Christmas gift guide
The best new Apple-related tech we’ve seen this year
Christmas is rapidly approaching, which means gift-buying season is upon us. We know how difficult it can be to find the perfect gift for everyone, so here we’ve rounded-up the best new Apple-related tech we’ve seen throughout the year.
This year, Apple has launched the iPad Pro, iPad mini 4, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, as well as a new MacBook and a brand new Apple TV. That means there are plenty of new accessories and peripherals to choose from, whether you’re looking for something fun, something practical, something fashionable or something to keep your sparkly new Apple devices safe. We’ve got cases, battery packs, storage devices, speakers, headphones, quirky
gadgets and more in our Christmas Gift Guide 2015, so read on to get some gift inspiration.
In-ear headphones: RHA T10i
Price: £149.95 The design of the RHA T10i headphones and quality of materials used scream “premium”, especially the hand-made steel drivers. The drivers themselves are a little rough around the edges per say, but we think this adds to the overall design and personality of the product, rather than detracting from it. That’s not all though, as the T10i features a gold plated, reinforced, oxygen free copper cable that should help to improve overall sound quality and help the cable last.
The headphones come with a total of 10 sets of tips (including two sets of memory foam tips and 2 sets of double flange tips) to help find the perfect
fit for your ears. As well as a large number of tips, the T10i also comes with three custom drivers – one for reference, one that boosts treble and one that boosts bass. There’s always a worry that using bass enhancement will ruin the treble and mid-range, drowning in a sea of bass. We didn’t find this to be the case with the T10i and overall, the headphones produced a great level of clarity and a satisfying sound.
On-ear headphones: Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 Price: £249 from Amazon
The Bowers & Wilkins P5 Series 2 headphones are visually gorgeous, with a black and silver combo crafted from aluminium and sheep leather for maximum comfort, with soft cups that feel easy on the ears while helping to keep external noise out.
The headphones come with an iOS-specific wire that allows you to control media playback, and a built-in mic means you can take calls and even access Siri without getting your phone out of your pocket.
The P5 Series 2’s boasts a drive unit similar to those found in Hi-Fi speakers (according to Bowers & Wilkins anyway) which produces a drive unit with more precise and controlled movement, improving sound quality. The sound produced by the P5 Series 2 can be described as ‘open’ and ‘spacious’ with powerful levels of bass.
Bluetooth in-ear headphones: Earin Price: €180 (£130)
Earin is a relatively new company to the scene, established in 2013 and funded via a Kickstarter campaign. The idea was to create simplistic
wireless in-ear headphones that looked great and, most importantly, had no wires – an idea that was extremely popular, as the campaign was funded and two years down the line, Earin is finally available (be it in limited quantities).
Earin is small, measuring in at 14.5x20mm and weighs just 3.5g, making them the smallest wireless in-ear headphones on the market. The main difference between Earin and its competitors is that many companies that produce wireless in-ear headphones have to include an extra part that rests around your neck, holding all the tech (Bluetooth receiver, battery, and so on) while Earin has none of that. The ear-buds are stored in a small metallic capsule that’ll wirelessly charge them whenever stored, providing you with fully charged wireless inear headphones whenever you need them.
Despite the small size, Earin doesn’t disappoint when it comes to audio quality. The earbuds are manufactured with two dedicated amps that drive high-precision speakers, providing detailed sound with excellent mid tones, a clear high end and a tight bass. We were blown away with the quality of the earbuds, especially when paired with the (supplied) memory foam tips that provide a decent level of noise cancellation.
There’s also an iOS and Android app available that lets you fine-tune your Earin experience, allowing you to tweak elements like bass and balance, as well as being able to keep an eye on how much battery life they have left.
The only issue? Due to such high demand, Earin is currently being sold in batches from the Earin website (earin.com). You can head over to the site
now, sign up and receive an email when the next sale is due to launch.
Bluetooth speaker: UE Boom 2
Price: £169.99 Ultimate Ears’ UE BOOM 2 is the second generation BOOM, bringing with it a number of improvements when compared to the original (and hugely popular) UE BOOM. The main selling point of the UE BOOM 2 is its 360-degree audio, providing truly room filling audio and waving goodbye to the speaker audio ‘sweet spot’. It’s not just audio projection that makes the UE BOOM 2 the speaker that it is though, it’s shock and dirt proof with IPX7 rated water resistance, meaning it’ll survive any journey you take it on.
The UE BOOM 2 also boasts a 15-hour battery life, has a 100ft wireless range and can connect to two devices at once, providing a musical switchover without having to disconnect from the speaker and stop the music from playing. It helps to make listening to music a more sociable experience, rather
than having one person deciding what’s played. Users can also download the UE BOOM app to tweak the EQ of the speaker and even pair up with a second UE BOOM 2 for a true stereo experience.
It’s available in a range of colours, from a rather modest black and grey to a more outlandish orange and purple combo. The best part about the UE BOOM 2 is that the company is constantly updating the speaker and adding new features, all of which can be installed via regular OTA updates, making the speaker future-proof.
Bluetooth speaker: Denon Envaya Price: £99.99
The Denon Envaya Mini is a gorgeous little Bluetooth speaker ready for use with your iPhone, iPad or Mac. It measures in at just 20.9x5.4x5.1cm, but it weighs a surprisingly hefty 558g, which makes it a little less portable than we’d like.
But where this speaker really excels is the audio, so there’s a bit of good news for you. It boasts dual 40mm full range drivers with a 40x83mm passive radiator, which produces both crisp sound and impressive bass, making it a favourite of ours .
Bluetooth speaker: iClever IC-BTS02
Price: £20.99 iClever’s IC-BTS02 is one of the best cheap Bluetooth speakers we’ve tried. It looks great and it’s affordable. It’s surprising just how much sound emanates from this tiny zinc-alloy box. Given that you can easily fit the 64.5x64.5x70.1mm 261g iClever in a single hand, the 5W speaker hidden inside does a much better job than we should reasonably expect from such a portable speaker, both good on bass and free from distortion at high volume. The 5W speaker inside the iClever offers bedroom-filling sound that is much louder than what’s available from your phone, tablet or laptop, although its meshedtop design forces it to throw audio upward rather than around the room.
With Bluetooth 4.0 technology it also boasts good range (up to 33ft), and we experienced no dropouts
walking room to room with paired phone in hand. If your mobile device doesn’t support Bluetooth you can instead use the Bluetooth Wireless Speaker’s AUX connection, and a cable is included in the box.
Digital compact camera: Fujifilm X-T10 Price: £499 (body only)
The X-T10 is Fuji’s entry-level X-series interchangeable lens camera, but, thanks in part to solid-feel metal build and rangefinder-like dials, sure doesn’t feel like it’s been compromised in order to arrive at its affordable body-only price tag.
Part of the reason for the X-T10’s solid feel when gripped are its die-cast magnesium top and base plates, though arguably the real attention grabbers are those triple rangefinder-style top plate dials controlling shooting mode, exposure and sensitivity. We also get the relative luxury of a 2.36 million-dot
resolution electronic viewfinder complete with comfortable-feel eye cup. But the fact that the 3in back screen also tilts meant we often ended up referring to the larger 920K-dot resolution LCD for shot composition instead, as it obviously affords a wider range of framing options.
While there are plenty of manual controls for those who relish getting hands on, an auto mode switch lever provides the option to disengage brain and point and shoot with a simple flick. The camera’s performance here is consistent and resulting images are both detailed and colour rich. It’s worth noting that you’ll be only purchasing the body for £499, with the most affordable kit lens option being the XC16-50mm lens, which can be picked up for an additional £100.
Alternatively, the variation that includes a standard 18- to 55mm lens will set you back £710. All kit lenses are black. As any first time Fuji X-series purchaser will be buying into a whole new camera system with the X-T10, you’ll want to know there are currently 19 Fujinon X mount lenses directly compatible with the camera at the time of writing. In short this is our current ‘go to’ compact and proves a jack-of-alltrades option for anyone wanting DSLR-like results, without DSLR bulk.
Mac accessory: Apple Magic Keyboard for Mac Price: £79.99
Apple’s Magic Keyboard is a must have for diehard Apple fans. The Magic Keyboard offers an upgrade from Apple’s last wireless keyboard both in terms of design and technology utilised. While
the original Apple wireless keyboard was powered by batteries (which was frustrating when you were half way through typing a document when the battery died) the Magic Keyboard features a builtin rechargeable battery, which is charged via a supplied Lightning cable.
The second new feature is the way that the Magic Keyboard pairs with your Mac. Where with other Bluetooth keyboards you’d have to head over to the Bluetooth preferences, search for the keyboard and pair with it, you need only plug the Keyboard into your Mac to complete the pairing process. If your battery does run out, you can keep the keyboard plugged in for use as a wired keyboard while it recharges.
Aside from the tech, the Magic Keyboard is much thinner, lighter and compact than the previous generation wireless keyboard. The key placement has been slightly tweaked for better travel, and the mechanism under each key has been redesigned to feel more solid when pressed, even near the edges. This provides a fantastic typing experience for Mac users, and despite not having features like backlit keys or support for multiple connections, it’s a great keyboard – just slightly more expensive than we’d like.
Mac accessory: Logitech MX Master
Price: £79.99 The Logitech MX Master is a contender for the most comfortable and enjoyable computer mouse we’ve ever used. The MX Master is wireless, offering a standard Bluetooth connection as well as a USB that enables wireless support for those without Bluetooth connectivity. It can also switch between three Bluetooth devices with the flick of a switch.
The MX Master utilises Darkfield Laser Sensor technology to achieve amazing levels of accuracy on almost any surface. While optical and traditional laser mice rely on irregularities on the surface to track direction and speed, Darkfield Laser Sensors use “the smallest possible detail to create a micro-road map of the surface so you get better precision on more surfaces, even glass” according to Logitech.
Scrolling is also a joy with the Logitech MX Master. The precision wheel automatically shifts
from the standard ‘click-to-click’ mechanical style to ‘hyper-fast-scroll’ depending on the scrolling speed. The two modes can also be manually switched by using the button conveniently placed beneath the scroll wheel. It also features a side-to-side scroll wheel where your thumb sits, allowing you to scroll from side to side with ease – a bonus for both graphic designers and web surfers alike.
It lasts around 40 days on a full battery charge and only requires 4 minutes of charging to get a single day worth of use out of it. It has a battery indicator on the side so you’ll never be caught out with a dead battery, and charges using Micro-USB.
iPad accessory: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard folio Price: £59.99
This modern offering from Logitech brings a fullsized keyboard integrated into a thin case for the iPad Air 2 (also available for the iPad Air and all iPad mini’s apart from iPad mini 4). The iPad Air 2
clips into the case using magnets, making it easy to attach and remove at a moments notice. The angle of the iPad can also be adjusted, making it ideal for a variety of situations as many folios only offer a single propped-up angle. The Ultrathin Keyboard Folio also folds around to protect the screen of the iPad when not in use.
It’s worth noting that the iPad Air 2 edition of the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio is much thinner and lighter than older models. We like the clickable keyboard and the keys are well spaced with good travel. The Ultrathin Keyboard Folio is a little more plastic-feeling than Logitech’s FabricSkin Keyboard, and it has more flex in it than we’d like, but on the whole the Ultrathin Keyboard is light, unobtrusive and a pleasure to use.
iPad accessory: BrydgeMini for iPad mini 1, 2 and 3 Price: £99
You can’t ruin the slim form factor of the iPad mini 1, 2 or 3 with a chunky, ugly case right? Thankfully that’s not true with the BrydgeMini - instead of taking away some of the elegance of the iPad mini, it adds to the experience and transforms your tablet into a MacBook look-alike. In fact, they’re so similar that we even reached for a nonexistent trackpad.
As with many keyboards designed for use with the iPad, the keys have been shrunk down. Usually this means that inaccuracies start to appear in your typing, especially when trying to type fast but with the Brydge, it’s just not the case – there’s great travel, and the keys feel solid when pressed. The only real adjustment we had to make was with the
shift button, which has a square button instead of the usual rectangular button.
There’s no real surprise that it’s constructed from aluminium because it’s clear that Brydge wanted a keyboard that looked like it belonged with your (aluminium backed) iPad mini. The keys are black, made of plastic and feel great to type on – something that’s very important to look out for when looking for a keyboard. A welcome addition is a backlight keyboard, much like the MacBook Air and helps with typing in low-light conditions.
It’s designed so that your iPad mini slots into the hinges simply and easily and is held in place thanks to the friction caused by rubber inserts. The Brydge comes with shims that fit into the hinges for slight width adjustment between the iPad mini 1, 2 and 3. If you’ve bought the recently released iPad mini 4, hold fire – the existing Brydge won’t fit, although the company are looking to launch an iPad mini 4 variation in January 2016.
Apple product: Apple TV (2015)
Price: From £129 If you’ve got an Apple loving TV fanatic in your life, what better gift to buy than the new Apple TV launched in October 2015. What’s so different between this Apple TV and the Apple TV that has been on sale for the past few years? Without trying to sound too dramatic, it’s had a complete overhaul in every area apart from the design of the casing.
The New Apple TV features tvOS, a brand new OS that brings advanced functionality to the once basic Apple TV. The main highlights include Siri support, which allows Siri to perform the same tasks on your TV as it’s able to on your iPhone (with the exclusions of calling and texting, of course) with a few additional benefits. One of these benefits is universal search, which allows users to search for a genre, film or actor and receive results not only from iTunes but also the likes of Netflix.
It also includes a dedicated App Store with not only standard apps, but games too, which turns the Apple TV into a games console, complete with a
Nintendo Wii-esque motion controlled remote that also features a built-in mic for use with Siri. The Touch surface of the remote allows you to swipe between menus in a similar fashion to how you’d use your iPhone, bringing a more unified Apple experience to the Apple TV
Apple product: Apple Watch) Price: From £229
If you’ve got an iPhone, why not combine it with a brand new Apple Watch? There are three variations of Watch to choose from, ranging from the Sport (cheapest) to the Watch (mid-range) and the Edition (high-end), but you’ll be glad to know that in terms of functionality, there’s no difference between the three. What can you do with an Apple Watch? It allows you to view and respond to your notifications
without needing to get your phone out of your pocket – in fact, you can even take calls directly from your Watch for those no-hands-free moments.
It also features fitness tracking technology and a heart rate monitor for those that are health conscious. It’ll track how many hours you’ve stood up for, how long you’ve exercised for and how many calories you’ve burned (along with step count, distance estimate, and so on) and displays it in an intuitive and user-friendly way – with rings. A full ring means you’ve hit your target, and is something that can be quickly glanced at throughout the day to provide an extra bit of motivation.
Apps are also a huge part of the Apple Watch, with many third-party app developers offering Apple Watch companion apps and complications (or widgets) that can be displayed directly on the customisable watch face.
Apple product: iPad mini 4 Price: From £319
Those in the market for a new iPad should set their sights on the brand new iPad mini 4, which launched in September 2015. Unlike previous iPad mini updates, the iPad mini 4 brings a thinner, lighter form factor and a number of internal upgrades that might make the purchase more worth your money. In terms of form factor, the iPad mini 4 is only 6.1mm thin, making it 18% thinner than the iPad mini 3, and weighs a lightweight 299g.
Inside the iPad mini 4 you’ll find Apple’s second generation 64-bit chipset, the A8 chip, which isn’t as fast as what you’ll find in the iPad Pro but will
handle gaming, video editing and browsing the web with ease. The cameras have had an upgrade too, featuring an improved sensor and an “Appledesigned image signal processor” in the rear-facing 8Mp camera, and the 1.2Mp front-facing FaceTime HD camera now lets in 81 percent more light, perfect for FaceTiming and selfie taking.
Gaming accessory: Homido virtual reality headset Price: From £49
The Homido virtual reality headset aims to bring Virtual Reality to the iPhone, as well as a variety of Android and Windows Phone devices. The idea is that you slot your iPhone (even the 6s Plus) into the
front of the headset and is used as the headsets computer and display. The best part about using your iPhone in the Homido VR headset is that it makes the headset completely wireless, so you’re free to enjoy your virtual world with no cables holding you back – and with the App Store, you’ve already got access to VR games.
However, if you thought that the Homido VR headset was just a more expensive version of Google Cardboard, you’d be wrong. In our opinion, the Google Cardboard is only used to see whether VR is for you, and is in turn quite uncomfortable and offers limited functionality. On the other hand, the Homido boasts some pretty interesting features including custom-made VR lenses that offer a 100-degree Field of View and an adjustable IPD (distance between the lenses) as the gap between the eyes isn’t the same for everyone and can affect the overall experience.
You also have the option of buying a Bluetooth controller along with the headset to bring true VR gaming to your iPhone. (Touch-based games won’t work in Homido as you can’t tap the display while its being used in the headset).
Gaming controller: SteelSeries Nimbus Price: From £39.99
The SteelSeries Nimbus is one of a few gaming controllers designed for use with the 2015 Apple TV, although it’s also compatible with Macs, iPhones and iPads – in fact, SteelSeries has an official Nimbus companion app for iOS users that lists charts of apps that are MFi (Made for
iPhone, iPad) controller compatible, turning your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV into a fully fledged games console. There’s a hat-tip to the Xbox One controller in terms of its design, with symmetrical analog sticks a la PlayStation and the addition of a Lightning connector for easy charging.
As well as that, it features console-level features including pressure sensitive buttons, a menu button and a built-in rechargeable battery that’ll last on average 40 hours on a single charge. It’s lightweight, sleek and is a must-have, especially for Apple TV users. In fact, a colleague said that the “Nimbus offers the best combination of feel, functionality and starting price” when compared to other MFi controllers available. You can’t argue with that really, can you?