Personal Technology

December 5, 2013 4:37 pm

Gadget gifts that are not just for Christmas

Personal Tech

Clockwise from top-left: Samsung's Galaxy S4; the Nikon D7100; the Jawbone UP24; Google's Chromecast

With the holiday shopping season truly under way, this is the second of a two-part guide to some must-have gadgets with lasting appeal. This section focuses on devices that are mainly for use while out and about, along with a miscellany of some personal favourites.


These top more wish lists than any other gadget as they are both fashion statements and productivity tools.

For me, Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is the best, with its big screen, powerful processor and digital photo capabilities. Best of all, but not uniquely, users can access a trove of apps to customise features to mould it to their needs.

Apple’s iPhone 5s is a close second, and it is true that the slimmer iPhone is more comfortable to hold and Apple’s curated App Store represents a better experience. If brand is not an overriding factor, decent alternatives include Google’s Nexus 5.


DSLRs, with big digital sensors and interchangeable lenses, represent the pinnacle of digital photography. For the ambitious amateur, two stand out: Canon’s EOS 70D and Nikon’s D7100. Both can deliver outstanding images, but neither is cheap. Sony’s Alpha SLT-A77 is an affordable alternative that still delivers.

Not everyone wants a camera with changeable lenses. “Ultra zoom” cameras with extreme zoom lenses are a good alternative. My favourites are Canon’s SX510 and Panasonic’s Lumix DMC FZ70, which has a bigger sensor and boasts the longest zoom (60x) available, making it great for wildlife shots and sporting events.

Among action camcorders for enthusiasts of outdoor activities such as cycling, surfing and snowboarding, JVC’s Adixxion 2 is rugged and waterproof with built-in WiFi; a good alternative is the GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition.

Wearable tech

Fast becoming one of the hottest consumer electronics categories, wearable tech ranges from cameras, such as the Looxcie 3, that you wear around your neck or clipped to a breast pocket in what I call “first-person video”, to smartwatches and fitness and personal healthcare devices.

Among the newest smartwatches, I like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, which has a built-in wrist camera and works with a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 or Note 10.1 (2014 edition) tablet. A better choice if you do not already own one of those devices may be Sony’s Smart Watch SW2, which will work with any of the latest Android-powered smartphones. The Basis B1 smartwatch is a good choice if you are interested in health as it incorporates multiple sensors, including one that monitors your heart rate round the clock.

Fitbit’s Force, Nike’s Nike+ Fuelband and Jawbone’s UP24 would all be welcomed by those seeking to track their fitness, while Garmin’s Forerunner is an excellent GPS-enabled sports watch for serious runners.


The Livescribe 3 smartpen makes electronic versions of handwritten notes and, when paired with a tablet or smartphone, delivers them instantly to the screen. Phone Halo’s bluetooth-enabled Wallet TrackR fits in a wallet and alerts its owner via a paired smartphone if accidentally left behind. 3D Systems’ Sense 3D scanner and printer are the shape of things to come: the scanner captures 3D objects and the printer enables you to recreate them at home.

Lastly, for pure fun: Google’s bargain Chromecast device lets users stream online video, music and other content to a TV using a smartphone, tablet or laptop running the Chrome browser; the Blade 350 QX RTF quadcopter is an ultra-manoeuvrable personal drone.

Prices and value for money

Value-for-money rating out of five; prices are a guide only; some items are not available outside the US


● Galaxy S4

$550 (£410 in UK)

● iPhone 5s

$676 (£510)

Nexus 5

$483 (£340)



Canon EOS 70D

$1,100 (£838)

Nikon D7100

$1,097 (£719)

Sony Alpha SLT-A77

$798 (£649)

Canon SX510

$239 (£190)

Lumix DMC FZ70

$243 (£291)

JVC Adixxion 2

$272 (£277)

GoPro Hero3+ Silver Edition

$299 (£252)



Looxcie 3


Galaxy Gear

$295 (£210)

Sony Smart Watch SW2

$170 (£150)

Basis B1


Fitbit Force


Nike+ Fuelband

$150 (£125)

Jawbone UP24


Garmin Forerunner

$130 (£105)



Livescribe 3

$149 (£130)

Phone Halo Wallet TrackR


3D Systems Sense 3D scanner and printer

$1,300, $400 respectively


$29 (£30)

Blade 350 QX RTF quadcopter

$470 (£349)

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