Published December 17, 2013
We crunched the numbers to find the most-searched for and most-clicked on items on our site. As a result, we know exactly what you and your loved ones want from Santa this year.
Below, we've rounded up the season's 12 hottest gifts. And while in many cases, we believe that there may be cheaper alternatives that make for a wiser gift, we won't deny the allure of getting someone exactly what they want at Christmas. So if you're totally stuck on what to buy this year, this list is the perfect place to start.
Apple iPad Air / iPad mini
If you're shocked that iPads are an in-demand gift this year, then thanks for reading, Mr. Gates! You'd have to really hate Apple products to turn down a new iPad on Christmas morning. The iPad Air might be the new kid on Apple's block, but we've seen several short-lived discounts on this current-gen tablet, usually in the form of a bundled gift card. That said, savvy shoppers should keep an eye on the 4th-generation iPad: we've seen new 16GB WiFi models for as little as $360.
The iPad mini with Retina may be a snazzy step up from the first generation, but if you want a smaller iPad, you should really grab the older mini. New units of the previous-gen iPad mini have sunk to around $250, whereas the iPad mini with Retina still starts at $399.
Kindle Fire HDX
Cheaper than the newest iPads even if you buy a Prime membership at the same time, the Kindle Fire HDX tablets are a budget-friendly alternative to iDevices. Furthermore, the 7" HDX even boasts a higher quality display than the latest iPad mini. Unfortunately, Amazon has refused offer any kind of discount on the 8.9" HDX, leaving it stuck at a $379 price point. Things look brighter for the 7" HDX model though, which has seen several coupon discounts, knocking it to as low as $179. We may not see another price reduction on any Kindle HDX tablets before Christmas, but if you're dying to grab one we'd recommend setting up an email alert just in case.
You can also score a cheap Kindle Fire HD tablet without much effort. While you probably won't enjoy the same steep discounts we saw on these previous-generation 7" and 8.9" tablets during Black Friday, the odds are good that you'll find some kind of sale before Christmas. The best price we've seen for the 7" Kindle Fire HD is $100, while the all-time low for the 8.9" model is $199. Keep these price points in mind during your holiday shopping, and we're fairly certain you'll find an acceptable deal.
Samsung Galaxy S4
It's hard to crown a king of Android phones, but Samsung's Galaxy S4 probably walks away with the Presidency. CNET said the "Galaxy S4 is the top choice for anyone looking for a big-screen, do-everything smartphone." When this Android phone's price dropped to free during Black Friday, it was one easily one of the most popular deals on our site. The only free Galaxy S4 we've seen recently was refurbished; barring a major pre-Christmas sale, the best price you'll currently find for a new unit is $50 with a 2-year contract.
While GPS units are a regularly-searched item on our site, we're inclined to recommend that you don't buy one for anyone this year; in many ways, it's a dead technology, and prices have stalled. Regardless of whether it's new or refurbished, most GPS models go for somewhere between $50 and $100. But many people still want a standalone unit that can remain in their car and keep their phone from a drained battery during trips. In that case, $50 is a pretty reasonable price to pay. (Of course, you could just buy a low-tier Android tablet with integrated GPS and just keep that in the car instead; Google Maps is free, folks!)
Among the most recognizable and requested children's toys of the past half century, LEGO sets have a perennial place on holiday wish lists the world over. Because of the brand's partnership with other franchises (most notably Star Wars), the multicolored bricks hold an appeal to builders and collectors of all ages. LEGO set prices vary wildly, depending on their size, complexity, and rarity, so you can still find low-tier sets from Amazon or Walmart for under $10. The LEGO Star Wars Super Star Destroyer, on the other hand, retails for $400.
While today's HDTVs offer ever-lovelier displays, you're going to need some audio equipment if you don't want to spend your life trying to read actors' lips. And if you're not a fan of massive home theater sound systems, a sound bar is what you're after. And best sound bar setups often include a subwoofer: two birds! Price-wise, you can expect to pay between $100 and $450 for a new unit.
According to CNET, the best sound bars around come from top audio manufacturers like Pioneer, Sony, Harman Kardon, and Bose. You don't have to settle for paying top dollar for these systems, though. For example, the Harmon Kardon SB 16 has an ugly $600 retail price, but we saw this highly-rated sound bar for just $120 last month. While we can't promise there will be a big price drop in time for the holidays, setting up an email alert should serve you well in your sound bar search.
Thanks to the increasing popularity of media streaming, the Chromecast has emerged as an in-demand gift that makes absolute financial sense. No, it's not as feature-packed as a Roku, but this barebones streaming stick is getting a little less bare every day. According to SlashGear, with the Chromecast's latest app additions and a little creativity, "you can play just about anything through Chromecast at this point." We've seen it discounted to $25, but offers knocking the Chromecast down to $33 are far more common right now.
The North Face Jackets
Popular to the point of ubiquity, The North Face jackets are practically the face of winter. Although the brand markets itself to the athletic crowd, The North Face "accounted for 33.5% of the outdoor apparel market in the United States" in 2012, according to The New York Times. With that popularity comes a serious price tag; we regularly see this brand's jackets marked down to somewhere between $40 and $200. One in-demand style is the Denali fleece jacket, which is often discounted to $80 to $100 for adult sizes, and around $50 for children's sizes. Although these jackets make tempting gifts, you'd probably do better to buy one during an after-Christmas sale.
Xbox One & PS4
The next generation of consoles are here, and an award should be given for simply finding an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 console in stock. Likewise, it should go without saying, that if you want to put one of these systems under the tree this year, you're going to pay the full $500 for the Xbox One or the full $400 for a PS4. However, older Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles go for much less, especially if you score a bundle.
We've seen Xbox 360 250GB console bundles for as little as $200, while Xbox 360 4GB Kinect bundles have gone for as little as $139. PlayStation 3 250GB console bundles have been as cheap as $180. If you're shopping for a gamer that already has one of these systems, an Xbox LIVE Gold or PlayStation Plus membership is also an excellent idea. A year of Xbox LIVE Gold has been $35 recently, while a year of PlayStation Plus is going for around $30.
Our readers search for Apple TV more often than the main competitor, Roku, and it's no wonder: Apple TV accounts for a whopping 56% of all streaming device sales. Apple's little black box makes up for its relatively meager list of streaming sources with AirPlay, which allows users to stream media from their iOS device (or iTunes on their computers) to their TV. Stiff competition from Roku and Chromecast are finally driving this streamer's price down; the best price we've ever seen for the Apple TV is $72, and that was earlier this month.
LeapFrog LeapPad tablets
Leapfrog's line of kids' tablets certainly offers parents a lot of choices. The cheapest option is the LeapPad2 Explorer model, which costs $40 to $50, runs on four AA batteries, and lacks WiFi. The next tier boasts the $100 LeapPad2 Power, for which we've never seen a discount. This model is rechargeable, but still lacks WiFi. The LeapPad Ultra is rechargeable and has WiFi, but it's the most expensive model available at $149. However, we've seen coupons and bundled gift cards for this tablet, and there's a chance we'll see similar offers again before Christmas.
Each LeapPad model comes with front and back cameras, as well as several pre-loaded apps and access to a library of hundreds more. Although parents might cringe at the Ultra model's price tag, many reviewers have found it to be the best value for the money: this model boasts the biggest touchscreen (7"), the most internal storage (8GB), and backwards compatibility with older LeapPad game cartridges. PC Mag made the Ultra its Editors' Choice pick for children's tablets, saying that "for the 4- to 9-year-old demographic it targets, the LeapPad Ultra is a perfect tablet."
Beats by Dre Headphones
Dr. Dre may have built a music empire, but his headphones have left many audiophiles wanting more, especially with the Beats' staggering price tags. There are lots and lots of great headphone deals out there, but some folks are drawn to the aesthetic quality of Beats by Dre cans, and that's okay. The great thing about these pricey headphones is that refurbs are a lot cheaper and easy to come by; refurbished pairs of Studio headphones have gone as low as $115. As for new units, we've seen the urBeats earbuds for as little as $40, while new pairs of the Solo HD headphones hit $100 during Black Friday. We may not see that price again soon, but some merchants may come close.
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