This is part of the L.A. Times 2021 gift guide. See the full guide here. If you make a purchase off one of our links, the L.A. Times may be compensated.
Upgrades: They’re not for consumer electronics. They’re for electronics consumers too — at least if you know what to buy. Upgrade every area of your tech life with these smart picks.
Give your absent-minded loved ones the precious gift of not losing all your other precious gifts. These tiny Bluetooth beacons broadcast their location to nearby devices, allowing you to track down misplaced or stolen items via Apple’s FindMy network.
$29 | 👉 Purchase here
Einova Mundus Pro charging dock and sanitizing tray
Two things we all know about our phones: Charging them is a hassle, and their shiny surfaces are a perfect medium for fomite transmission. This two-in-one gadget solves both problems, using magnetic induction technology to charge Apple and Samsung phones, earbuds and other devices without a tangle of wires.
$130 | 👉 Purchase here
Nest Doorbell with battery
The merits of home security cameras are debatable, but with all the takeout meals and Amazon deliveries we’ve been getting during the pandemic, being able to see who’s on your front porch feels wise. Nest’s video doorbell sends an alert to your phone when someone rings and allows you to speak with your visitor. This new version is battery powered, saving you from having to call an electrician if you don’t have wiring for a doorbell.
$179 | 👉 Purchase here
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Apple AirPods wireless headphones
Apple basically invented the wireless earbuds category with its AirPods, and its newest version features improved sound quality and battery life. While it’s annoying having one more thing to charge, wireless headphones offer a big perk for remote workers: If your home office has dead spots for cell reception, you can leave your phone where it works best and still work anywhere within Bluetooth range.
$129 for second generation; $179 for third generation | 👉 Purchase here
Facebook Portal Go video-chat hub
Facebook’s reputation for trustworthiness has taken some hits lately, so why would you want to stick a Facebook-made camera and microphone in your living room 24/7? Maybe because video chat helped so many of us avoid feeling too isolated during the pandemic, and the Portal, with smart focusing that follows you around the room, makes it feel more natural. Facebook offers several versions; this one has a battery that makes it easily portable.
$199 | 👉 Purchase here
Razer Pro Type mechanical keyboard
You wouldn’t sit on a cheap plastic folding chair for 12 hours a day, so why do you make your fingers spend all day on a laptop keyboard? Programmers and gamers swear by mechanical keyboards, which have spring-loaded keys, as more accurate and comfortable. This wireless version was designed more for work than gaming, and the keys aren’t so clacky they’ll annoy your partner-cum-co-worker.
$126 | 👉 Purchase here
Anker PowerPort Atom III multi-device charger
For the true power user, the quest to charge more devices and do it faster never ends. Anker’s ultra-slim offering has three USB ports, plus a USB-C port that, by handling more wattage, can radically reduce charging time for laptops and phones.
$50 | 👉 Purchase here
Sugru mouldable glue
“Planned obsolescence” is the name of the game in consumer electronics, but you don’t have to accept a drawerful of fraying headphone cords and power cables as your destiny. With this ingenious silicone putty, you can patch them up and repair or improve any number of other household items. You can even fashion your own accessories, such as an iPhone stand for hands-free FaceTime calls.
$17 | 👉 Purchase here
Whoop 4.0 fitness tracker
Making sure to get your 10,000 steps? Great for you, but for the more performance-minded, these days it’s all about measuring physiological outputs like heart rate variability and skin temperature to produce a daily snapshot of your fitness and fatigue levels and optimize your workouts accordingly. But the Whoop band isn’t just for athletes: One Times editor was advised to use it to track her recovery from long COVID.
$30 per month (includes device) | 👉 Purchase here
Tribit StormBox Bluetooth speaker
Bluetooth speakers are a necessity of the indoor/outdoor lifestyle. (PSA: Please don’t waste your life listening to music on tinny phone speakers!) Quality can be variable, but the StormBox receives high marks for the money and it’s waterproof, so if you forget it on the picnic table in the rush to escape the rain, it’s no stress.
$58 | 👉 Purchase here
Even for the committed minimalist, leaving the house without a smartphone is a real choice. But what about leaving the house with a tiny smartphone? If your ideal day out is one that involves looking at a screen as little as possible, Palm’s micro-phone is your friend, not to mention a real conversation starter. It has front and rear cameras and runs the apps you need, but at 2.2 oz. you can stick it in your hip pocket, making it perfect for joggers and hikers.
$247 | 👉 Purchase here
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
For serious readers, there’s no comparison between a tablet computer and a dedicated e-reader like the Kindle, and the Paperwhite is the closest thing going to actual ink-on-paper. This generation has 10 weeks of battery life, an orange-tinted night mode for bedtime vibes and water resistance for peace of mind should you decide to enjoy some literature poolside on your next vacation.
$140| 👉 Purchase here