6 great digital geek gift ideas for your 2013 holiday buying frenzy (Gift Guide 2013)

Do you have a geek in your life? Is he or she a computer enthusiast, If so, I have the perfect list o' six digital goodies for you to ponder for him or her.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

I love the holidays and I love buying gifts for people. Funny thing is, though, that I usually buy (or want to buy) others the gifts I'd actually like to get. OK, maybe that's normal. Who knows? I can tell you that if you have a geek in your life, he or she doesn't like the same stuff that regular people like. I happen to be lucky enough to have two geeks in my life: my oldest son and my daughter. They love geeky TV shows (Doctor Who, The IT Crowd, Psych, Archer), they love cool gadgets (iPads, iPhones, or anything electronic and interesting), they love cool T-shirts, they love tea, they love cool music, and they love to read. They're the perfect subjects for my often twisted sense of humor in gifts*.

Digital Choices

It might seem redundant these days to say digital when discussing gifts for geeks but it isn't as you'll see in the Analog Choices section of this post. These digital gift choices are so geeky that the mere sight of one of them will send your geek into a frenzy of clog dancing or wheezing (have an inhaler handy).


SSD. Shaken not stirred.

When you think of the ultimate geeky upgrade, think SSD or solid state drive. They're fast. Really fast. In fact, when your geek sees the SSD, they might yelp or scream, so hold your ears when he or she begins to tear open the wrapping. Hopefully your windows are of the high decibel resistant type.

If you're unsure which SSD to buy, here are a few SSD buying tips for you:

  • The higher the IOPS number, the better.
  • 240GB or 256GB should be the smallest size you consider.
  • Look for high MB/s read numbers.
  • Find out the correct form factor, but it's usually 2.5-inch.
  • Find out which thickness you need for the best fit in millimeters (7.5mm or 9mm).
  • Pricing should be in the range of $1.00 or less per gigabyte (GB).


Chromebook. No chrome. No book. How can they call it that?

Would you be surprised to know that I want a Chromebook for Christmas? I do want one. As for which one I want, that's a bit more difficult. Samsung, Acer, and HP all manufacture very cool Chromebooks. I've seen all three and it's really difficult to make a clear choice among them.

I would say that the HP has the edge because its Chromebook offerings come with 4GB RAM, a standard 16GB SSD, and the standard Celeron processor. Its competition has 2GB RAM but comparable hardware otherwise.

The HP Chromebooks are also very cool in that they come in a variety of colors: sparkling black, turquoise, black, and peach coral, to name a few.

That said, I don't think you can go wrong with any brand name Chromebook model. They're inexpensive, lightweight, require no installable software (everything's web-based), and convenient to use. Prices range from just under $200 to near $400.

Tablet Computer

Tablet computer: Star Trek inspired. Apple perfected.

iPads, Surfaces, Android tablets are all fair game for the geek(s) in your life. Tablets are always a win. I have to be honest when I say that I really like the smaller form factor of the iPad mini. My wife and daughter both have one and it's really the perfect size for a tablet.

My full-size iPad 4 seems a little cumbersome by comparison. And the Surface is borderline because, while it is a tablet, it's also more of a portable, touchscreen laptop. I see it as more than a tablet but less than a full-blown laptop computer.

Don't get me wrong here, the Surface is very cool. And by very cool, I mean that college students love them. The small size and silent keyboard is perfect for in-class note taking, library study, and coffee shop collaboration.

If you're on the prowl for an Android-based tablet, I suggest the Samsung brand. Samsung has made a real effort to offer better Android security with its KNOX product and you'll be glad that they have.

My tablet guide (in order of preference) is as follows:

  • Apple iPad mini
  • Apple iPad
  • Microsoft Surface
  • Samsung Android-based tablet
  • Other Android tablets

Digital Video Camera

My Panasonic HM-TA1. Elegant. Cool. And you probably can't have one.

If your geek is an aspiring filmmaker, this is the perfect gift. You can buy digital video cameras for as little as $20.00 and as high as several thousand. There's a camera for the filmmaking geek at every level along the continuum. Your geek will appreciate the continuum reference.

Find out what types of films your geek likes to make before you select, unless you are absolutely bound by budget. If you buy something too high-end, your geek will possibly never use the extra features. If the camera is too far down on the food chain, your geek might be so unhappy that he or she produces video that includes you not at your best. Think first thing in the morning here.

My favorite style of video cameras are the ones that look like cell phones but produce full HD (1080p or better). To find one, go to your favorite site and enter the search term, "digital video camera" and see what pops up.

My suggestion is to buy the camera that your geek would like and then also purchase two or three fast SD cards to go with it. Fast means for video and will have a designation on them such as 40MB/s or 80MB/s. You have to buy SD cards that are fast enough to record smooth video. Trust me on this one. Your geek with thank you for it. They're a few dollars more but are reasonably priced in the range of $0.50 to $1.00 per GB. I recommend the 32GB size.

External USB Hard Drive

External Universal Serial Bus Hard Drive. A bus you can throw me under.

Who doesn't need more space? And who doesn't need a good backup? No matter what type of computer your geek owns, he or she needs a good backup of it. An external USB hard drive is a great present and are very inexpensive.

My suggestions for purchase are:

  • 1TB or larger size
  • USB 3.0
  • Small form factor (just larger than a cell phone)

They're easy to find and generally priced between $60.00 to $80.00.


Ha! Just kidding. A little holiday humor there.

Ultrabook Computer

Ultrabook. So cool. So thin. So Envy-ous of those who have one.

An ultrabook is actually a trademarked name owned by the Intel Corporation, but it also describes a computer's form factor. These computers are not the same as Chromebooks. Ultrabooks are full-blown laptops that are very thin and lightweight. Think Macbook Air, HP Envy, Acer Ultrabook, ASUS VivoBook, or Lenovo IdeaPad.

There are other models and manufacturers from which to choose but these are the models that come to mind when I say, "Ultrabook".

Ultrabooks come in a variety of sizes from 11" screens up to 15.6". Macbook Air comes in two sizes: 11" and 13". The price in this group of computers varies widely from $200.00 to near the $2000.00 mark. Many have touchscreens and all come equipped with SSDs.

The best way to buy is to take your geek to an Apple store and to other retailers to see which models he or she gravitates to. It's also allowed to come right out and ask, "Which is your favorite"?

These are my digital choice suggestions for your geek. Any geek worth his or her weight in Big Bang Theory quotes will enjoy receiving any of the aforementioned hardware to enhance the digital geek experience.

What digital gifts are you asking for this year? Talk back and let me know.

*I'm known for cool gifts. In fact, there's a long story that's now fodder for family humor that involved my wife's and my fifth wedding anniversary and an antique wooden accordion. Long story shortened: The fifth wedding anniversary is wood and I thought she loved accordions, so I gave her what I thought was the perfect gift. It wasn't.

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