The holiday season can be an incredibly tricky time to buy gadgets.
Whether you’re buying for yourself or someone you love, you have to keep track of new gadgets being released and prices being cut across many different product categories to get a good deal.
If this isn’t something you keep your eye on regularly, it can all be overwhelming.
That’s why Business Insider handles all of that work for you. With our 2014 Gadget Gift Guide, we’ve made shopping for gadgets the easiest part of your holiday routine.
We’ve rounded up the best gadgets in the most important categories. Don’t worry about sifting through products you’d never want to buy — we give you the top options for several uses and software preferences in order to keep it simple.
A note on pricing: The prices listed here can vary wildly as manufacturers and retailers put up deals for the holidays. Make sure you shop around for the best prices.
It's powered by the same desktop-class processor as the new iPad models and the new Touch ID feature keeps your data safe without requiring an annoying lock screen.
Price: Starts at $199
As the latest in the company's series of custom-made smartphones, the Nexus 5 will be the first to get updates to Google's Android operating system. Unfortunately, Google doesn't offer a model that works on Verizon.
There are better options at the high-end of Android smartphones, but if you like Samsung's modifications to Android it's still a solid device.
Price: Starts at $89.99
Samsung lets you take advantage of that big screen with a stylus and modifications to Android -- like the ability to have two apps open at once.
Price: Starts at $169.99
It's the first Windows Phone that could be considered a 'phablet,' a device somewhere between a smartphone and a tablet. In fact, its 1080p screen is 0.3 inches larger than Samsung's Galaxy Note 3.
It also sports a 20 megapixel camera sensor -- a huge step up from the 8 megapixels that most smartphones can capture.
Price: Starts at $99
Tablets: These are the best four tablets for those who want a beautiful gadget for enjoying their favourite content.
Apple managed to make the iPad Air smaller and lighter than the iPad 4 despite upgrading the processor to a desktop-class architecture with 80-100% better performance.
Price: Starts at $479
If you want something smaller, the new iPad Mini with Retina has the same specs as the iPad Air -- just in a lighter package.
Nearly all of the internals -- RAM, GPU, and CPU -- are exactly the same as the bigger Air.
Amazingly, the new iPad Mini manages to double the performance of last year's model while pushing four times as many pixels on its Retina display, and manages to achieve the same battery life performance.
Price: Starts at $399
This year's Nexus 7 is the perfect gadget for anyone who wants a 'pure' Android experience on a tablet.
Google doesn't seem to be chasing large profit margins with its tablets, as the Nexus 7 is a huge bargain considering the hardware that you get for the money.
Plus, you'll have the assurance that you'll get the latest Android software updates before most users of tablets from other companies.
Price: Starts at $229
While not as useful for 'productive' use as an iPad or a tablet running Google's version of Android (Amazon has its own), the newest Kindle Fire is a great device for consuming movies, music, books, and games from Amazon's digital store.
Price: Starts at $379
Laptops: These are the six best laptops for those who need more power and functionality than a tablet can provide.
It's hard to find a fault in the new MacBook Air lineup. They're all incredibly thin and light. Their mobile processors are more than fast enough for most tasks. The Air's standard flash-based storage lets programs load faster than on any computer with a hard drive.
Unless you're into hardcore gaming or *really* want a Retina display, the Air is a fantastic option for anyone looking for a new laptop.
Price: Starts at $999
The MacBook Pro with Retina is amazing for anyone who loves high-def video or does professional photography, graphic design, or image editing.
While most people don't need a Retina display, it's *really* nice if you're willing to spend the money.
It's hard to understand just how amazing Retina screens really are until you've watched 4K video from two feet away on one of Apple's Retina MacBooks.
Price: Starts at $1,299
If you like Windows 8, Microsoft's own Surface 2 is the best device you can buy. It's been upgraded in every possible way from last year's version, meaning it's thinner, lighter, faster, and has a sharper screen. It also comes with the full version of Microsoft Office for free.
Price: Starts at $449
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is a decent Surface alternative for those looking to get a Windows-powered convertible tablet.
This isn't the kind of laptop you buy to bring to work or class every day.
To achieve the kind of performance gamers demand, Toshiba had to cram a bunch of big, hot parts into the Qosmio X75. Don't expect to move this around too much, both because it can get incredibly heavy and because it won't last much longer than an hour or two running on battery power alone.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X131e is a solid all-around machine for those who just want a workhorse for a laptop.
If you just want to be able to do work in Excel and Word without a hitch, you can't do much better than the ThinkPad X131e.
It's not much in terms of thrills, but it has a great keyboard and enough power to easily get through office work, web browsing, and occasional content consumption.
Desktops: These are the five best computers for those who are willing to trade power and screen size for portability.
The iMac's slim profile, small footprint, and beautiful design make it an unobtrusive addition to any desktop.
Internally, it's powered by the same hardware as Apple's MacBook Pro line. That means it'll be more than fast enough for your average user's needs.
Price: Starts at $1,299
If you want the convenience of an all-in-one and want the versatility of Windows 8 a touch screen, the HP Envy 23 is a great option.
While it's a bit more expensive than Apple's all-in-one iMac, the inclusion of touch input allows you to take advantage of Windows 8.1's tablet-like interface when it's more convenient.
Price: Starts at $1,399
If it wasn't clear already, we really like all-in-one PCs -- the benefits from reducing in wasted space and weight significantly outweigh the reduced upgradeability that comes with the form factor.
For most people, Vizio offers a desktop that's fast enough for most people and half the price of an iMac and similar machines from HP.
Smaller than most gaming PCs but more powerful than most media center PCs, Falcon Northwest manages to hit a near-perfect sweetspot for gamers willing to splurge on a high-end machine.
Price: Starts at $1,783
The Living Room: These are the seven best gadgets you can buy to entertain everyone in your home this holiday season.
The Samsung PN51F4500 is an insanely great deal: it's 50 inches of Samsung goodness with deeper blacks than any LCD TV you can get for a similar price.
Those deeper blacks make for a better movie-viewing experience at night. With that said, LCD TVs tend to do better in well-lit room during the day, so consider your viewing habits.
Overall though, we still recommend this over any other option for anyone who's looking to buy a TV and doesn't want to waste money on built-in 'smart' features.
Sony asked game developers what they wanted to see from the PlayStation 4 while they were engineering its internal hardware.
The result is a console that's ~33% more powerful than the Xbox One and really easy to develop for. While it doesn't have the strongest line-up of games at launch, we're excited to see what hits the console in the latter half of 2014.
Microsoft's Xbox One has a better selection of games at launch, but isn't just for gamers -- it's for entertaining everyone in the living room.
You can plug your cable set-top box into your Xbox One to create a near-seamless entertainment center.
With the 'Snap' feature, you can play games while watching live television picture-in-picture -- or Netflix, or you can listen to music from web apps like Rdio. If you use the included Kinect camera, you can navigate through the console's Windows 8-like interface with your voice and gestures alone.
The Nintendo Wii U, while not as popular as its competitors, is still a great option for families or Nintendo fans. We recommend the 'Legend of Zelda: Windwaker HD' bundle option.
While the Wii U is more powerful than the PS3 and Xbox 360, it's nowhere near as capable as the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft. That means it likely won't get many games released on its competitors,
With that said, Nintendo continues to produce incredibly loveable games. Fans of series like Mario, Zelda, Pikmin, and Super Smash Bros. will find many wonderful titles among the Wii U's library of games.
The Apple TV is a great set-top box for enjoying content from iTunes and apps like Netflix and HBO Go.
While not as disruptive as the television set that analysts have predicted for years, the Apple TV has proven to be a convenient way to consume content from the iTunes ecosystem and certain partners like MLB, Netflix, and HBO.
Once you set up your Chromecast with your television and Wi-Fi setup, it's easy to send over content from Google Play, YouTube, HBO Go, and Chrome.
As more apps and services add support for Google's dongle, its value will only go up. If you don't already have a console, Apple TV, or Roku pumping content to your TV
The Roku 3 is an alternative to the Apple TV that lets you take advantage of content from more sources.
If you regularly consume content from around the web, the Roku will make it easy to carry those habits over to the living room.
With the Roku, you can watch movies and shows from Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and others. You'll also have access to sports and news content -- significantly reducing the amount of time you'll have to spend dealing with cable television.
The Fitbit Force is a great tool for measuring your physical activity, but requires you to enter a lot of data manually.
As far as wearables go, the Force is a pretty convenient option: it's waterproof, lightweight, and has a screen that can give you quick notifications.
While it's a little pricey, the convenience that comes with a speaker designed for wireless use can't be denied. If you decide you like it, you can buy more Sonos speakers and easily add them to your network -- letting you have instant access to your tunes from anywhere in your home.
Microsoft's Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 helps you be productive without straining your hands and wrists.
If you do lots of writing, coding, or spreadsheet work, wrist strain can be a real problem that can get in the way of doing what you need to do. Using an ergonomic keyboard can address those problems before they ever arise.
Logitech's Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air provides the screen protection of the Smart Cover and utility of a physical keyboard.
While you won't be as productive as someone with a MacBook or Microsoft Surface, adding a Bluetooth keyboard to the iPad makes it way more useful for writing first drafts and taking notes.
The Sennheiser OCX 685i Sports headphones offer the best quality audio you'll find in a pair made for a jog or a trip to the gym.
Now that all of the new iPhone and iPad models use it, it couldn't hurt to get an extra Apple Lightning charger.
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