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Gadget guide: What tech to get your family for Christmas

With Christmas right around the corner, it is the perfect time to get some of that stressful gift shopping out of the way. Wondering what to get your family for Christmas? Don't worry, we've got you covered. We've tested and reviewed a range of family-friendly gadgets and compiled a list of our top tech picks for this year's gift-giving season.

PlayStation VR

Fighting for survival on a desolate planet, soaring through the Parisian skies, embarking on a deep-sea expedition to uncharted depths. These are just a few of the jaw-dropping things you can experience through a PlayStation VR (PSVR) headset. PSVR is the most immersive and content-packed VR headset in its price range and will deliver countless hours of fun to adult family members as well as the younger ones. What better time than the Christmas holidays to explore VR?

Though it might take a little while to set up, PSVR unlocks a whole new side of your gaming console and you’ll never want to go back. At the moment, PSVR is largely a solo activity but its features can be enjoyed by adults as well as children as they are not just limited to gaming. For example, how does a home cinema that won’t set you back five grand sound? You can watch your favourite movies, either on disc or through streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, in a virtual cinema room.

The PSVR game roster has something for different ages and skill levels. More inexperienced players are guaranteed to love titles like Moss or Astro Bot: Rescue Mission, which are being hailed by some as the best titles to date, where the fourth wall between player and game is utterly demolished and demands that the player interacts with different aspects of the virtual world. For more experienced players, titles like Robinson: The Journey or Eagle Flight are more likely to hit the spot.

If you haven’t used VR regularly before, remember to pause every hour or so as some users may start to feel motion sickness or blurred vision. Also, it is important to remember that PlayStation has said that the PSVR is not suitable for players younger than twelve. However, as long as you follow the headset’s safety instructions, you’ll have a great time exploring all the strange, new worlds.

Price: £200-250

Polaroid Zip

Remember back in the day when you actually had to have film from your camera developed by a professional studio? Those days are long gone now that technology such as the Polaroid Zip mobile printer is available. Although ‘old-school’ instant cameras such as the Fuji Instax or Polaroid Snap definitely have their charm, you can get a lot of blurry and badly-lit images if you get too trigger-happy. With the Zip, you can take images with your smartphone’s camera, edit them with Instagram-style tools and print them out when you are happy with them.

The Zip mobile printer is easily connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth and print pictures in less than 60 seconds. You can fit the Zip in your front pocket so it’s perfect to take with you on family holidays or to capture any other special occasion. The photo paper itself contains the materials needed to produce an image so you’ll never have to bring with you messy ink cartridges if you are on the move.

It comes with a free companion app which allows you to edit the images, add frames and icons or add text in different styles. What makes the Polaroid Zip stand out from the competition? If you peel off the back of the photo paper, you can transform the photos into stickers which makes them perfect for scrapbooking. Why not get the family together and create a collage album with all of your favourite holiday pictures?

Price: £90-140

Tile Pro

When living a busy family life it can be difficult to keep track of where all of your personal belongings are. It’s not uncommon to be listening intently for the vibration of your phone that inconveniently fell down in between the sofa cushions or rummaging through the laundry basket hoping you left your car keys in yesterday’s jeans. Luckily there are tech gadgets that make this aspect of everyday-life much easier.

The Tile Pro anything finder is a perfect gift for any family member who has a hard time remembering where they put things. About the size of an After Eight mint and as light as a feather, Tile Pro can be attached to anything and has a geolocator which allows you to find out where your belongings are anywhere in the world and, when you are within 300 ft of the Tile, you can ring it up and its speaker will start blaring. If you have misplaced your phone, don’t worry. Double-click the centre button on the Tile and it will ring up your phone (even if it’s on silent mode!) so it works both ways.

You should note that the Tile’s companion app does require you to leave location-sharing and Bluetooth on to be able to find your belongings, but Tile ensures privacy and your phone’s location and the location of your items will not be shared unless you choose to do so. However, if you want other family members or friends to be able to find certain items, you can easily give them access through the app settings.

Price: £30

Nintendo Switch

Although Nintendo has somewhat struggled to find its place in the gaming landscape in recent years, their latest console has been extremely successful and is hailed by many as the most family-friendly console out there. There are plenty of brilliant consumer-grade gaming consoles on the market today but none have quite nailed the portable element like Nintendo Switch, as you can play with the same graphics when using the portable screen included, as you would while playing on a TV.

The console’s versatility is something which is unrivalled at the moment and Nintendo has made sure that the controls are as multifunctional as possible. For example, your child can unleash their creativity with Nintendo Labo which is a series of DIY activities requiring only the console’s controllers and cardboard. The Switch’s roster of games, including titles like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, will guarantee countless hours of fun for all the younger family members (and who knows, maybe the older ones as well).

It’s easy to set up and comes with a handy companion app for parental controls where you can track and control screen time as well as adjust what content you want your child to see and not. Make sure to adjust online settings if you do not want your child to play multiplayer with people they do not know or, if you prefer, turn online multiplayer off altogether.

Price: £250

Google Home Hub

‘Hey, Google! What can you do?’ That is the first question the Home Hub wants you to ask before showing you the vast array of things the digital assistant is capable of. Want to set an alarm? Sorted. Simply say ‘Hey, Google! Set an alarm for 7 am tomorrow’ and you won’t sleep in. Want to know who won the Battle of Hastings? Simple. Say ‘Hey, Google! Who won the Battle of Hastings?’ and it will answer William the Conqueror. Saying that Google Home Hub can do anything is not too far from the truth.

Over the last few years, smart speakers and hubs have become more popular as voice recognition software, in the case of the Home Hub the software is Google Assistant, has become more sophisticated. If you have smart devices fitted in your home, the Home Hub works as an all-in-one control centre which can dim your lights, adjust the inside temperature or switch TV channel on voice command.

The Home Hub comes with a surprisingly powerful speaker and a seven-inch display which makes it different from many other digital assistants which only allow for voice interaction. The screen adds features such as basic web browsing and videos, and parents will be relieved to hear that you can enable YouTube Kids so that children can’t access inappropriate content. Through the companion app, you can adjust digital wellbeing settings, such as setting the hours children can use the Hub and when it will be inactive.

Price: £100-140

Omnicharge Omni 20 USB-C

Planning on taking the family on a car holiday or a long-distance flight in the coming year? If so, investing in a high-capacity power bank might be a good idea. The Omnicharge Omni 20 USB-C  is one of the power banks with the highest capacity currently on the market and can charge your devices many times over before needing to be plugged in.

Now that we use our phones for so much more than just calling, there are many services (such as GPS, music services and other entertainment) that come in handy when you are facing many hours on planes, trains or simply in a car. But, it can be tricky to notice if you are running low on juice when immersed in an episode of a good series. With the Omni 20 you will never have to worry about this again as it packs enough power to fully charge a MacBook Pro laptop 1.4 times and a Nintendo Switch gaming console approximately four times.

Although quite large in size, it comes with an OLED display where you can adjust settings and monitor how much power is left on the device, and features two USB ports and two USB-C ports. It also functions as a data transfer hub as you can connect it to two devices and share files at up to 200 MB per second, using the Hub Mode.

Price: £200

Kano Harry Potter Coding Kit

Swish and flick! With one simple wand movement, we had flooded an entire room with Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans after programming the code to generate 10 beans per second, in all the colours of the rainbow, when we used the Wingardium Leviosa formula. This is just one of the many things the Kano Harry Potter coding kit allows you to programme during your Hogwarts adventure.

The Kano Harry Potter coding kit is designed to teach children how to code and delivers a fun gaming experience in the process. You have to build your own wand, putting all the right electronic components in place, and hook it up to the free Kano app to start the game. It then teaches you basic coding skills to perform different tasks such as levitating objects, using simple physics, or creating fireworks by making the code respond to different wand movements. Aside from the many challenges, it also allows you to experiment freely with the code and create whatever your imagination can conjure up.

It is a great example of games that are primarily educational but are really entertaining as well. Coding can be a little tricky to wrap your head around so, although Kano’s age limit is six, we recommend Kano Harry Potter for children of 12 years and upwards. It can be a great bonding activity for parents and children because some of the puzzles may need some additional brain power.

Price: £100

Nest Thermostat E

Now, we know what you might be thinking. “Hm, a thermostat for Christmas… No thanks!”. Although probably not the first thing on your list, the Nest Thermostat E could help you save a lot of money by regulating your energy usage. Sleek and discreet in design and takes only around 60 minutes to set up according to Nest, the thermostat can monitor temperature in all the rooms of your living space and make sure that your hard-earned money isn’t wasted on energy during the hours you are not using it.

You can control the thermostat from anywhere using the companion app, or you can hook it up to a Google Home Hub to easily control it when you are home. If there are any rooms in particular you would like warmer, say a nursery, or colder, like a storage room, you can adjust this as well. The Nest Thermostat E even detects when you have left the house by using the location of your phone and automatically lowers the temperature during the hours no one is in, through its Eco Mode.

Bear in mind that you have to have Bluetooth and location-sharing enabled for some of the features to work, but the Nest Thermostat E could help you avoid the devastating feeling of opening an energy bill with one more digit than you had hoped for.

Price: £160-200

Apexel Smartphone Camera Kit

Planning on being playing the part of paparazzo at this year’s Christmas get-togethers? The holidays are always packed with photo-ops and album-worthy occasions and it is useful to have the proper equipment. Actual cameras seem to be out of fashion now that everyone carry around cameras in their pockets (i.e. smartphones) but that doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to sacrifice quality. With tools such as the Apexel smartphone camera kit, you can turn your smartphone into a professional tool.

The new 2018 Apexel kit comes with a wide selection of lenses, including telephoto, wide angle, macro and fisheye, to adapt your photos to different sceneries and perspectives. For example, the macro lens will allow you to take very detailed close-ups whereas the telephoto lens gives you clear long-distance photos. It comes equipped with a clip-on attachment that fits all phones and a smartphone-sized tripod so you can stage photos and make them as steady as possible.

It also comes with a remote control so the photographer can join in on the family pictures as well. You have to enable Bluetooth on your phone to connect it but you will be able to take pictures up to 10 metres away from your smartphone.

Price: £20

Neato Botvac D301

Family life is by definition busy and everyday life is full of chores that needs doing. Everything from driving children to school to doing the shopping and keeping the house clean takes its toll but you can save yourself a lot of trouble by getting familiar with new tech designed to simplify this process. For example, robot hoovers have been around for quite some time but it’s is only lately that they have become more affordable. Treating the family to a robot hoover such as the Neato Botvac D301 for Christmas could make everyday life a little easier and give you one less thing to worry about.

The D301 has Wi-Fi connectivity and can be programmed to clean any area of your house with a regularity that you can select. It is suitable for wooden floors, tiles, carpets and any other type of surface and can clean for up to 60 minutes per charge. When its battery is running low, the D301 automatically returns to its charging hub and, when it’s topped up, returns to finish the job. Unlike a lot of other robot hoovers, the D301 has two sharp angles as opposed to being completely circular which means it can get better access to every nook and cranny.

If you have a Google Home Hub, you can easily add the D301 to the rest of your smart home tools and control it from there. Otherwise, you can use the companion app to schedule cleanings and view the current status of the hoover from afar.

Price: £339