Go-Go Gadget: Best Portable Electronics for Teens

Top Gadget Picks for Older Kids and Teens

Board games and wooden horses are so analog. These days, it’s the digital stuff that rules the roost, including the hearts and minds of kids. Still, navigating the minefield that is today’s gadgets can be tough for folks not well-versed with what whippersnappers consider “cool” these days. To help you navigate these treacherous lands unscathed, I’ve put together a list of portable gadgets that are sure to make those rotten young scoundrels — er, wonderful children — shriek with glee. Without further ado, here are my top portable gadget picks for older kids and teens.

For gift ideas for younger children, you can also check out our previous Kids’ Electronics Guide.

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast
Google's Chromecast device. Google

 ​It’s all about media streaming these days and Google’s Chromecast is an affordable alternative to get your streaming on at just $35. You can “cast” content from YouTube Netflix and other sources via your phone, tablet or laptop straight to your TV in a few easy steps, making it easy to catch up with your favorite videos while making older folks feel, well, old. I know I do.

Apple iPad

If there ever was a sure thing when it comes to a gadget that’s universally liked by kids and teens as well as boys and girls, it would be this one. Chalk it up to a wide selection of apps that cater to kids of all ages as well as the ability to browse online and stream video. Add the “cool factor” associated with Apple products and you’ve got a recipe for success when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of young folk. The main drawback? It’s freaking expensive, which brings up that age-old debate of whether kids should be given such lavish presents. Buying an iPad mini or the older iPad​​ 2, helps cut costs a bit.

Also consider: Apple iPod

Is the Apple iPad too pricey for your tastes? Then you can get an iPod instead. The iPod Touch, which is like a miniature iPad can still be expensive so the iPod Nano and Shuffle are potential options as well.

Sony PlayStation 4

PS4 Remote Play on PC and Mac
PS4 Remote Play on PC and Mac. Sony

After eating a healthy dose of humble pie at the beginning of the last console generation, Sony learns its lesson by focusing on games and gamers for the PlayStation 4 while Microsoft gets hoist by its own petard after stumbling out of the starting block. The result is a stint back on top of the console mountain as PS4 builds a huge lead over the Xbox One, also making it the system of choice for console gaming teens. Do note that there will be two versions of the PS4  with the release of a new model with beefier specs.

Also consider: Xbox One

Microsoft’s console might be second place this time but it still has loyal followers. These include people who like exclusives such as Forza or are committed to their existing Xbox Live account and gamer tag. I also personally love the Wii U and 3DS but I’d hold off until the release of the Nintendo NX to see how those particular chips fall. Otherwise, PC gaming is also hot right now but you’ll need to spend a bit more for a decent computer for games. On the plus side, you get better deals for PC games.

Astro A50 Gaming Headset

Astro A50
The Astro A50 gaming headset. Jason Hidalgo

So your kid or teen already has a gaming system? How about taking that to the next level with a gaming headset? One of my absolute favorites is the Astro A50, which is a premium headset that sounds great and looks cool to boot. I especially recommend getting the Xbox One version even if you don’t have an Xbox One. That’s because it also works with the PS4, PS3, PC, and Mac but it also comes with the special cable required for the Xbox One should the person you’re gifting, too, decide to get one in the future. It will also work with the Xbox 360 but you’ll need a special cable for that as well.

Also consider: Skullcandy SLYR 

For a more affordable option, the Skullcandy SLYR provides great bang for the buck. Otherwise, there’s competitor Turtle Beach’s offerings or even Sennheiser for true-blue audiophiles.

DJI Phantom Quadcopter

DJI Phantom
The DJI Phantom quadcopter. DJI

Gaming headsets are especially popular with teen gamers, allowing them to not only listen to their game’s audio but also talk to other gamers via the attached mic. Skullcandy’s wired SLYR is an affordable headset that still churns out pretty good audio. An included mixer also allows users to plug in a different headphone if they wish, which is a pretty neat feature.

Also consider: Turtle Beach Ear Force XP400, Astro A30, Afterglow Universal Wireless Headset. For full reviews on these other headsets, check out our Gaming Headset Roundup

Amazon Kindle

Unlike most of the gadgets on this list, this one has the least downside from a parental point of view because it encourages what’s typically considered a positive activity: reading. Getting an E Ink version of Amazon’s e-reader line also means your child will be looking at a medium that emulates the look of paper as opposed to an LCD screen that causes eye fatigue more quickly. Purchasing an older line like the Kindle Keyboard also saves money, though it doesn’t have a built-in light for indoor or night reading.

Also consider: NOOK GlowLight Plus

A lot of Amazon's E Ink competitors have since fallen by the wayside after the rise of the tablet sector. One alternative that continues to keep chugging is Barnes & Noble's NOOK like, which includes an E Ink alternative with the GlowLight.