The 2017 holiday shopping season is in full effect, and you (and your gift recipients) surely are tempted by the many shiny objects — flashy, must-have high-tech gadgets — being advertised at ostensibly low, low prices.
But savvy shoppers know a cheap price on a recognizable brand name doesn’t always mean it’s the best value — especially when it comes to technology. Value is more than just price; it also includes factors such as functionality, usability, tech support, quality, durability and ongoing cost of ownership.
To help you with your holiday shopping, we’ve put together a list of 20 of the best values in consumer technology you can find this season — including many options I’ve had hands-on experience with as a reviewer for Forbes.com, Wired, InvestorPlace.com and others. Our list includes some of the top names in the technology industry, some that you may have never heard of and prices ranging from under $50 to more than $1,000. There’s something for everyone here. All of these high-tech products make great gifts because they represent great value, both to you as the gift giver and to the lucky recipient.
Best Value in Portable Wireless Speakers
Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $299
Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home are going to be huge this holiday season. (Apple’s Siri-powered HomePod was supposed to put in an appearance, but it’s apparently delayed until 2018.) But not everyone needs the “smart,” especially when it comes at the cost of decent audio.
If there’s a true music lover on your shopping list, skip the big-name smart speakers and choose the Libratone ZIPP instead. This is the most well-rounded wireless speaker I’ve reviewed this year and a great value. The Scandinavian design with optional removable fabric covers stands out. So does the sound, thanks to a 100-watt Class D amplifier, four-inch woofer, multiple drivers and 360-degree audio. None of the anemic sound that plagues so many smart speakers here.
The Libratone ZIPP is also portable (with a 10-hour battery), supports multi-room audio and offers Bluetooth connectivity in addition to wi-fi. A firmware update coming in 2018 will add Alexa voice support using the ZIPP’s microphone — then smart speaker fans will be able to have their cake and eat it, too. And Libratone is offering a $30 holiday discount on the ZIPP until the end of December.
Best Value in Wireless Headphones
Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $349
Skip the Beats wireless headphones, and give the FIIL CANVIIS PRO instead. They offer a lot more bang for the buck, and any music lover is going to have a lot of fun with these.
I reviewed the FIIL CANVIIS PRO on-ear wireless headphones and found the audio was excellent, with balanced, crisp sound and comfortable ear pads. But the CANVIIS PRO headphones offer a lot more high-tech features than most. The ear cups are touch-enabled for gesture control of music and voice calls. The headphones feature active noise cancellation, and, with the FIIL + APP (free for iOS and Android), music lovers can experiment with spatial 3D audio effects such as a concert hall setting.
Even better, there’s enough onboard storage to load these headphones up with 1,000 songs. Combined with their amazing 33-hour battery life, that’s nearly three, 12-hour days of music without a power outlet, cable or smartphone in sight.
Best Value in 4K TVs (50+ inches)
Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $649.99
TCL’s 55P607 proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a solid 4K HDR television. (Never heard of TCL? The Chinese TV manufacturer is the world’s third-largest. It’s been making TVs for other companies, including Samsung, for nearly 30 years. In recent years, it has pushed into the U.S. market with TVs bearing its own nameplate.)
It’s been getting kudos for delivering a 55-inch 4K HDR viewing experience, complete with Dolby Vision HDR and even Roku streaming built-in. That means thousands of Roku streaming channels, including Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now. The included remote offers voice search support, and the bezels are minimal.
If someone on your list is hoping for a 4K TV, the TCL 55P607 offers premium features at a bargain price.
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