The holiday season is officially here! Tech has a few helpful hints for when, where and how you should buy this year's best gadgets. Here's what you need to know:
USA TODAY's Jefferson Graham put together a list of the tech gadgets that are sure to pop up on many wish lists.
Here are a few highlights:
— iPads: Apple leads the pack in hot tech products this season. The iPad Air starts at $499, and the new iPad Mini starts at $399. But if you want to buy either tablet, now is the time. Apple says it takes up to 10 business days for shipping.
— Roku 3: This is a great gift for anyone looking to cut the cable cord and go online-only. The streaming box offers over 750 channels, including Netflix and Hulu Plus, and it's a relatively cheap investment at $99.
— Philips Hue Connected Bulb: The Hue system, which starts at $199, lets you control your light bulbs from a smartphone or tablet app.
If you're looking to get cool tech gifts for your friends and family without doing too much damage to your bank account, here are a few suggestions, courtesy of Jefferson Graham:
— Cheapest tablets: If you want a cheaper alternative to the iPad, Barnes and Noble's Nook tablet starts at $129 for the HD tablet/e-reader, and you can often find better deals. Google's popular Nexus 7 and Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX both sell for around $225.
— Cameras: If you have a family member who is a thrill-seeker, consider buying them an entry-level GoPro Action Cam. The GoPro Hero 3 starts at $199 and can attach to a helmet, surfboard or skateboard and takes pictures that will automatically upload to a smartphone app.
Video gamers will have a tough time this holiday season choosing between the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. USA TODAY's Mike Snider weighed the pros and cons of both video game consoles, which launched in mid-November.
The PS4 has a few exclusive titles, including the upcoming Uncharted game from Sony-owned studio Naughty Dog. But the Xbox One has a deeply integrated media center, with TV listings, video apps and more.
So which one should you get? Snider says that it comes down to the Xbox's media center feature — if you like it, get the Xbox. If you don't, get the PlayStation 4.
It should come as no surprise that Amazon is one of the biggest retail sites during the holiday season. But just how big is it?
Bizrate Insights surveyed over 14,000 people and found that 34% of the respondents said they were planning to do their holiday shopping at Amazon, just slightly under the 43% of respondents who said they will shop in retail stores. Over 24% of those surveyed said they start shopping at Amazon, compared to Google at 22%.
Shopping online is faster and easier than shopping in stores during the holiday season, but don't get duped by cybercriminals who target holiday shoppers.
USA TODAY's Byron Acohido has a few tips for how to avoid scams:
— Be wary of unsolicited e-mails from retailers, and avoid clicking direct links from e-mail, Twitter and Facebook. Some have malicious links which lead to viruses.
— Web links that start with https:// are more secure than Web links that start with http://.
— Avoid using a debit card for online purchases — credit cards are often more secure.