LOS ANGELES — You've gotten out your checkbook, or more likely, your credit card and are ready to start buying tech gifts for loved ones. We decided to offer an assist with our take on 10 of the gifts people are talking about the most. First, the bad news: the top three are going to be a very tough score. The good news: the other seven should be easy to find.
The 2013 Hot List:
1. Apple's iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina. The bigger screen iPad Air — lighter, thinner and cooler than its predecessor — ships in 5-7 business days and starts at $499. This year's version of the iPad Mini — now with a brighter and sharper Retina display and a heftier $399 price tag — sold out quickly when first released in November. Apple now says the Mini will be delivered within 5-10 business days when you order from the company's website.
Tip: You can order online at apple.com and pick up in an Apple retail store. On Black Friday, Apple is offering free shipping.
2. Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4. Microsoft's and Sony's rebooting of their gaming systems-meet-entertainment center have sold out with initial sales of 1 million each, but online reports suggest some stores have units in stock.
Tip: If a video game console is on your must-have gift list, check nearby stores for details on when their next shipments arrive. That might help you snag one instead of paying higher prices on sites like eBay.
3. Laptops. Ask the average student and you may get a request for a MacBook Air, which starts at $999, but if you're looking for something more affordable, many Windows 8 laptops are way more reasonably priced.
4. Chromecast. The most economical tech gift of the year? Look no further than the Google Chromecast, which beams YouTube, Netflix, HBO Go and Hulu from your smartphone or tablet to the TV. Cost: just $35.
5. Roku 3. Roku is a market leader in bringing Internet streaming to the TV. The Roku 3 box, $99, offers 750 "channels," including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Vimeo and others. And it has the coolest remote we've ever seen — truly wireless, with a built-in headphone jack so you won't disturb others in the house.
6. FitBit Force. The latest edition of the wristband monitor lets you track your steps, miles and sleep habits. It is easy to set up, and communicates via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet. Best of all, the battery charge lasts a week.
7. Sonos Play One. Remember when we used to string speaker wire all over the house to bring music to additional rooms? No longer, thanks to companies like Sonos, which makes portable audio systems that connect easily and wirelessly, and churn out Internet music from channels like Pandora, Spotify and your iTunes library. The new Play One is the smallest, most affordable Sonos speaker, at $199.
8. Nexus 5 phone. Here's one of the lowest priced, most full-featured smartphones to date. Google's Nexus 5 phone sells for just $349. With the Nexus 5, you're not locked in to a two-year contract, as the phone isn't subsidized when you buy it from Google's online Google Play store.
9. Canon Powershot SX280. Yes folks, we still need cameras for great photos, even in the smartphone era. Pictures on the iPhone and Galaxy S4 are great, but you can't zoom in on the action, the flash is poor and there are limits for how long you can shoot a video. With the $199 SX280, you get a whopping 20X zoom, which will bring you way closer to the action, and you can put in a big fat memory card and not have to worry about running out of space. And the camera has Wi-Fi, just like a smartphone, so you can share directly from the camera to social networks and e-mail.
10. Philips Hue Connected Bulb. Want to impress your friends? Pick up the new $199 Hue system and adjust the lights in your home not with a dimmer but via a smartphone or tablet. Want to turn off the lights without reaching for the switch? The Hue can help you with that, and turn on automatically in the morning as well. Forgot to turn on the lights before you left home and want to keep snoopy burglars away? No problem — reach for the app from anywhere, and flick them on.