It’s hard to believe it, but it’s almost Christmas again! The time of year when you’re able to get away with eating chocolates every day, and you watch Elf for the 100th time! It also means that our Christmas Gift Guide 2021 is ready to go. All of the products featured in the guide have been used and tested by yours truly. Again, I’m incredibly grateful to the companies who have provided the products included in this article for review and supported our site throughout the year.
Nacon Official Xbox MG-X Mobile Android Gaming Controller
The MG-X is the latest “Designed for Xbox” mobile holder, and it’s a very good option. At first glance, the MG-X looks the part, it’s well made, and the materials feel premium. The clever sliding design ensures that most phones will fit, although you might have an issue if your phone is quite thick or has a deep camera housing.
It connects seamlessly to your Android smartphone via Bluetooth, and I didn’t notice any input lag or stuttering when gaming on xCloud.
While designed for Xbox, I was also able to enjoy mobile games that support controllers and Google Stadia. You’ll get about 20 hours of gaming thanks to the excellent battery life, and you can charge it using the included USB-C lead.
I found the joystick positions to be very accessible, and the buttons were in a familiar place, including the Xbox Nexus button. When I first tested out the MG-X, the only issue I had was with the triggers, and they felt a little uncomfortable to use. Fortunately, after a while, I did get used to them.
You can learn more about the MG-X here.
EPOS H3 Hybrid Headset
The H3 Hybrid is part of the new range of EPOS headsets, and as you would expect, it’s a fantastic piece of kit. The white and black design makes it look like something a Stormtrooper would wear. If you’ve used EPOS headsets in the past, you’ll know that this headset sounds terrific.
I’ve been using it to play Halo Infinite multiplayer, and it’s been great to be able to hear the footsteps of enemies approaching, as well as sounds that all Halo fans love, like a plasma grenade exploding after sticking to an enemy. Where the H3 Hyrbid stands out, though, is its versatility. I’ve used the headset plugged into my Xbox controller, and then wirelessly, with Bluetooth connected to my phone. This way, I’ve been able to play my favourite games and listen to music or podcasts simultaneously.
If you want to use the headset solely via Bluetooth, you can detach the magnetic microphone boom, making it even more appealing. It’s a very light and comfortable headset, and the ear cups are nicely padded, essential for those long gaming sessions.
In terms of battery life, you’re getting around 37 hours via Bluetooth and a whole day’s worth when connected via the 3.5 mm console cable. You can also connect the headset to your console via USB and charge and play simultaneously. When you combine superb sound, fantastic flexibility and good battery life, the EPOS H3 Hybrid is easy to recommend.
Here is the link to the H3 Hybrid Store Page.
Colors Live Sonar Pen
If you have a budding artist in the house and a Nintendo Switch, I highly recommend the Colors Live Sonar Pen. It’s a clever piece of kit that connects to the Switch’s headphone jack and uses an audio signal to interact with the pen’s nib. It reacts to pressure, so you can choose a variety of strokes when creating your masterpiece. It doesn’t require batteries and comes with some spare nibs.
The digital bundle comes with a code to download the software and the Sonarpen.
To find out more, click the following link.
Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
I’ve always been intrigued by the thought of a folding phone but have been a little weary about their durability. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to try out the Galaxy Z Fold3 5G, and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed using it. Would I use it to replace my current daily driver? No. Do I enjoy using it and see the benefits of having a folding phone? Absolutely!
For me, there are a few things that make this phone special. Firstly, the ability to have two apps open side by side and the fact that you’re able to pin your most-used apps to the taskbar. For example, I liked having Discord and Twitter open together. Secondly, watching YouTube videos while browsing the web or typing a document simultaneously. Thirdly, gaming. When combined with touch controls and Xbox Game Pass, I could map the controls to the bottom of the screen and then use the rest of the screen to display the game.
Speaking of the display, I was concerned that the seam that runs down the middle of the screens would be too visible and spoil my enjoyment of watching videos or playing games. However, when looking at the screen straight on, the seam isn’t noticeable at all. When you angle the screen, it is very obvious, but for the most part, it didn’t ruin the illusion for me.
You can also use the Fold3 folded with a single display. The phone feels a little heavy and quite chunky in this mode, but it’s still great to have this option. I found that I used this mode for answering phone calls as I felt a little silly doing so with the screen unfolded.
The Galaxy Z Fold3 5G won’t be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something that has a wow factor, then it could be for you.
Click the following link to find out more.
The HONOR 50 is somewhat a comeback for the brand that used to be owned by Huawei. Having found itself banned from using Google apps and services, many people have been put off buying a Huawei phone. The HONOR 50 is one of the first devices launched by the now standalone brand, and thanks to its break from Huawei, it benefits from offering Google apps and services.
My review handset came in a midnight black finish that looked very smart and classic. I was surprised by how light the phone felt without feeling cheap. HONOR has done a great job with the design of the phone.
There are two things that I loved about the HONOR 50. Firstly, the camera housing design on the rear of the phone is different from anything I’ve seen on other phones. Speaking of the cameras, you won’t be disappointed with the pictures you take, especially selfies. There’s also a feature that takes a photo whenever it detects someone is smiling. It’s very cool and works.
The other cameras, including an impressive 108MP primary camera, are more than capable of taking some photos to be proud of. You’re also getting a camera set capable of recording some cool videos. If you’re someone who enjoys posting videos, you’ll love the multi-video mode that records from the front and rear cameras simultaneously. Perfect for filming your friends and family opening their presents on Christmas morning.
Secondly, the 6.57 inch OLED curved 120Hz display. It truly is an excellent display that wouldn’t be out of place on a far more expensive phone. Playing games and viewing content is a real treat.
Battery life is also impressive, and with moderate use, will last you more than a day. You won’t be able to charge the phone wirelessly, but the speed of the included 66-watt wired charger will charge your phone up in no time at all. In fact, you’ll be able to charge the HONOR 50 in about 45 minutes fully, and if you’re in a rush, you’ll get about 70% battery life in 20 minutes.
The HONOR 50 comes with Magic UI, which is their flavour of Android, and I liked how clean the design was. If you’ve used an Android phone before, everything is where you’d expect to find it, and if you haven’t, it won’t take you long to adapt.
In terms of speed, the HONOR 50 features the Snapdragon 778G, and even though it’s not the latest, most powerful mobile chipset, it performs well and will allow you to run all of your favourite games and apps.
If you’re looking for an excellent Android phone that has access to the Google Play Store and Google services, the HONOR 50 has a lot going for it and offers many features that you would expect to find on devices that cost far more than it.
You can find out more about the HONOR 50 on the following link.
What do you give someone who has everything? A pair of audio glasses, that’s what! When I found out that Soundcore released a pair of audio glasses, I was intrigued. I was even more excited when I had the chance to test a pair out.
Firstly, the Soundcore Frames look stylish, and with the fantastic variety of interchangeable frames available, you will find a look that suits you. If you spend a long time staring at a computer screen, there’s a frame with a blue light filter. The glasses come with a magnetic storage case, and each pair of frames has a cleaning cloth included. If you want to see what you will look like wearing the Soundcore Frames, you can try out some different styles using the AR feature of the Soundcore App or website.
In terms of sound, I was pretty impressed. I found that songs can sound a little muffled at the highest volume. However, I didn’t need to turn the volume to the max to enjoy podcasts and music. Another great feature is OpenSurround. This delivers a surround sound experience, and when activated, thanks to the positioning of the two speakers, it sounds like you’re in a live music concert.
Another helpful feature is privacy mode. Automatically activated during a phone call, it reduces the sound level, so sound leakage is minimal. You can also use this mode if you don’t want to interrupt others when you’re listening to something.
When it comes to battery life, you’ll be able to enjoy your music for around 5 hours, and with the included charger, you can get about an hour and a half with a 10-minute quick charge.
You might be thinking, where would you need these? Well, I’ve used them to listen to podcasts and music, and it’s allowed me to remain focused on my work while hearing what is going on around me. I’m also looking forward to wearing the Soundcore Frames while lounging in the sun or going for a walk.
Find out more, and try on a pair virtually here.
Tech for the home
Roku Streaming Stick 4K
Roku is well known for its affordable streaming sticks, offering excellent features at a great price and their latest offering, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, is no exception.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is so simple to set up, and thanks to the new design, once you’ve plugged it in, you won’t be able to see it hidden behind your TV. After a simple setup process, and thanks to the new quad-core processor, you’re able to enjoy your favourite tv shows and films in no time at all.
You’ll find all of your favourite streaming services available, including the free Roku channel, which has some great free shows and films. If you have Apple devices in your home, you’ll be glad to learn that the Streaming Stick 4K has Apple AirPlay support. In my testing, this worked seamlessly.
In terms of picture quality, the Streaming Stick 4K supports video up to 4K, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, so anything you’re watching is going to look great.
The included remote is easy to use and can be paired with your TV to control the volume and turn it on and off. You’re also able to use your voice to search for the content you’d like to watch or listen to.
At £49.99, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K offers incredible value for money and provides all the features you need to enjoy a brilliant streaming experience.
Find out more on the following link.
Swann Xtreem Wireless Security Camera
We’ve reviewed a Swann product on the site before, and our reviewer was very impressed with the quality; you can read it here. The latest product we’ve tested is the Swann Xtreem Wireless Security Camera.
The camera was straightforward to set up and install. After charging the camera, you connect it to your phone via Bluetooth and complete the setup process. Once completed, attach the magnetic holder to your chosen location with the included screws.
The magnetic connection is powerful, and you won’t have to worry about it becoming detached in wild weather as we’ve had recently. The camera is also weatherproof, so there’s no need to worry about the rain causing any damage.
When the camera detects motion, you get an alert on your phone. You can then open the app to see a live feed from the camera. My only issue with the camera was that it sometimes took quite a while to open the live feed.
There are several things you can do with the live feed. This includes taking a screenshot, making a local recording, triggering an alarm or speaking to whoever is at your door. For me, this has been the most helpful feature of the camera.
On several occasions, I’ve spoken to a delivery driver when I’ve been put and about and have been able to instruct them to leave the parcel in a safe space. This is so useful and helps avoid those irritating missed parcels slips, especially this time of year.
You’re getting 1080p HD capability, I’d have preferred 4K, but the picture was more than clear enough. When dark, the camera automatically switches to night vision mode, and it works very well. Battery life is very impressive and will last a couple of months at a time.
If you’re looking for an alternative brand of wireless security camera, the Swann Xtreem Wireless Security Camera is a great option. You can find out more at the following link.
I’m a massive fan of the Ghostbusters movies and grew up with my head usually in a box of LEGO. Therefore, I was thrilled to receive the new LEGO ECTO-1 to build.
At over 2,500 pieces and over 300 pages of instructions, it did take me a while to make, but boy was it worth it, and at no point during the building process did I get bored. The attention to detail is second to none, from the Cadillac engine down to the rust panels on the car.
Fans of the new movie will also be thrilled to find the Remote Trap Vehicle and rear gunner’s seat included. Talking of the rear gunner’s seat, it’s one of the interactive features of the car. Open the side door, press the button on the other side, and the gunner’s seat swings out. It’s great fun!
When completed, the LEGO ECTO-1 looks and feels the part and will be a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.
Becoming a Ghostbuster on the following link.
Momax Airbox Multi-Device Wireless Charging Power Bank
The Momax Airbox contains a huge 10,000mAh battery capable of charging at 10W wirelessly and 20W PD via the USB-C output. This means that you can fast charge your iPhone from 0-100% in around three hours. You’re also able to charge your Apple Watch and AirPods wirelessly and simultaneously.
You can charge your iPad using the USB-C output, but this will drain the battery a lot quicker. There’s even a slot to store your Apple Pencil, but unfortunately, it doesn’t charge it. While the Momax Airbox is perfect for Apple products, you can also charge other Qi-enabled devices wirelessly.
There are several status lights alongside the power button. You’ll see a green light when the device is switched on and then orange lights indicating that a phone or headphones are charging. You’ll also see how much charge the Airbox has left with four lights meaning it’s fully charged. When the Momax Airbox battery runs out, you can recharge it wirelessly in about 5 hours and around 2 hours using a USB-C charger.
While quite heavy, the Momax Airbox is an excellent alternative to taking all of your leads and chargers with you. If you want to, you can close the lid with your Apple AirPods, and Apple Pencil stored inside.
If you own Apple products and you’re looking for a portable, one size fits all power bank, the Momax Airbox is an excellent option.
To find out more, head to the following link.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our Christmas Gift Guide 2021, and that it’s given you some ideas and inspiration. It was a lot of fun putting it together. I’d also like to take the opportunity to say a HUGE thank you to all of our readers and followers who have supported us throughout the year. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2022!
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.