gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Christmas Gift Picks 2023

While ostensibly a List Of Christmas Tech Picks, or something equally as shallow and pointless, this article is actually just an admission- winter sucks and I’m too gosh darn tired to crank out reviews right now. I’ve got a few, actually far too many, in the pipeline and a constant hunger to tinker with new technology that’s absolutely got the better of me. Many of these are things that I really want to tell you about because they’re cool or fun. So while I’m still plodding my way through proper reviews, here’s a non-specific list of cool tech stuff that may, by sheer coincidence, make good Christmas gifts.

Yoto mini

A shot of a shelf, with a grey and white cat plushie poking in front the right-hand side and propping up a credit card sized card with “Mog’s ABC” written on it and a picture of the very same cat. On the left is a tiny white, grey and orange audio player with a similar card inserted entitled “Mog and the baby.” On its screen is a little pixel art facsimile of Mog, the titular cat.

Not saying Yoto has a big influence… but toddler has a Mog plushie, a Mog costume and has been to see it live 🤣


This really is a solid Christmas pick because it’s relatively inexpensive and has most of the functionality you might want from its bigger sibling. Yoto Mini is an iPod of sorts for your kids, eschewing a complex, distracting, visual user interface for a simple system of cards- a bit like cassette tapes but you’ll never need to wind them back in with a pencil- which trigger different audio content when inserted into the top. The cards are… not cheap… but there is nonetheless an excellent selection of everything from music (Queen’s Greatest Hits is the canonical example), to popular stories, to educational content and more. Since they’re credit-card sized they travel well, but also tend to vanish around the house if you’re not vigilant. An accompanying mobile app will let you play any card your device has seen before, though, so it’s not essential you keep track of them. We’ve had a Yoto since fairly early, and many of the stories – audio book versions of popular kids books – have become firm favourites for our eldest. Our youngest – just shy of thirteen months – is fascinated with the cards, but won’t leave one in the player long enough for it to actually play anything yet. A player and six Julia Donaldson stories will cost you about £85. If you want to recreate that kids vinyl records through the post vibe from the late 80s or early 90s, there’s also a £99/year club for two new cards every month. I have very hazy recollections of the excitement of receiving my new record by mail, and the disappointment when it inevitably dropped from our mailbox – quite high up the door – and shattered on the floor. In hindsight it probably broke much sooner.

Backbone One

My iPhone in a white game controller grip sat atop my bed over. The phone is showing the Backbone App Home Screen with Hello Kitty selected.

Yeah my uh Steam Deck is gathering dust right now 😬😬😬


I wrote about the lightning/iPhone Backbone One controller back in August, and just recently got my hands on one to test with Android (with the Sony Xperia 5V to be specific). Backbone One is simple- a spring loaded controller that clips onto your phone and turns it into a gaming device, or a streaming device for PlayStation, Xbox, GeForce Now, Amazon Luna, Steam or whatever other service you might use to play games. “Simply” is doing it a disservice, though, because Backbone is probably one of, if not the, best in its class. A large part of this is the software, Backbone’s own app lends a console-like interface to your mobile phone, including a launcher for games, controller-enabled settings menus for the controller itself, and some great controller-enabled features such as viewing, trimming and exporting captured videos. The software also includes multiplayer lobbies and chat, and some useful discovery features to help you find compatible games across the various supported services. The controls work with everything from Diable Immortal and Stumble Guys to the, uh, vast array of emulators that will run on Android phones. Genshin Impact is, unfortunately, still a holdout on Android, though Backbone One will work with the iOS version. At £100 on the dot the Backbone One about the going rate for mobile controllers. For maximum gift potential an extra £25 will net you possibly one of the nicest carry cases I’ve seen for a device ever. Oh and the Backbone One will double as a regular – albeit slightly weird – wired controller and, yes, you can plug it into the Steam Deck with a USB Type-C cable.

Miyoo Mini Plus

A closeup of the Miyoo Mini Plus, a gameboy style portrait handheld with colourful face buttons and D-pad. A large screen fills the top of the device and depicts a versus falling block game. (Block Game for 32blit)

I spent way too long fixing up SDL2 for the Miyoo Mini Plus so it would have gamepad hacks for 32blit 🤣


This one’s a bit of a wildcard, a low-cost, Linux-based handheld games console, harking back to my fond memories of the GP2X and OpenPandora. I somehow blundered into buying the Mini Plus while completely oblivious to the hype surrounding the device. I bought mine from Droix after watching a couple of videos about it. It was just shy of £70 and it looked really nicely put together. It also came in a little carry case – in lieu of cardboard packaging – and included a microSD card preloaded with what I’m going to charitably call “totally legitimate and definitely not at all legally dubious games.” For emulating classic systems like PCEngine (home of the definitive version of Bomberman IMO), MegaDrive, SNES, GameBoy and such it’s really quite a fantastic device. Starts up quickly, easy to navigate, and can be easily and greatly improved with a third-party “OS” called OnionUI (it’s more a front-end, since nobody can actually modify the firmware.) Since it’s Linux-based it’s relatively (albeit not totally) painless to develop for. I had fun porting some of my 32blit games, rather more fun discovering the chip inside is ostensibly for HD media displays, and rather less fun running into obnoxious “Here Lie Trade Secrets” binary blobs that prevented me from fixing (or even trying to fix) some more irksome issues with the audio. The Miyoo Mini Plus is absolutely good to go out of the box, though, making it a great, no nonsense gift for someone who either loves classic/retro/vintage games or hasn’t had the opportunity to discover them yet. Thanks to some incredible community efforts it’ll even – albeit somewhat awkwardly since it has no touchscreen – emulate the Nintendo DS.

Poly (formerly Plantronics) Voyager Free 60 Plus Wireless Earphones

The Poly Free 60+ UC charging case. It’s a little black oval shaped thingy with a tiny colour LCD screen on top showing “BT Transmitter” and a button reading “Stop Streaming.” An audio cable, still tied in a neat bundle, connects the charging case to a laptop via the 3.5mm audio Jack.
The charging case opened with the left earbud removed. In the lid is a USB dongle. Clearly they’re all about connectivity!

The Poly Free 60+ UC are absolutely wild. They come with a 3.5mm jack to USB Type-C adapter that- when plugged into the charging case - turns it into a Bluetooth transmitter for anything with regular audio out. No pairing needed!


I’ve been testing these for a while, after reconnecting with Poly (I tested the Backbeat Pro and Voyager 8200 quite a few years back). What drew me to the Voyager Free 60+ in particular was the case. It’s no ordinary earbud case, but includes an integrated touchscreen display that gives really easy and intuitive access to things like pairing, volume control, transport controls and noise cancelling settings. It doesn’t stop there, though. By means of an extremely cursed (and supplied) 3.5mm TRRS jack to USB Type-C cable, you can connect the case to the 3.5mm audio output of virtually any device and then stream that audio to the earbuds. This is extremely useful if you swap your earphones between lots of devices and don’t want to re-pair them every time. It’s even more useful if you want to use the wireless earbuds with a device that doesn’t support Bluetooth. I tend to use this setup with the Steam Deck, since the cable is long enough that the case can sit on my lap and do its thing and the Deck’s single USB Type-C port doesn’t lend itself well to using a dongle. This means I can skip the juggle of re-pairing headphones- which isn’t always straightforward- and get straight to gaming. I’m not sure who I’d buy these for Christmas, but they’re cool and deserve a mention.

ScanWatch 2

A photo of a steel and black watch with a rainbow woven strap. It’s sat atop a white electronics breadboard with a brown and red wire sticking out and disappearing out of the shot. Red is on the left (the watch body) and brown on the right (the crown). Two little strip headers are plugged into the breadboard to act as spring contacts to make a connection with the watch body and crown. The little OLED display says “71% Charging.”

Since Withings moved the charging contacts on the ScanWatch 2 from copper pads underneath, to the Watch body and crown… I figured I’d see what passing 5v through it does…


ScanWatch is the watch that got me wearing watches again. ScanWatch 2 is its successor. I really notice when I’ve forgotten to put it back on after a shower (I don’t want the cheap nasty fabric strap I use to get wet and nasty) It’s a health tracker, and a watch with some very, very limited smart functions, that doesn’t look obnoxiously techie or outright ugly. It’s also built like a brick outhouse- with my original ScanWatch somehow surviving my long, flailing arms bashing it into walls and more. ScanWatch 2 has undergone a bunch of aesthetic and functional changes which I’ve already covered in detail. What better way to passive aggressively say “Dad, I think you should take better care of your health” than the gift of a great looking health tracker. Or, y’know, there’s a smaller one for Mum, too if you’re down with your rigorous gender roles and highly gendered product design and marketing. Me? I thought I’d like the smaller watch, since my wrists are… dare I say?… effeminate in their proportions, but leaning into my Dadliness with a big-ish watch isn’t such a bad thing in retrospect. Besides, I wear it with a rainbow strap so checkmate uh… marketing and design people.

Steam Deck

I think this one probably goes without saying, but with the launch of OLED the original LCD Steam Deck has seen price cuts across the board, putting a 256GB LCD model at just £349. That’s an awful lot of gaming handheld for the price. I have a 512GB Deck with a 1Tb microSD card and so many games loaded onto it that I’m never really sure what to play.

Literally Any LEGO

My youngest are still far too small for significant LEGO sets, but nonetheless fascinated by LEGO Technic. I might be far too old, but I’m nonetheless still fascinated by LEGO Technic. There is something mindful and maybe even cathartic about slowly piecing together some mechanical contrivance. Perhaps LEGO’s advertising where greying, middle-aged men stare at models like they’re trying to figure out how to…uh…f… well, perhaps they’re right. Buy more LEGO.

SoundCore Space One

A photo of me, a moustachioed weirdo with a goatee and long hair wearing a reddish brown hoodie and stood in front of a brick wall. The sea of brownish reddish tones are starkly offset by a pair of bright blue headphones adorning my head. They’re chunky, and have a little “d” shaped logo - The “d” from SoundCore - which also hints at musical notation.

Been testing the Soundcore Space One for perhaps a little bit too long now. Was attracted to them for the striking sky blue colour option, and found them to be genuinely excellent headphones with a keen mid-range price.


A little more down to earth than Poly’s earbuds, the SoundCore Space One are a great pair of mid-range headphones (at least I think £90 is mid-range, since I’m going to pretend Audio Technica’s ATH-W5000 don’t exist) available in a very striking Sky Blue that for the right fancy person will make a truly excellent gift. The Space One are probably the cheapest over-ear headphones I’ve tried for a long time, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find that they sound great. Couple this with active noise cancellation and on-ear detection (there’s a very big, very obvious sensor in the left ear cup) and the net result is a set of cans that I’m quite happy to recommend. Actually broadly speaking SoundCore (in their place beneath the Anker brand umbrella) make some excellent audio products, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the-

SoundCore Motion X600

The soundcore Motion X600 sat on a grey table outdoors.

I can’t get over how good this thing looks. I’m a little jealous of the green one though!


I reviewed the SoundCore Motion X600 back in July and it’s pretty fair to say that it blew me away. Combining some very traditional and understated styling with absolutely monster sound this unassuming, splash-proof speaker delivers room-filling (even for my generously proportioned living room) audio. It’s a straight up Bluetooth Speaker with no brains of its own, but it’s a great way to make the transition from traditional DAB or Internet radios to something mobile-phone driven where you can BYO source of audio with a much more intuitive (I’d hope you know how to use your phone by now) fashion. There’s really no easy way to say how much I like the X600 without sounding like a shill, so to heck with it: it’s by far my favourite way to listen to music… when I can get away with it. You can pick it up direct from SoundCore for £199.99.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2023, Gadgets.