Choosing the right tech gifts can be difficult with the overwhelming number gadgets available in shops and online. Picking the winners from the duds can be hard to spot.
Here's our incomplete guide to avoiding tech gifts that your friends and family may come to resent. And we've thrown in some ideas that may work better.
Google Home Mini
This is a tough one. Purchasing a Google Home Mini ultimately comes down to personal preference. You may be buying a gift for someone who loves the latest tech, artificial intelligence & wants a connected home. For them, it is a good option (if they don't own a range of Apple products).
But others may hate the idea. Some may not see the use in having every function in their house connected to the internet. And some may not want another device listening to every word they speak.
Try find out whether your friend or loved one is interested before you go purchasing.
Alternative idea (or buy both): Google Chromecast 3 - also at $50, it can turn make any TV or speaker system "smart". It's a quick and cost-effective way to get streaming, and a handy little device that can even be thrown in your suitcase the next time you go on holiday. (But try and check whether your lucky gift recipient already has a smart TV device!)
Anything in the 'Flea Market' branded devices at JB Hi-Fi
These are the no-frills, no-brand name version of devices and gadgets you're familiar with. They're wireless headphones that look like a pair of Beats but aren't. They're cheap, might have a 50% chance of working, and will surely not leave a positive impact.
But these products can be a decent source of gift ideas. So check them out, then find the brand-name version.
They are at best, a cheap secret Santa option.
Those "too good to be true" laptops sitting in Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi live up to the saying. Even if they're able to load Windows within a minute, they will quickly slow down and become unusable.
Budget laptops at the lower end cut too many corners, even for home use. Good luck having a few tabs of Chrome open, listening to music in Spotify and working on a Word document.
Alternative: iPad 9.7-inch. A budget laptop isn't going to be an effective productivity device. They're typically for simple home use. The iPad is a good alternative as a consumption device. It will be supported for several years, has a wide range of apps, decent battery life and reliable warranty.
USB gadgets & cheap/fake USB charging cables
Yes, the USB powered fridge or coffee mug warmer are novel but it's hard to see them as much more than a stocking filler. They may do well on social media, but their actual use is very limited. Too often they end up being quickly thrown out.
With more and more laptops and desktops ditching traditional USB ports for USB C ports, USB gadgets may be more trouble than they're worth.
USB cables may also be a tempting gift (as some of them can be surprisingly expensive) but they're the socks of the tech gifts. Decidedly underwhelming.
Furthermore, purchasing the off-brand or budget version of a cable isn't likely to win you any points. Fake Apple cables can end up not working after a software update, they can poorly charge devices and can easily fall apart. Even official cables have been highly criticised for splitting.
If you do go the cable route, just purchase the name-brand cable. You don't need to go as far as the "Premium Gold Plated" cables. But convenience store or service station cables won't do the job either.
Alternative: If you're looking at gifting a functional present a 6 month Netflix or Spotify subscription would be valued by anyone with an existing subscription.
Petcube Play Laser Toy
Are you at work wishing you were at home playing with your cat?
Wish no more! Now you can! ...well sort of.
The Petcube is just that, an internet-of-things (IoT) box with a built-in camera & laser. You can remotely connect to the cube with an app on your phone. Then you can trigger the laser and watch as your cat flails around the room.
Knowing how temperamental cats can be, you risk purchasing a ~$250 paperweight. But who knows, maybe you want another camera around the house.
Of course, the Petcube isn't just a once-off purchase. To extend the length of your recordings and how long they are stored, there is are subscription fees (US$2.99-$9.99 a month!). And a $39 stand for the cube, if you want to tilt the camera up and down...
Alternative: A smart home doesn't need to extend to a smart pet. Keep it simple.
Like the Google Home Mini, any "smart" or "connected" device that is designed to be worn can be a divisive gift. Like any accessory, wearables are personalised. And if you get a device that's only the wrong colour, it may be alienating.
Many wearables have very specific features, designs and colours. Do your research, try and get some hints for what they like. But be warned, wearables often just end up in a drawer.
Alternative: Purchase a wearable with a highly flexible return policy (e.g. most Apple Store purchases can be returned within 14 days of purchase for any reason) or choose a wearable than can be easily customised with straps, like the Apple Watch or many of the Fitbit range.
Tech gadgets make grand promises but often deliver little (see the now bankrupt US$400 automated juicer).
One helpful tactic is to choose a device and search for a mix of reviews (look for websites like The Verge, Engadget, Wired, Ars Technica, TechCrunch, Gizmodo). If most rate the device 8.5/10 or above, you're probably buying a safe gift option.
Good luck this holiday period and remember, you can always ask your IT guy for their thoughts!