Give Great Gifts Series
Our guides to help you out with. . .
What gift do you give someone who loves technology and gadgets?
If you’re anything like us, gift giving is stressful. Whether it’s for a birthday, the holidays, or a special occasion, finding the right gift is hard. That’s why we’ve put together guides to help out based on the type of person you have in mind. These gifts can be used for your partner, parents, friends, kids, or anyone who you want to thank.
To come up with this list, we first talked to the people who fit the mold. In some cases, these are personal recommendations, since the area is one we are interested in. In other cases, we started with a broad list of items, then used numerous online and in-person reviews to zero in on the product being recommended. All of the items can be found on Amazon, and links to their product page will be included.
We’ll start first with something that’s become more popular over the last couple of years: DIY electronics and gadgets.
The company SparkFun Electronics has been around for more than a decade providing inspiration and support, while also creating custom parts in their distinctive red color. To help DIYers get started, they offer an Inventor’s Kit that is based on the popular Arduino Uno microcontroller. If none of that made sense, just know that this kit provides both the components and an experiment guide, plus instructions on how to download, install, and setup the development environment necessary to program the board.
It’s a great gift for kids who are exploring robotics for the first time, as no soldering is required. A solderless breadboard and jumper wires are included, and the board can be powered using a USB port on a laptop or computer. This also makes it a great gift for adults (like us) who keep hearing about building electronic toys and want to figure out what it’s all about.
The next step in building electronic projects is a soldering iron. This Weller Soldering Station is nicer than the basic plug-and-go models as it has adjustable heat and replaceable tips. The included stand also provides a safe place to set the iron between components plus a sponge to wipe the tip. There are more expensive irons out there, but this is a good gift for those who are just starting out in the hobby.
Products from Amazon.com
These products are some basic components that are useful for prototyping and simple projects. Nothing flashy, but it can certainly be used to create some new items. These can be used in both the Inventor’s Kit as well as for soldering on to pass-thru-hold boards. These are good gifts to build out someone’s component collection and reduce the frustration of circuit redesign because of part limitations.
The honest truth is that other than the components above to replace their stash, those who have been working for a while have preferred tools, components, and everything else. If you don’t know what their current project is, you might just be best off offering them gift cards. Not the most glamorous of gifts, but sometimes cash is the biggest limiting factor for someone’s next project.
Products from Amazon.com
Price: $16.99Was: $23.99
Price: $9.60Was: $19.99
When you have a lot of small items or bags of tiny items, it’s hard to keep track of everything. An easy solution is clear storage containers, preferably ones that stack. The Iris USA brand makes their clear containers in the USA and are affordable. They make great gifts to help organize hobbies and projects around the house. Since they secure shut and stack, it’s also easy to arrange them in a way that keeps them accessible. So if your partner’s stuff is spilling out into the rest of the house, this might be the gift for them.
There are some items that can’t easily be built at home, but are still enjoyed by technology enthusiasts.
If you give the gift of a mechanical keyboard, we can’t promise they’ll love you, but you’ll bank some brownie points. We use the Corsair K70 Mechanical Keyboard at home all the time. What separates a mechanical keyboard from the $15 store brand one is the switch under each key. A mechanical keyboard has an actual switch you press with each stroke, and it responds in a manner entirely different from other keyboards. Oddly enough, they have come back into use after falling out of favor for decades. The new ones are quieter than the click-clack of the old IBM keyboards, but have the same performance. The version here uses a switch that is quiet but has feedback so you know when the stroke has traveled far enough. If your giving the gift to a gamer, you might look at versions with Red or Speed switch, though we’ve never used the second one.
This selection might show our preferences rather than the market, but the point is that more expensive isn’t always better. This basic mouse from Logitech might still be wired, but it’s precise enough for gaming or graphics illustration, and can switch between those tasks with little difficultly. It’s a nice gift for someone who’s still using a desktop or keeps their laptop on a desk. Like most gaming products today, it does have LEDs built in to provide lighting effects. But it can be turned off using the Logitech software. This is the mouse we use for everything today.
We don’t read nearly as much as we used to. Between smartphones and laptops, it’s so easy to pick them up to check Twitter than it is to dig out that book you started a couple of times. So for those of us who default to an electronic device when we get five minutes of peace, an e-reader can help. The Paperwhite is the cheapest of the three high-resolution readers from Amazon, but it still provides the same crisp display as its more expensive siblings.
Products from Amazon.com
Roku Streaming Stick | Portable, power-packed player with voice remote with TV power and volume (2017)Price: $39.99Was: $49.99
While Amazon and Google both have their own dongles that bring content to your TV, the Roku is widely considered the best experience. Besides the interface for the TV, there are apps from both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The Roku allows you to stream content from numerous subscription services like MLB.tv, Netfilx, Hulu, Amazon, etc. It also has a number of free streaming services for things like PBS Kids, major news channels, and YouTube. The three version differ in terms of resolution support and extra features. The basic Roku Streaming Stick will stream an HD signal, while the Roku Ultra will provide 4K content like the Roku Streaming Stick+, but has both a microSD slot as well as a ethernet connector, just in case your Wi-Fi can’t handle the bandwidth of 4K content.
There are a lot of options out there for tech toys, and we didn’t cover things like R/C vehicles, drones, 3D printers, and others. This is mostly because we don’t have much experience with those items and don’t feel comfortable making recommendations. They also make good gifts, though they are pricier than many of the other items on this page. We also love cameras, but sites like Camera Labs and DPReview are much better equipped to handle those. Plus, those can be huge investments and are more of a gift for a family or household than for a single person.
If you have any other suggestions, please leave them below in the comments.