Give the gift of touch
If you’re buying a gift for someone who’s recently made the move to Windows 8, your task is actually quite simple this year: Just buy that person a hardware accessory that helps complement (or simplify!) all the fundamental changes baked into the new OS. Whether it’s a touch mouse to take advantage of gesture controls, a touchscreen display built for Windows 8's swipe commands, or a case to protect a brand new Surface RT tablet, there are plenty of accessories and peripherals that make perfect gifts.
Microsoft Touch Cover
If you’re talking about Surface tablet peripherals, the discussion has to start with the Touch Cover. At just 3mm thick, the Touch Cover is incredibly thin, especially considering that in addition to protecting your Surface, it also features a fully functional touch keyboard and trackpad. The cover snaps to the Surface magnetically, and is available in Black, White, Red, Cyan, and Magenta. In our own empirical testing, we found typing easier and faster on the Type Cover (next slide), but the Touch Cover definitely beats a virtual keyboard for data entry.
$120 at Microsoft
Microsoft Type Cover
As snazzy as the Touch Cover is, there comes a time when you need to sit down, marshal all your energy, and hammer out a 5,000 word report. When that time comes, you’re going to want the Type Cover, which offers a full set of traditional keys with real key travel rather than the Touch Cover's barely-there touch-sensitive interface. Though it’s substantially thicker and marginally more expensive, we found that typing on the Type Cover blows away the Touch Cover, in both speed and accuracy.
$130 at Microsoft
Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard
If you want Windows 8 shortcut keys in a spacious, ergonomic keyboard, look no further than the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard. Designed in the same tradition as Microsoft’s classic, wavy ergonomic keyboards, the Sculpt Comfort offers the aforementioned Windows 8 shortcut keys, as well as a re-imagined thumb area, with keys for both space and backspace.
$60 at Microsoft
Xbox 360 controller
Is your lucky loved one a gamer as well as an early OS adopter? Give the gift of an Xbox 360 controller, which works great with Windows 8 pretty much out-of-the-box. Diehard FPS fraggers may stick to the classic keyboard and mouse combo, but the Xbox 360 controller works great with certain genres, such as adventure or racing games.
$37 at Amazon
Surface tablet digital adapters
If your giftee wants to output the video from casual games (or movies, or whatever) from his Surface tablet to a big screen TV or monitor, he's going to need Microsoft's HDMI adapter or VGA adapter to get around the slate's proprietary video port. They cost a whopping $40 a pop, but hey, it's for someone special—right?
Microsoft Wedge Touch mouse
Just because you’re using a mobile mouse doesn’t mean you have to miss out on touch controls. The Wedge Touch Mouse is a super-compact mouse with an original design, and includes support for rudimentary touch controls. It can’t do multi-finger gestures, but the touch-enabled top of the mouse allows you to scroll horizontally or vertically with the swipe of a finger.
$70 at Microsoft
Microsoft Sculpt Touch mouse
Microsoft’s first desktop mouse designed specifically for Windows 8 is the Sculpt Touch Mouse, which prominently features a touch-sensitive strip where you would normally find a scroll wheel. The touch strip allows both vertical and horizontal scrolling (for navigating the Windows 8 Start Screen), and a haptic feedback mechanism in the strip simulates the feeling of turning a real scroll wheel.
$50 at Microsoft
Logitech Touch Mouse T620
Taking the touch mouse concept to the extreme, the T620 features a fully touch-sensitive top plate that can track single- and double-finger gestures. In Windows 8, you can use gestures to open the Charms bar, switch between the Start Screen and the desktop, and more.
$70 at Logitech
Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650
If the search for touch perfection has inspired you to ditch your mouse entirely, then this is the peripheral for you. With a metal body and big, glass touch surface, the T650 can recognize one-, two-, or three-finger gestures, giving you access to touch classics like pinch-to-zoom, as well as a whole suite of new gestures specific to Windows 8.
$80 at Logitech
As Loyd Case wrote in PCWorld's primer on Windows 8 touchscreen displays, there are only three real options for those looking to complement their new Windows 8 desktop PC with a multi-touch monitor, and none will come cheap. First up is the Acer T232HL, a 23-inch 10-point touchscreen with a high-quality IPS panel. A 27-inch version of the monitor will also be available, for $700.
$500 at Acer
Fold-flat multi-touch monitors
Dell’s 23-inch, $650, multi-touch S2340T is mounted on a slick, folding stand that allows the display to stand up, lie flat, or anything in between. It also features a built-in webcam and microphone, as well as stereo speakers and USB 3.0, HDMI, DisplayPort and Eithernet ports.
What, 23 inches of 10-finger-touch goodness isn't enough for your Secret Santa? The Planar Helium 8 is an even bigger fold-flat touchscreen monitor (with a bigger $900 price tag to match), measuring in at 27-inches with an all-glass front surface.
Incipio Surface Sleeve
The market for Surface sleeves is still remarkably empty, with only two major brands currently offering official products (though some non-tablet-specific cases will fit the Surface just fine). The first Microsoft-focused cover, from Incipio, is a pretty standard entry with a Nylon exterior and faux-fur interior. This Surface Sleeve features an exterior zipper pocket and comes in the same selection of colors as the Touch Cover.
$40 at Microsoft
Nixon Surface Sleeve
Nixon makes the most expensive sleeve currently available for the Surface. It only comes in one color—black—but features a nicely-engineered nylon, foam and plush design, along with a neoprene zipper compartment and a stabilizer strap handle.
$50 at Microsoft
Antec XL microfiber cleaning cloth
Windows 8 works best with a touchscreen, but unfortunately, with touchscreens come touch-induced finger smudges. Even if you can't spring for a new mouse, Touch Cover, or finger-friendly monitor for the Windows 8 lover in your life, you can probably afford what might be the most beloved Windows 8 accessory of all: A microfiber cleaning cloth. Antec's soft-touch model was made for use without any potentially harmful chemicals—just pull out the cloth and gently rub the smears away.
$6.95 at Antec