Last-minute gift ideas, courtesy of the experts at Consumer Reports

Still trying to think of the right holiday gifts for family, friends and other people in your life? Well, you want to buy something that ties into the person’s interests or hobbies. You want something that’s reliable, safe and recommended by a good source. And you want something that fits in your budget.

To match all those criteria, consider the venerable Consumer Reports and its 2016 Holiday Gift Guide, which breaks down products by different categories to make it easier to pick out the right gift.

CR’s Gift Guide suggests presents for people who are into technology, those who like to cook or just eat, and those who like home appliances. You’ll also find categories based on who you’re shopping for and how much you want to spend. You can browse each category to view the top picks, along with brief descriptions, price and where to purchase.

Since it doesn’t accept advertising, Consumer Reports has long enjoyed a reputation as an impartial and independent judge of the best products on the market. So following its advice seems like a good way to pick out just the right gift for people who aren’t always easy to shop for. So let’s peruse the gift ideas CR suggests by category to see if it takes some of the challenges out of holiday shopping.

Gifts for tech lovers

Personal technology is a hot category and one that CR has filled with a variety of gift ideas. Under the category called “The Gift of Tech,” CR has served up recommendations on everything from headphones to to computers. Here are some the many gift ideas:

1) The Phiaton BT 100 NC headphone is available from Amazon for $100. Offering very good sound quality and noise-canceling technology, this headphone sits in place securely through a collar that fits around your neck.

2) The Sonos Play:5 (2015) wireless home speaker is sold by Amazon for $465. The speaker delivers very good sound, is simple to set up and can provide audio for a medium to large room.

3) The Apple TV (32 GB) (4th Gen) streaming media player is available from Amazon for $150. The latest version of Apple’s set-top box comes just in the nick of time for the holidays. It offers a speedier processor, a touchpad remote control and support for the Siri voice assistant.

4) The Amazon Echo wireless speaker is sold by Amazon for $180. Using a voice assistant known as Alexa, the Echo is a speaker system that resides in your home to provide news and weather, play music, order products online and control smart home appliances. Alexa can respond to your questions and commands, perform specific tasks and connect to Amazon’s cloud-based services.

5) The Lenovo Ideacentre 700 all-in-one 24-inch computer sells for $900. This one is a “lightning-fast desktop computer,” according to CR, with the power to help you edit videos and provide ample storage with its 1 terabyte hard drive.

6) The Epson Expression Premium XP-830 inkjet printer, scanner, and copier will cost you $104 at Amazon. This device offers a touchscreen display along with a feeder for copying and scanning documents. You can also send paperless faxes via your computer.

7) The Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone goes for $650 at its full retail price. Outfitted with a 5.1-inch screen, Samsung’s latest flagship phone offers a 12.2-megapixel rear camera, healthy battery life and a water-resistant glass body. The base model comes with only 32GB of on-board storage, but you can up that to more than 128GB with the right microSD card.

8) The Apple Watch Series 2 (38mm) Aluminum case smartwatch runs $470. Apple has updated its smartwatch series with new features, most notably ones geared toward fitness buffs. The watch is now water-resistant up to 164 feet, includes built-in GPS to track your jogs and lets you share your workout details with other people.

9) The Microsoft Surface Book laptop starts at $1,499 at Walmart. Equipped with a detachable screen that transforms it into a tablet, the base model of Microsoft’s Surface Book offers a 13.5-inch touchscreen display, an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. Those specs provide a hefty amount of power, but you can upgrade the processor, memory, and storage to truly beef up the machine. The Surface Book is ideal for photo and video editing, said CR, while the included Surface Pen helps you draw and take notes easily and precisely.

10) The Apple MacBook 12-inch MF855LL/A computer goes for $1,200 at its base configuration. Outfitted with a 12-inch Retina display, this model features a speedy Intel Core M 1.1GHz processor, 8GB of memory, a 256GB solid state drive and Intel HD Graphics 5300 graphics. A weight of only 2 pounds and 16 hours on a single battery charge are icing on the cake. The one item missing is an optical drive, so you’d have to buy an external drive if you need to use a CD or DVD.

Appliance gifts

Home appliances may not always be sexy, but they can certainly come in handy to help your gift recipient better take care of the home, more easily tackle housework, and cook up tasty meals more quickly. Here you’ll find everything from robot vacuums to microwaves to cookware to coffee makers. Some of the gift ideas include:

1) Samsung POWERbot SR20H9051 Series vacuum cleaner sells for $1,000. This robotic vacuum earned a top score from CR because of its ability to effectively clean both carpets and bare floors. The Samsung product’s edge brushes serve nicely to clean along walls, while the unit’s squared-off front helps it clean corners better than most of the competition.

2) The Roomba 880 vacuum cleaner is a less pricey robot vacuum than Samsung’s model, selling for just $500. The Roomba 880 was CR’s top pick before Samsung’s vacuum debuted and is still highly rated for its ability to clean both carpets and bare floors. And since it’s only 4 inches tall, this Roomba excels at cleaning under sofas and other low-ceiling objects.

3) The Samsung MC11H6033CT microwave oven goes for $300. Equipped with a convection mode, Samsung’s microwave can brown and crisp food better than rival units. The unit earned good grades for its ability to heat and defrost food evenly. You can even use it to bake a cake.

4) The Swiss Diamond Reinforced 10 piece #6010 kitchen cookware sells for $500 to $600. For that price, you get 8-inch and 9-inch frypans, 1.4-quart and 2.2-quart saucepans, a 3.2-quart saute pan, an 8.5-quart stockpot, and glass lids. The cookware is made of cast aluminum and offers nonstick coating.

5) The Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker starts at $22 at Amazon. Available in five different sizes and various colors, the Bialetti Espresso Maker impressed Consumer Reports as it’s found in the homes of almost 90 percent of Italian households. The design ensures that heat is distributed evenly and that the two halves are easy to connect.

Gifts for teens and ’tweens

Looking for a present for your son, daughter, nephew, niece or someone else in the younger crowd? CR serves up some suggestions here, such as the Apple MacBook 12-inch MF855LL/A computer,  the Apple Watch Series 2 (38mm) Aluminum case smartwatch, and the The Lenovo Ideacentre 700 all-in-one 24-inch computer. Other ideas included the $99 1MORE E1001 Triple Driver headphone that offers
“excellent sound quality” and comes with nine different earpieces in various sizes, the $350 Braven BRV-XXL wireless Bluetooth speaker that’s rugged enough to take with you on outdoor excursions, and the $200 Fujifilm FinePix XP90 digital camera equipped with a 6-megapixel lens, a 2.9-inch LCD, and 5x optical zoom.

Gifts for moms and dads

Find it harder to pick the right gift for your parents each year? CR’s suggestions may just help narrow down the choices. For mom, the magazine recommends Apple’s iPhone 7 starting at $650, the Fitbit Surge fitness tracker running for $250, and an iCoffee RCB100-BC12 coffee maker for $105. For pops, you may want to consider such items as a Garmin Vivosmart HR fitness tracker for $119, an LG OLED55E6P 55-inch 3D-capable OLED Ultra HD TV for $3,165, or a $600 Nikon Coolpix P900 digital camera.

Gifts for grandmas and grandpas

Looking for the right present for your grandparents? Some ideas from Consumer Reports include the Amazon Kindle Oasis WiFi e-book reader for $289, the $92 Clarity BT914 cordless phone with built-in answering machine, and the $40 Hunter QLS-03 portable humidifier.

Gifts that best fit your budget

Sometimes you’re seeking the right present for a family member, relative, friend, co-worker, or even just a casual acquaintance and don’t want to spend too much. CR’s gift ideas include items under a certain price if you’re working with a specific budget.

Don’t want to spend more than $200. Consider such items as the $150 Apple TV (32 GB) (4th Gen) streaming media player, the $180 Asus ZenPad S 8.0 Z580C-B1 (32GB) tablet, and the $120 Brother MFC-J680DW all-in-one inkjet printer. For less than $100, you can snag a $60 Bell Draft Mips bike helmet for bicyclists, a Krups 2-Slice KH732D50 toaster for as little as $40, and a Ninja Personal Blender for $75.

Need to go even cheaper? CR’s gift ideas under $50 include a Cuisinart CastLite Non-Stick 10-inch CIL22-26R kitchen cookware for $35, a Cuisinart Power Advantage HM-50 mixer for as little as $33, and a Scosche SportClip 3 headphone for as low as $28. And finally, if you don’t want to shell out more than $25 on a gift, check out the $22 Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker, a bag of Blue Bottle Three Africans coffee beans for $15, and the Proctor-Silex Cool-Touch 22203 toaster for a little as $16.

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