I know people who were finished their holiday shopping before Labour Day. I don’t pretend to understand how their minds work, and I try not to openly seethe at them, but they exist, and more power to them.
But if you’re one of those (dare I say “normal”) people who has yet to complete their shopping – or perhaps has yet to start it – I’m here to help.
Our annual gadget gift guide has become a mid-December staple, but every year I struggle with trying to recommend different sorts of gifts for different sorts of folks. Who am I to know what sort of gadgetry your mom might like, or your grandpa, or your Aunt Marjorie and her 17 cats? (Actually, get Aunt Marjorie the PetSafe Electronic Pet Feeder. It’s $70. She’ll love it.)
This year, I’m just going to tell you what I want. Is that self-indulgent? Maybe. Does it mean recommending stuff that skews towards the higher-end, perhaps more male-oriented side of the spectrum? Probably. But I promise you that if you have a gadget-lovin’ giftee on your list, there are some good ideas here.
And if your name happens to be Santa... I’ve been a very good boy this year.
“Ultrabook” is a made-up word to describe a new breed of Intel laptop computers that are really thin, light, surprisingly powerful and have great battery life. Given a choice, I’d go with either the functional Toshiba Portege Z830 ($1,149) or the gorgeous and even smaller Asus Zenbook UX21 ($1,199).
Sonos Wireless Hifi System
Sonos speakers ($449 for the PLAY:5 or $329 for the smaller PLAY:3) connect to your home Wifi network and let you stream tunes from your digital music collection, Internet radio stations, music services like Rdio and more. It’s pricey, but it’s the single most elegant way to get music off your computer and into your home.
Apple’s devices aren’t the be-all and end-all of gadgetry, but they make dang fine gifts: cool, fun, and with downloadable apps for nearly ever possible interest, from bird-watching to space-invading. (As in, shooting virtual aliens. Pew pew pew!) The iPod Touch starts at $199, the iPad 2 at $519 and the iPhone 4S at $649.
Caanoo game emulator
The GP2X Caanoo ($169.99 US via Thinkgeek.com) is a dream machine for video game nerds, particularly those who have been around a few years (ahem.) With a bit of know-how and downloadable software, it can be used to play thousands of old-school arcade and console games. A Colecovision right in my pocket!
Olympus PEN digital camera
Olympus releases a new model of the PEN micro four-thirds digital camera every year, and it immediately replaces the previous year’s model as my favourite high-end point and shoot. The 12.3 megapixel Olympus PEN E-P3 ($899) has insanely fast auto-focus and great picture quality, so if you can’t capture photographic evidence of Santa’s existence with this thing, you might as well stop trying.
LG 55-inch LED TV
I used to swear by plasma HDTVs, but now I’m drifting back to the LCD/LED camp of television technology. The 55-inch LG 55LW5600 ($1,799) is one I’d ask Santa for – super thin, great colour and blacks, and it does “passive” 3-D, meaning lightweight, inexpensive glasses. Great for watching the best Christmas movie ever: Die Hard!