Zac's Holiday 2016 Gift Guide

Buying things for your loved ones can sometimes be a tricky endeavor, so why not get some help from me?!

Here is a list of my favorite techy (and perhaps not so techy) products from the last year, all showcased here in this convenient guide.

If you're looking for higher-ticket items, make sure to check out the Windows Central 2016 Gift Guide for the best laptops, phones, and other gadgets!

Windows 10 Pro

A Windows 10 Pro license is the best software gift for family and friends this holiday. It provides the very best in security, with features such as an improved Start Menu, new Windows Store apps and more. There's never a bad time to upgrade friends and family to the latest version of Windows.

$199 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Lumia 950

If you have family and friends who are still clinging onto Windows phone, a Lumia 950 is probably one of the best gifts you can get them this holiday season. With a 5.2 inch, QHD AMOLED screen, 32GB of on-board storage, and a 21MP rear-facing camera, you can't go wrong with the Lumia 950.

$399 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

HP Elite X3

HP Elite X3 (Image credit: Windows Central)

HP Elite x3

If you have family and friends looking for a big, beefy and powerful Windows phone, the HP Elite x3 might be exactly what they need. Rocking a 6-inch QHD AMOLED screen, 4GB RAM, 64GB of Internal storage and a Snapdragon 820 processor, you won't be starved for specs with this handset.

from $799 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Surface Book

2-in-1's are all the craze this year, so why not get someone one of the best ones on the market? The Surface Book offers high-end performance in a slick and unique design that will turn heads wherever you go.

$1649 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

HP Spectre x360

HP easily takes the crown for best laptop of 2016 with its updated Spectre x360. With a super-thin, all-metal design and convertible form factor, along with excellent specs that won't disappoint, the Spectre x360 is the best laptop available this holiday season.

from $1049.99 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Razer Blade Stealth

If you're looking to get someone a laptop that has a bit of flair to it, the Razer Blade Stealth might be an excellent choice. Designed by gamers, for gamers, the Blade Stealth is an ultrabook rocking the very latest from Intel, with powerful specifications and the ability to turn into a full gaming laptop with the Razer Core.

from $999 Buy Now

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift is one of best VR headsets on the market right now. Offering a good set of features for a reasonable price, the Oculus Rift is a great buy this holiday. What's more, it should gain additional functionality next year with Windows 10 and the Windows Holographic platform.

$599 Buy Now (opens in new tab)


Hitman is arguably one of the best, underrated games that game out this year. Available for Xbox One, PS4 and PC, Hitman is somewhat of a reboot on the franchise, released episodically, and provides hours of fun.

$59 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2 builds upon the universe first introduced in the original Watch Dogs, with the same awesome hacking capabilities but with a more millennial stance. A great, open-world 3rd-person game for the masses.

$49 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Xbox One S

Xbox One S (Image credit: Microsoft)

Xbox One S

It isn't really the holidays without a new console in the house. The Xbox One S is the best gaming console on the market this holiday, offering excellent gaming performance in a slim, sleek body. What's more, with 4K HDR support for movies and TV, you can't go wrong with an all-rounder device.

$299 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Vector Watch

Looking for a smartwatch that lasts? Make sure you check out the Vector Watch, a smartwatch that lasts over a month on a single charge! Sync it with your phone, whether that be iOS, Android or Windows Phone, and give your wrist some smart functionality.

$199 Buy Now{.cta .shop .no-cart.nofollow}

Microsoft Band 2

Although discontinued, the Microsoft Band 2 still offers amazing health tracking for those looking to get fit in the new year. With support for all three major platforms (iOS, Android and Windows Phone), this is a buy that will work no matter what phone they use.

$165 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Microsoft Wireless Desktop Mouse / Keyboard

This is my favorite keyboard and mouse set. It's wireless, clean and simple, and provides an excellent typing experience on any PC.

$35 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Jumbo Toblerone

Why get a chocolate bar when you can get an oversized chocolate bar for comedic purposes this holiday? Toblerone offer a Jumbo Size bar, that's a whopping 4.5kg making that enough for the whole family, and then some.

$89 Buy Now (opens in new tab)

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • We only use Windows 10 for testing purposes on a PC, a laptop and a tablet.  Our daily use machines remain Windows 8.1.  We hate W10, without reservation. There is no way I would EVER recommend the Lumia 950 to anyone.  My wife and I both have one (I use my 1020 as a daily driver and tolerate the 950 for testing purposes).  We express nothing but anger and frustration at the crappy 950 daily. I think the HP Elite is just a downright ugly looking device.  Boring and ugly. I can't see wasting money on a Surface Book.  I have a Surface Pro 3 and my wife has the SP4.  We love them.  They did NOT cost as much as the SB and I can't see a need for ever going back to a laptop.  Especially that expensive.  Similarly, I'd never recommend the other laptops. There's just nothing about VR/AR that entices me yet.  I don't care about novelty apps, I'm not interested in using VR just for the sake of VR.  The VR experience in games just isn't enough for me to throw away $500-$600 on a big, bulky, UGLY set of goggles.  Make them  a LOT smaller and get them under $100, then I might be interested.  Until then....I'll pass. I only do PC games and, even then, only FPS type games.  Even within that category, I'm very selective.  Titan Fall, Day of Defeat, Elite Dangerous Horizons, Call of Duty. My wife and I were fooled to believe the Xbox One was a worthwhile purchase.  And it was, for about a year.  Then Microsoft completely ruined it.  The things we wanted to use the Xbox One for we can now do on our smart TV.  We don't have a 4K TV (and there's not much content we're interested in that's in 4K) so nothing about wasting $300 on a One S in addition to the $500 we wasted on the original is attractive. Smart watches have never interested me.  I carry my smartphone with me everywhere and my SP3 ALMOST everywhere.  I am a scuba diver, so I wear an actual dive watch all the time.  So, I can't see a valid reason to get a smart watch. I nearly laughed aloud at the suggestion of the Microsoft Band 2.  Band is dead.  My wife had a Fitbit Charge HR and now has the Charge 2.  Awesome device and the app is decent.  Sadly, Microsoft has yet to deploy the server to actually support notifications on it from the Windows platform.  Again, I look at these things the same as a smart watch, so I have no need, and my wife is VERY happy with the Fitbit. Which brings me to the ONLY thing on the list I am interested in and/or would recommend.  The Microsoft keyboards and mice are generally very good.  These days, however, I ONLY recommend Bluetooth versions of these devices.  Never the old-school wireless ones.
  • Pessimistic Pete here. Man... :)
  • Any reason you are reading Windows Central? ISheep is that way ->
  • so you use a phone from years ago thats slow and takes 10 min to take one picture ok
  •   Wow. That's the definition of a diatribe. Too bad whatever phone/tablet/desktop system you DO like doesn't have some sort of arrogance-management app. Or maybe you should revisit the original Bambi: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." [sic] Our household does very well with Windows 10, it's installed on four machines here. Of course W10 is not perfect, but it works great for us, and we would never want to go back to Windows 7 or 8.1. Every OS and device has its pros and cons, we each pay our money and make our choice. But I'm mystified as to the nature of your diatribe against what the author wrote in the article...entirely NOT constructive or helpful in any way. As for mobile phones, the best I've ever owned is my current Lumia 950 running Production builds. While it is true that W10M is far from perfect, it is at LEAST as good as any Android OS ever released, and these days with iOS becoming less and less reliable, and iPhones becoming more and more boring, W10M on a quality handheld like the Lumia 950/950XL is 100% viable, and far more engaging and interesting, than the current offerings in the Apple or Android camps. Like most households, we have at least one of everything (Windows, iOS, Android), so we do have valid basis for comparison & comment, fully recognizing that it's just our opinions, not facts.
  • Why are a lot of your articles redirected to the browser and not available via the app?