For those loved ones you love that little bit more
We realise, for many, that a hundred pounds, or so, will be considered as pushing the boat out this Christmas but some of your loved ones are worth that little bit more. Well, maybe.
Where the field was somewhat narrow when compiling our under fifty pounds list, there were no shortage of candidates for this one; so you should be able to please even the most discerning ‘giftee’ with one of these this Christmas.
The Roku streaming Stick made our sub-fifty list of and the flagship Roku product makes this one for almost precisely the same reasons. Outside of perhaps only the Samsung Smart TV platform, Roku can boast the most comprehensive line up of big-hitting video on demand services in the business. Those include all the major UK catch-up services – iPlayer, 4OD, ITV Player & Demand 5 – plus subscription and rental based platforms, with Sky NOW TV, Netflix, Sky Store and Google Play all ready to go. Naturally there’s also a YouTube Channel and we’ve not even began to scratch the surface of the 1,000+ channels available to Roku UK customers. What’s more, the Roku 3 runs them all like a dream and we’d go as far to say as it’s the fastest and best device for iPlayer, Netflix and NOW TV we’ve used. The Roku 3 also comes with a WiFi remote, a USB port for media files and quite probably the cleanest user interface outside of LG’s WebOS system. We really can’t recommend this one enough and the new channels just keep on coming!
Final Heaven II
Could a Japanese high end brand go on to produce a bargain? Well, the short answer to that is ‘yes’, and a resounding one at that. Final produce a set of earphones that will set you back the best part of three grand but the Heaven II come in at a far more reasonable £90. Not that it feels like costs have been cut, the fit and finish are both excellent, although we would have appreciated some in-line controls for convenience sakes. It’s unusual for a sub £100 earphone to feature an armature design but the Final Heaven II do and the benefits are clear to hear. The way that a well sorted armature earphone goes about opening out a recording is something that even capable speakers can struggle to do, but the Heaven II manage to deliver all that, effortlessly. This is a beautifully implemented earphone that faces off against dynamic driver designs and whatever it loses in absolute bass response, it gains in superb detail and excellent tonality. One of the very best ways to treat someone’s ears for under a ton this Christmas.
There’s an argument you could buy this little Samsung spinner and completely ignore it’s disc playing capabilities. It is a great 3D capable Blu-ray player, no doubt, and it will also treat your DVD collection very sympathetically but given all the Smart TV features packed in, you could justify its price on those alone. You get streaming via Netflix, Wauki, Amazon and YouTube; catch-up via iPlayer, ITV Player, 40D and Demand 5, plus a built-in content recommendation engine, tailored to your viewing habits. It’s also very quiet when playing a disc and there’s an element of future-proofing uncommon at this price point, with the inclusion of support for scaling to Ultra HD resolution. At its current online pricing, just below the £100 point, the Samsung BD-H6500 is cracking value for lovers of movies and streaming.
Bayan Audio Soundbook Go
The Soundbook GO wireless speaker is pretty much totally successful in its intent. It’s fairly inexpensive, very portable and a doddle to hook up to your phone or tablet. The protective cover also doubles up as a stand for the device and a full charge should give you well over 6 hours listening before it requires more juice. In terms of its audio output, the Soundbook GO certainly has enough to fill most rooms and the quality will be better than you would expect, considering the relatively tiny proportions. It’s not going to shake the floorboards or shatter any glasses but it sounded good with almost everything we threw at it, so it’s a great solution for that loved one who likes a Xmas party and to get out and about. Widely available for just under £80, they can even take it for a test run under a no obligation 30 day home trial. So make sure you keep hold of the receipt, just in case.
Amazon Fire TV
In essence, this is a very similar device to the Roku 3 above. It’s a compact media streamer with an understandable emphasis in pushing Amazon’s Prime Instant video service but it can do plenty more besides. It doesn’t just do Amazon video, there are Netflix, YouTube and iPlayer apps as well, although the inbuilt voice search system doesn’t work within those as it does Prime. The relatively powerful processor and graphics chip means it’s also capable of being used as a mini games console, with surprisingly impressive graphics – you can even buy a dedicated games controller or maybe hook up one from your games consoles, as it’s compatible with quite a few. But there’s more than that. With the operating system being based on Android, you have the option of ‘sideloading’ any number of the vast array of apps for that operating system, allowing you to run the likes of Kodi (XBMC), the Firefox web browser and any number of old console game emulation apps – plus plenty more besides. The only real limitation of this device is its lack of storage capacity and the fact Amazon won’t allow you to plug in your own to the USB port. Still, at less than £80 this is a fantastic gift for your techy friends and family. Those that aren’t Prime customers and/or are less inclined to tinker will probably be better served with the Roku.
Did anything there take your fancy, or do you have some better selections? Please share in the comments section below.
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