Moto X Pure – From $399
The new Moto X is one of my favorite phones this year. It might not have the most up to date version of Android (yet), or the most impressive spec sheet, but it is one of the best smartphone experiences available. It has a clean version of Android, brilliant QHD resolution 5.7-inch display and a curved body that feels great in-hand. What’s more, it can be customized with a finish of your choosing. Whether you want grippy rubber, soft leather or real wood, Moto has a finish that’ll suit you. It even has a great camera. Prices change depend on which customization and storage options you choose, but they start at $399 from Motorola direct.
OnePlus X – $249 (if you can get one)
Before OnePlus X it was really hard to find a small smartphone that offered high-end performance and specifications that wasn’t the slightly overpriced Z5 Compact from Sony. If you went small, because you prefer to have a phone that actually fits in your pocket, that normally meant putting up with a below average experience. The OnePlus X has changed that. Apart from the not-so-great camera, this phone looks, feels and acts like a flagship. The display is sharp and vivid, the battery lasts a day without even trying and it’s fast. For $249, it’s phenomenal. The only real problem is that you need an invitation to buy one for that price from OnePlus online store. It is available to pre-order from GearBest, but you do have to pay a premium of $10-$40 to get it through the Chinese import site.
ASUS ZenPad S 8.0 – From $195
It’s hard to recommend Android tablets, because I still think Android has a lot to improve on before it can be considered a real iPad competitor. Perhaps the Pixel C will change that, but until then, I’d always advise going for something that doesn’t cost too much. As tablets go, the ZenPad S 8.0 may not be perfect, but it does offer a full experience and a sharp display for the money. It features a QHD resolution 8-inch display, Intel Atom 64 bit quad-core chip and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. It’s small, solid and works well as a portable consumption device. You can snag a 2GB RAM/32GB storage model for $195 or double the RAM and storage for $295.
Dell Chromebook 13 – From $430
As far as Chromebooks go, it’s hard to find one as complete as the newest Dell Chromebook 13. It’s built from magnesium alloy, has a stylish carbon fiber finish, glass trackpad and a backlit keyboard along with a full HD screen, and all the ports you could ever need. There’s even an option to go with a touch-sensitive screen covered in Corning Gorilla Glass if you want to, and you can use it for 12 hours straight without needing to plug it in to a charger. $430 gets you the base model with Intel Celeron processing power and 4GB RAM, while the Intel i3-equipped versions with 4GB and 8GB RAM will set you back $529 and $629 respectively if you buy direct from Dell’s online store. This is easily the best Chromebook you can buy, without spending a fortune on the Chromebook Pixel.
ASUS Chromebook Flip – From $209
If you just want a small, well-made and versatile Chromebook, the ASUS Chromebook Flip is a great choice. It’s made primarily from metal and has a sharp, colorful 10-inch display which rotates 360-degrees to be used as a tablet, laptop or screen for watching movies. Although you can pick up the 2GB RAM base model for $209, I highly recommend going with the 4GB RAM model for just $20 more.
Accessories and Stocking Stuffers
I’m no Jeremy Horwitz, but I consider myself something of an accessories fiend. I have tons lying around for all kinds of purposes, and I’ve tested a whole host of them for review purposes over the years. Whether you want a great pair of on-ear headphones, a durable in-car charger, game controller or multi-port charger, this selection should give you plenty of ideas for your gadget-obsessed friends (or for yourself), regardless of platform.
Huawei Watch – $349
Huawei has taken everyone by surprise this year. It seems, all of a sudden, that this formerly unknown Chinese manufacturer is starting on a path of market domination. With products like the Huawei Watch on the market, there’s no reason why it can’t succeed. Of all the Android Wear-based smartwatches, the Huawei Watch is one of the best-looking and best performing. It has a sharp screen that never really goes off, there are some great customization choices and there’s no ‘flat tire. Prices start from $349 and it connects with Android or iOS devices.
V-MODA Crossfade Wireless – $299
In an age where so many consumers opt for giant overpriced plastic headphones, it’s wonderful to have a brand dedicated to making durable, versatile and good-looking cans. This year, V-Moda took inspiration from its awesome wired Crossfade M100 headphones and made them wireless. The Lithium-ion battery gives the earphones up to 12 hours solid use, and you can use a 3.5mm audio cable for those times you want zero latency.
I love that the headband is flexible, strong and sits really close to my head, the cans are really well cushioned and the sound is fantastic (albeit a tad bass-heavy). It’s built using steel, vegan leather and a tough polycarbonate. What’s more, you can swap out the shields to add your own personal 3D printed ones. These are my new favorite headphones, and they come with a protective semi-hard case. You can buy them in four color options for just under $300.
RHA S500i or T20 – $45 or $240
If you’re an audiophile, you’ll be surprised at just how good RHA earphones are for the money. Whether you’re on a budget or willing to pay to get good sound, RHA has something you’ll appreciate. The $45 S500i is the company’s latest low-end device, but even calling them low-end seems ridiculous. They’re crazy tiny, feature noise cancellation design and are crafted from aluminum. They ship with a pouch and a selection of dual density and ‘double flange’ ear tips. For under $50, you’re unlikely to find anything better-sounding or better-looking.
RHA’s T20 is right on the other end of the scale, these are seriously high end and the $240 price point reflects that. Even at that price, if you appreciate good design and sound, you won’t regret paying it. The beautiful, rounded steel earphones are crafted using a metal injection molding process and the over-ear hooks can be bent and curved to fit your ears, and they retain their shape. For supreme audio, the T2o has a dual-coil dynamic driver in each earphone, but that’s only the beginning when it comes to sound quality. The earphones also ship with two extra pairs of tuning filters, so you can unscrew the ones that come installed, and put in more bass-heavy ones if you like bass, or more treble-y filters. Regardless of your personal preference for sound balance, you’ll find one that suits. Simply put: They’re wonderful.
SteelSeries Stratus XL – $69
If you’re a gamer and want to bring a more authentic gaming experience to your mobile world, it’s hard to get much better than the full-sized Stratus XL by SteelSeries. The $70 controller comes as an iOS controller version, or an Android/Windows version and is equipped with two joysticks, a D-Pad and the front edge R and L triggers and buttons as well as the traditional X, Y, A and B buttons.
Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard – $70
Typing documents on a smartphone or small tablet screen isn’t the most pleasing of experiences. At the same time, you don’t want to carry around a bulky full-sized keyboard with you everywhere. For me, despite some of its compromises, the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is the ideal solution. You can fold it in half and, just about, fit it in a back pocket. It takes up very little room, has close-to full-size keys and connects to any device regardless of platform. What’s more, you can pair it to two devices at once and switch between them at a press of a button. Right now, it’s down from $100 to $70.
Anker PowerPort – From $35
Chances are you have more than one device in your house that needs charging via a USB cable of some kind. Whether it’s a smartwatch, smartphone, tablet or other piece of tech, it normally comes with a USB-based charger. I’ve found the 6-port PowerPort by Anker to be something of a life (and space) saver. The $35 accessory has 6 USB ports and intelligently knows when it can deliver more power to devices that can handle it. If you have a Quick-Charge compatible smartphone, there’s a Quick-Charge 2.0 version for $5 more. And if 6 ports isn’t enough, you can snag a 10-port model for $39.
Just Mobile Highway Max – From $27
It’s not often you find an in-car charger to rave about, but the Just Mobile Highway Max is pretty special. I’ve been using it constantly for the past 2 years or so, and it’s not once let me down. Thanks to having a premium aluminum casing, it’s super long-lasting and has a solid, durable build. What’s more, it’s platform agnostic and can charge two USB-powered devices at once. You can buy it on its own for just over $26 or with a Lightning cable for $34.