5 gifts for the hard-to-please Mac user

What do you get a Mac user for Christmas? A new Mac would be nice, but that can bust your budget. Here are 5 thoughtful gifts for the deserving Mac user.

Here are 5 quick tips.

Backup

Most people still don't backup their Mac, even with the ease of Time Machine. But Time Machine can be painful for heavy Mac users.

Almost any backup software is better than none, but set-and-forget software is the simplest. Carbonite is available in many office supply stores if you must have a box. But I recommend Backblaze and Crashplan to my friends.

About $50-$60 online.

USB 3.0 hub

USB 3.0 is very fast and handy for connecting all kinds of USB devices from keyboards to small storage arrays. Macs are traditionally under-endowed with USB ports, so a hub is a handy add-on.

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I've tried several USB 3.0 hubs and not been satisfied until I tried the Inateck 7 port USB 3.0hub. Its Mac-like slim aluminum case is stylish and functional, but I'm most impressed with its flawless performance.

My favorite USB 3.0 hub. About $40.

Thunderbolt dock

Thunderbolt is the ultra-fast channel built into most Macs from 2011 on. A dock can offer a variety of interfaces, but most offer USB 3.0 and Ethernet plus either audio and HDMI or eSATA and FireWire.

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I prefer the latter for long-time Mac users because they probably have FireWire and eSATA peripherals. I've tested a couple of docks and found the Akitio Thunder Dock to be fast and flexible.

About $200 online.

USB 3.0 portable SSD or hard drive

Everyone can use more storage for photos, music and videos and USB 3.0 makes it easy to add. USB 3.0 is faster than any single disk drive and most SSDs.

I've seen 1TB hard drives for as low as $60 online, but expect to pay $80-100 for a portable 2TB 2.5" hard drive. SSDs cost from 50¢-$1 per gigabyte, depending on capacity.

USB 3.0 mini thumb drive

Apple charges a premium for SSD capacity, so all too many are bought with a measly 128 or 256GB capacity. An easy way to expand capacity is with a SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.0 64GB drive.

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The thumbnail-sized drive has a curved bezel that barely protrudes from any laptop so it can be installed in seconds and left on permanently. It's not as fast as an SSD, but for $35-$50 online it's got great price/performance.

The Storage Bits take

With the exception of the Thunderbolt dock, all these products will work for PC notebook users as well. Spread the Christmas cheer around!

Comments welcome, as always. What would you add to this list?

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