Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Holiday Gift Guide 2019 is Here

As the end of 2019 approaches. Which means while you might just be gearing up to begin your holiday shopping, we're already done. At least, we're done shopping for you. After months of thinking, curating, photographing, more thinking, we've come up with a holiday gift guide that covers all the bases (and budgets), from laptops and mobile devices, to toys, to the smart home, to book and media recommendations (only on nerdy subjects, of course). All told, there are more than 150 items in our guide, spanning 13 categories, with advice from 25 of our writers and editors. You know, the people testing and reviewing this stuff all year long. And we're not done yet: We have additional picks and buying advice coming throughout this week, including gifts for coffee geeks, shopping for hypebeasts and our favorite wireless earbuds. (Because we expect those to be popular stocking stuffers this year.) To start, we have a guide to the best Switch and Switch Lite accessories. The Switch and Switch Lite itself made our list, too, but in the event your intended already has one, perhaps they could use a more functional d-pad controller?

The Best Gifts For The Home

Maybe you already have a smart speaker or hub. (And if you don't, we have suggestions...) But your home, and kitchen, can benefit from more than just a voice assistant to offer timers and weather forecasts. Yes, everyone's favorite cooking gadget, the Instant Pot, made our nice list once again, but we've also got some more advanced tools like the Thermapen (so someone nails that holiday roast) and Anova's smallest sous vide gadget. We've also included picks for any coffee fanatics you might be buying for, including the Pearl Bluetooth coffee scaled, and the Stagg EKG kettle, which is far more attractive than a kettle needs to be. Speaking of coffee gear, we have a whole guide to that coming later this week -- stay tuned! If you're looking to make a relative's home a little smarter, we like the ecobee Smart Thermostat, while we believe devices with displays like the Amazon Echo Show 5 and Google's Nest Hub Max make for more useful assistants than standalone (but cheaper) smart speakers.

Acacia Pearl coffee scale

If you want to impress the coffee aficionado in your life, one of the best scales is the Acaia Pearl. It's not only beautiful in its simplicity but also surprisingly smart. It's super fast and accurate (up to 0.1 gram sensitivity), and the display shows both the weight and a timer. There's even an Auto Start mode that starts the timer the moment the pouring begins. If they want to take their brewing to the next level, your coffee-loving friend can pair the scale with an app, which helps monitor brewing times and graphs their pour.

Amazon Smart Oven with Alexa

If you have a loved one who's a bit of a novice in the kitchen but is also a bit of a gearhead, the Alexa-friendly Amazon Smart Oven could be a great choice. With a variety of presets and the ability to scan prepackaged foods, Alexa can step in to help them know when to flip or stir their meals. Plus, the Smart Oven functions not only as a microwave but also as a convection oven, an air fryer and a food warmer, which is perfect for those who want to maximize their counter space. It doesn't have its own microphone or speaker and requires a separate Alexa-enabled device, but each Smart Oven comes with a free Echo Dot anyway, so your bases are covered.

Amazon Echo Show 5

Smaller smart displays can also be pretty great alarm clocks, and the Echo Show 5 is a particularly good one. The ambient light sensor darkens the room when it's time to go to bed, and the sunrise alarm brightens the display when it's time to wake up. If your friend or family member wants to catch a few extra winks, they can smack the top of it to snooze for a few more minutes. Like other Alexa displays, it can play videos from Amazon Prime and Hulu, and a built-in browser lets them view YouTube clips too. It'll also integrate with the rest of their smart home, so turning off the lights is as easy as telling Alexa to do so.

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

Sous vide machines have gotten cheaper over the years, but few are more affordable than the Anova Precision Cooker Nano. For less than $100, it's a great gift for the home cook in your life. It lets them cook foods to just the right temperature, so they'll always get the perfect medium-rare steak. The Precision Cooker Nano can be controlled either via an app or the physical controls on the top, which makes it a little more flexible than some competing devices. If they do decide to use the app, it'll notify them when the cooking is finished even when they're not in the kitchen. It's also super compact, so it can be easily tucked away inside a drawer when not in use.

Ecobee Smart Thermostat with Voice Control

Ecobee may not be as much of a household name as Nest, but its products come with the sincere approval of at least one colleague, who replaced his Nest with this. The company's new, fourth-generation smart thermostat costs $250 and comes with voice control via Amazon Alexa. Even better, it has sensors thrown in that detect both the ambient temperature and how many people are at home. All told, Ecobee claims that shutting off the HVAC when people aren't around saves around 23 percent on heating and cooling costs. One of the best features of the Ecobee is its simple user interface, which is far better than its rivals. My colleague says that vacation mode is much better than the Nest's, because rather than having to activate and deactivate it by hand, you can tell the device when you're leaving and when you're coming back. That way, it knows when to start getting your place warmed or cooled in preparation for your return. It also looks great, with a glass-fronted LCD touchscreen that displays the weather as well, making life a little bit easier. Plus, it comes with all the usual integrations to Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, SmartThings and IFTTT.

Eero WiFi Router/Extender

Mesh WiFi routers may not be very sexy presents, but believe me when I say that your loved ones will appreciate the gift of reliable internet. The Eero system is one of the best out there and is able to bring up to 1,500 square feet of WiFi. I have the Eero routers in my home, and they've completely rid it of the dreaded WiFi dead spots. A standout feature is Eero's TrueMesh technology, which intelligently routes traffic to devices using the fastest and most reliable path. This in turn helps avoid congestion and buffering. The app makes setup and installation easy too, and there are parental controls on board as well. Plus, automatic updates ensure that the router will improve over time.

Eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 11S

The season is guaranteed to generate a lot of mess, but your friends won't want to clean up after they've had a bellyful of food. That's why you should be nice to them and give the gift of a robotic vacuum cleaner that'll do some of the work. Eufy's RoboVac 11S has plenty of things to recommend it -- including its reasonable $240 asking price. Standing at just 2.85 inches tall, it's short enough to get under most furniture and can run for up to 100 minutes on a charge. It's no wimp in the suction department either: It's more powerful than Roomba's low-end e5 with a triple filter system to help screen out particles. Because it's cheap, it lacks the fancy-pants navigation skills of its more expensive rivals, but it's smart enough to avoid falling down stairs. Best of all, it's about as noisy as a desk fan, which should prevent any anxious pets from getting too upset.

Fellow Stagg EKG Electric Kettle

The Fellow Stagg EKG kettle is for the coffee and tea lover in your life who's ready to take their brew to the next level. Equipped with variable temperature control, an LCD screen and a built-in stopwatch, the Stagg EKG kettle is no ordinary electric kettle. It has a 1,200-watt quick-heating element, so it's faster than boiling water on the stove. There's a "hold" mode that keeps the water at a certain temperature for up to 60 minutes, which is great for both coffee and tea. It also features a stunning design, with a precision spout perfect for pour-over brewing.

Google Nest Hub Max

If you want to give the gift of Google Assistant but want it packaged in a multipurpose device with a smart home bent, then you might want to consider the Google Nest Hub Max. I use this in my own kitchen, and I love it. The large 10-inch screen makes it a good digital photo frame of course, but it's also great for viewing YouTube videos and cooking instructions. If your loved one happens to have other Nest cams in the house, they can use it to check in on those too. Plus, it has a camera, which can be used for facial recognition, gestures and, of course, video calls via Google's Duo service. In fact, the camera can itself double as a Nest Cam, which is great for keeping an eye on the house when they're out and about.

Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus

Few other kitchen gadgets are as popular as the Instant Pot, and for good reason: It's an excellent electric pressure cooker that can also function as a slow cooker, a yogurt maker, a rice cooker and, in some cases, a sous vide machine. That makes it ideal for those who need to get food on the table in an efficient manner without taking up a lot of counter space. The latest model, the Duo Evo Plus, is even better than the original: Inner pot handles make it easier to lift out of the cooker, the steam valve switch is far easier to turn on or off, and it now automatically seals when the lid is locked. What's more, it even comes with an extra silicone gasket. If you do get your loved one this excellent kitchen gadget, we suggest you send them a link to our Instant Pot guide so they'll get the most out of their new toy.

Pakt Coffee Kit

It can be difficult to assemble a travel coffee setup that's compact and includes everything you need to make your morning cup. Most of the time you have to either sacrifice space or a piece of gear that would otherwise make things easier. But the Pakt Coffee Kit contains everything the java lover on your list will need to make a fantastic pour over, all inside a case that's about the size of a pair of shoes. The kit nests together like a set of Russian dolls, with a grounds container and travel cup resting inside the water kettle for storage. The unit heats water to 205 degrees Fahrenheit (96 Celsius), the perfect temp for pour over, before alerting you it's ready. There's also a collapsible dripper and scoop as well as space to store filters. And while there might be some strange looks from airport security, this thing is travel friendly. It's currently available for pre-order through Indiegogo for $149, and Pakt says the kits will ship in time for Christmas.

Ring Video Doorbell 2

If package thieves are a problem for your loved ones, consider getting them a video doorbell. We particularly recommend the Ring Video Doorbell 2, which either uses a hardwired connection or battery power, making it great for homeowners and renters alike. Plus, the rechargeable battery is easily removed without having to take out the whole unit. It sends mobile alerts whenever it senses motion, and it also records and sends those events to the cloud. The Ring camera is also compatible with Alexa-powered smart displays, letting your family members view who's at their front door that much more quickly. Video recording and storage does require a $30 annual subscription, but that includes 60-day unlimited video storage, which is a lot cheaper than with other security cameras.

ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4

Whether your loved one is a professional chef or a novice cook, they'd appreciate a good instant-read thermometer. The Thermoworks Thermapen is one of the best out there, and it's one that Engadget editors like myself and senior editor Billy Steele highly recommend. It can suss out the temperature of your food in mere seconds so you know whether to take the roast out of the oven now or wait for a few more minutes. Get this for the cook in your life and you may never have to eat under- or overcooked food again.

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