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Holiday Gift Guide 2018

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(Jabra Elite Active 65t)

Best Wireless Earbuds

True wire-free Bluetooth buds that sit snugly in your ear, deliver excellent music playback, and help with your workouts at the same time.

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This year saw a huge leap forward in the quality of truly wireless earbuds. Device makers have worked out all the connection and battery life issues that plagued early generations and this is now a legit headphone style for those who disdain wires. Jabra's Elite Active 65T pack an incredible array of features into a tiny form factor. They offer very good sound, up to 15 hours of battery life (with the charging case), comfortable fit, advanced environmental controls, step-counting, and other fitness-focused features. At about $190, these are the best value for your money.

If you want slightly better sound and call quality and don't mind losing the fitness tools, the Jabra Elite 65T are more affordable than the Active at $150.

(Sony WH-1000XM3)

Best Over-Ear Headphones

These wholly cover your ears in cushiony cups, offer the best noise cancellation, and produce clear, ear-pleasing music.

Sony is taking the fight to Bose and others with the WH-1000XM3 headphones. These over-the-ear cans rely on advanced active noise cancellation to shield you from noise, whether it's the droning of an airplane engine or the din of a coffee shop. Features such as Quick Attention and Ambient Sound Control make it easy to interact with the outside world without removing the headphones. They're comfortable, support Google Assistant, and last for 30 hours on a charge. They are a bit pricey at $350, but you'll find they're worth it.

Plantronics' BackBeat Go 600s are a simple over-the-ear option that offer a nice blend of affordability and performance. At $99, the Go 600s deliver even sound and excellent battery life.

(Catalyst Impact Protection)

Best Rugged Case

Strong enough to withstand the daily abuses of life, yet slim enough to ensure the phone still fits in your pocket.

The Impact Protection series from Catalyst fits the newest devices, including the iPhone Xs and Xs Max, and the Galaxy Note9. The solid exterior bumper will save your pricey hardware from everyday drops, shakes, and scrapes. I like that the rear panel is see-through so your phone's personality isn't hidden. The cases are designed so ports, speakers, fingerprint readers, and other controls are all easy to find and use. And of course, the case doesn't impede wireless charging. The Impact Protection series costs $50.

Need a bit more protection? Otterbox's Commuter Series, also available to iPhones and Galaxies, uses a two-layer system that handles bigger drops for $50.

(Apple Watch Series 4)

Best Wearable

Whether you seek a fitness tracker, a notification manager, or simply want a killer smartwatch, this is the one to get.

The Apple Watch Series 4 is an outstanding smartwatch. The screen is bigger, the battery lasts longer, and it simply does far more than its predecessors. Core additions focus on the heart, such as the ability to capture EKGs and monitor your pulse for irregularities. The watch is waterproof, available in cellular/LTE configurations, and is highly customizable thanks to Apple's ecosystem of straps and finishes. With a starting price of $400, there's no question it's more costly than competing Android watches. But if you're an iPhone user, the Apple Watch Series 4 is the best option.

Android users will likely be best served with the newest timepiece from LG, which has a unique blend of physical moving hands and the most up-to-date version of Google's Wear OS. It costs $450.

(Mophie Charge Stream Pad+)

Best Wireless Charger

Simple, affordable, and compatible with a wide variety of phones.

Wireless charging has really won the attention of smartphone shoppers this year. Many high-end phones let you set the device down on a charging pad to soak up some electricity while you're doing your thing around the house or the office. The Mophie Charge Stream Pad+ supports the Qi standard, which makes it compatible with most of today's higher-end phones, including the iPhone Xs, Samsung Galaxy S/Note, and LG's G7 and V40. The pad also works with all of Mophie's own Charge Force and Juice Pack battery cases made for Apple and Samsung smartphones. The Pad+ includes smart charging technology to provide the proper charge no matter what phone you have. It supports Quick Charge 2.0 at 7.5 watts. The Mophie Charge Stream Pad+ costs $60.

Don't want to spend that much? The Samsung Wireless Charging Pad EP-PG920 is $20. Want more bang for the buck? Google's Pixel 3 Charging Stand delivers rapid charging and extra features for Pixel phones. It costs $79.

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