Toys for tech heads and their sprogs
Christmas is just a mere 130 or so sleeps away, and anyway, it not being Xmas doesn't mean the toy-buying needs to stop! Here are the best playthings for 2016.
If you're looking for a birthday present, coming-home-from-the-dentist present, or random surprise, T3 has you covered, with awesome robots, futuristic transportation and even a 3D printer (of sorts), this is the ultimate round-up of all the tech your kids (or partner, or you) would love to play with.
Ubtech Alpha 1S
The Ubtech Alpha 1S is one of the most advanced robotic toys we’ve ever seen. With 16 servo joints which can move with high precision, Alpha 1S can perform some very complex actions.
The bot is programmed from a smartphone app, and also ‘finger friendly’ for young robo-enthusiasts.
The Aluminum alloy structure and ABS housing means this thing is well built and can take a bashing, but the for the price - that’s exactly what you’d expect.
Lego Volkswagen Beetle
If you take one thing from this feature, it's that you can NEVER go wrong with Lego. This year is a vintage year for the plastic-block-pushers, with a plethora of film and entertainment franchises to choose from. How does Star Wars, Dr Who, Spider Man and Jurassic World sound?
Not good enough for you? The Volcano Exploration set is tipped to be massive this year, as well as the Technic Porsche 911.
Our favourite is the model Volkswagen Beetle (pictured above). The replica is packed full of details, from the rotating 4-cylinder engine, to the VW printed badge, and tiltable seats.
- Want more Lego inspiration? Check out our favourite Lego sets of 2016
Finding Dory Zuru Robofish
A tie-in with what will no doubt be one of the biggest films this Summer, Robofish expert Zuru has created an official range of Finding Dory related toys.
Robot fish are even more low maintenance than real fish - there’s no need to feed them, clean the tanks, or stroke them to sleep every night.
The robofish begin swimming when they sense water, and have a battery saving feature where they ‘sleep’ after one minute of activity. Simply tap on the bowl to get them swimming again.
You can buy eponymous Dory, Nemo, Marlin and new character Bailey - as well as playsets such as Dory’s coffee pot and the Marine Centre.
Of course, you can also get the characters individually and just make bath times more fun.
Rubik’s Cube Spark
The Spark is a reimagining of everyone’s favourite cube based puzzle. This too is cube shaped like the original, but unlike the original it doesn’t rotate, instead it uses sensors, lights and sounds to create games, and is controlled by tilting and turning.
If you want a deeper explanation as to how it works you’ll have to buy one and read the instructions, because we’re not really sure beyond our limited understanding.
The Rubik’s Spark features five game modes, each with 26 levels, meaning this can cater for all ages and skill levels.
The best way to explain Anki Overdrive is that it's a mix between Scaletrix, but with the freedom to have any track layout you want, and a mix of virtual and real-life Mario Kart.
The other way to explain it is to simply say it's just about the best toy you can currently buy.
This battle-racing game is a mix of video game and toy, where physical cars use virtual weapons to take first place. The cars are controlled from a smartphone app, and you can compete against friends and family, or AI rivals. There's even a campaign mode to keep you entertained.
The cars run around the track, but unlike Scaletrix they're not limited to slots, and are free to move where they want
The Anki Overdrive Starter Kit comes with two cars and 10 track pieces. Expansion packs vary from £9.99 to £49.99.
Price £150 | Buy Anki OverDrive
Playmobil Pirate Combat Ship and App
The ever-popular, only intermittently bloodthirsty Playmobil pirates sail again, this time on a new combat ship with an optional underwater motor for navigating the high seas – or a paddling pool.
This - wahey! - 'flagship' product is sure to be a big success, but we were more interested in the toymaker’s smartphone game launching later this year. The appcessorie's little bubble pack set includes a pirate figure with a cannon that launches rubber tipped missiles, controlled via the companion, Android/iOS app on your smartphone.
The app shows the combat ship bobbing about on screen and when your touchscreen registers a direct hit, the ship is damaged, and eventually sinks. It’s Playmobil’s first foray into smart gaming and it looks like it could be - wahey! - 'bang on target'. Ho ho.
Meet Nocto, the bat with ‘battitude’. This characterful little toy has over 50 interactive features, six different moods, four game modes, expressions, sounds and movements. It can play music, and also detect intruders in your room with protect mode.
BB-8 Droid from Sphero
It's no secret, we love the BB-8 Droid, it's a lovable little remote control droid from everyone's favourite iPad-controlled-ball-makers Sphero.
This is one of the coolest toys we’ve ever seen, even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, this little droid has great character. It’s simple to control, everything works well, and most importantly, it’s fun.
A recent update to the BB-8 allows you to tinker with the code, making this fun AND educational.
Be careful with the slightly fragile antenna, however, or there may be tears before bedtime.
Price £105 | Buy Sphero
Amazon Fire Kids Edition Tablet
If you're fed up of parting with your precious, fragile and expensive iPad in order to entertain your children, the Amazon Fire Kid Edition Tablet is a perfect alternative.
It's not some crummy Fisher Price tablet, it's a fully fledged latest-generation Fire tablet, with an 7-inch IPS display, 8GB storage, and quad-core processor.
Obviously, Amazon has added a little extra protection in the form of tough and durable casing to protect against bumps.
The tab also comes with a subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited, providing access to thousands of books, TV shows, educational apps and games.
Perhaps best of all? The devices comes with a two-year warranty, where Amazon will replace it, no questions asked, including if your offspring breaks it by jumping up and down on top of it.
Price £99 | Snap one up from Amazon
Technology Will Save Us
Technology Will Save Us is the perfect present for tech addicts young and old alike. The idea is brilliantly simple: it's a range of DIY gadget kits, allowing you to make a handheld gaming device, automatic plant waterer and, soon, a kids' activity tracker.
The kits aim to get kids interested in technology and engineering, filling the gap between Lego and PlayStation, but the kits, from speakers to synths, are just as entertaining for adults who love to tinker.
Price from £20 | Buy Technology Will Save Us
Remember when the only thing you could make with Meccano was a rubbish helicopter, which didn't really represent a helicopter? Well, it's recently taken a more modern turn, meet the Meccanoid.
This four-foot-tall robot is an advanced toy, it features voice recognition, motion capture, movement programming, and a companion app. It's made of 1223 parts, only requires two tools to make it, and makes uses of eight servos for movement. It'll teach you practical skills in both engineering and programming.
There are two versions, a two-foot model, and a four-foot model.
Price £170 for shortie, £350 for the baller | Buy Meccanoids
Xbox One or Playstation 4
If you have a gamer in your family, who somehow doesn't have the latest generation games console - it's time to get one.
We're not going to tell you which one to get - that'll probably depend on which console their friends have. There are plenty of quality games for both platforms, and both work equally well as media centres.
They're reasonably affordable now, and you should be able to pick up some good deals.
- If you really need help deciding which console to have sitting under your TV, we've got a comprehensive guide here.
Nerf N-Strike Modulus ECS-10 Blaster
Is there anything funnier than waking your loved one from a food-induced coma with a perfectly aimed nerf dart to the forehead? No, there isn't.
The Modulus ECS-10 recreates Call of Duty's Pick Ten system in real life, you can customise the gun, sorry, we mean 'Blaster', to your hearts content. There are more than 30 combinations to create, add a scope for improved range accuracy, a stock for better stability, or a banana clip for more ammo.
The blaster is capable of launching darts up to 90 feet, and there are also optional upgrade sets, such as the Stealth Ops Kit.
Price £50 (extras from £15) | Buy Nerf N-Strike Modulus
- These are the best Nerf guns
Do you want Lego to be more interactive? Well, thankfully Lego Dimensions has just been released. Taking a page out of Skylanders' book, Lego Dimensions features physical mini figures which are playable in the game.
The best thing about Dimensions? Characters from different brands can be mixed, meaning you can have Dr Who team up with Gandalf, Scooby Doo and Batman to fight the forces of evil.
The awesome thing about Lego Dimensions is the new sets they're always bringing out. 2016's offerings include Harry Potter, Ghostbusters, and Gremlins!
Do we really need to give you more reasons to buy it?
A word of warning: have a chat with your bank manager before investing in Lego Dimensions, at £85 for the Starter Pack, and £26 for level character packs, buying EVERYTHING will cost you upwards of £300.
Scalextric Track Day featuring Arc Air
Ever since toy-making legend Fred Francis had the bright idea of electrifying his clunky clockwork slot racing system in 1957, Scalextric cars have been hurtling around their grooved tracks in pretty much the same way. No longer, though: the introduction of app control is a racing revolution.
The new Arc Air Powerbase (available for £75), is a step up from the Arc One launched last year and you’ll find it bundled with the new Track Day set. An Arc Pro with further, premium features is planned for a later release.
The new setup adds wireless. vibrating Bluetooth hand controllers, which really brings the system up to date, at last. Perhaps more significantly, it brings your iPad, or Android device into play, with an app that allows you to configure your car and throttle, or create adverse weather conditions to race in.
Select a wet track and the cars will run slower, for instance, and if a random race incident occurs, all cars will have to limp to the pit stop. It does this by reducing power to the track, so there’s no chance of anyone cheating. So put that thought from your mind.
Price Preorder for £199, out October | Scalextric
Parrot Mini Drone Hydrofoil
FACT: drones are fun. And drones that fly and float are double fun.
Parrot is the class-leading purveyors of cheap-but-not-too-cheap drones, offering the excellent Bebop Drone, and the more affordable, stocking-friendly Mini Drone range.
One of the newest additions to the Mini Drone family is the Hydrofoil, which is equally at home on water and in the air.
Top speed is an impressive 11.2 mph in the air, and 6.2 mph (5.4 knots) on the water. You can control it from an Android or iOS phone, and the battery phone lasts seven minutes.
Unlike more expensive DJIs, you won't be in tears if it crashes to the ground, although you'd still be quite upset, admittedly.
Price £130 | Buy Parrot Mini Drone Hydrofoil
SAM Labs Science Museum Inventor Kit
We’ve seen educational electronic kits that help you build circuits before (like littleBits for example), but this system removes the physical connectors and takes the process on-screen.
Run the app on your laptop at the same time, and you can link the various Bluetooth components by clicking on their icons, rather than physically joining the circuit - the effect is the same.
Join a switch, with an 'actuator' such as an LED and you can turn on a light. Add a motion sensor and you have a rather basic burglar alarm. Designing wireless systems using hardware and software is much more realistic way of inspiring budding engineers.
Price: £99 | Science Museum Shop
James Bond Spectre Scalextric
This is the perfect present for James Bond fans, letting your mini 007 re-live epic car chases from the film.
Included in the kit you'll get an Aston Martin DB10 and Jaguar C-X75, two hand controllers, and track spanning 532 cm (including a ramp, side swipes, 90-degree crossover and 180-degree curve).
Price £115 | Buy James Bond Scalextric
These are not, strictly speaking, rocket powered; they run on brushless electric motors. However, they'll still whizz you around for about 10 miles at a faintly terrifying 12mph top speed.
A companion app tells you their charge level (a full recharge takes 90 minutes) and how far you've rocketed on them. Oh, and they light up when they're rolling.
Price £700 | Buy RocketSkates
People are going crazy for two things right now: Minecraft, and wearables. This nifty device combines the two to create the ultimate gift for Minecraft fans. And wearable fans.
The Gameband allows you to take your Minecraft World wherever you go, acting as a physical backup. You can also 'hack your band' so the LEDs will display personal messages, images and animations.
If that isn't enough, it also comes with a fistful of pre-loaded content, including SethBling, Dragoz, and Hypixel. Erm, whatever they are.
Price £62 | Buy Gameband
Air Hogs Millennium Falcon Quad
Drones are all the rage these days, but instead of an expensive DJI or Parrot, why not gift your mini Jedi this amazing Millennium Falcon quadcopter?
Okay, so it probably won't make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, but it does makes authentic sounds, and it's manufactured from durable high-density foam, so it can take a beating.
Do you have a budding David Blaine or Copperfield in the household? If so you need the new Marvin's new kit, which blends traditional tricks and cutting-edge tech.
The kit uses a smartphone and app, to teach you how to perform the trick, and also aids with the trick (displaying the card for example). In no time at all your offspring will be performing nightly on the Las Vegas Strip, hopefully magicking you up a retirement fund.
Price from £23 | Buy Marvin's iMagic
Meet the PIXLs, a gang of six digital key ring creatures that use their 64-pixel displays to express emotions and animations that reflect their individual personalities.
Their 'faces' might not be hi-definition, but that makes designing 64-dot emojis and animations, using the the iPad companion app, all the more fun.
Each PIXL character comes pre-loaded with its own content that you can swap and share by bumping. Metal connectors at the sides make a connection when you ‘bump’ or join them together. Connect them all and you can write scrolling text. Who needs more than 64 pixels anyway?
3D Magic Maker
If you thought 3D printing was expensive, you're wrong. This 3D Magic Maker is for kids, and it's cheap.
Granted, it's not quite the most technologically advanced printer in the world. Its 'UV Creation Station' works in combination with gel pens, allowing you to build up hand drawn structures at about the same speed as stalactites form.
With the 'Under the Sea' themed starter kit, kids get three gels, five moulds, and stencils to create 3D models. We dare say they'll love it.
Price £30 | Buy 3D Magic Maker