Best Gadgets of the Year: From Star Wars drones to Bluetooth ‘headphones, this is the tech you need

posted on Wednesday, 14th December 2016 by Steve May

Hi-fi  Smart home  Appliances 

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From (probably) the best wireless headphones in the world to a drone replica of Poe Dameron’s X-Wing, we’ve rounded up five of the finest man-things you can buy right now. If tech and toys are your thing, this is the Christmas Gift Guide you’ve been looking for…

Sony MDR-1000X Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones
Arguably the finest wireless over-ear headphones on the planet right now, Sony’s MDR-1000X Bluetooth cans combine audiophile grade music performance with brilliant noise cancelling technology (eat your heart out Cone of Silence) and clever functionality. We love the Quick Attention mode which lets you mute music instantly, by simply cupping your hand over the right earpad. You no longer need to remove your headphones just to have a conversation! They’re wondrously comfortable too. We’re never taking ours off.
£330, www.sony.co.uk

Sony MDR-1000X Bluetooth Headphones

Amazon Echo Smart Home assistant
The Amazon Echo with Alexa is the first voice controlled personal assistant for the home. Essentially, a Bluetooth wireless speaker with delusions of grandeur, owners can ask Alexa to do all manner of things: play music from Amazon Prime or Spotify, access Internet radio stations; get news and traffic information; request diary updates, even order takeaways. Different skill sets (aka apps) are being added to Alexa’s vocabulary all the time. Amazon says it was inspired to create the Echo by the computer used on the Enterprise in Star Trek – which is why you’ll feel a total Picard using it. You can even use Echo to control smart home technology, from lighting to heating. And if you get bored, you can always try and find Alexa’s Star Trek Easter Eggs…
£150, www.amazon.co.uk

Echo End Table

Star Wars Battle Quads drones
Drone gaming could be the next big thing if these laser-toting flyables from Propel catch on. Up to 12 Star Wars drones can dogfight at once, with sensors recording hits from flashing IR and laser beams. Watch as you score totals up on the controller. Gameplay is fierce and frantic. Of course, attention to detail is what we really dig about these new drones. Each model is hand-painted and numbered, and comes in a presentation box that lights up and plays Star Wars music when opened. Choose from a T-65 X-Wing fighter, Darth Vader’s Tie Advanced X1, and a speeder bike complete with miniature trooper. They look excellent in flight (you can’t see the clear spinning propellers), particularly when doing little barrel rolls, and can hit speeds in excess of 35mph. An app helps you hone your piloting skills before taking full control. Just don’t get cocky. kid.
£230, www.propelsw.com

Star Wars Battle Quads

Smeg ECF01 coffee machine
The familiar retro design is unmistakably Smeg, but this is actually the first espresso machine released by the iconic brand. Available in red, cream, black or pastel blue, the ECF01 is certain to delight your inner barista. It features a 1 litre removable water tank, 1350w pump and cryptic Thermoblock technology to ensure your morning coffee packs the punch you need to kick-start the day. The styling is a perfect match for Smeg’s other appliance line-up (mixer, toaster, kettle) - all curves and chrome. Guaranteed to make Smegheads happy.
£280, www.smeg.co.uk

Smeg ECF01 Coffee Machine

Eclipse TD-MT1 desktop speakers
Premium Japanese loudspeaker maker Eclipse takes the concept of desktop PC audio and elevates it to high-art. Its TD-M1 speakers, with their distinctive egg-shaped design, sound insanely fine. They’re active (so no amp required) and are Wi-Fi and AirPlay enabled. Alternatively, hook up a PC using mini-jack or USB. Control is via a dedicated app, or soft-touch controls on the speaker base. An in-built High-Res Audio 192kHz/24-bit DAC delivers crystal clear sound.
£799, www.richersounds.co.uk

Eclipse TD-MT1 Desktop Speakers

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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