgear’s Nighthawk Mesh extenders. The only catch is that you will have to pay for the performance as these routers do not run cheap.
At this very moment, that is our list! If anything else makes it out of our war room on into the list, we will make sure to update it with more. This makes it a living list, so you may want to bookmark this. You never know when we might add something new.
Best of luck with your holiday shopping. We hope our recommendations can help you in your quest!