2021 Tech Gift Guide and Tech Editor’s Picks
We are grateful to Lunar Artefacts for supporting this gift guide. Our partners are hand picked by the Design Milk team because they represent the best in design.
The secret to being a well regarded gift giver is being adept at finding that sweet spot between “need” and “want”, especially when picking a tech device or accessory as a holiday gift. Ultimately you want to give something that will make the recipients feel like they’ve gotten a life upgrade rather than a mere specs update. Fortunately we’ve done some of the footwork, picking out several gift ideas below for both tech lovers and luddites alike:
Pointer Instrument by Lunar Artefacts of London
Citing the “haunches of a Corvette Stingray” alongside the “intake scoops of a Lotus 72D” as design inspiration alone makes the Pointer Instrument by Lunar Artefacts of London an unusual proposition as a computer mouse. But that these gentlemanly peripherals are lovingly stitched in full-grain leather and intended to patina with time and use communicate the unique ethos and craftsmanship defining a typically mundane device valued for what it does rather than how it looks and feels. The Pointer Instrument is also filled with high-quality components: Track on Glass sensor, Japanese Omron switches, Qi-enabled charging/Li-ion rechargeable battery and more. This premium computer mouse is compatible with both iOS and Android, can be charged wirelessly and has multiple connections modes, including an inter-designed 2.4.G dongle.
Azio Retro Compact Keyboard
The Azio Retro Compact Keyboard lands somewhere squarely in-between fun and functional. These aren’t your flimsy plastic jobs, but built with a noticeable heft and attention to detail, operable both wirelessly connected by Bluetooth or connected by USB cable whether you’re Team Mac or Windows. But the best quality about these keyboards beyond their satisfying tactile *chonk* keystroke is their unique steampunk aesthetic that makes it seem like you’re typing away at a typewriter of yesteryear. Gift one for the person who loves the “good ole days,” but also likes to keep abreast of today’s technologies.
Graf Lantz Dogu Desk Tray Set
If someone in your life self identifies as neat, orderly…maybe even openly obsessive about keeping things tidy around their workspace, gifting them this laptop and desk accessories set from Los Angeles based wool felt and leather specialists Graf Lantz will likely be received as a true act of luxurious kindness – an elevated form of organization the likes of Marie Kondo might approve of. The individual pieces start at just $38.
LG GX 4K OLED
Even if terminology like “Dolby Vision IQ”, “Pixel Level Dimming”, and “HDR” tend to make your eyes glaze over rather than lean forward, we promise once you sit yourself in front of an OLED television, those very same eyes will immediately make TV shows, films, and sports look remarkably more punchy and clear across. It’s a true upgrade for those looking for the best in picture quality. That’s not just because there are over 8.3 million pixels composing whatever is on the screen, but also because every one of those pixels can be independently turned on or completely turned off, resulting in true and deep blacks instead of the murky dark grays that hamper your normal LCD. LG has built a reputation for producing the best of the best in the OLED realm, and the GX line of 55″, 65″, or up to 77″ screens not only delivers in the wow department, but the super slim wall-mountable design dims its physical presence until you want its presence to be known.
Stow Sleeve for MacBook by Native Union
I’m currently awaiting the arrival of a new MacBook Pro powered by the beastly new M1 Max chips, which means I’ll soon be needing a new protective sleeve to keep the portable mean machine cocooned from scratches and dings. I’ve relied upon the Stow Sleeve in a smaller 13″ size and can already attest the sleeve’s padding is protective, the zippered top confidently secure, and the additional diagonal sleeve is not only useful for holding loose papers and reading material, but also looks striking from a distance.
CATCH:2 Classics Wireless Charger by Courant
How did that song go? It takes two to make a thing go right, it takes two to make it outta sight – an apropos sentiment when it comes to anyone who might need to charge more than one device wirelessly overnight regularly. And who among us isn’t juggling charging a small cache of wireless charging devices these days? The CATCH:2 Wireless Charger is like upgrading from a garage designed for one car up to a two car spot, with five charging coils hidden underneath a sophisticated swath of linen, all but eliminating the guesswork sometimes required in aligning device with other wireless chargers.
Beosound A1 2nd Generation Speaker by Bang & Olufsen
Small, but mighty, the physical dimensions this portable speaker’s ability to belt out the music with a wide soundstage and a surprising amount of low end *thump* from what might look like a precisely machined Scandinavian-designed hamburger bun – one surprisingly outfitted to deliver a peak power rating of 2×140 watts. The Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Generation Speaker is especially well suited for anyone who regularly migrates from room to room while working from home, but who might also appreciate an after-hours waterproof speaker they can tote around here, there, and anywhere with up to 18 hours of playback on a charge.
Air75 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard by NUPHY STUDIO
Compared with the Azio above, the NUPHY STUDIO Air75 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard might prove a better option for anyone who prefers typing away across a 75% ultra-slim wireless mechanical keyboard kitted out with a more contemporary low-profile design. Outfitted with “the world’s thinnest PBT spherical keycap,” the Air75’s keys won’t fade (and the switches can be swapped out for louder or quieter typing), while the subtle sculpted keys themselves make for a comfortable landing spot for the fingers. Windows, iPad, or Mac user, wireless or wired, the keyboard’s layout accommodates. Another unique feature: the entire layout can be set on top of a MacBook keyboard for a more audible-tactile typing experience.
Surface Laptop Studio by Microsoft
Microsoft’s Surface Studio desktop remains one of the most inventive and functional computer designs to this day, especially when used for creative and content creator duties, specifically while editing photos and video across its enormous 32-inch touchscreen. The Surface Laptop Studio arrives sporting a similar reconfigurable personality, this time with a smooth as butter 14.4″ 120Hz PixelSense Flow touchscreen. The touchscreen operates like a traditional laptop one moment, then transforms smoothly into two other viewing/use modes – one angled and optimal for viewing content, the the other nearly completely flat in a tablet-like configuration. The results are a laptop plus, with many of the same functional bonuses as the original Surface Studio – especially when paired with the Surface Slim Pen 2 – but with the bonus of portability.
HomePod mini by Apple
The name is a bit of a misnomer, as Apple’s citrus fruit-sized speakers may be small, but the sound emerging from the 360-degree design is surprisingly full throated and can fill a room. Apple recently refreshed these smart speakers with a trio of vibrant new colors – Blue, Orange, and Yellow – but kept the specs and performance true to the original. The HomePod mini works perfectly fine solo, but they’re even more impressive either paired in stereo mode for an even more immersive sound, or set in distances across rooms within a home, allowing family members to stay in touch using the Siri-enhanced Intercom mode. And at $99, it’s not unreasonable to gift one as a stocking stuffer for each member of the household…though you may risk one too many queries of “what’s for dinner?” afterward.
Evo 75 + EVO S Audio Systems by Cambridge Audio
Simplicity reigns supreme with this all-in-one network streaming audio system, one best paired with Cambridge Audio’s EVO S stereo speakers, engineered to optimize the audiophile quality hi-res capable output of this minimalist modern design setup. Several audiophile reviewers have called the Evo 75 (and its larger 150 sibling) “neutral” in sound, and we don’t disagree; we consider this unaffected characteristic beneficial to our listening habits, as the canvas it lays out for music seems to be welcoming to all genres of music instead of emphasizing one over another. Physical details like Evo 75’s large knurled aluminum dial delivers a satisfying twist in tactile design, with the system’s interchangeable snap-on magnetized panels allowing users to switch from midcentury styling to something more contemporary in mere seconds…almost nearly as fast as switching playlists by smartphone-compatible controls (or the included remote).
Silver A-3 The Original True Wireless Earphones by Earin
The appeal of wireless earbuds is just as much dictated by personal fit as they are about how great they sound. And if you place an emphasis on a lightweight in-ear ergonomics over anything else, Swedish designed Earin Silver A-3’s deliver an extraordinarily small and lightweight earbud form factor – one they claim is the smallest in the market – that we believe delivers the best in-ear comfort for extended “almost not there” wear. Earin A-3s are adept at sounding clear and concise without distorting even when pushed toward louder volumes, making them a personal favorite to wear while working out. An additional neat little trick unique to these earbuds is while each bud is exactly the same – meaning there’s no designated left or right bud – either can be popped into the ears without concern. Earin’s hardware+software automatically determines which side is which, simplifying and speeding up moments when all you want is to start listening to music rather than figuring out which side is which.
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