My last year’s gift guide was quite popular, and so I’ve decided to do up another gift guide for this year. And like last year, all these products I recommend are personally reviewed (unless indicated otherwise). Prices indicated are recommended retail price, so the street price could be lower.
While this guide was created specially for the Christmas season of giving, you can use this guide for any occasions, including birthdays, Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, or rewarding that special person.
Wearables: Smartwatches and Fitness Bands (S$19.99 ~ $448)
This is the hottest gadget for 2015, all thanks to Apple who starts selling The Watch. Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy wearing a smartwatch. Earlier this year I reviewed the Mi Band, and last month, Xiaomi finally announced the Mi Band 1S with heart-rate monitor. However, it is still not yet available in Singapore, but you could order it online via AliExpress or GearBest, which you will enjoy further savings if you click through ShopBack. Nonetheless, the original Mi Band is still an excellent gift to track your activity, sleep, and silent alarm. It also vibrates with incoming calls and messages from your phone. The Mi Band costs below S$20 while the new Mi Band 1S is selling for around US$30.
My favourite smartwatch I reviewed this year is the Pebble Time, because it has the most number of apps in the market and least obtrusive, thanks to always-on display and non-touchscreen to prevent any accidental user experience.
The Samsung Gear S2 also ranks high in my recommendation due to the good-looking watch face, overall watch-like design, and strong user-interface. It also works with any Android smartphone. The biggest drawback is lack of apps, but using it with available apps is good enough. After all, even an analogue watch has limited functions.
- Xiaomi Mi Band – cheap yet highly functional
- Pebble Time – lightweight and unobtrusive
- Samsung Gear S2 – gorgeous watchface designs and interaction experience
Fitness Headsets (S$168 ~ $399)
Accessories for fitness are emerging in strength, almost every other person I know are into wellness. I cannot run without music, for it is music that motivates me during my runs. If you are like me, here are some wireless headsets I highly recommend (I don’t like to run with wired earphones, so no recommendation from me on that).
The Jaybird X2 is clearly a big winner in music. The treble quality is astounding, in fact, too bright for my liking. But I’m sure many of you would enjoy them. It has one of the longest battery for a sport headset.
Jabra also has three headset models depending on your budget. I am still using the Jabra Sport Pulse, the model that has built-in heartrate monitor. This year, Jabra added 2 models, the Jabra Sport Coach with workout features, and Jabra Sport Pace, the entry-level model.
All of them are weather-proof, dust-proof, shock-proof, and sound great for daily commute too, though battery life tops at 5 hours.
The swiss army knife of sports headset has got to be the Sony Smart B-Trainer. Why so? Because it practically has everything: built-in heart-rate monitor, GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, even a music player. You can leave your smartphone at home while this headset records your workout. And did I mention you can also wear it for your swimming too?
- Sony Smart B-Trainer – all-in-one headset for everything
- Jaybird X2 – amazingly bright treble audio quality
- Jabra Sport Pace/Coach/Pulse – military-grade build
Music headphones are really subjective, so unless you know the person’s music taste, it might be difficult to get the perfect purchase. But here are some fail-safe recommendations:
Little Big Sound NatureTones (S$39 ~ $180)
You can practically find any type of audio tuning, from bright treble to heavy bass, from in-ear to over-ear, from S$39 to S$180. The headphone sound chambers are wood-crafted, which provides a signature warm sound. The packaging is entirely recycled cardboard, and looks great for gifts. Visit my full review write-up to find out which models work for your recipient.
Fischer Audio Omega series (S$68 ~ $98)
Fischer Audio is a well-known headphones brand among audiophiles for its outstanding audio quality. The new Omega series earphones are just launched last month. Omega Spark is really tiny and offers bright treble. Omega Ace focuses on bass quality. Omega Twin is two separate drivers dedicated for treble and bass, but overall audio tuning is still shy of treble brilliance, if that’s what you are looking for.
If you ask me to recommend one headphones that offer an all-rounder balance of audio quality, features and price, my answer would be the Plantronics BackBeat PRO (S$399). My review post listed down 10 great reasons, but in a nutshell, it is cushy, it has active noise-cancelling, its battery lasts 24 hours, it has auto-pause function, it runs even without batteries with wires, the list goes on.
Plantronics has released a lighter prettier version, BackBeat SENSE. It’s pretty good, but I still prefer the PRO.
And if you don’t trust Plantronics and wanted a more premium brand, then you can check out Bose SoundLink Around Ear Wireless Headphones II. Comfort-wise, the Bose is a little better than BackBeat SENSE due to around-ear cushions. Sound-wise, Bose treble sound is less piercing and the overall audio presentation is a notch better. Size-wise, I’d give it to BackBeat SENSE. Noise-isolation: either BackBeat models is better. Feature-wise, BackBeat is better, with OpenMic and Auto-Pause that are more useful, and the ability to use voice calling even without power. Price-wise, BackBeat SENSE is better value.
Audio Speakers (S$69 ~ $199)
My criteria for portable speakers are no less demanding than headphones, which is they must offer hi-fi quality audio details, not just “sounds”. This year, I was impressed with 3 wireless speakers that I really want you to enjoy.
First, local brand UB+ Eupho speaker does not pump loud raw sound, but delivers faithfully clean audio. The speakers are expandable and battery lasts over 20 hours. If you play mostly instrumental tracks in moderate levels, you will enjoy listening with this speaker.
The JBL Flip 3 has also won my vote after I reviewed one a few months back. It is splash-proof and its 2 bass radiators are exposed to the sides, delivering balanced sound of clear treble and strong bass.
Last year, I rated highly on the Bose SoundLink Mini, but the price is a little high. When I reviewed the Sony SRS-X33, I tell myself that this is close enough to win my recommendation. It fills the room with impressively life-like treble details and omni-bass feel.
- UB+ Eupho – clean detailed mini speaker for instrumental enjoyment
- JBL Flip 3 – splash-proof, go-anywhere, clean treble, tangible bass
- Sony SRS-X33 – best sounding portable speakers I have reviewed in 2015
Computer Mouse (S$29 – $129)
Computer mice are inexpensive but they are indispensable for the desk-bound workers. Logitech’s M238 Play Collection wireless mouse is gorgeously cute for the co-worker who loves to be flashy. Or pick the M235 Colour Collection series from last year. Both cost less than S$29.
If you need a more formal mouse as a gift for the busy managers who carry multiple devices, I would endorse the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 at S$129. This mouse can connect via wireless dongle and Bluetooth, plus it works even on glass surfaces.
If your tablet computer is running out of USB ports, you might want to consider getting a Bluetooth mouse like the Logitech M337.
- Logitech M235 – colours to match personality
- Logitech M238 – playful designs for the loud users
- Logitech M337 – Bluetooth mouse for connecting to your tablet with limited USB ports
- Logitech MX Anywhere 2 – for the multi-device user
Wireless Keyboard (S$54 ~ $65)
Still recommending Logitech, because they are value for money and are workhorses. Last year I recommended the K480 and I’m still gonna recommend that for this year’s gift guide, because there is no competition.
If you think the gift recipient needs a more compact keyboard, then check out the new K380, launched just 2 months ago. Both keyboards offer similar features to provide seamless connectivity to multiple Bluetooth devices.
- Logitech K480 – love the built-in stand
- Logitech K380 – for compact and travel user
This year, like any year, there are flagship product launches from all major smartphone companies. LG has the G4, Samsung has the S6 and Note 5, Sony has the Xperia Z5, HTC has the One M9. But none priced as affordably and performs as impressively as ASUS Zenfone 2. The low-spec models might not be that great, but if you go for the top-spec ZE551ML running on 4GB RAM and 2.3GHz quad-core Intel chip, it will blaze through in the operation. Plus, ZenUI interface is very customisable.
Sadly, by the time you read this, the Zenfone 2 series are already being replaced by the “Laser” series which were not as high-spec as the ZE551ML. The next best is Zenfone Selfie but that runs on 1.6GHz octa-core Snapdragon 615 which does not offer blazing performance. However, the Zenfone Selfie has one of the best front-facing cameras in the market, and battery life is great thanks to the removable 3000 mAh battery. All Zenfone models support dual SIM and external micro SD slots.
I hope you find this guide useful for your shopping. Do check out my last year’s guide for more brilliant gifts.