Electronics and exercise gear that make excellent gifts
From smart water bottles to VR headsets.
It’s been a difficult and unusual year for most of us—just the kind of year that could be improved by extra generosity this holiday season. The shortening days and cooling air are a good reminder to start thinking about what to give those special people in your life, especially the loved ones whose worlds have been turned upside down recently.
It’s impossible to offer a pitch-perfect gift idea for every person on our readers’ lists (though we’re going to try) and so it seemed appropriate to first offer some ideas in broad categories to get the creative process started.
If you have any specific product questions—or a friend who really has you stumped this year—feel free to reach out on the PopSci Deals Facebook group or by contacting Popular Science’s Commerce Editor Billy Cadden directly. Prime Day is also coming up on October 13th, so make sure to keep an eye out for deals.
If none of the products below speak to you, you could always browse these curated gift guides on Amazon. Here are some of the most popular categories:
A photo-sharing network is a great way to share life events and new memories with your loved ones. This 10.1-inch frame from Nixplay allows you to create a private channel for you to send pictures and photo-playlists to other frames in your network. You can do all of this through the Nixplay app, which supports Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram, and Google photos. The frame can rest nicely on a surface or be mounted on the wall with ease. It has a 12800 x 800 HD IPS display that can automatically adjust to portrait or landscape. It can also be connected to Amazon Alexa and is equipped with a motion sensor that will turn the frame on when it detects movement, saving you a bit of electricity throughout the day. Nixplay has other frames in various sizes and finishes to fit your family’s needs.
This wireless keyboard has concave keys to snugly fit your fingertips, creating an ultra-comfortable typing experience. It connects via bluetooth and can do so to multiple computers at once. With the backlighting on, the keys automatically illuminate based on your finger proximity, offering an aesthetically pleasing and precise experience. A full charge on USB-c lasts up to ten days with backlighting on and up to five months with backlighting off.
This Surface Book gives you 17.5 hours of battery life along with an improved standby mechanism that actually improves battery life while you’re away. You’re not by any means sacrificing power to get that battery life. The Surface Book 3 comes with a 10th-Gen i7 processor, 32 GB of memory, 1TB of SSD ram and an NVIDIA GTX GPU for graphics processing.
This docking station has ports for two USB-C, four USB-A, two Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, Ethernet, and AUX. It also has a SD/micro SD slots. Charge your devices rapidly via Thunderbolt or USB. Connect to monitors and televisions for 4K streaming via HDMI. Plug into your best sound system via AUX. The options are endless with the Anker Docking Station.
Featuring 7, count them, 7 ports, this powered USB hub should take on your entire roster of USB-chargeable electronics. At 36W this bad boy also makes sure there are no stragglers; every device will get the energy it needs in a reasonable amount of time. That isn’t to say anything about its sleek aluminum chassis and glowing blue ports. As an added bonus, if you connect this to your PC you can take advantage of the AUKEY’s USB 3.0 port to transfer files from your phone, camera, or hard drive in a flash.
NETGEAR’s EX5000 adds WiFi range coverage up to 1,500 square feet, provides up to 1,200 Mbps performance, and connects up to 25 devices including laptops, smartphones, speakers, IP cameras, tablets, IoT devices, and more. The extender is universal, working with any wireless router, gateway, or cable modem with WiFi, and supports WEP, WPA, and WPA2 wireless security protocols. Internal antennas provide better WiFi coverage, higher speed, and will permanently rid your home of dead zones. Plus the convenient and discreet wall-plug design saves space.
This speaker can be submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes, proving its durability. It also holds charge for 15 hours, so you don’t have to worry about the party losing steam. The Boom can pair with up to 150 other Boom speakers if you need extra volume, but the lone speaker pumps as loud as 90 decibels.
Sony’s noise-canceling WH-1000xM3 headphones are not only lightweight and incredibly comfortable during long listening periods, but they also have the most advanced and customizable noise-cancellation features to better suit your personal listening experience. When you’re setting up the headphones, you can choose to turn on features like Adaptive Sound Control that listens to your environment and automatically adjusts how you’ll hear ambient sound. It also lets you adjust the settings in the app depending on if you are sitting, walking, running, or in transit on a bus for noisier places.
Within the app, you can manually change EQ settings or use their presets for boosted bass tones or to enhance speech. Ambient Sound Mode brings in outside noise and mixes it in with the music so you don’t get hit by a bus you never hear coming. Instead of using physical buttons, the right cup features swipe gestures to adjust volume or switch tracks. They hold a 30-hour charge and connect via Bluetooth 4.2.
The Belkin RockStar headphone splitter is a great way to share audio with more of your favorite folks. It is also a great resource for families when you all want to watch the same thing—think long car trips or airplane travel. It comes with five AUX ports for attaching your headphones or cables and one hardwired cable to connect to your device. The sound quality remains the same no matter how many listeners there are and the lightweight design makes it easy to grab and go. If you’re feeling fancy, you can also use this splitter to connect multiple devices to one speaker’s output, but we’ll let you be in charge of that experiment. The RockStar is the way to go if you are looking to come together with more than one of your best companions.
This sync box from Philips Hue is an ingenious way to immerse yourself and the universe of any game or movie and turn your surroundings into part of the action. It connects to your devices via a provided 4K HDMI splitter, and communicates with up to ten Philips Hue smart lights simultaneously to change the colors and brightness of your room in real time along with the image on your screen. Because it’s compatible with up to four HDMI devices at once and super easy to install, you won’t have to worry about constantly unplugging and resetting your devices, either—simply set it up inline with your devices and let it do its thing.
A really sophisticated VR experience usually needs some kind of computer anchor to deliver truly immersive games and experiences. If you already have a PS4, this bit of hardware is easy to hook up and start using immediately, with truly impressive results. The adjustable headset is surprisingly comfortable despite not being among the lighter models, and the ear buds deliver incredibly deep and detailed sound. Pair with either a standard PS4 controller or a PlayStation VR wand and you’ll be able to unlock entirely new gaming experiences—even in some games you may already own. Star Wars: Battlefront, for example, contains a special VR X-Wing mission that is accessible once you hook up the PS VR. It’s an all-around knockout experience. This one comes with an Iron Man game!
As anyone who has literally had to watch a big action film with their audio remote in their hands can attest, it can be really annoying when a movie flip-flops between window-rattling explosions and whisper-level dialogue. Utilizing optical audio, coaxial audio, and 3.5mm auxiliary inputs, the Bose is designed to bring the dialogue front and center for those who appreciate banter as much as booms. There is literally a “dialogue” button on the remote control (indicated by a comic book-style word balloon) that delivers noticeable enhancement. The Bose Solo 5 also features Bluetooth connectivity, and can be wall mounted.
The Sony Dolby Vision-enabled players provide more than just the ability to play 4K Blu-ray discs (which, yes, you do need a dedicated player for—they will not play on standard Blu-ray machines). They also provide a hub for an upgraded all-around entertainment system. The player improves contrast and color even when connected to a non-HDR TV, can internally stream Netflix, Hulu, and other platforms through a wireless connection, and comes equipped with Dolby Atmos immersive digital surround sound. It’s pretty much everything you’d want, unless you’re a gamer.
This mini projector produces up to a 100-inch picture and 360-degree high fidelity sound. It charges via power adapter and lasts up to four hours on a charge. Connect your media via USB, HDMI or even Bluetooth, and control the projection via an app on your smart device. The Anker Nebula Capsule II projects a crisp and clear 200 ANSI-lumen image, so you get both quality and convenience in one tiny package. This one is fun and versatile!
Capture and store up to 128 GB of audio with this six-track pro audio recorder. It comes with two interchangeable stereo mic capsules and offers four mic/line inputs for external mics or instruments. Each track has its own volume control, sound dampening pad, and phantom power for mics that need it. You can also power this monster with just two AA alkaline batteries, and it records straight to SD, SDHC, or SDXC cards. If you want top-quality recordings of your classes, piano recitals, or podcast clips, the Zoom H6 is a great option.
Polaroid is practically synonymous with the instant camera, so no list of greats can fail to mention this update on the classic model. This latest version has 60 days of battery life (and is rechargeable via USB), a powerful built-in flash that you can turn off or adjust as needed, and a self-timer. It shoots on either the iconic 600 or i-Type films, and includes a neck strap. Choose a poppy color like coral, summer blue, and mint green.
If you’re into scrapbooks, mini photo albums, or art projects, this Kodak photo printer creates wallet-sized prints perfect for those crafts. The printer is about the size of an iPhone, which is extremely convenient to carry around your bag. You can use the Kodak App or the Bluetooth-enabled connection to select your photos and print them with high-quality ink. These portraits will stay bright for up to 10 years. It’s user-friendly, easy to set up and get going.
Shoot vivid aerial footage with the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, which remains In flight for up to 31 minutes, at a maximum speed of 44 miles per hour. Its low-noise design means you won’t have to deal with annoying whirring sounds and the obstacle sensor helps avoid any nasty collisions. Don’t worry about lighting with this one – its 1-inch sensor will capture high-quality shots in low-light situations. You can also get creative with the drone’s hyper-lapse feature, speeding up footage for a cool effect.
If you’re looking for a basic, sturdy treadmill at a budget price, the Xterra delivers. Choose from 12 preset programs that offer intervals at different speeds, and hit your stride on the cushioned surface. Sure, you won’t get a high-definition screen or built-in fan, but you can make up for it by setting up the treadmill in front of your TV, placing a tablet on the console to watch movies, and using as many external fans as you want to stay cool as you sweat. There are a few limitations worth considering if you’re training hard: Runners with long strides may feel restricted by the 16-inch by 50-inch belt, and to change the incline you’ll have get off the treadmill and choose from three manual settings. Fold it up and roll it to a more out-of-the way location when warm weather invites your workouts outdoors.
You can get a great spin class at home without coming anywhere close to Peloton’s price point. All of Sunny Health’s spin bikes give you great bang for your buck, and the most basic models are much less than a Peloton. These affordable machines don’t come with tablet mounts included, so you may have to set up your live-streamed classes on a laptop perched on a nearby shelf. Or, you can buy your own tablet mount for and strap a device right onto the handlebars.
Reduce lactic acid buildup after a run by treating your muscles to the TimTam PowerMassager. This cordless percussion massager has a heated tip for when your muscles crave both pressure and warmth, and an LED screen allows you to monitor muscle temperature to achieve optimal results. Multiple treatment settings and three different tips (heated, vibrating, and round) combine for a highly individualized experience. The device’s head can also be adjusted across 175 degrees, for convenient access to sore places.
This personal massager can hit all of the tender spots: neck, calves, lower backs, abdomen, and shoulders. Plus, it’s heated which encourages blood circulation for ultimate muscle relaxation. This miracle worker can simulate a bi-directional massage as well as deep kneading, with 8 different settings. You can easily adjust the speed, direction, and heat (which ranges between 104-113 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s super quiet so you can feel free to use it at the office or while little ones are sleeping. Made for a variety of body types, this personal massager should keep everyone happy from Grandpa Joe to cousin Jane.
This LifeFuels bottle infuses your water with vitamins and nutrients that promote energy and wellness. Choose your flavors, which come in pods that are stored in the base of the bottle. You can store up to three at a time. LifeFuels is constantly coming out with new flavors, and you can adjust the infusion strength via the LifeFuels app. This app also tracks your hydration and nutrient intake, allowing you to create a water diet regimen.
The ‘Lectrofan is a digital white noise generator loaded with 20 different varieties of non-looping white noise, fan noise, and static. The pitch of the white noise is fully adjustable from low-pitched to high-pitched at ten increments, and you can hit the 60 minute button for a quick snooze session or keep it on all the way through the night. The adjustable volume on this unit means you can crank it much louder than a fan in certain cases where you need maximum noise blockage. It runs on AC and USB power so you can pack it up and bring it to the office.
This smart lighting kit from Nanoleaf is a unique and eye-catching system that offers automated ambient lighting and programmable modes while maintaining the appearance of geometric wall art. Perfect for style-oriented gamers with a taste for smart home automation, the Nanoleaf kit includes nine panels that can be connected in custom patterns and controlled using both phone and desktop applications, delivering vibrant light in up to 16 million colors. The included rhythm module allows the Nanoleaf system to listen in on sounds and respond dynamically, enhancing your gaming and music-listening experiences.
Trimming nose hairs is delicate, personal business, and the Norelco has that firmly in mind. Designed for use on nose hairs but also eyebrows and ear hair, the 3000′s blades are meant for sensitive skin, and trim precisely without pulling or yanking (which is a godsend for anyone who has had to resort to tweezer plucking—consider this the “no tears” option). Fully washable and equipped with removable trimming heads for all of its different jobs, it’s recommended for those who struggle with balancing consistent grooming with occasional irritated skin.
If you need extra warmth at night, the Sunbeam is a great lighter option to slide under your comforter. Made of 100 percent polyester, this electric blanket comes with 10 heat settings ranging from one to 10. This blanket doesn’t automatically shut off for 10 hours, which also makes it great for using overnight. The Sunbeam fits sizes full, queen, and king size beds.