Holiday Cheer for $200 or Less
It can be hard to find the right present for that geeky someone special. To help, we’ve uncovered some great gift ideas for the tech nerds in your life--whether the designated recipient is a tablet obsessive or an old-school record collector. Best of all, each gift here can be had for under two Benjamins.
Force FX Lightsaber
Every year it seems to get a little easier to indulge your lifelong fantasy of being a Jedi. The Force FX ($118) is the latest and greatest in Lightsaber technology. With realistic reconstructions of the film's most famous models and a replicable glowing blade, the Force FX Lightsaber can do everything a real lightsaber can do--short of...you know...actually cutting things.
Who it's good for: The Jedi Padawan in your life.
Amazon's bargain-basement tablet has been selling like hotcakes, and it's not hard to see why: Selling for just $199, the Kindle Fire one of the cheapest tablets you can buy. Our reviewer had some issues with the tablet's hardware, but--considering its ties to Amazon’s Kindle bookstore and to Amazon Prime's video streaming--the Fire is hard to turn down at this price.
Who it's good for: Your friend who orders everything off Amazon.
While the mindless herd stampedes after the latest and greatest phone on the market, why not shake things up a bit by going old-school for the free-thinker on your list? The $110 Steampunk Telephone, a fully functional replica of an 1892 telephone with an operational hand-cranked generator handle, harks back almost to the days when Alexander Graham Bell still needed Watson. Appearances can deceive, though--this phone has multiple modern conveniences, such as a hidden redial button and volume controls.
Who it's good for: Tech geeks who are still into the vintage look.
Skyrim Collector’s Edition
The $149 collector's edition of Skyrim, Bethesda's hot new Elder Scrolls game, comes with a ton of great extras: an art book, a making-of DVD, a map of the land of Skyrim, and even a statue of one of the game's many Dragons. That's in addition to the game itself, which offers hundreds of hours of addictive gameplay. The set makes a great gift for a friend as long as you're fine with never seeing them leave their house again.
Who it's good for: Fantasy fans and PC gaming nuts.
Radio Controlled Mario Kart
If you want to see the gamer in your life outside every once in a while, maybe you should lure them away from their indoor toys with this Radio Controlled Mario Kart ($119). And the next time your giftee wants to fire up a quick game of Mario Kart, have them fire up this fully functional RC car instead.
Who it's good for: The gamer who needs to get out more.
If you have a dedicated TV fan in your family, consider getting them the Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650. The name may be a mouthful, but what it does is quite simple. Hook it up to a computer and a cable connection and the DCR-2650 acts like a DVR for the computer. Priced at $149, this little device enables users to record all of their favorite shows straight to their hard drive for viewing later.
Who it's good for: Your friend whose TiVo is always full.
Das Keyboard Model S Professional
Among a number of advantages that mechanical keyboards have over traditional models, they can help the user type faster and more accurately. Our personal favorite is the $129 Das Keyboard Model S Professional. One caveat: the Model S uses a Cherry MX Blue Switch that makes a noticeable clicking sound. If the person you're buying for prefers the satisfying tactile feedback without the noise, we recommend springing for Razer's $140 BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth Edition.
Who it's good for: Gamers and other precision computer users.
LG LSM - 100 Scanner Mouse
Speaking of powerful peripherals, the LG LSM - 100 Scanner Mouse ($137) is an optical mouse with a handy extra trick up its sleeve. Switch modes on the mouse, and it becomes a 300-dpi handheld scanner. Dragging the scanner mouse over an image or document produces a high-quality scan that the user can save in almost any imaginable file format.
Who it's good for: Anyone who needs to digitize old documents.
Bamboo Create Tablet
Get the artist on your holiday gift list Wacom's Bamboo Create Tablet. The Create ($199) is the largest tablet in Wacom's introductory Bamboo line of drawing tablets. Though it lacks some of the more expensive extras available on the more-expensive Intuos tablets, its large drawing area and 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity give the Create enough power and responsiveness to exceed the needs of most artists.
Who it's good for: The budding artist in your family.
Rogue SR2 Watch
Retailer Tokyo Flash offers a number of bizarre and interesting watches, but topping our holiday wish list is the $159 Rogue SR2. The SR2 uses the gaps in concentric rings of LED lights to report the time. The gap in the inner ring specifies the hour, while the gap in the outer ring indicates the minute. Surprisingly, the SR2 is one of Tokyo Flashes easier-to-read watches; for hardcore esoteric timekeeping, consider the $99 Pure LED, which uses a coded set of flashing LED lights to represent three different units of time. But even if you give the relatively intuitive SR2 as a gift, be sure to include the instruction booklet.
Who it's good for: Your geeky friend who's never on time.
Crosley Spinerette USB Turntable
If you have a friend who has a huge vinyl record collection and doesn't want to lose the tunes, consider giving them this Crosley Spinerette USB Turntable ($143). Though the only way to experience LPs in their native format is by spinning the wax on an analog platter, this turntable is a great way to transfer rare or out-of-print recordings onto a computer.
Who it's good for: The tech-savvy record collector.
SeV Revolution Plus Coat
The SeV Revolution Plus Coat is great for gadget-obsessed geeks who never have enough room for their smartphone, portable gaming device, laptop, tablet, and...whatever else they're carrying around this week. The Revolution Plus Coat ($199) has 26 separate reinforced pockets along with SeV's "Personal Area Network"--a wire management system that lets your headphones run safely and efficiently through the coat.
Who it's good for: Your friend who has too much tech and too few pockets.