Callum BoothManaging Editor
Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional Callum is the Managing Editor of TNW. He covers the full spectrum of technology, looks after editorial newsletters, and makes the occasional odd video.
For many of us, this is going to be a festive season like no other. Maybe it’s the first Christmas we can’t go home. Maybe we won’t be able to catch-up with friends. Or visit the pub.
But there’s one thing most of us will probably have more of: time.
And that’s what TNW’s 2020 gift guide is focusing on. Yes, we’ve picked out a whole load of awesome things to give people, but this year we’ve also focused on some gifts you can actually get yourself. Specifically, items that can help you fill some of the extra time you’ll have over the next few months.
Anyway, enough of the “cool gift guides” babble — let’s get right into it.
Cool gifts under $100
As the name suggests, these are some sweet things you can pick up for not too much cash.
Harry Potter Dobble
If you’ve never played Dobble (SHAME ON YOU), it’s basically an intense version of snap that involves matching multiple pictures. And, of course, this is going to be made even better by the inclusion of the Harry Potter element in this edition.
A cool gift for anyone who’s a fan of infuriating, addictive games. Or wizards.
~$18 | Amazon
The Secret History
Oh man, I can’t tell you how much I love Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. This is a book that follows some Classics students at an East Coast university as they get up to some nefarious deeds.
The reason we’re recommending it is because it’s one of those books that draws you into the world, making you wish you were, well, a Classics student at an East Coast university getting up to nefarious deeds. A miraculous piece of escapism filled with gorgeous prose.
~$10 | Amazon
Nintendo Game & Watch
Goddam, I love Nintendo. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on what they’re up to, they go and re-release a 35-year old handheld console.
Well, maybe console is a bit strong, as the Game & Watch only has three games (and a clock), but it’s a whole load of fun. It’s an ideal way to get your Mario fix in on-the-go and, well, it’s just so damn cute. Truly, a cool gift.
~$50 | Amazon
Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen
Cooking has been one of the more enjoyable parts of 2020 life — and it’s about to get a whole lot better if you pick up Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen.
The cookbook is filled with authentic-tasting recipes you can make without needing an insane amount of new spices. Well, if you have a functioning spice rack already, of course.
Even better, everything in here is totally vegan! That’s good news for your health, the environment, and whatever vegan friends you’ve got hanging around. Easily one of my favorite cookbooks.
~$20 | Amazon
Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream
YEAH YOU READ THAT RIGHT, HAND CREAM, BABY!
One of the many changes that’s happened since the pandemic is I’m washing my hands a lot more — and with that extra hygiene comes cracked and uncomfortable skin. That’s why this Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream has been an absolute life saver.
Is it the coolest gift on this list? Maybe not, but it is one of the most genuinely useful.
~$10 | Amazon
Homeware from Salt Studios
Salt Studios is a London-based company that makes badass homeware. The team produces gorgeous plant pots, mirrors, and jewellery — all of which would make an ideal gift for you or a loved one.
Don’t be fooled by the image above — I chose the least colorful option so it didn’t clash with the design for all these pictures. The homeware from Salt Studios is vibrant, stylish, and packed with character. In other words, cool gifts for those you care about.
And, even better, yourself.
~$15 | Salt Studios
There’s not a huge amount to say here: everyone should own a metal bottle for drinking water — and the Chilly bottle is the best out there.
It keeps your cold drinks cold, your warm drinks warm, and you can customize them in pretty much any damn way you want. Honestly, these things fuck.
~$35 | Chillys
UE Wonderboom 2
I’m a big fan of the UE speakers (I mention the BOOM 3 later) — and the Wonderboom 2 is no exception. This compact speaker is a real wonder. It sounds great considering its size — and is waterproof and tough.
You can read a full review here, but in terms of Bluetooth speakers under $100, it doesn’t get much better.
~$85 | Amazon
Apple Watch straps from WsC
Obviously this isn’t applicable to you if don’t own an Apple Watch, but if you do, well, read on.
I’m a big fan of the official Apple Watch straps, but there is a huge world outside of those — and a company currently making some of the best is WsC. I have a few of these from the company and they’re absolutely delicious.
Specifically, I’m a fan of the Defiant, the Verde & Rosso, and the Nautilus. So, if you’ve got an Apple Watch (or a loved one that does), a strap from WsC could be a perfect surprise gift.
~$80 | WsC
Her Highness vape pen set
Her Highness is a female-forward cannabis company. Its product range is awesome, but I adore its Giggle vape pen.
First off, its gold shell looks great and makes me feel fancy while I smoke. Secondly, the THC mix in it is fantastic, giving me an excellent, enjoyable high. At the end of the day, I’m a sucker for vape pens with liquid THC — and the Her Highness one is a whole load of fun.
If you’re in the US, this is a cool gift for that special stoner in your life — even if that person is you.
~$60 | Her Highness
There comes a point in everyone’s life that receiving socks turns from an annoyance to a blessing. And if you’re looking to either indulge someone’s deepest fantasies — or simply make sure your feet stay toasty — then I shall have to direct you towards Uniqlo.
Basically, they’re cheap, comfortable, and come in a wide range of colors. What more could you want?
~$3 | Uniqlo men / Uniqlo women
BookBook Kindle paperwhite case
Further down this list I recommend the Kindle Paperwhite as an ideal gift. But what if you need a case? Well, look no further than the BookBook from Twelvesouth.
To be honest, nothing I write about the case here could surpass our review, so read that instead.
If that sounds like far too much work, all you need to know is it looks like a book and does everything you could want from a case. There, just sorted out a cool gift for someone you love. I’ll expect my check in the mail.
~$50 | Amazon
Ember Mug 2
What do you get for someone who has everything? Easy — this mug from Ember that keeps your drink at a stable temperature.
That’s right, fools, the Ember Mug is a smart beverage device that can keep tea at your preferred sipping heat for up to 1.5 hours. I would recommend getting the bigger one (14oz) over the regular sized edition, but that does push it just above the $100 mark.
Anyway, smashing back heroic amounts of caffeine has been one of the best parts of lockdown life — and the Ember Mug makes that experience all the sweeter. Or, well, hotter.
~$100 | Ember
Shiny Tribe prints
Your house needs some new prints. That’s a fact. And that means you should check out some of the amazing lino prints from Shiny Tribe.
All the work from the Bristol-based artist is hand printed — and there are only a limited number of each image made. If you’re looking after something that’s bespoke, beautiful, and bold, Shiny Tribe is the place to go.
~$15 | Shiny Tribe
Victorinox Fieldmaster Swiss Army Knife
If there’s one thing that’s always close by when I’m at home, it’s my Swiss Army Knife. I literally cannot tell you how useful this thing is in my day-to-day life. Whether it’s opening boxes, cracking bottles, or just minor housework, my Swiss Army Knife is one of the best value things I’ve ever bought.
~$40 | Amazon
Simply Piano app subscription
If you’ve got a piano laying about (or you’re thinking of getting one), then you should definitely pick up the Simply Piano app from JoyTunes.
Basically, it guides you through learning the piano; helping you read sheet music, getting the fingering (oo-er) right, and playing along with popular songs. I’ve found it incredibly useful on my burgeoning piano journey, and this would be a really cool gift for anyone who’s looking to do the same.
It’s on a subscription model ($90 for 6 months), but you can give it a go before you buy. Outside of an actual music teacher, Simply Piano is one of the best ways to begin learning the magical instrument.
~$90 for 6 months | SimplyPiano
Cool gifts between $100 and $250
Looking to spend a little bit more on a cool gift? Then you’ve come to the right place, friend.
Senstroke virtual drum kit
We’ve all wanted a drum kit at some point, right? Even if it’s just to pretend to be as cool as Anderson .Paak during his Tiny Desk Concert? Of course we have.
But there are some issues with this. Arguably the largest obstacle is not only do you need a big-ass drum kit, but you also need somewhere to play said big-ass drum kit without your neighbours queuing up outside your house and looking to do you serious harm.
And this is where the Senstroke comes in.
This virtual drumset uses real sticks, but you attach sensors to them (and your feet to mimic pedals). This means you can live out your best Keith Moon fantasies, without having to go through divorce proceedings. It’s a whole load of fun and is a fantastic way to either learn the basics of drumming, or to keep your skills sharp when you can’t get to your kit. A perfect way to get someone out the way at Christmas.
~$250 | Amazon
I never expected to like the AirPods Pro. I was fine with Apple’s original headphones, but thought they were overpriced and, irritatingly, wouldn’t stay in my ears. Why would the Pro versions be any different?
But they were. And I was wrong: the AirPods Pro might just be the best earbuds I’ve ever used. Well, if you have Apple gear.
As I’ve written in the past, the AirPods Pro go with me everywhere. They’re convenient, sound great, and the noise-canceling has been a life-saver. They come incredibly highly recommended as a “cool gift.”
~$250 | Amazon
Sorry, you don’t have a Kindle yet? Oh, you do, but your friend/partner/relative doesn’t?
Sort it out.
Honestly, whether you’re a paperback obsessive or not, an ereader is simply an amazing tool for, well, reading. Don’t be a chump, go and get a Kindle Paperwhite now. What are you waiting for? GO.
~$120 | Amazon
Moog Werkstatt-Ø1 analog synth
Looking for a new hobby? Well, how about analog synthesizers? And if you’re looking to get into this game, may I recommend the Moog Werkstatt-Ø1?
First off, you have to build the machine yourself, but don’t worry — no soldering or crazy tools are required. All you need is to be able to follow instructions and have access to a few spare hours. After that, you’ll have a fully working analog synth.
Basically, the Moog Werkstatt is a perfect little present for yourself or someone else who loves music. It can teach you the fundamentals of a new world, and work as a springboard for you to explore analog synths further.
I’ll see you at the Kraftwerk gig.
~$200 | Amazon
UE BOOM 3
I’ve written extensively about how much I love the UE BOOM 3 — and time hasn’t changed that one bit.
If I’m going anywhere, the UE BOOM 3 goes with me. Honestly, I can’t think of what more I’d want from a Bluetooth speaker than this. It’s got great battery life, it’s waterproof (yes, I shower with it), it’s tough, it sounds great, and I can even turn it on with my phone.
Whoever receives this cool gift will thank you forever.
~$150 | Amazon
Nomad Base Station Pro
The big issue with wireless chargers is that your devices have to be placed at a very specific angle to work. Well, here’s the secret with the Nomad Base Station Pro: phones work on it any way you place them. And that’s all due to the multi-coil technology.
This thing looks great on my desk, feels well-built, and can charge three devices at once. The Nomad Base Station Pro isn’t a perfect wireless charger — only iPhones support fast charging, for example — but it’s up there with the best of them.
~$230 | Amazon
Allbirds Tree Dashers running shoes
If you haven’t heard of Allbirds, it’s a company originally founded in New Zealand that makes environmentally friendly shoes. The pair I’ve been using over the past couple of months have been the Tree Dashers, a pair of running shoes.
And these things are awesome.
They’re as comfortable as slippers, have a design that helps me avoid heel striking, and have been instrumental in my journey to, well, actually run. Of course, everyone’s different, so the best thing you can do is try them on yourself, but I love the things. Truly, a cool gift.
~$125 | Allbirds
Anker Soundcore Rave Mini bluetooth speaker
If you’re looking for a small, travel speaker to take with you everywhere, then I’d scroll back to the UE BOOM 3 or the Wonderboom 2. The Anker Soundcore Rave Mini performs a different option: this badboy is a party speaker.
Basically, if you’re looking for something to blast out sound that’ll fill a small space, then the Anker Soundcore Rave Mini is for you. The thing is tough as hell, battery powered, and two of them can be linked up together. I’ve had an incredible amount of fun using these fantastic bits of kit.
~$150 | Amazon
Cool gifts above $250
This is when we get to the really badass stuff in TNW’s 2020 gift guide. Are the things here for everyone? No, but it is jam-packed with phenomenal stuff that’ll help you get through the next tough months.
Honestly, I could’ve picked any of the three major consoles. The new Xbox Series X and the PS5 are both amazing bits of hardware, but, for me, I’ll always be a Nintendo Switch boy.
First off, the next-gen consoles above don’t have a particularly wide selection of games, while the Switch has a library packed with classics and fun, original titles. Plus, even if you’re still thinking about getting one of Microsoft’s or Sony’s new consoles, the Switch makes a perfect companion for them.
Basically, you’re going to find yourself with more free time over the festive period, a new Nintendo is the perfect antidote to that.
~$300 | Amazon
Roland FP-10 digital piano
I’ve wanted to learn the piano for a long old while — but one of the big issues with this is what do you actually buy? Do you go for a proper, full-sized piano? A little portable keyboard? I had no idea — until I started using the Roland FP-10.
This is the ideal instrument if you want something high-quality that emulates a proper piano, without having to shell out thousands. It has a full 88 keys, is compact enough to fit in your house without taking up a shit ton of room (you can combine it with the KSCFP10 stand), and is also portable.
Honestly, it’s an excellent choice if you want to make 2021 the year of the piano.
~$500 | Roland
Dyson Pure Cool
What to get for the person who has everything? Well, how about the most badass fan on the market?
The Dyson Pure Cool is a badass bit of tech. Admittedly, its air cooling powers are only about as good as a regular fan, but this thing is so damn advanced. Plus, the air quality purification feature is amazing for anyone who has breathing issues.
I’ve written about the Dyson Pure Cool before here — but this is how I’d sum it up: a fancy bit of technology for fancy people.
~$600 | Dyson
Apple Watch Series 6
Goddamn, I love my Apple Watch Series 6 so much. It might not be for everyone, but if you’re already part of the Apple ecosystem and are looking for something to track your health, then I couldn’t recommend it more.
A truly magical piece of technology that assures me, yes, this is the future. And, also, a cool gift.
~$400 | Amazon
Rodecaster Pro podcast studio
Yes, I have a podcast (SEARCH SMUG BOOK CLUB ON YOUR PODCAST APP LOL). I’m absolutely in love with Rode equipment — and the Rodecaster Pro is the jewel in the company’s crown.
It has literally everything you could want from a podcast studio and makes creating your own show incredibly easy. If you’re looking to get a proper podcast set-up, I can also recommend the company’s Procaster microphones, which produce a gorgeous, balanced sound.
I literally have nothing bad to say about Rode or its equipment. This is the shit.
~$500 | Amazon
Bluetti EB240 portable power station
Bet you didn’t think you’d see this, did you? A power station with enough juice to basically keep your goddamn house going.
So, let’s talk about the Bluetti EB240 a little bit. This monstrous machine can run an 800w drill for over two hours. It can recharge a laptop to full over 35 times. Hell, it can fill up your iPhone over 260 times. We’re talking serious juice.
The question then is why? And let me tell you: this thing is absolutely perfect for group activities. Planning a big group camp? Then the Bluetti EB240 — or one of the company’s smaller power stations — could be the perfect tool.
Hell, it can also be charge via solar power, so if you’re worried about an upcoming zombie apocalypse, this is the thing to have with you.
~$1,900 | Bluetti
Sennheiser Momentum 3 wireless headphones
There are a gamut of amazing wireless headphones out there (shout out Master & Dynamic’s MW65 and Sony’s WH-1000XM4), but my current favorite? The Sennheiser Momentum 3.
They sound amazing, look gorgeous, and have excellent noise cancelation. When you’re spending this much money on headphones, I would always advise you to go into a store where you can try some out, but if you don’t have that option, you can’t go wrong with the Sennheiser Momentum 3.
~$400 | Amazon
I think that if I was actually recommending an iPad to most people, I’d go for the new Air. This offers most of the same features as the more expensive Pro, has a new color range, and, well, is simply a fantastic device.
But I’m including the Pro itself on this list because I fucking love mine.
Whether it’s for drawing, a way of unwinding, reading comics, or just being the ultimate sofa companion, the iPad Pro has upended all my tablet expectations. If you’re looking for a new bit of technology to wile away the hours, this is the one.
~$800 | Amazon
Roland TR-6S drum machine
I included a Roland piano on the list earlier — and that’s a fantastic tool if you want to learn an actual instrument. But… what if playing something classical doesn’t appeal to you?
Well, how about the Roland TR-6S drum machine instead?
It’s battery-powered and book-sized, but packs an unbelievable amount of features into that tiny package. There are a huge amount of classic drum sets (think your 808s and 606s) that are modelled in an incredibly impressive way.
Basically, the Roland TR-6S is just a huge amount of fun. It’s the sort of thing you can put headphones on and lose yourself in for several hours. The learning curve at first is pretty steep, but when you get used to it, be prepared to say goodbye to your boredom, and hello to a world filled with beats.
The very definition of a cool gift.
~$400 | Roland
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