Your Holiday Shopping Guide 2016: Tech


For those whose craving for power has no outlet

ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet

There’s an endless variety of battery packs to give phones a little pick-me-up whenever they’re feeling low, but what about when a laptop needs a lift? The ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet ($249) features an AC outlet that will work with virtually any portable digital device, whether it’s bringing a phone back to life or keeping a laptop surfing at Starbucks. Budget Pick: Nekteck Portable Jump Starter ($69.99). Not only will this portable battery pack charge a phone, it also comes with alligator clips that can be attached to a car battery, allowing stranded drivers to jump start a vehicle without depending on the kindness of strangers. Just stash it in the trunk and remember to keep it charged — once every three months ought to do it. — Ross Rubin

For the host who wants house-party sound but has apartment space

UE Boom 2

For years Sonos has ruled the market for multiroom audio, especially for those who want a retail store-like soundtrack playing in the background throughout the day. But for those who just want to break out the big beats on special occasions, the waterproof UE Boom 2 ($199.99) stands out amid a sea of other Bluetooth speakers. It radiates sound equally in all directions and allows you to stream the same tunes on up to eight speakers for hours without the need for power cords. For those who need even more volume than the Boom 2 can muster, its larger, louder, more expensive cousin, the UE Megaboom, can also be mixed into the party fun. Budget Pick: If your gift recipient just needs enough volume to drown out the voices in their head, consider Polk Audio’s diminutive Bit ($29.99), a small, water-resistant Bluetooth speaker and microphone intended to be clipped on clothing or a bag strap close to the ears. The audio won’t compare to higher-end headphones, but it’s a worthwhile alternative for those who want to stay more alert to their surroundings while still enjoying their tunes. — Ross Rubin

For the traveler who gets too much Netflix and not enough chill

Vuzix iWear Video Headphones

Know any frequent fliers who love a big-screen experience but can’t fit a flat-screen TV on their airline trays? Vuzix iWear Video Headphones ($499.99) will let them enjoy — privately — any video that can find its way out of a laptop or phone via an HDMI cable. With the headset on your face, the effect is like watching a 125″ screen, and any curiosity it draws is a small price to pay for not worrying about the kid in seat 29C when the naughty bits of Game of Thrones pop up. Budget Pick: The Roku Express ($29.99) — so tiny that it’s dwarfed by its own remote — provides HD video from multiple streaming services and should easily hook up to most TVs in hotels, where internet access speeds have been gradually improving. — Ross Rubin

For the budding guitarist who doesn’t give a pluck

Zivix Jamstik+

It’s tough to compete with the guitar’s versatility for a solo musician, but it’s only so portable, particularly when you’re traveling. Zivix’s Jamstik+ ($349.99) is a minimalist, digital stringed instrument that will play over an iPhone, iPad, and some Android devices, allowing you to perform or practice guitar techniques without lugging an actual guitar. Don’t know how to play? The company has developed a whole library of lessons across two apps, and the device also works with Apple’s GarageBand. Budget Pick: For those not willing to put in the time to actually learn to play guitar, Zivix’s AirJamz ($49.99) are fun little Bluetooth plectrums that work with an iPhone or iPad app to play a wide range of pre-programmed riffs when the tiny device is “strummed.” It even includes a little button for mixing up the guitar solos, making it the perfect gift for kids mastering air guitar. — Ross Rubin