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The surprise hit from the House That Mario Built is rolling strong in its second year. Yes, it works as both a TV console and a portable game tablet, but most importantly, it reminds us of how much fun co-op, same-room gaming can be, thanks to four-way games like Mario Kart 8 and Overcooked.
For anyone just getting into Xbox or looking to upgrade, the highest-end version of that console handled 4K and HDR content like a champ, and some internal hardware updates mean some (but not all) games will look even better on the latest model. Of all the game consoles, the Xbox One is also the most universally useful as both a media streamer and an entertainment hub.
The upgraded PS4 has 4K and HDR, so it makes a great gift for anyone with a fancy new TV. Some games get better graphics, but the most interesting upgrade may be better PSVR virtual-reality performance.
It's the dream of every still-a-kid grownup in the world: your very own arcade cabinet. But high prices and that huge footprint mean most of us will never own one. These half-size custom cabinets take up a lot less space, but still have that arcade feel, plus each one houses multiple games in a great-looking retro box.
If you think 3D printing is too hard, or too expensive, to get into, this model may be the perfect middle ground. It's a step above most entry level machines in both features and price, and the setup was amazingly easy. Extras like a totally enclosed print bed, touchscreen commands and Wi-Fi make this an easy way to get into a fun, creative new hobby.
Electronic interfaces for music-making are nothing new, but most are in the shape of traditional keyboards, or else a box of pads for playing samples and programming beats. The clever, unusual Instrument 1 from Artiphon ($399) has a more guitar-like feel, down to frets and simulated strings.
You won't mistake it for a real guitar -- the neck is way too wide, and the digital on-off nature of MIDI controllers means string-muting and other analog-style flourishes don't translate. But it's awesome for Eddie-Van-Halen-style tapping. It'll take more than the week I've played with it to master, but so far I'm digging using a guitar fretboard to play dirty '70s electric piano chords.
Tired of your kids hogging your computer to watch YouTube videos? Maybe it's time you had them build their own computer.
Geared toward kids 8 years old and over, the Piper Computer Kit ($299) includes a self-contained computer running on Raspberry Pi 3 Project Board with 1GB RAM, a 1.2Ghz Quad Core CPU, and it has WiFi capabilities. After your child puts it together, he or she can then solve puzzles in Raspberry Pi edition of Minecraft and get an introduction to coding.
This fist-sized little robot has got the cute personality part down, and he can also answer questions, Alexa-style, while shooting photos, learning people's faces and playing with his little plastic cube. I was concerned that it's a bit on the slow side to respond to voice commands, but I play tested it with several under-10 kids, and they absolutely loved it.
Bose's new Alexa-enabled Home Speaker 500 is fairly pricey at $400, but it sounds great for its size, with deep bass, clear sound, and a wide soundstage. This multi-room speaker sounds better than Apple's HomePod and should go better over time as it adds other voice assistants as well as AirPlay 2 in the future.
A classic-looking (and classy looking) leather bag that can fit almost any laptop, or a lot else. The roll top, which folds over the front, keeps water out and your gadgets safe, while the padded shoulder strap puts lesser bags to shame. Yes, it's pricey for a bag, but it's hand made and comes with a 25-year warranty.
Not everyone needs a thousand-dollar iPhone. In fact, the iPhone 7, once the flagship of this popular line, is now the only "old school" phone Apple sells, and for a very reasonable $449 for the 4.7-inch version. If you know someone who wants an iPhone but hates the "notch," this is the only game in town.
Apple's home audio device is more speaker than smart, but Siri can definitely tell you the weather or play songs from Apple Music on request. It's easily the best-sounding single smart speaker, and a pair of them can make a great stereo setup for even big rooms.
Laptops aren't known for their amazing sound, and frankly, most external PC speaker sets aren't that great, either. This amazing 2.1 set from Razer, with a huge trash-can-size subwoofer and two midrange/tweeter speaker, is bold, powerful and sounds great. And, like most Razer gear, it lights up in all sorts of custom color combinations.
You other very giftable budget TV option. This TCL doesn't match Vizio in image quality, but it's still very good, and the built-in Roku software is the absolute best for streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu.
The Swagtron EB-5 is both a pedal-assist and fully powered folding electric bicycle, just in case you want every possible feature in a single package. Hitting a max of 15mph, this one is designed for the commuter with a small living space, not the speedsters.
This is just a little larger than your average portable backup battery. But that's because it can not only power USB and USB-C gadgets, but it also has a standard 120V three-prong plug for your TV, game console, hair dryer, whatever, thanks to a massive 40,300 mAh battery inside. Gift givers should keep in mind, you can pre-order this for your favorite road warrior now, but it doesn't ship until January (we tested an early sample unit).