20 Cool Gadget Gift Ideas For Techies: Holiday Gift Guide 2020

Wireless earbuds, smart plugs, Bluetooth speakers and smart home devices are just some of CRN’s cool tech gadget gift recommendations for the 2020 holiday season.

Cool Gadget Gifts

For many people, the tumultuous year we’ve just had means the holidays are going to take on even greater importance than usual this year. It’s time for a break from the madness, at least for a little bit. And so, as many of us may want to put extra care into picking the best gifts for our loved ones this year, we’re hoping to make things a little easier with our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide. Because as you may have noticed, there’s been no slowdown in releases of cool gadgets this year, meaning that there’s no shortage of gadget gift ideas for techies this holiday.

To assist with finding the best tech gifts this holiday season, we’ve assembled a list of recommendations for 2020’s coolest tech gadget gifts—from the new Apple Watch and Amazon Echo Dot, to smart plugs and Bluetooth speakers, to wireless earbuds, tablets, smart home devices and more. We also know that sometimes, the best tech gifts are the ones that are simply the most practical—so we’ve also included a few of the latest and greatest gadgets for the home workspace.

In the following slides, we present our list of 20 cool gadget gifts for techies that are worth considering this holiday.

Amazon Echo Dot, 4th Gen

While the Echo Dot was already the top-selling speaker ever, according to Amazon, the compact-sized version of the Alexa-powered speaker has gotten a major redesign for 2020—which should broaden the appeal even further. With the fourth-gen Amazon Echo Dot, the smart speaker now has a spherical design as well as a fabric exterior. We’re sure many will welcome the new design as an aesthetic improvement compared to past versions.

The new Echo Dot features a 1.6-inch, front-firing speaker and adds the ability to snooze the device by tapping on it—while also including the full voice control functionality of the Alexa assistant, of course. Additionally, there’s now a spherical Echo Dot with clock version—which includes an LED display for showing the time, temperature, alarms and timers.

The Amazon Echo Dot, 4th Gen, is priced at $49.99. The new Echo Dot with clock is priced at $59.99 (and is currently listed as being back in stock on Dec. 5).

Anker Soundcore Life Q20

In our gadget gift guides at CRN in the past, we’ve frequently included a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones—because you simply can’t go wrong with them. But they are also very pricey, often costing upwards of $400 for the latest model. This time, we thought we’d include a much more budget-friendly choice—but one that offers solid audio quality and noise cancellation nonetheless. The Life Q20 noise-cancelling headphones from Anker’s Soundcore brand is an optimal choice that fits these criteria. The over-ear wireless headphones have received Hi-Res Audio certification, signifying a top-notch audio experience, and include hybrid active noise cancellation technology that reduces ambient noises by as much as 90 percent. The Life Q20 headphones also feature memory foam earcups and promise an impressive amount of battery life, with up to 40 hours on a charge available.

The Soundcore Life Q20 headphones are currently priced at $59.99 on Amazon.

Bamboo Charging Station

For many people these days--techies and non-techies alike--having an abundance of devices has become the norm. But maintaining a good system for charging all those devices can be a real pain; plugging multiple devices into different places and running numerous wires in all directions is messy and aggravating. That’s why this Bamboo Charging Station, from manufacturer Pezin and Hulin, could make a great gift: It offers a way to keep devices charged and organized at the same time. And it has an appealing look and an eco-friendly approach, too, with the organizer made from 100 percent bamboo wood.

This Bamboo Charging Station comes with a five-port USB charger and five charging cables compatible with both Apple and Android devices. The station itself can hold up to six devices such as smartphones and tablets, and it also has a special removable holder for AirPods and Apple Watch.

The Bamboo Charging Station with USB charger from Pezin and Hulin is currently priced at $44.99 on Amazon.

Apple AirPods Pro

Even though they’re already very popular, it would be tough to justify leaving Apple’s AirPods Pro off a list of recommended tech gifts for this holiday. Why? Because the AirPods Pro are about as close as they come to a perfect gadget--both immensely useful and brilliantly designed. The AirPods Pro not only sound great, but they also pair and unpair from your iPhone automatically and intelligently; they can recharge in their case, and include mics that are excellent for calls; and they come with three different silicone ear tips to choose from. Oh, and best of all, the AirPods Pro feature terrific Active Noise Cancellation—something not available in standard AirPods. The result is a superb listening experience from wireless earbuds that have a strong likelihood of being able to stay in your ears. The AirPods Pro also include Siri voice control and “transparency mode” for being able to listen to music while also hearing the sounds in the environment.

Apple’s AirPods Pro are priced at $249.

Samsung Galaxy Buds+

AirPods Pro might not be for everyone, of course—especially for the non-iPhone users among us. One great alternative for wireless earbuds are Samsung’s Galaxy Buds+, which were released earlier this year as a follow-up to the original Galaxy Buds from last year. One of the biggest improvements with the Galaxy Buds+ is the extended battery life, which Samsung has pegged at up to 11 hours on a charge—compared to six hours for the original Galaxy Buds. Charging up the Galaxy Buds+ in their case expands the potential battery life even further, to 22 hours. As for audio quality, while the Galaxy Buds+ don’t feature Active Noise Cancellation, they do boast top-notch sound from AKG along with a two-way speaker system that includes an added tweeter. The Galaxy Buds+ also come with three mics and improved “ambient sound” that allows users to remain aware of the environment while still experiencing great audio.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are priced at $149.99.

Kasa Smart Plug

If you think a techie in your life might be ready to start or expand their smart home setup, you can’t go wrong with the gift of a Kasa Smart Plug--which is both affordably priced and highly reliable. We’ve tried out a few different smart plugs and found the Kasa Smart Plug to be the best; it’s easy to connect the plug to Wi-Fi and even easier to control it using voice commands with Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant. Made by Wi-Fi networking specialist TP-Link, the Kasa Smart Plug also doesn’t need a connected hub to enable voice control--just a device enabled with Google or Amazon’s smart assistant. Plus, users can control the plugs remotely using the Kasa app on their phone--for instance, turning their air conditioner on or off from any location.

The Kasa Smart Plug, two-pack, is currently priced at $14.99 on Amazon.

Klipsch Bluetooth Speaker - The One II

Not every speaker these days needs to have Alexa or the Google Assistant (there are plenty of people who would prefer it that way). But having Bluetooth connectivity is still ideal for a home speaker setup in 2020. For a home Bluetooth speaker that combines superb sound quality with an appealing design, The One II speaker from Klipsch is a strong choice. The tabletop speaker’s retro design uses real wood for its cabinet as well as metal knobs and switches--all a bit of a novelty at this point. The stereo system is also compact in size, measuring about a foot wide and a half-foot tall. And in terms of audio quality, The One II is professionally tuned and features 2.25-inch full-range drivers along with a 4.5-inch woofer (ultimately providing the “legendary Klipsch sound,” according to the company). Plus, in addition to Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connectivity, the speaker still comes with a 3.5mm analog input, as well.

The One II from Klipsch is currently priced at $199 on Amazon or Klipsch’s website (normally priced at $249).

Oculus Quest 2

After a year like this, who wouldn’t want to escape everyday reality for a bit? Well, it’s actually fairly easy in 2020 because the virtual reality experience just keeps improving--and getting more affordable. With the recently launched Oculus Quest 2, users get an “all-in-one” VR headset that can be used wirelessly. I.e., there’s no longer any need for connecting to a high-powered, expensive PC to access many titles--though the headset does support PC VR gaming, as well. There are also a number of upgrades over the original Oculus Quest headset, including a higher refresh rate and resolution for the display; a redesigned, lighter-weight form factor; new Touch controllers; and, oh yes, a $100 lower price.

The Oculus Quest 2 is priced at $299.

iRobot Roomba s9+

With the gift of an automated vacuum this holiday, what you’re actually giving is the gift of an easier time maintaining the home, where many of us have been spending extra time at this year. Automated vacuuming technology also just keeps getting better--and iRobot’s Roomba s9+ is one of the latest advancements in the category. The robotic vacuum features upgrades including increased suction for lifting debris and dirt; optimized cleaning of corners and edges; an anti-allergen system; and technology for mapping out the home and determining the ideal cleaning plan. Another significant feature is the Roomba’s Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal system, with which the Roomba s9+ will actually empty its own bin—allowing users to potentially go weeks without having to think about vacuuming.

The iRobot Roomba s9+ is priced at $999 on Amazon.

Breville Joule Sous Vide

Another great gift idea for your loved one’s smart home is a connected cooker, such as the Breville Joule Sous Vide. First of all, it’s a top-notch sous vide tool--capable of quickly heating water to the ideal cooking temperature. (As a bonus, it’s also the smallest sous vide cooker out there, according to Breville.) But where the Joule Sous Vide cooker really stands out is with its connected features. The device includes both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and can be controlled via an iOS or Android app--or even by voice, with Amazon’s Alexa assistant. The Joule’s connectivity also means that users can control the cooker from wherever they might be. Meanwhile, other app features include “Visual Doneness,” which shows you how your chicken or steak will turn out before you even begin cooking.

The Breville Joule Sous Vide (CS20001) is priced at $199.95 on Amazon.

Apple Watch Series 6

For the active techie in your life, you really can’t go wrong with a gift of the latest Apple Watch this holiday. The Apple Watch Series 6 features a display that is nearly 3X brighter for outdoor use, while the smartwatch has also gotten a big boost on performance over the prior generation. In terms of health monitoring features, the biggest advancement for the sixth-gen Apple Watch is the capability to measure blood oxygen—a vital sign that provides information about breathing and circulation (and is especially relevant amid the COVID-19 pandemic). A number of new options for the band are also being introduced for the Apple Watch 6, including a “solo loop” band that is one continuous piece, as well as a braided solo loop.

The Apple Watch Series 6 has a starting price of $399.

PhoneSoap Wireless

Pandemic or no pandemic, smartphones are notorious for accumulating germs. The PhoneSoap Wireless can help, though. Using UV-based technology, the device promises to kill 99.99 percent of germs on a smartphone--including viruses and bacteria--in just 10 minutes. The PhoneSoap Wireless can safely disinfect both a phone and case, and even charges the phone wirelessly in the process (as long as the phone supports Qi wireless charging, as iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones have for several years). As an added bonus, the PhoneSoap Wireless can also disinfect other objects that can fit inside it, such as credit cards or keys.

The PhoneSoap Wireless is priced at $99.95 on Amazon.

HP Omen 15

For the PC gamer on your list, the HP Omen 15 is a recently released gaming laptop that’s worth checking out. The new Omen 15 features a redesigned, smaller form factor; a 15.6-inch display with a new 180-degree flat hinge; the first IR thermopile sensor in a gaming laptop, which enables optimal thermal efficiency and improved fan control; massive performance with a choice of Intel or AMD processors; and powerful graphics with up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super with MAX-Q Design4.

The HP Omen 15 (Intel model) currently has a starting price of $929.99 on HP.com.

Dell 32 Curved Gaming Monitor

Another great gift idea for the gamer in your life is a large-screen monitor optimized for gaming--such as the Dell 32 Curved Gaming Monitor. The 31.5-inch HDR monitor provides gamers with improved field of vision and immersion with an 1800R curvature, QHD resolution and color enhancements such as an expanded contrast ratio. Gamers will also appreciate the monitor’s refresh rates of up to 165hz. Meanwhile, low-latency high-dynamic range gaming is enabled on the Dell 32 Curved Gaming Monitor by the inclusion of AMD Radeon FreeSync 2 HDR technology.

The Dell 32 Curved Gaming Monitor (S3220DGF) is currently priced at $459.99 on Dell.com

Lenovo ThinkSmart View

One of the big challenges of working or learning from home in 2020 has been adapting to the constant need to participate in video conferencing. Online classes or meetings are demanding enough on their own--never mind the technological hurdles involved. That’s where Lenovo’s ThinkSmart View comes in, with the aim of providing an easier and better meetings experience. The ThinkSmart View is a “personal assistant” desktop device, outfitted with an 8-inch touch screen and webcam, that is fully dedicated to participating in Microsoft Teams meetings. That frees up the laptop from having to do double duty, handling both the Teams application and whatever else you might need on your screen for the meeting. The ThinkSmart View also simplifies the process of logging into a Teams meeting with a “one-touch” experience. While admittedly not the most fun gift you could give this holiday, it might just be one of the most helpful gifts for your loved one’s daily life.

The Lenovo ThinkSmart View is priced at $349.99 on Lenovo.com. (A version of the device with Zoom for Home is expected to be available in January of 2021.)

Synology RT2600ac Router

If your loved one has also been having some Wi-Fi woes during their work or schooling at home, the issue may be their wireless router. The typical home router just might not cut it anymore, and an upgraded router may be in order--and make a much-appreciated gift this holiday. Synology’s RT2600ac is a solid choice, enabling gigabit speeds with 802.11ac Wave 2 certified radios, MU-MIMO support, a 1.7GHz dual-core processor and capabilities around intelligent optimization of connection quality. Ultimately, with gigabit speeds available, this router should serve your loved one’s Wi-Fi needs for a long while to come.

The Synology RT2600ac is currently priced at $199.99 on Amazon.

TP-Link AC750 Wi-Fi Extender (RE230)

Another potential solution for Wi-Fi troubles--which would also make a much less pricey gift than a router--is a Wi-Fi extender. This could help in situations where the user has turned a bedroom or another far-flung room into their home office or classroom, potentially putting them out of range for a strong Wi-Fi connection. TP-Link’s AC750 Wi-Fi Extender reduces wireless dead zones by covering up to 1,200 square feet--while enabling connections for up to 20 devices with speeds of up to 750 Mbps. The AC750 plugs into an electrical outlet and can also bring Internet to wired PCs, with the inclusion of an Ethernet port on the side of the extender.

The TP-Link AC750 Wi-Fi Extender (RE230) is currently priced at $29.99 on Amazon.

Apple iPad, 8th Gen

Always a go-to tech gift, the iPad continues to receive useful updates year after year from Apple. And this year is no different: For its eighth-generation model, the entry-level iPad adds the A12 Bionic chip--best known as the processor in 2018 iPhones such as the iPhone XR. The A12 improves CPU performance by 40 percent and graphics speeds by 2X compared to the seventh-gen iPad. The new iPad retains the 10.2-inch display size and the ability to connect to a keyboard, as well as the option to use the first-gen Apple Pencil with the tablet (both sold separately). On battery life, the latest iPad offers up to 10 hours of usage over Wi-Fi or nine hours over cellular.

Apple’s iPad, eighth-generation, has a starting price of $329 (tablet only, Wi-Fi). The Wi-Fi + Cellular model starts at $459, while Apple’s Smart Keyboard costs $159 and the first-gen Apple Pencil adds another $99.

Microsoft Surface Go 2

For those on your list who might appreciate a tablet, but aren’t fans of Apple products, Microsoft’s Surface Go 2 could be a worthy alternative. The tablet has a similar display size to the iPad but runs Windows 10 instead. The display on the Surface Go 2 moves up to 10.5 inches, from 10 inches on the first-gen model, while adding an upgraded Intel Pentium chip for the base model (the Pentium Gold 4425Y). There’s also an option to get a processor that is a level up from the Pentium, with the Surface Go 2 configurable with an eighth-gen Intel Core m3 chip. The Core m3 provides a 64-percent boost on performance from the first-gen Surface Go. Additional updates include new Dolby Audio speakers and improved dual far-field mics. And, like with the iPad, the Surface Go 2 can work with a detachable keyboard (such as the Surface Go Type Cover) and stylus (the Surface Pen) that are sold separately.

The Microsoft Surface Go 2 has a starting price of $399.99 (Wi-Fi only), while a Core m3 model supporting LTE starts at $729.99. The Surface Go Type Cover is priced at $130, while the Surface Pen is currently priced at $72 on Microsoft.com (normally $99.99).

DJI Mavic Mini

This might be the time to get into drones: The outdoors are the safest place to be at this point, and there may even be fewer people around getting in your way. So, if a drone might appeal to someone on your list this holiday, a great place to start them off is with a mini drone, such as the DJI Mavic Mini. Even with its more affordable price tag and compact form factor, the drone still has some of the special capabilities of pricier drones--such as QuickShot modes for easily creating impressive aerial videos. Key features of the DJI Mavic Mini include stabilized video, a 2.7K camera, up to 30 minutes of flight time and the ability to transmit video from up to 2.5 miles away.

The DJI Mavic Mini is currently priced at $360 on Amazon (normally $399).