Storage gifts for Christmas 2011

Shopping for the geek who has everything? More storage is always welcome. While disk drives are pricey this year due to the Thai floods, other storage products are in plentiful supply with lower prices than last year. Here are my favorite picks.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

One basic tip: more capacity is always better. Don't skimp.

USB thumb drives With sale prices down to as low as $1/GB from almost twice that last Christmas, thumb drives are a thoughtful and thrifty gift. 8GB and larger drives are recommended because they can hold a double-layer DVD worth of content - great for watching movies.

Some of my favorites include

  • Verbatim's tiny Store 'n Stay drives are small enough to remain in a USB port - on a laptop or a car stereo - without getting knocked off.
  • Super Talent's Pico-C drives have a rugged metal case and no cap to lose. They can be clipped to key rings for always handy storage. The gold-plated 64GB is pricey, but makes a nice pendent for a girl geek.
  • Verbatim's Clip-it drives are a colorful paper clip and USB drive in one. Great for adding multimedia content to a paper-based proposal.
  • Search on "novelty USB drives" and there's something fun for everyone: animals, lollipops, sushi, pendents and such. Stocking stuffers?
  • 1st-gen USB 3.0 drives are available and some claim read/write speeds faster than most disks. If your recipient has a USB 3.0 equipped notebook they'll be sure to appreciate the extra capacity and performance. Expect to spend close to $3/GB though for SSD-like speed - more than many SSDs - though lower performance 3.0 drives are close to $2/GB.

SD cards SD cards have replaced CF cards almost everywhere except high-end cameras. Any photographer and most videographers would welcome another high-capacity - at least 8GB - card.

SDHC cards support up to 32GB, while the new SDXC spec goes to 2TB. Currently 16GB seems to be the market sweet spot.

Make sure you get Class 10, which should guarantee plenty of bandwidth even for AVCHD 2.0 video. Some high-end DSLRs benefit from even higher performance cards but those are the exception and not the rule.

Some good bets:

  • SanDisk Extreme SDHC cards claim 30MB/sec R/W speeds and have prices to match. But it should future-proof your gift.
  • MicroSDHC cards can also be a good buy. They usually come with SD card adapters so you can use them in a variety of devices.
  • I'd like a 128GB Lexar SDXC card to add storage to my 13" MacBook Air for multimedia use.

SSDs Nothing perks up an old computer like a new SSD. But SSD quality and performance vary, so stick to name brands with good warranties. Expect to pay about $1.50-$2+ per GB, and more for the largest capacities.

Optical Blu-ray burners have dropped below $100 - I just picked up an LG burner for $70 - and Blu-ray media is also below $1 per disk, which is competitive with the lower capacity dual-layer DVDs. Shop around to get the best prices.

I'll let you know how the BD burner is working out later.

The Storage Bits take This isn't the time to buy disk drives, but the rest of the storage market is healthy with lots of selection and lower prices than Xmas 2010.

Readers: do you have any favorite storage products we should know about?

Comments welcome, of course.

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