Last year, Christmas getting cancelled taught us that family really is the most important thing at this time of year… Pah! Christmas is about presents, pyjamas, pigs in blankets, Die Hard, preposterous sandwiches made of leftovers and migraine-inducing volumes of fizz. In that spirit, here’s our pick of the best science and tech gifts that money can buy…
Whether they’re a gadget geek, an audiophile or a gamer, there’s sure to be a gift in this list that they’ll love. And if not, then check out the best gifts for geeks, Star Wars gifts, educational toys, or any of our other gift lists.
- Best tech gifts
- Best gifts for gamers
- Best science board games
- Best books for science lovers
- Best science gifts for kids
- Best tech gifts for music lovers
- Best outdoor gifts
Ninja Foodi Dual Zone Air Fryer AF300UK
If the Instant Pot (an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker hybrid) was last year’s must-have kitchen gadget, this year it’s all about air fryers, which blast food with ultra-hot air to make it taste as though it’s been deep-fried.
You can thank TikTok for their popularity, where home cooks use them to make viral recipes like pasta chips, giant cookies and full English breakfasts. Our pick would be this dual zone cooker that can dehydrate foods to make snacks like jerky, and has a ‘Match Cook’ mode, which makes sure that the food in both compartments is hot and ready at the same time.
Casio Octagon Series
This black-on-black design from Casio is effortlessly cool. It’s much slimmer and smaller than the traditionally chunky family of G-shock watches it comes from, but it’s just as tough. The watch is water-resistant to 200m, and is also shock-proof and cold-proof. Perfect if you fancy a bit of Christmas snorkelling… An instant classic.
Belkin BOOSTCHARGE PRO 3-in-1 Wireless Charger with MagSafe
If you’ve got an Apple obsessive in your life, this might be the perfect gift. The stand will wirelessly charge an iPhone, AirPods and an Apple Watch all at once and hold them in place with Apple’s MagSafe tech.
Dyson Purifier Humidify+Cool
This is an air purifier, humidifier and fan all in one. Sensors inside will detect air pollution – more often than not fumes from cooking and cleaning – and fire up the fan to filter the particles out of the air. It’s a godsend in a small flat or apartment where it’s tricky to get good air circulation.
In the winter months, the humidifier conditions the air, which can help those of us with sinus issues that get agitated by winter heating.
AeroPress GO Travel Coffee Press
The AeroPress is such a popular way to make coffee that it has its own championships where brewers compete to make the best cup of joe – presumably there’s also a long line for the loos.
Now there’s a travel edition of this popular coffee maker for the caffeine addict in your life. The whole kit packs into a package smaller than a can of pop and will make some of the best coffee you can find without having to endure someone in a flannel shirt explaining why you shouldn’t really add milk to your brew.
Twelve South HiRise height-adjustable stand for MacBook
No one wants to look up your nostrils during a video call, which is why anyone working from home deserves a laptop stand: it will elevate their webcam and bring their display closer to eye level.
With its flat base, this sleek-looking model from Twelve South takes up almost no precious desk space, and its design means the height and angle of your laptop are easily adjusted to suit your setup. It’s built for MacBooks, but it will work with other laptops of a similar size and scale.
Mophie Snap+ Juice Pack Mini
This smart little battery pack magnetically snaps on to the back of your phone and recharges your phone wirelessly to give your smartphone an extra day or so of battery life. Although most new smartphones available in the last year offer wireless magnetic charging, check the compatible models before buying.
Super73-ZX electric bike
For many of us, the commute is making its return to our daily lives. If your trip’s short enough, why not ditch the car and make your daily travels a thing of joy, with an electric bike? Our personal pick would be a Super 73, which harks back to classic Honda scooter designs from the 1970s and 1980s.
The entry-level model, the ZX, offers a respectable range of 40-48km (25-30 miles) and a top speed of 25km/h (15mph). It comes with chunky tyres that can travel cross-country, should you feel the need to do some sick jumps and skids.
Xbox Series S with Game Pass
Pound for pound, an Xbox Series S paired with an Xbox Game Pass is the best value for money in gaming right now. The Xbox Game Pass, at £10.99 a month, gives you access to a huge library of games, including classics such as Alien Isolation, indie hits including Unpacking, and the latest blockbusters like the upcoming Halo release.
The console itself doesn’t have the power to pump out 4K graphics like its bigger brother the Series X, but unless you have a 50-inch TV, you’ll hardly notice the difference.
Logitech G915 TKL LIGHTSPEED Wireless RGB Keyboard
Mechanical keyboards, with spring-loaded keys that click as you type, are gaining a cult-like following right now. In theory, the physical feedback of a click with each keypress makes for fewer errors, plus their design means that the keyboard is more repairable and customisable.
YouTube is overflowing with videos showing you how to build your own, but this Logitech is a hassle-free option. It’s got Bluetooth switches for connecting devices and ‘lightspeed’ wireless for optimal gaming.
Razer Kishi Universal Gaming Controller
This gaming controller essentially transforms your smartphone (iPhone or Android) into a Nintendo Switch. Although you won’t be able to enjoy Mario’s latest adventures, you can pair this hardware with a cloud gaming service like Google Stadia or Xbox Game Pass to enjoy blockbuster games like FIFA 22, Cyberpunk 2077 or Far Cry 6 on your phone. What better way to avoid everyone at Christmas?
Oculus Quest 2
Although Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for a future – where we all work from home and don headsets when we want to collaborate in a virtual space – sounds like our idea of personal hell, it hasn’t dampened our love of virtual reality.
Since the Oculus Quest’s release, a gentle trickle of experimental experiences and games have made it to the platform. The thrill of the new is ever-present in VR games, compared to traditional consoles which, let’s face it, after the 72nd Call Of Duty game can feel a little stale.
Plus, with a little messing about in the settings you can stream what’s going on inside the headset to a nearby TV, which makes for a great evening of party games with friends.
Nintendo Switch OLED
For all our talk of console gaming and virtual realities, what the kids (and the BBC Science Focus team) really want is the latest Nintendo Switch. The screen is sharper and brighter with better contrast, and most importantly larger. The docking system, which connects it to your TV, has had an upgrade too.
There’s no extra graphical power here, but that doesn’t matter for those of us dying to get our hands on the new Metroid game, or the upcoming Pokémon and Zelda sequels.
Hard shell, long neck or an ambush predator? Your goal is to give your species useful traits so they will thrive. The points system is based on the total amount of food that your species eats, which is a measure often used by biologists to quantify the success of a species. Just try not to get too attached to your creatures, as the threat of extinction is never far off.
Okay, so 2020 might not be the best year to recommend Pandemic. But despite the subject matter, it’s great fun, and it’s refreshing to play cooperatively with your friends rather than against each other. Together, you travel the world, suppressing four diseases and sharing knowledge. Between the epidemics and the threat of running out of time, it often ends with a nail-biting race to the finish.
Lovelace & Babbage
In this quickfire game, you play as a 19th-Century computing pioneer to programme the Analytical Engine. Your goal is to complete tasks using the Engine and your character’s abilities. A bit like the numbers round in Countdown, you perform mathematical operations to reach targets and win points. As the game goes on, you unlock more complicated operations to earn extra points.
- Buy now from Amazon UK
Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships
Looking for a way to navigate her life as an adult with ADHD and autistic spectrum disorder, Dr Camilla Pang found concepts in science that could help explain social phenomena – how fear can be broken down into something manageable is reflected in the way that light refracts through a prism, for example. Accessible scientific explanations are combined with engaging anecdotes to create a manual for understanding humans.
Humankind: A hopeful history
Some accounts of human history are filled with war, conflict and despair. While these tales offer us lessons for the future, there is another way to learn from our mistakes, says historian Rutger Bregman. Despite what some believe, he says people are inherently good. We are not naturally selfish, nor are we fundamentally evil, and he provides examples from science, literature and history that show why we should be hopeful, even in this trying time.
The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)
A book about the end of the world might not appeal at first, but this witty wander through cosmology is a strangely refreshing read. Cosmologist Dr Katie Mack explains major concepts from across the sciences that reveal what we do and do not know about our Universe. From string theory to quantum physics, this is an accessible guide to the five ways that astrophysicists think the Universe could end.
BBC Science Focus magazine subscription
Ok, this one isn’t a book. But a BBC Science Focus magazine subscription is still a great gift for the science lover in your life (or for yourself!).
Every issue is packed full of news, discoveries, ideas and innovations to keep you up-to-speed with the complexities of the fast-moving world around us. There are interviews with the brightest names in science, stunning science photo features, and your questions answered.
And with 54% off a year’s subscription, now is an excellent time to sign up.
- Buy now from Buy Subscriptions
Want to shut the family up after Christmas dinner? This 62cm-tall AT-AT from Lego should do the trick.
As ever, it’s the little details that make our inner child squeal with joy. The walker’s sides open up to reveal several bays where you can house your stormtroopers, and inside the head there’s an adorable pilot’s bay from which you can rain death upon rebel scum. There’s even a tiny rappel gun that Luke can ascend the AT-AT with.
It’s pricey though, so if you actually want to pay your rent there’s a smaller, simpler one available for £139.99.
Lego Star Wars Mos Eisley Cantina
Has there ever been a string of words more likely to get people of a certain age checking their bank accounts? While I can’t condone spending this much on Lego, my heart says otherwise.
As well as Luke and co., there are 21 minifigures included – three of which have never been released – and the entire 3,187-piece set spans 52 x 58cm when fully built. Created for what Lego calls the “discerning hobbyist”, this set is strictly for adults… which is just as well, considering what’s about to happen to Ponda Baba.
Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
This new take on Mario Kart looks so much fun that I’m considering having kids, just so we can play it together. Mario Kart Live gives you the kit to turn your living room floor into a race circuit. You then pilot a remote-controlled kart via your Nintendo Switch, which provides you with a cockpit view direct from the kart’s camera.
Here’s the twist: augmented reality tech overlays Mario Kart’s usual cocktail of chaos – mushrooms, shells and banana skins – on the real world. Here’s the catch: you’ll need at least two Switches and two karts to have any real fun.
From the doctor who wrote the bestselling memoir This Is Going To Hurt comes a tour through the body. Kay’s Anatomy is like a Horrible Histories for the human body, answering questions like: What’s in a bogey? Do hideous creatures really live on our eyelashes? How does food become poo? Probably best to have your Christmas dinner before opening presents, if you intend on gifting this one…
Lego International Space Station
For something that won’t leave you wincing at your bank account balance, there’s the much more sensible Lego recreation of the ISS, which celebrated 20 years of carrying passengers in low-Earth orbit this year. The 864-piece set includes a teeny-tiny Space Shuttle, a pair of gold-visored astronauts and a stand for displaying it.
Mattel The Child Real Moves Soft Toy
Star Wars fans young and old, and most of the internet along with them, are besotted with this little walking turnip from the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian.
This scale animatronic toy is remote controlled via a wrist strap ‘tracker’, a replica of the device used by the show’s villains to track down the little critter. The Child will plod about, gurgle and coo, and force murder others when threatened, just like in the show.
Apple AirPods 3rd Generation
The third generation of Apple’s wireless earbuds now come with spatial audio (a kind of surround sound), a battery that lasts longer and charges faster, and a new, improved skin sensor that pauses your audio when you take them out of your ears. Spatial audio takes these earphones to a level above and beyond other earphones out there, squeezing impressive cinematic sound out of teeny, tiny speakers.
Transparent Light Speaker
This adorable lantern doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. The speaker and light at the base of the device work together to emulate a flame dancing to the rhythm of your music. A knob at the side allows you to adjust the warmth and intensity of the light, from candlelight to reading light. It’s reasonably weatherproof too, so it can sit outside – though we wouldn’t leave it out in the rain.
Grado SR80x headphones
Grado is a family-run business that makes headphones and earphones out of Brooklyn. These headphones generate a dynamic, warm sound with tonnes of detail, comparable to kit carrying a much bigger price tag.
The open-backed design is intended for home-listening sessions, meaning that they generate a big, roomy sound, but they also leak too much noise to take them on the train.
Sony XB01 Bluetooth speaker
Need a last-minute stocking filler? You couldn’t do much better than this dinky Bluetooth speaker from Sony. The XB01’s build is optimised to boost its bass, delivering punchy sounds – there are no tinny vocals here.
There’s a line-in and USB socket for wired input, and Sony says the speaker will play for six hours continuously before needing a recharge.
Marshall Emberton Bluetooth speaker
Everyone makes a portable Bluetooth speaker these days, but Marshall’s nostalgically styled Emberton is one of our favourites. It’s not much bigger than tin of beans, but it pumps out a big, bassy, room-filling sound. It looks best nestled next to some books on a shelf, but it’s light (700g), waterproof (IPX7 rating) and offers 20 hours of playtime between charges, so it’s equally at home in the great outdoors.
Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones
Lockdown has left me with a new appreciation for peace and quiet. Short of duct taping two pillows my head – which I haven’t ruled out – a comfortable pair of noise-cancelling headphones is the best way to find some zen.
These headphones are my pick. Sony’s brilliant noise-cancelling tech frees your ears up to listen to the deep, warm, voluminous sound produced by the internal chip that also contains a DAC (digital-to-analogue converter) and an analogue amplifier. The end result is a generous sound that feels like you’re in the room with your favourite artist.
Bang & Olufsen Beolit 20 speaker
For something a touch more modern from Bang & Olufsen, there’s the new Beolit 20. With its cutesy picnic basket handle, the Bluetooth speaker is designed to picked up and taken with you around the house, lasting around eight hours between charges.
And with three full-range speaker drivers and a big subwoofer inside, this portable speaker system should be a room filler. There’s a wireless charging pad at the top for juicing up your smartphone’s battery. Get two, and you can pair them together to create a stereo sound system.
Patagonia Nano Puff jacket
Forecasters are predicting a bitter winter. Patagonia’s Nano puff is one of the best ways to keep the cold at bay and it’s just got even better. The newest version uses 100 per cent recycled insulation, which means the entire jacket is now made of recycled material.
The coat is designed to be an all-rounder, breathable but sturdy enough to shield you from the wind and rain, and when the Sun comes out (remember that?) it packs down to the size of a travel pillow.