When it comes to tech gadgets, the coolest ones will always stop you in your tracks. You find yourself wanting them even if you suspect you don’t absolutely need them. But even if you don’t need them, it’s nice to treat yourself from time to time, and the best gadgets will still be incredibly useful and make your life easier.
And with our list of the coolest tech gadgets, we sought to find devices that fit this bill. Maybe they’re not as essential to your day-to-day life as a smartphone or a laptop, but they’re the products you lust after; they’re the ones you end up blowing your tax refund on.
Whether that’s a new gaming console like the Nintendo Switch, a VR headset like the Oculus Quest 2 or a robovac like the iRobot Roomba, these products are the statement items that you’ll tell your friends about the next time you talk to them, or show off when you have people visiting.
So if you’re looking for ideas on cool tech gadgets to splurge on, keep scrolling to see our picks.
1. Nintendo Switch
When it comes to imagination, there are few who could have dreamt up the Nintendo Switch as a concept, let alone predicted the insane levels of success the little console would enjoy. Part-traditional gaming console, part-handheld console, this hybrid device can connect to your TV or exist as a self-contained unit when you’re out of the house. If you’re with a friend, you can detach the Joy-Cons from the unit and each can function as its own controller. And carrying on the legacy of the Wii, there are even games that make great use of motion controls.
Say what you want about any of the Xbox and Playstation consoles: Yes, they’ve often had the best and biggest games from developers around the world. They’ve been at the forefront of game-centric innovation and cutting-edge technology. But, not a single feature on those consoles is as fun as the ones you’ll find on the Nintendo Switch.
2. Facebook Portal+
Facebook Portal is pretty much the perfect piece of technology for 2021, a time when many of us are still separated from loved ones. The Portal from Facebook video calling system makes it easy for anyone to stay in touch with friends and family at the push of a button (or the sound of an Alexa voice command). The Portal+ has a 15.6-inch video screen and high-definition camera, and together they offer a much more intimate connection than phone calls or grainy video conferences. And because Portal works with Facebook Messenger and other chat apps, the person you’re calling doesn’t necessarily need a Portal of their own to connect.
On top of that, Portal does so much more than video calls. The Portal can also act as a smart display and hub, playing music, videos and answering Alexa voice commands. Whether you’re a member of Gen Z or an older generation, Portal was designed to be super easy to use, which means it’s a great way to keep Grandma and Grandpa in touch with the whole family. Best of all, the Portal and Portal+ are on sale through Valentine’s Day, and you can take up to $50 off the price of these in-demand tech gadgets.
3. Google Nest Mini
As one of the first companies to make artificial intelligence and voice recognition technology available to the average person, Google is still the top dog when it comes to voice assistants and smart home platforms. And perhaps its most radical move was the Nest Mini, a small and cheap speaker that is fully imbued with the powers to command your smart home.
Once you get used to the particular ways of interacting with a voice assistant, it’s rare when you have to raise your voice or repeat yourself to get the Nest Mini to understand you, even when you’re on the other side of the room, half-asleep at 1 a.m., telling it to turn off the lights, shut off the TV and lock the doors.
4. Oculus Quest 2
Virtual reality might be taking its time to have its ‘iPhone moment,’ but it is still very much the next big thing when it comes to consumer technology. And there is not a single VR device that flashes that promise more than the Oculus Quest 2. Without the need for a powerful computer or special equipment, you can simply strap the Quest 2 to your head, pick up the controllers and move freely in VR space thanks to its inside out technology, which uses cameras on the outside of the headset to track your movement in the space around you.
In a time where we don’t have many places to escape to, the Oculus Quest 2 offers up an infinite number of destinations . . . even if they’re only virtual.
5. Philips Hue Bulb with Dimmer
When it comes to smart home gear, using a Philips Hue bulb for the first time is akin to eating a really nice steak, or sipping an expensive whisky: Once you try it, you don’t want to go back to the ordinary stuff. And though this bulb may cost $50, it gives you the perfect taste of what the smart home is really about. Simply screw this bulb into any light socket, pair it with your phone (or speaker that is powered by Google Assistant/Alexa), and prepare to be impressed by the fact that you can control your lighting from anywhere in the home with your phone or voice (or the included wireless dimmer that can magnetically mount to your wall).
Want to turn your kitchen bright green? Pastel pink? Deep Purple? Go for it. Want to dim the lights in a nice soft white glow? You can do that too. Sure it’s just one bulb, but it will have you imagining the possibilities of what you can do with multiple bulbs, a Philips Hue bridge, a few more smart speakers, a smart lock, a video doorbell . . .
(You get the point.)
6. Anker Nebula Capsule Max
Typically when you think of home theater projectors, you assume they require an overly involved installation process and a PhD-level knowledge of gear to set it all up. But we are in an era where you can pull out the Anker Nebula Mars II. Barely bigger than a soda can, you can point it at a wall, and have it projecting an 80-inch, HD version of your favorite Netflix movie with minimal effort.
Will this replace your fancy 65-inch 4K HDR TV? Absolutely not. But for those moments when you’re really craving that movie theater experience (and really, who hasn’t over the last year?), this projector can provide a nice reminder of what that was like.
7. Sonos One Smart Speaker
While the Nest Audio, Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod Mini all have their relative merits as wi-fi smart speakers, the Sonos One tops the bunch without question as the best overall. In addition to being one of the sweetest-sounding small speakers around, the Sonos One works with Alexa and Google Assistant. This gives you flexibility in your future smart home decisions. And when it comes to wirelessly streaming music, the Sonos One is powered by Sonos’ two decades of experience with wireless audio. The benefit of this becomes apparent once you experience how easy it is to set up and stream music from one (or multiple) speakers using nearly any service you can imagine. But if you want to integrate and control this speaker through the Google Home or Alexa apps, you can do that as well. It’s this versatility and flexibility that makes the Sonos One our favorite smart speaker.
8. Apple Watch Series 6
With each passing year since its 2014 launch, the Apple Watch has continued to become more and more useful in the lives of the average person. Whether it’s conveniently providing phone notifications, tracking workouts, monitoring vital signs or making calls without having a phone nearby at all, there is so much that this little wearable can do. The latest iteration, the Apple Watch Series 6, even comes with a very timely feature that will let you monitor your blood oxygen levels. If you’re suffering from Covid-19, monitoring SpO2 can be a key in determining when you should visit a doctor or hospital to be treated. And if the last seven years have been any indication, the Apple Watch will only grow to be more useful in the future.
9. Sony WH1000-XM4 Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Considering that we spent most of 2020 and the start of 2021 in the confines of our homes, you’d think that we wouldn’t have much use for the best noise-cancelling headphones. But between loud neighbors, noisy roommates or the constant presence of family and significant others, home isn’t as quiet as it used to be. But with the Sony WH1000-XM4 headphones strapped on your head, that cacophony of shuffling feet, loud conversations and blaring televisions can be reduced to a murmur, allowing you to focus on the task at hand. It doesn’t hurt that these are also some of the best-sounding headphones around, so you can also listen to your favorite jams like never before.
8. Apple iPad Air
We still think it’s kind of insane that Apple took many of the best aspects of its iPad Pro — namely the slim-bezel design and compatibility with the Magic Keyboard — dropped them into the newest iPad Air and offered it at a very reasonable price. As a result, for less than $600, you get a device that lets you stream Netflix and Spotify, FaceTime with your friends, doodle, draw and design with the Apple Pencil, and even use it like a traditional laptop. Even if tablets are not completely essential in most people’s day-to-day lives like phones are, it’s undeniable that an iPad is deeply pleasurable to use. If you can afford one, don’t deprive yourself of the coolest luxury gadget around.
7. RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger
Wireless charging is a technology that in many ways sums up the essence of many of the cool gadgets on this list: It seems like an unnecessary luxury on paper, but you don’t realize how damn useful it can be until you start living with it. Wireless Qi charging pads like the RAVPower Fast Wireless Charger don’t scream excitement at first. But put one next to the couch, next to the bed and on your desk at work. Over time, notice how many times a day you start throwing your phone and wireless earbuds on it. Sure it might only save you a few seconds over plugging a cable in, but over the span of five to 10 years, that’s a convenience that will add up to a lot of saved time.
8. Tile Pro Bluetooth Trackers (2-Pack)
Bluetooth trackers have been an interesting concept for the last decade, but it’s only recently that the technology has truly caught up with the idea. In their infancy, Tile trackers could give you a general sense of where you left your keys or purse or phone. But as Bluetooth continues to evolve, you can now track a lost item with an unnerving level of accuracy and even call upon others to help you find a lost item.
The best tile trackers can give you live updates on the location of an object you’re looking for, as long as you’re within 400 feet. And if you’re no longer within range, it will tell you the last known location of the object, as well as notify any other tile users who come within range of it to contact you. Best of all, these trackers even have ringers on them so you can remotely trigger them to help you find that phone buried under a blanket.
9. iRobot Roomba 614
When you think of the future, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For more than a few of you, the answer was probably robots. The idea of robots being able to do all the tedious day-to-day tasks we don’t want to is a fantasy that has been around nearly as long as the light bulb itself. But in the last two decades, that daydream has resulted in some extremely cool tech gadgets, and the most fully-realized of these robots is the humble robovac.
Roomba was the first big robotic vacuum company to burst on the scene with a functional product, and in 2021, they’re still at the top of their game with the Roomba 614. From the first time you charge it up and turn it on, this thing can map out a room all on its own, figure out the most efficient way to clean your floors, learn what objects and areas of the house to avoid, and return to its base when its battery is running low. Sure, you may need to use an actual vacuum every now and then for a deep clean, but for regular weekly cleaning, this thing makes life so much easier.
10. The Ridge RFID Wallet
The Ridge is best known for its minimalist approach to wallets, but what makes these wallets one of the coolest tech gadgets around is their ability to block radio frequency identification signals (RFID), otherwise known as near-field communication (NFC). Because these communications technologies are housed in things like our credit cards and office keycards, hackers have created devices in recent years which can swipe that data from your card when it’s sitting in your back pocket. The Ridge’s wallets block these radio frequencies so that hackers cannot access them. This is a huge benefit for anyone who worries about having their identities stolen.
Although this carbon fiber version is the priciest version you can buy, we love the overall look and matte finish. And weighing in at only 1.6 ounces, you won’t find a lighter wallet from The Ridge.
11. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
The Kindle Paperwhite is the oldest device on this list and it really says something that after eight years, it’s still one of the coolest tech gadgets you can buy. Sure it’s received a few upgrades over the years (mainly to the display), but it’s functionally the same device it was when it first appeared. And that functionality is to put an entire library’s worth of books into the palm of your hand. We mean that literally: Not only can this thing store thousands of texts, but you can also sync it up with your local library account and digitally check out books.
But what we love most is how seamlessly it all comes together. The hardware itself is light and easy to hold, which ensures you won’t get hand fatigue after a few hours of reading. The 6-inch e-ink touchscreen is responsive and easy on the eyes, which is essential for navigating the various facets of the Kindle software (reader, library, store). The Kindle Paperwhite may be considered a niche device, but it’s the best sort of niche device: one that actually makes life easier.
12. Razer Kishi Gaming Controller
We’ve written about the Razer Kishi before, and this innovative controller is one of the coolest tech gadgets of 2021 for mobile gamers. Now that Apple has introduced the lightning-fast A14 processor in the iPhone 12, mobile gaming has taken a huge step forward. However, while the iPhone is fully capable of playing some great games, the iPhone’s ability to act as a controller is somewhat lacking. The modular design of the Razer Kishi lets you snap the controller onto both ends of your iPhone, mimicking the design of traditional video game controllers. This gives you the precision, control and full array of buttons you need to master the competition.
13. Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable
We love this Bluetooth record player, which is often out of stock due to its popularity among vinyl record collectors and audiophiles alike. Sony’s record player offers both Bluetooth and USB outputs, so you can listen to your favorite records however you like. On top of the sleek, minimalist design, this record player lets you easily connect to wireless speakers. You can also turn your vintage vinyl records into digital MP3 files to listen to them on the go, which is a really cool feature. Most importantly, this record player provides super clear audio that will let you disappear into your favorite albums.