In the market for a tech gift? We’ve got you covered. Here’s our pick of the gadgets that really lit up 2016.
Prices correct at time of writing.
1 Anki Overdrive (Amazon price: £120)
When I was a bairn, Scalextric and Race and Chase were the last word in tabletop motor-racing. You could almost smell the burning tyres, as you whizzed past and caught the eye of the glamour girl figurines on the winner’s podium.
But it wasn’t all fun, fun, fun on the rennbahn. Scalextic took forever to set up. And so over-sensitive was the controller that it was nigh-on impossible to keep your car on the track. Unless you drove with the slow, steady caution of a Sunday driver, you’d be cannoning into the skirting boards.
Things are very different in the smartphone age. Anki Overdrive’s cars use magnets to stay on the track, so you’re derailed a lot less frequently and are controlled using your handset and the Overdrive app.
But what really makes this neat little add-on so much more fun than its ‘80s forerunners is that the cars are equipped with arsenals of cartoonish weapons. There’s no Mario Kart-style squid ink or Spiny Shell. But there is a brilliant tractor beam that you use to slow down your opponent. And you can hinder their progress with machine-gun fire too.
With the option to buy extra track as well as new cars with wildly different capabilities and USPs, Anki Overdrive will last well beyond the festive season. It’s a brilliant blend of video gaming and high-octane, real-world thrills.
2 Propel Star Wars battling drones (Curry's price: £230)
Predicted to be this year’s hottest Christmas gift, Propel’s Star Wars battling drones are so much more than just toys.
Although they fit comfortably in the palm of your hand, like Yoda, they shouldn’t be judged by their size. They are carefully crafted and impressively packaged, with hand-painted details that any true fan will appreciate. Each drone comes in a premium-looking box that actually lights up and plays iconic music from the film when lifted.
But it would be a total waste to have them as display-only. These quadcopters can really fly, reaching 30 miles per hour in just three seconds. Once in the air, you can do battle with up to 11 challengers by shooting lasers at opposing drones.
If your drone gets hit by a laser, the controller will shake in your hands. If your drone takes three direct hits, your ship will slowly and safely spiral to the ground, signalling it's game over.
The drones also play music and quotes from the films, making you feel completely immersed in the Star Wars universe. Even the mini screwdriver used to replace the rechargeable batteries is shaped like a lightsaber!
Released on 1st December, you can choose between a T-65 X-Wing fighter, Darth Vader’s Tie Advanced X1, and a Speeder Bike from Return of the Jedi, complete with a miniature Stormtrooper. The Millennium Falcon is due to be released in 2017.
One thing’s for sure, Christmas will be a day long-remembered by any Star Wars fan who finds one of these in their stocking this year.
Given the hype around these drones, we recommend reserving the one you want.
Christmas is definitely a time for watching a lot of television. If you don’t already have a smart TV, Chromecast is a brilliant little gadget that will seriously improve your viewing experience throughout the festive season and beyond.
Instead of having to haul yourself off the sofa to find the remote, you can use Chromecast to stream films, sports and TV shows directly from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Compatible with Apple, Android and Windows products, all you’ll need to do is plug the Chromecast dongle into your TV’s HDMI port, download the Chromecast app onto your device and start streaming.
At the time of writing, this handy little dongle is an absolute bargain at just £30. Despite being priced as a stocking-filler, Chromecast is a great under-the-tree gift for any smartphone addict or Netflix fan.
While the Chromecast is ideal for anyone who loves curling up in front of the TV, if you’re looking for something to give your favourite fitness fanatic, you can’t do much better than the Powerbeats 3 wireless earphones.
The obvious selling point for any earphones is the sound quality, and the Powerbeats 3 certainly do sound great. But what makes these stand out as the perfect gift for anyone who enjoys working out (or anyone who wants to get fit for their new year’s resolution) is that they’re completely wireless.
They connect to your device via Bluetooth, so you’re free to work out without getting tangled in a mass of wires.
They also fit securely around your ear so they won’t fall out easily and are water and sweat resistant to withstand tough training sessions and running in the rain.
Powerbeats 3 earphones are also fully compatible with Siri. So iPhone users can get even more functionality out of the earphones, by asking Siri to change the volume or switch tracks. You can also take calls and set reminders without getting off the treadmill.
The beauty of the Amazon Echo is that it’s actually three pretty great presents in one. It’s a wireless speaker, an intelligent voice assistant and a smart-home controller all rolled into one nifty light-up cylinder.
The coolest feature of the Amazon Echo by far is Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. Similar to Siri, Cortana or Google Assistant, Alexa can answer questions, set reminders and help you organise your day.
What sets her apart from other virtual assistants, however, is the way she can interact with the third-party apps on the Echo. She can use apps like Just Eat, Uber and National Rail to order your favourite takeaway, book a taxi or check the train times. All you have to do is ask!
As the perfect home assistant, Alexa will even help you make dinner. Echo’s popular cookery app contains over 6,000 recipes to choose from. For each dish, Alexa will tell you what ingredients you need to buy and will help you prepare your meal by reading out the step-by-step instructions.
The speakers are also voice-controlled, using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth so you can play music from Amazon music, your Spotify premium account or your smartphone, tablet or computer. To control it, simply ask Alexa to change the track or the volume.
Echo’s smart-home controller enables you to turn devices on and off, so you can adjust the heating or switch the light on just by asking.
The impressive voice recognition technology means that is that the Echo can hear you from almost anywhere in the house. If you want a break from Alexa though, you can simply mute your Echo.
Dyson is the Apple of the homewares market. With its Jetsons-style looks, the SuperSonic Hairdryer is a real showstopper. But it’s not just a pretty face with perfectly coiffed locks.
It’s much quieter than standard dryers and generates about half as much noise, and dries your hair much, much faster. It also features clever technology that measures the air temperature and cools off to prevent heat damage to your crowning glory.
And it’s got handy modes that let you style different sections of your hair separately and a diffuser setting that limits frizz if you’re blessed with curls.
8 Sony KD-49X8305C Smart 4K UltraHD 49 inch TV (Amazon price: £599)
At the time of writing, this best-in-class 43-inch TV is up for grabs for £699, down from a savings-sapping £1,299. So what does that outlay get you?
It gets you 4K pictures, which are four times the resolution of standard HD. So expect lavishly shot documentaries to make the natural world look even more eye-popping than usual. And it converts standard HD and standard definition TV into 4K too, so you won’t be short of movies and shows to enjoy.
It also buys you Google’s Android TV software, so you’ve got an extensive range of apps to choose from. And there’s the option to use Google casting to throw content from your smartphone or laptop onto your TV without using a dongle and YouTube and Netflix built-in.
9 Sonos Play 1 wireless speaker (Amazon price: £150)
With crystal-clear, rich sound, this is a compact wireless speaker that really packs a punch.
It’s also easy to set up, looks really good and is simple to control from your smartphone or tablet via the Sonos app. Multi-room functionality also means you can play different songs in different rooms around your home.
Weak battery life is consumers’ number-one gripe when it comes to smartphones, especially in light of an all-too-familiar decline in performance after a year and a half or so.
Enter Mophie’s H2O JuicePak. As an iPhone 6 owner with a battery that drains by up to 30% on my hour-long morning commute, the H20 has been a life-saver and means I get nearly double the life out of my phone battery than I used to in the dim and distant days of 2015.
Winningly, it’s beefy enough to survive drops from height and it’s water-proof too.