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Holiday Gift Guide: Cool Tech for Teens and College Students

Not sure what to get your teen or college student for the holidays? Check out Re/code's gift guide for some of our favorite tech picks.

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

This is one segment of Re/code’s four-part 2014 Holiday Gift Guide, consisting of products and services hand-picked by our reviews team. Each segment is aimed at a different type of gift recipient you may have on your list.


“Kids sure do grow up fast.” You hear that a lot when you’re a parent, but it still doesn’t prepare you for that moment when you realize your young child is now a young adult. One day you’re driving them to preschool; the next, they’re getting their driver’s license. This gift guide is dedicated to picks for that teen or college student in your life. While they might have grown out of Elf on a Shelf, they certainly won’t tire of getting awesome presents.

Cool for school

Getting a gift meant to help with schoolwork might not seem like the most fun or exciting thing in the world, but it can be incredibly useful. Secretly, your kids will thank you.

 Lenovo Yoga 2
Lenovo Yoga 2
Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

Perfect for a student is the Lenovo Yoga 2 (11-inch) laptop. This versatile Windows PC convertible features an 11.6-inch touchscreen that can flip 360 degrees, so you can use it as a laptop or an oversized tablet. It’s not the most powerful machine, but it’s perfectly capable of handling email, document creation, browsing the Web and watching video. It’s also one of the more affordable models on the market, with a starting price of $570.

Back in my day, when I had to take notes in college, I used a pen and a paper notebook. Now, most lecture halls are filled with a sea of laptops. But there are still situations where pen and paper might come in handy. The Livescribe 3 offers just that, with a digital twist. It’s a real pen that when used with special notebook paper digitizes your handwritten notes into an iOS app. Livescribe can also convert your handwriting into type, and can record audio to sync up with your notes. The downside of the Livescribe 3 is that it’s on the pricey side, at $150, and the pen is quite large.

Call me maybe

For the tween who is begging for a smartphone, the Moto E is a good starter model. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the latest iPhones or Samsung Galaxy models. For example, it doesn’t have a front-facing camera and it’s 3G only. But it does feature a five-megapixel rear camera and a 4.3-inch touchscreen, and it runs Google’s Android operating system — a nice step up from a feature phone. The Moto E is sold without a contract for $129, and works with AT&T and T-Mobile.

 Moto E
Moto E
Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

Older kids will probably appreciate something a little more advanced like the iPhone 5c. It comes with a 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, an eight-megapixel rear camera and 4G support. The iPhone 5c is available from all four major carriers for free with a two-year contract, and comes in a variety of colors. With the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, last year’s iPhone 5s is also cheaper now, with a starting price of $99 on contract, and includes things like a larger, sharper touchscreen and fingerprint scanner.

Fun toys for Generation Selfie

For your selfie-loving, Snapchat-obsessed kid, the Olloclip smartphone camera attachments make a great gift. These add-on lenses add fun and different perspectives to photos, such as fish-eye, macro for extreme close-ups and wide angle. They range in price from $50 to $130. A caveat — they’re only compatible with iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5, the iPad mini and iPad Air.

 Olloclip
Olloclip
Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

Meanwhile, for the outdoorsy, adventuresome kid, the entry-level GoPro Hero 4 action camera is a great way to capture their thrills and spills. It’s capable of recording 1080p video at 30 frames per second and five-megapixel still images. The camera is also waterproof up to 131 feet. While this is the cheapest GoPro yet at $130, the camera usually requires a smattering of accessories for shooting footage, so that may be something to consider as an extra stocking stuffer.

For the future coder

 Kano
Kano
Kano

While there are some who are content to enjoy their tech as-is, there are others who want to know what makes the machines tick, and for them, DIY kits like Kano ($150) are a good option. Kano provides tools to build your own tiny computer (note: you will need to provide your own monitor) and teaches you how to code.

Kano is best suited for kids in their early teens or younger, but for the older crowd, there are more advanced kits like Raspberry Pi, Intel Galileo and Spark Photon available for less than $100.

Tuned for music lovers

Taylor Swift, One Direction, Wiz Khalifa — whatever your kids might be listening to these days, these audio accessories can help enhance their listening experience while getting motivated for a soccer game, studying for an exam or ignoring parents.

 Mini Jambox
Mini Jambox
Jawbone

At $170, the Beats Solo HD is the most affordable on-ear headphones in the company’s lineup, but still offer the signature style and bass-heavy audio Beats is known for.

Meanwhile, the Mini Jambox by Jawbone ($130) is a stylish portable speaker that pumps out an impressive amount of sound for its size. It’s perfect for listening to tunes while hanging out with friends on the quad, or even for a small bedroom/dorm room.

For a more affordable option, the $50 JBL Clip rechargeable Bluetooth speaker is a solid alternative. It also produces good sound and it has a built-in carabiner, so you can easily hook it onto a backpack.

For the kid who has been really, really good this year

 Sony PlayStation 4
Sony PlayStation 4
Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

Finally, for the kid who has never been on the naughty list, a new game console is the ultimate gift, and it’s something you can all enjoy together. I liked the Sony PlayStation 4 better than the Xbox One. It had a sleeker design and better interface. But the ultimate decision may come down to which system offers the best games and entertainment apps for the recipient’s needs, so you may want to do some snooping around — if he or she hasn’t already dropped hints already. Both the PS4 and Xbox cost $400, but you can get the latter for $350 through Jan. 3.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.