Give the gift of geekery
If you’re still scrambling for the perfect gift for the PC fanatic in your life, this list of last-minute gift ideas can point you in the right direction, whether you’re shopping for a hard-core PC gamer or just someone who spends most waking hours glued to a desktop monitor. Our picks are cheap, small enough to fit in a stocking, and guaranteed to put a smile on the face of PC aficionados.
If you’re shopping for something a bit more extravagant, however, check out our list of gifts for extremely wealthy PC fanatics. Such posh PC paraphernalia might be a bit more difficult to find in stores, but, hey, if you’ve got thousands to spend on a high-end gift, you can probably spring for express shipping.
Gunnar glasses are “advanced computer eyewear” designed specifically for people who spend all day staring at glowing computer screens rather than the great big glowing ball in the sky. Gunnar says the glasses increase contrast, decrease glare, and reduce eyestrain—in other words, they’re a perfect (and stylish!) gift for office jockeys and hard-core gamers alike.
The MLG Phantom line targets the gaming crowd, sporting a lightweight frame that can easily accommodate headsets. You’ll find other styles—including ones with a less gamer-centric focus—in the same price range. Know a near-sighted PC nerd? Gunnar glasses can even be fitted with prescription lenses, though those don’t exactly fall into the last-minute-gift category.
$72 at Newegg
Spotify gift card
More than 20 million active users while away the hours bobbing their heads to Spotify’s on-demand tunes. So if the computer geeks in your life are still using Spotify’s free service and suffering its oh-so-annoying “Upgrade now!” ads, why not get them some Spotify gift cards so they can do just that?
A $60 card will buy an entire year of Spotify Unlimited for ad-free music streaming on PCs, or six months of Spotify Premium if your loved ones like to listen with their mobile devices when they're away from the desktop. Smaller denominations are also available, and these gift cards are even available at Target, making them easy gift to grab while you’re out doing your last-minute shopping.
$10, $30, or $60 at Spotify
Razer Naga MMO mouse
Just ask any World of Warcraft fanatic: When it comes to MMORPG mice, gamers want as many buttons as physically possible, because more buttons mean more one-touch macros, and more one-touch macros mean less fumbling with controls when a Level 80 battle gets hot and heavy. The Razer Naga offers 17 buttons, with 12 located near the thumb for fast access to abilities and spells. It’s ideal for the PC gamer who thinks the average gaming mouse with its 10 buttons just doesn’t cut it.
Underneath all the gaming gimmicks is a solid mouse with a high-precision laser sensor and fast response time. It’s not wireless, but that’s a good thing in gaming—a wired mouse gives the fastest response times possible.
$80 at Newegg
Razer Nostromo gaming keypad
Is a keyboard really the best gaming peripheral? Keyboards are designed to be used with both hands, which doesn’t make sense if a gamer’s other hand is constantly on the mouse.
Enter the Razer Nostromo gaming keypad, which takes the place of the keyboard in a gamer’s nonmouse hand, offering 16 programmable keys and an eight-way directional thumb pad. This is no mere space saver, either. Gamers can store up to 20 different profiles for different games and switch between them on the fly; and buttons can be bound to macro combinations of unlimited length.
$60 at Amazon
Hurricane 2 Canless Air System
Canned air may not be a sentimental gift, but it’s an essential tool in every geek’s toolkit, perfect for blowing away dust hiding in keyboards, computers cases, and camera equipment. Unfortunately, standard cans of compressed air are laden with chemicals, and aren’t refillable, so anyone who uses a lot of compressed air has to buy new cans on a regular basis.
Then there’s the Hurricane 2 Canless Air System, a rechargeable device that blows a chemical-free blast of air at more than 200 mph for 12 minutes on a single charge. The $99 sticker price is a bit steep, but a single can of air can cost $5, so the savings will add up quickly for the lucky recipient.
$100 at ThinkGeek
We were thinking of recommending a game in this list, but choosing a specific title really depends on the specific someone you're buying for. What, then, does every PC nerd—whether a gamer or a productivity guru— need more of? Memory!
Even if the geek in your life is already running a beefy rig, you can never go wrong with the gift of RAM—assuming, of course, that you buy a large-capacity kit (to replace the existing RAM entirely) or that you know the timing and frequency specifics of the person's current RAM (to supplement the existing supply). Memory modules easily slide into a stocking, and, even better, RAM is cheap: Single 2GB sticks can cost less than $10 if you shop around, while beefy quad-channel 16GB kits start at just $70.
The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-size computer that can run Chromium OS, Android, and various Linux-based operating systems. You can also transform the pint-size PC (and its 1080p video capabilities) into a full media center solution with Raspbmc, an XBMC-based Linux distro.
The Raspberry Pi was created to help teach programming to kids, so this can also be an educational gift for the budding geek in your life. Either way, it’s a cheap little computer that can be molded for many different uses, from media center to lightweight PC to programming platform. The sticker price for the ethernet-equipped Model B version is $35, but it’s back-ordered for months through official channels. However, you can pick one up much faster through Amazon, albeit for around 60 bucks.
$35 at Allied Electronics
Cyborg R.A.T. mouse
Unlike many gaming mice—which let you map only specific commands and macros to individual buttons—software isn’t the only customizable aspect of the R.A.T. Its hardware is customizable, too. You can swap out the palm rest and pinkie grip, adjust the thumb rest, and even customize the weight of the mouse in order to mold the R.A.T. 9 into the perfect-feeling mouse for your specific anatomy and tastes.
The wireless R.A.T. 9 comes with two batteries and a charger. If all this power management is a concern, consider the Cyborg R.A.T. 7, which rocks the same basic build as the R.A.T. 9—6400 dpi, six programmable buttons, and a customizable design and all—but swaps out the cordless capabilities for a braided USB cable.
R.A.T. 7: $100 at BestBuy.com
R.A.T. 9: $150 at ThinkGeek
Corsair Vengeance 2000 Wireless 7.1 Gaming Headset
A wireless headset offers greater mobility than its wired counterpart. The Corsair Vengeance 2000 won't tether you to your PC when you’re talking to your friends or even just listening to music—though you'll want to be careful not to sling these cable-free cans across the room when you lose a close-fought frag-fest.
Rated at 10 hours of battery life, the plus-size 50mm drivers in this headset will keep your chosen gamer immersed in 7.1 simulated audio channels during the longest of gaming sessions. Even better, the Corsair Vengeance 2000 can be used while charging, meaning the action doesn't have to pause just because the batteries give up the ghost.
$100 at Newegg
USB LED Beverage Cooler
Does the computer geek in your life constantly gulp down canned, bubbly beverages? This mini-fridge connects to a PC via USB to keep your cans chilled long after you've yanked them from the maxi-fridge. Just swap in a new can whenever you pull the old one out, and you’ll have a never-ending stream of refreshing drinks, making the USB LED Beverage Cooler the perfect accessory for epic gaming or coding sessions. The calm blue glow of the internal LED even makes your can look cold.
$25 at ThinkGeek