We know, we know. However you’re ‘celebrating’ the holidays and the close of 2020 this year, Christmas gifts are, funnily enough, fairly high on the certainty scale. As in, it’s extremely likely that you will be able to source and send presents to your family and friends this year. Which is more than we can say for most things.
We mustn’t dwell. If you’re flailing around for gift ideas, let our delightful WIRED edit nudge you in more inspired directions than the current climate encourages. Bowie comic? Sorted. Desk lamp for screen addicts? Found it. Spinning colander? We’ll take three. We’ll be adding anything we spot, so long as it’s suitably fantastic, between now and mid-December.
For a good retro games platform to succeed it needs the right balance of price, nostalgia and playability. At £55, Evercade ticks all the boxes with its old-school D-pad design, crisp 4.3in display and selection of officially licensed cartridges (£20 for eight games). Choose from Atari (including Lynx), Interplay, Namco – for classics such as Pac-Man and Galaxian – or for fans of vintage beat ‘em ups, the Technōs Collection has three Double Dragon games, Crash N’ the Boys, and Renegade. Battery life is a suitably nostalgic four hours, but you can play as you charge and the Mini HDMI port gives the chance to bore the kids on the big screen.
It’s hard to imagine the planning meeting where someone suggested marrying a traditional spinning top to a colander, but we’re glad they weren’t laughed out of the room, as the result is the most versatile salad spinner we’ve seen. Use it as a standard colander, but when you need to spin leaves and berries, for example, simply twist the bowl upright, place the non-stick foot in the sink and pump down. The centrifugal forces get rid of water while keeping ingredients securely in place, and when meal prep is done, the handle even tucks in for easy storage. [Coming to Lakeland in November 2020.]
LEGO Mos Eisley 75290
Caution be damned and bring on both the scum and villainy, with the brilliant 3,187 piece LEGO Star Wars set of the Cantina in Mos Eisley. This long-overdue classic features a Dewback figure, two landspeeders and 21 minifigures including Han Solo, C-3PO, Luke, various members of the Cantina band, the odd Jawa, everyone’s favourite one-armed bandit Ponda Baba, and, if you like that sort of thing, a guest appearance form Devaronian army captain Kardue’Sai’Malloc. Once built, the set measures 19cm tall and 52cm wide, with the bar opening up to reveal a superb level of detail, whether you’re playing or displaying.
Price: £320 | LEGO
Bose Frames Tempo
The original Frames introduced us to the smallest, thinnest and lightest Bose speaker system ever made, and we loved the ability to play music, take calls, access digital assistants and take voice directions from various maps apps via sunnies weighing little more than a standard pair. Given the popularity of bone-conduction headphones among runners and riders, the Tempo is a logical step for Bose. The new frames combine three high-performance interchangeable polarised sport lenses and non-slip silicone nose pads with impressive audio and voice-controlled smarts, all without blocking out traffic noise.
7L Origin System 3L Waterproof Outer
Seven Layer (7L) is a Manchester-based outdoor brand, founded around the US Marine principle of only needing seven layers of clothing for all eventualities. The result is a capsule collection of impressively adaptable highly technical items with bags of urban style, 50 per cent of which is made in Britain. Our pick is the 3L Waterproof Outer jacket manufactured from 100 per cent recycled polyester and a recycled hydrophilic monolithic membrane with a hydrostatic head (how waterproof it is) of 20,000mm. It’s an impressive rain jacket, and one made all the more flexible by the fact the arctic-worthy Modular Down Outer zips neatly inside to cocoon the wearer from the elements.
Price: £350 | Seven Layer
Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams
The Bowie biopic we’ve been waiting for arrived in print form in 2020, courtesy of writer Steve Horten and husband-and-wife art team Michael and Laura Allred. It’s a gorgeous pop-art-odyssey that tracks Bowie’s rise from arty obscurity through to the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust, while also speculating on the conversations, betrayals and, frankly, over-complicated personal life of the pre- and peak-fame star. Horten is clearly a fan and paints Bowie as an artist on a journey, where every action has a creative consequence, suggesting that fame wasn’t just inevitable – it was part of the plan all along.
JCRT The A Clockwork Orange Plaid
NYC-based Robert Tagliapietra and Jeffrey Costello design plaid shirts with a difference. Printed, cut, sewn and shipped from their New York store, this sustainable approach to shirt making means there’s no waste. And without retailers and distributors they’re able to keep quality high and mark-ups low. But it’s the prints, rather than production that initially caught our eye, with patterns based on the colour palettes used on classic books, film posters and album sleeves, with everything from Hemmingway and Hunky Dory, Happy Mondays and The Hobbit ripe for interpretation. They even make matching face masks.
Price: $125 | JCRT
Canon PowerShot Zoom
Reinvention is the key to survival for traditional camera brands, and for Canon this means a thorough makeover of a point-and-shoot camera to create a digital monocular for casual ornithologists. Admittedly, it’s a niche audience, but the tiny PowerShot Zoom has a f/5.6-6.3 lens with two switchable equivalent focal lengths of 100mm and 400mm with a digital zoom up to 800mm and a 1/3-inch 12-megapixel sensor (1080p video). Images are saved to a microSD card, or transferred wirelessly over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Built-in optical stabilisation along with face-tracking autofocus capability makes it good for nature watching, sporting events and, well, spying.
Xbox Series S
It’s a pared-back option compared to the super-powered Series X, yes, but the digital-only Xbox Series S makes our gift list for the combination of next-gen gaming tech and frankly ludicrous value for money. Some 10GB RAM, 8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU and 4 teraflops of GPU power all means silky smooth 1440p gaming at 60fps with Dolby Vision and Atmos gaming, while the 512GB SSD storage can be expanded to 1TB. OK, so there’s no native 4K, but given the strain everyone’s home Wi-Fi will already be under this winter, we’ll take the hit on resolution for uninterrupted gameplay.[Low stock]
TRX rubber-coated kettlebells
For the average home-gym-goer, kettlebells offer a plethora of advantages over traditional dumbbells. Swinging means better cardio, while also engaging more muscle groups and improving “functional strength” – making it easier to carry shopping or toddlers, for instance. These rubber-coated kettlebells are available in 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 20 and 24 kg, have colour-coded rings for quick selection, and won’t leave your parquet flooring in ruins after a heavy session.
Garmin Instinct Solar
Perfect for anyone who is figuring out how to somehow get the adventuring in this winter, Garmin’s Instinct Solar uses clever proprietary PowerGlass solar charging tech, which lets you top up the battery to a max of 56 days or even, technically, an unlimited battery in saver mode. Also onboard, there’s an SpO2 sensor plus Garmin’s Body Battery rest and recovery monitoring with a rugged, water/shock/thermal resistant build, GPS/Galileo/GLONASS plus sleep and HR monitoring.
Made from 100 per cent recycled post-consumer plastic – the equivalent of 80 bottles – GROUNDTRUTH has elevated the tote from happy shopper to tactical travel companion. This modular design features multiple pockets and removable straps with a super-tough water-resistant shell. Internally there’s a padded fleece-lined laptop sleeve (15in), a second soft pocket for sunglasses and a side pocket for a one-litre water bottle, while discrete straps can take care of the yoga mat (or camera tripod).
Price: £186 | Groundtruth
Loog Electric Pro IV
Loog has been making superb three-string guitars for kids since 2011. Now they have brand new electric guitars coming in November – with a built-in amp and speaker, so you can just pick up and play. What’s more, the collection comprises three new models, with one of them for grown-ups. The new revamped (and free) Loog Guitar app even uses AR to help you to learn guitar using a selfie camera. Once you have the basics down, the Pro IV should blow away those breaking out traditional acoustics for campfire noodling.
Price: $199 pre-order | Loog Guitars
Nike’s first dedicated maternity collection, Nike (M), has been developed to support “the ultimate endurance athletes” during all stages of pregnancy. Based on data from 150,000 comparison scans of non-pregnant women against those who are pregnant, plus detailed feedback on fit and feel from 30 athletes who were pregnant or postpartum, the four-piece collection comprises of pullover, bra, tank top and tights – and each is made from at least 75 per cent recycled polyester fibres.
Price: From £32 | Nike
The only product rated 10/10 by WIRED in 2020 is an update to the already-excellent WH-1000XM3, but they’ve managed to take sound quality, noise-cancelling and even battery life to the next level. They’re basically the ideal headphones: light and comfortable, able to drown out all external distractions, while delivering music (or podcasts) that sound weighty and energetic, with a keen ear for detail and lots of enthusiasm. Noise-cancelling is not only brilliantly effective but now also can adapt to suit your specific environment. Battery life, at 30 hours with noise-cancelling on, is impressive, and they can run for another five hours after just a ten-minute charge.
Go Fast Campers SuperLite 50
With campervan sales – and resale prices – skyrocketing, a rooftop tent can be a practical alternative, and decidedly less muddy than traditional winter camping. The SuperLite is the lightest and slimmest design we’ve found, weighing just 36kg and measuring 15.24cm thick when closed – but still having sleeping space for two tall (6ft 6in) adults. Held in place using steel frame and aluminium hardware, it’s easy to fit, has been designed to stay secure even during off-road adventures, and when the trip is over, it can be removed easily and stored in the shed or garage, taking up less room than a standard roofbox.
Price: $1,299 | Go Fast Campers
Vinyl subscription services
Like Netflix, a Spotify Premium subscription is more necessity than luxury these days, but streaming MP3s, regardless of the quality of the Hi-Fi, is slowly disconnecting us from the joy of owning and playing physical music. It’s time to add one more subscription service to someone’s monthly routine. For £40, Stylus will send either two classic 12in albums, or one album and one bottle of wine, while VNYL connects users’ Spotify and Discog accounts to their algorithm, and appoints each subscriber a rep, who will curate and deliver a monthly selection for $39/month. Finally, Vinyl Moon ($27/month) sends a freshly pressed coloured vinyl compilation of new bands and musicians complete with unique album art and sleevenotes.
Superstrata Ion e-bike
This, the world’s first made-to-measure 3D-printed e-bike is constructed with an impact-resistant unibody carbon-fibre frame. More than 500,000 possible combinations are available, with adjustments for your height, weight, arm and leg lengths, riding positions and preferred stiffness levels. 3D-printed in a single pass of continuous carbon-fibre thermoplastic composite, the Superstrata is impact resistant, but lightweight (1.3kg), and even recyclable, too. Fully charged in two hours, with an 88km range and 32kph top speed, the Ion also features in-frame wiring, designed to make electronic upgrades easier.
Price: £3,699 | Superstrata
Quite apart from it being a fully recyclable, castor-bean-based road running shoe, Cyclon is On-Running’s attempt to finally close the loop on sustainable manufacturing, by offering the shoe on a subscription-only basis. For £25 per month, runners can receive a fresh bouncy pair when they need them, while sending old pairs back to be recycled into new shoes. According to On-Running’s maths, each pair will last up to 400km, which admittedly makes the monthly investment poor value for the average Parkrunner, but a sound investment to anyone partial to the occasional ultra-marathon.
Price: £25 per month | On-Running
Herman Miller Aeron Gaming Chair
Everyone wants a piece of the gaming market in the home-bound 2020, but few are as well placed as Herman Miller, who have been designing high-quality chairs for the die-hard desk jockeys for decades. Hot on the heels – or maybe that should be hind – of their recent Logitech collaboration, the company has reimagined the iconic Aeron Chair for the gaming generation. Given how versatile the original is, changes are far from wholesale, with an enhanced forward tilt for better edge-of-your-seat sessions and a muted matte black finish that’s a stylish upgrade to the garish competition chairs available.
Price: £1,059 | Herman Miller
NIU NQI GTS Sport
An altogether more grown-up way to avoid the car and side-step public transport, the all-electric NIU NQi GTS Sport electric moped manages up to 160km range, depending on the rider’s weight and need for speed. Not that it isn’t sprightly, offering a top speed of 70kph in Sport mode, which it can maintain for a suburb-commuting 100km. Importantly, the GTS can add 100km to the range with a quick 3.5-hour charge of the dual 60v35aH lithium-ion battery packs.
Adidas NMD_R1 x Jessie
Finally, a signature sneaker for Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Luxo the beach ball, Rex and Jessie to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Toy Story’s big-screen release. Each design features costume colourway matching and instantly recognisable flourishes, including glow-in-the-dark detailing for Buzz, debossed dinosaur textures for Rex and cow-print BOOST on our pick of the collection, Jessie’s NMD-R1. And, naturally, all the shoes come with Andy’s name, scribbled onto the sole.
Price: $120 | Adidas
The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design
“You are about to see stories everywhere. YOU BEAUTIFUL NERD” declares the opening pages of The 99% Invisible City. You might know Roman Mars’ name and voice from the 99% Invisible podcast, which goes deep on the design and architecture we tend to overlook – this is it in glorious guidebook form. It’s admittedly US-focused, with histories of waste management in Chicago and the utility poles of Central Park, but there’s also space to dig into the taxable units of British buildings and Mansard roofs of Paris, with illustrations throughout. Yes, there’s a whole, fascinating section on signage.
Alessi Plico Trolley
Originally created by German industrial designer Richard Sapper in 1976 – who also co-designed IBM’s first laptop computer, the Mod. 5140 – Plico is a timely reissue from Alessi, that perfectly taps into the nation’s current need for flexible working spaces… and a drinks trolley. The folding four-wheel design is made from epoxy-resin-coated steel with polyurethane shelves. The whole unit has lockable wheels and can be flipped vertically through 180 degrees to act as a work surface or side table, but when not needed it collapses flat for easy storage.
Sometimes a gift can be as simple as a link and a ‘hey, thought you might like this’. Enter Station Rotation, a new music app (iOS only) designed by Brian Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse) and Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich that allows artists, producers and directors to curate their own radio stations to be enjoyed by everyone. Designed as an antidote to algorithm-based playlists – although it uses Spotify for content – it’s essentially a radio station with an ever-changing DJ line up and no adverts. You can’t skip tracks, so if you want to change songs you’ll need to switch playlists. It’s early days, but stations from Four Tet, David Lynch, Beck, Johnny Greenwood and Edgar Wright are already streaming.
Price: Free | Apple App Store
Philips Fidelio X3
They’re wired, cumbersome and lack active noise cancellation, voice control, or controls of any sort – but for at-home listening in a post-commuter world, the Fidelio X3 offers the unusual combination of luxurious value for money. The open-backed design, finished in sustainably sourced Scottish leather, with Kvadrat acoustic fabric over a steel frame are wonderfully plush, while the 50mm neodymium drivers offer acres of space, indulgent bass and exceptional separation of instruments and voices. Best enjoyed with hi-res recordings rather than compressed streaming, where the flaws in those MP3s will be found out.
Bang & Olufsen Beogram 4000c Turntable
Launched in 1972, for the princely sum of £160 – adjusting to inflation that’s roughly £1,300 today – the Beogram 4000 redefined turntable technology with its stiff, straight, tangential tonearm and second arm that sensed the size of the record and adjusted position and speed accordingly. It was a design ahead of its time, which makes Bang & Olufsen’s decision to track down, restore and upgrade 95 of them, all the more fitting. Each turntable has been subtly upgraded for 2021 with champagne coloured anodised aluminium, a new oak frame and a high-spec stylus. Taking advantage of the internal space left by the original engineers – specifically to avoid obsolescence – they’ve added an RIAA phono pre-amplifier so it becomes compatible with the modern world, and will even play nicely with B&O’s multiroom ecosystem.
Price: £9,000 | Bang & Olufsen
Corkcicle Star Wars
For anyone who got abuse for bringing their Back To The Future lunchbox to work, despite it being an 80s original, the time has come to up their nostalgia game with these stylish – yes, stylish – vacuum flasks and tumblers. Launched to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, this abstract take on Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Luke in his Yoda-bothering phase, C-3PO and R2-D2 are recognisably chic. And each will keep drinks cool for 25 hours, or hot for 12 hours.
Price: From $37 | Corkcicle
Huawei Watch Fit
Huawei’s Watch Fit is part fitness tracker, part smartwatch. It’s light (21g), comfortable and perfectly proportioned for slimmer wrists – and the 1.64in 456 x 280 AMOLED screen has plenty of punch. In typical Huawei fashion, you get piles of features for the price, so as well as 24-7 optical heart-rate monitoring, there’s built-in GPS, a SpO2 blood-oxygen sensor, an accelerometer and gyroscope. It recognises 96 different sports and activities, there’s animated workouts that track your movements as you squat and thrust, and the ten-day battery life makes it useful for sleep tracking.
Band Industries has form with guitar tuners – their last, the automatic Roadie 2 from 2017, was already a firm WIRED favourite, but the new version has a motor twice as fast as its predecessor, plus a revamp of the built-in vibration detection for improved tuning accuracy. This means the Roadie 3 can tune almost any instrument with geared pegs in seconds, while a larger, full-colour high-resolution display lets you choose between the 100 built-in tunings, as well as customise your own. Other killer new features? It can serve as a vibrating pocket metronome, and if a string breaks, the Roadie 3 can now wind new strings to tension and tune in just one step.
Price: £105 | Roadie
Naim for Bentley Mu-so 2nd Generation
Boasting unparalleled levels of Britishness, the latest collaboration between Naim Audio and Bentley Motors is a unique version of the multi-award-winning audio system with a few design cues lifted from the Bentley EXP 100 GT. These include copper accents on the beautifully engineered heat sink and speaker grille, and a recurring lattice pattern, borrowed from the seat stitching and headlamps on the volume dial. Stretching the auto theme further, under the bonnet you’ll find 450 watts of musical power, enhanced multi-room connectivity, hi-res support up to 32bit and direct streaming from Spotify Connect, Tidal, Qobuz, Apple Airplay 2, Chromecast to name but a few. It’s a sideboard-dominating breezeblock of a system, but the finest all-in-one money can buy.
Price: £1,799 | Bentley
Oppo Watch 41mm
Suitably stylish, well made and comfortable to wear, the 41mm Oppo is based on Google Wear OS, but don’t let that instantly put you off. In its purest form, Wear OS remains glitchy and simplistic compared to Garmin, Fitbit and especially Apple, but Oppo have sensibly given it a usability facelift which helps considerably. The screen is a 1.6-inch, 320 x 360 AMOLED, and it does a decent job. It has built-in GPS, there’s a barometer, accelerometer and optical heart-rate sensor, and it’s all powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, with 1GB of RAM and 8GB storage. But the “Apple, please take note” feature here is its 14-day battery life and flash charging that can give you a 30 per cent boot in just 15 minutes.
Chipolo Ocean Edition
One of the best finder tags has had a welcome makeover and is now manufactured in partnership with Oceanworks, using recycled fishing equipment, such as nets, trawls and ropes. It’s a welcome and needed upgrade, with $1 from each sale going to the Oceanic Global Foundation. What’s more, anyone who has an early Chipolo without a replaceable battery, can send it back for a free upgrade. From a tech point of view, they’ve also added a few new features, the best of which is the ability to send an alert if you’ve left home without something important.
Q Active 200
Q Acoustics frequently punches well above its weight and you’ll do well to find a collection of passive speakers that sound as good for the price. This, however, is their first active speaker, and one that promises to upscale your chosen audio to 24-bit/96kHz. Unlike KEF (below), where the streaming gubbins are built into the speaker cabinet, Q has opted to use a separate control Hub that can be hidden away and/or plugged into a router for a more stable connection. It comes with Chromecast built-in (Alexa to follow) and is compatible with Spotify Connect, Roon, Apple Airplay 2, Alexa, Google, Qobuz and Tidal. It can stream from a network drive, take TV audio via HDMI or optical input, and there’s even a phono-preamp for a turntable. And we’ve yet to mention the asymmetrical design, featuring two 2.25in drivers and a 4.5in rear-firing subwoofer, that can be positioned virtually anywhere without impairing audio quality, while six Class D amplifiers offer 280W of total power.
The average gym membership hovers around £40 per month, and while this outlay is essential for those who need serious equipment or who are addicted to peacocking, a set of kettlebells, yoga mat and subscription to Apple’s Fitness+ should be more than enough to keep the rest of the world in shape. The iOS-only workout platform requires the user to be entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, and own an Apple Watch, so, when they’re synced, personal health metrics – heart rate, effort, steps etc – appear in real time on screen as you workout. So far, so Peloton App – and yes, Apple will have a collection of glam professional trainers taking live and pre-recorded classes to an Apple Music soundtrack. But the combination of workout suggestions based on personal health data and the lack of need for spin bikes or treadmills, combined with Apple’s ability to work seamlessly between devices, should entice millions of users to reach for the leotard.
Price: £9.99 per month/ £79.99 per year | Apple
BenQ WiT e-Reading Desk Lamp
Now it’s winter, it’s dark at 4pm and we all need something that reduces computer screen eye strain. BenQ might be better known for projectors, but their new WiT lamp has been engineered to make reading from screens more comfortable. The uniquely curved head bathes you in a vast 90cm wide pool of even light – 150 per cent more than standard desk lamps – and intelligently adjusts brightness and colour, from 2700K-5700K, to suit any task. A tap on the control panel switches the lamp to e-Reading mode, with the lamp shining brighter at the sides and darker in the middle, to help reduce contrast glare and reflections.
Many took to learning guitar during lockdown. Many picked up bad habits from homemade YouTube “shortcuts”, or just quit after a few short weeks (Fender claims 90 per cent of people who pick up a guitar put it down again in the first year). This comprehensive app with video guides and song breakdowns is designed to keep beginners playing. The subscription service offers everything from simple starter lessons to advanced courses with pro musicians.
Price: Free trial then £9.99 per month | Fender
KEF LS50 Wireless II
The original LS50 Wireless active speakers rewrote the rules on what music streaming stereo standmounts could sound like, and with MKII, KEF has managed to maintain the astonishing audio quality while ironing out a few of the original kinks. The 380W powered speakers are no longer tethered to each other, making real-world room placement a whole lot easier, and the app has had a much-needed makeover. KEF has also improved the way the speakers deal with distortion thanks to MAT (Metamaterial Absorption Technology). Essentially, they’ve placed a textured piece of plastic behind the tweeter that soaks up 99 per cent of unwanted sound distortion. Wireless streaming quality is limited to 24-bit/96kHz, although this can be boosted by connecting via ethernet. MQA and DSD256 are both catered for, and all leading streaming services, even Roon, can be accessed directly from the Connect app.