Class of 2016

Grad gift guide for tech lovers

There's a lot of tech out there to sort through when you're thinking about graduation gifts. Why not relax and let the experts handle it for you? Here are our favorite picks for the loved ones in your life.


Amazon Kindle 2011 with Special Offers, Wi-Fi

Product review:

CNET rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (Very good)

The good: The entry-level Amazon Kindle 2011 is a compact, lightweight and ultra-affordable e-book reader with a crisp e-ink screen and Wi-Fi. It offers access to a massive catalog of books, magazines and newspapers via's familiar online store, plus online loaners from your local library. The Kindle can hold hundreds of books and the battery lasts for weeks.

The bad: The lack of a touch screen means that input is limited to a cumbersome directional pad and virtual keyboard. There is no support for audio. All accessories -- including a cover and an AC charger -- cost extra. You need to spend an extra $30 if you don't want the ad-supported Special Offers version.

The cost: $79

The bottom line: The entry-level Kindle is an ideal choice for anyone seeking an ultraportable and super affordable no-frills e-ink reader.


Apple iPad, third generation

Product review:

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: Apple's new iPad includes a stunning new screen, matched by a quad-core graphic processor and the world's largest app and media store to feed it content. There's a proper 5-megapixel rear camera now, with 1080p recording quality. Optional 4G data from AT&T and Verizon afford an uncompromising mobile experience.

The bad: The new iPad is slightly heavier than last year's model; apps and movies optimized for the screen might take up more space; and ports for HDMI, USB, and SD require adapters.

The cost: $499 to $679

The bottom line: With a host of improvements -- faster graphics, 4G wireless options, a better camera, and a gorgeous high-res screen -- the latest iPad cements its position at the head of the tablet pack.


Motorola Droid Razr Maxx

Product review:

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)

The good: Despite a beefed-up battery, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx has a slim, attractive and durable design with the same gorgeous display, 1.2GHz dual-core processor and fast Verizon 4G/LTE data speeds as its predecessor, as well as powerful multimedia chops and tight security features.

The bad: For such an advanced smartphone, the vague promise of a future Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update is disappointing. Also, while a stronger battery is great, it's still not user-removable. People with small hands will find it hard to wrap them around the phone's wide frame, and the 8-megapixel camera is unimpressive.

The cost: $199.99 to $299.99

The bottom line: The Motorola Droid Razr Maxx proves that a powerful Android superphone can remain thin yet still promise marathon-worthy battery life. If you can live without Ice Cream Sandwich and have big hands, the Maxx is extremely compelling.


HP Folio 13

Product review:

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The HP Folio 13 has everything that matters most in an ultrabook: very good battery life, an excellent backlit keyboard, all the requisite ports for mobile use and a very comfortable feel, along with a competitive entry-level price.

The bad: The Folio 13 is no looker compared with other ultrabooks, and is a bit thicker and heavier than thin laptops such as the MacBook Air. The clickpad's just a bit too finicky for our tastes, too.

The cost: $899.99 to $1,379.99

The bottom line: When it comes to Windows ultrabooks, the HP Folio 13 is the best of the bunch in terms of performance, price and ergonomics, provided you can live with a less-than-razor-thin design. This laptop is targeted at small businesses but it's really for anyone who wants a reliable ultrabook that isn't a MacBook Air.