This holiday tech season is brought to you by Sony and Microsoft. Honestly, if you’re quarantining anyway, a new video game system might be just the thing you’re looking for. If so, you’re in luck. Those devices, along with many others, made the list of tech-related items available this holiday season.
Lenovo Smart Clock Essential
Not every gadget has to be fancy. The Lenovo Smart Clock basically is a digital alarm clock attached to a Google smart speaker, which allows you to adjust settings with only your voice or play music. The simple LED display shows the time, weather and day of the week, and it has a built-in nightlight. The back also has a USB port to charge your phone. Starts at $29.99; lenovo.com
Sony PlayStation 5
The previous PlayStation was released seven years ago, and while it's still going strong, the new version makes some significant upgrades. Most importantly, games should look better, supporting ultra-high definition 4K resolution out of the box. (Owners of the original PS4 had to upgrade to the PS4 Pro to get 4K support.) The console will come in two models: one with a Blu-ray disc drive for those who prefer physical copies of games, and a slightly smaller version without a drive that allows for downloading games only; $499 for the disc-drive version, $399 for digital edition at playstation.com and most retailers.
Amazon Echo Dot and Echo Dot Kids
The fourth generation of Amazon's smart speaker (the one you address as Alexa) now has a spherical shape and comes in two editions: regular and one for kids. It operates the same way as other smart speakers in the Echo line, allowing users to ask the device to play music or give the latest news headlines. The kids version, however, comes with a cover resembling either a panda or a tiger. It also comes with a free yearlong subscription to Amazon Kids+, which has access to child-friendly digital books and games; starting at $49.99 at amazon.com.
Click and Grow Smart Garden
Maybe you live in an apartment with no yard. Maybe you just don't want to leave your house for fresh greens. Whatever the case, the Click and Grow garden might work for you, especially if your thumb is closer to black than green. The company says the garden works like a Nespresso or Keurig machine - you pop in the plant pod, fill the water tank, plug in the lamp and the rest is automated. You can choose from more than 50 preseeded pods, including herbs, lettuce or even strawberries; $99.95 at clickandgrow.com.
Microsoft Xbox Series X/Series S
Like its competition from Sony, Microsoft released the Xbox One seven years ago, and the new iteration updates the console to make 4K the standard resolution. It also comes in two models: The Series X, which includes a Blu-ray disc drive, and the digital-only Series S. The new Xbox is compatible with Xbox One games - just as the PS5 is able to play games originally meant for the PS4 - so which console you choose could come down to personal preference, or at least making sure your existing game library is still playable on the new system; $499 for Series X, $299 for Series S at xbox.com and most retailers.
Fitbit Versa 3
Fitbit's newest smartwatch offers built-in GPS tracking for those who prefer to log their exercise outings without the need to carry a phone. If your focus is fitness, the Versa, which has a large, color touchscreen display, could be considered a less expensive option to Apple's smartwatch. Depending on the brightness setting, the Versa's battery can last up to six days; $229.95 at fitbit.com or most retailers.
Apple iPhone 12
Apple's fall iPhone launch was a little later than usual this year, but the tech giant released four versions of the iPhone 12, its flagship product. All offer enhanced resolution and what the company says is a hardier construction for the klutziest among us. Improved cameras should satisfy photo buffs, and the four phone models - the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone Pro Max - come in a variety of colors; starting at $699 at apple.com and most retailers.
Sonos One smart speaker
Regarded as one of the best-sounding smart speakers on the market, the Sonos One also supports voice assistants offered by Google ("Hey, Google") and Amazon (Alexa) as well as the ability to stream music via most of the popular services. The speakers have multiroom capability, allowing users to stream music to multiple Sonos devices around a house, all via the app; $199 at sonos.com.
Who among us doesn't need a nice massage every now and then? Unfortunately, you can't really social distance during a relaxing in-person rubdown. That's where percussive therapy devices come in. The Theragun Mini is essentially a massage gun that provides up to 2,400 percussions per minute to relax muscles after a workout to prevent soreness. The device is designed for quietness and can last around two hours on a full charge; $199.99 at theragun.com and other outlets.
Chromecast with Google TV
Video streaming devices for TVs have justifiably taken off while people have been stuck at home. Google's offering has been available for years, but it has lacked some of the more popular features from rivals like Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Roku. Google's updated Chromecast now comes with a remote and microphone that supports voice search via Google Assistant, and it has added its own browsing menu of user-focused content called Google TV; $49.99 at store.google.com.