Sure the title is hyperbolic but this geek gift ideas slash guide slash list gets out of hand at the end. I’ve tried to include a range, but I know there will be some major eye rolls out there. It’s going to be ok. Loosen the laces on your corset and get over yourself because I’m already over myself. And yes, this corset is very tight*. Also, I know this is a craven, materialistic post, meant to cause people to spend money and click the many many many Amazon affiliate links that are present in this post. Even if you don’t buy any of these items for somebody (or yourself… why not? you’ve earned it!), if you are going to visit Amazon anyway, why not support this site and click a link to head over? Holiday spirit right there. Done. Plus, you’ll get great parking next time you are in a pinch.
Jackery Giant 10200 mAH Portable High Capacity Battery
For the road warrior or student who needs to charge a phone, tablet or any other USB device and still have emergency power, I can’t recommend the Jackery Giant device enough. This mini brick can charge both an iPhone and an iPad simultaneously. For the iPad, you have to use the 2.1 amp port, but it will get the job done in a pinch. Of all the nerd travel items I need, this one is the first to get charged and packed. For $39, you can’t find a better deal on a portable battery than can charge an iPhone from dead 2.5-3 times. It has an LED flashlight built in as well. Great for finding that pesky outlet under or behind the hotel bed.
Monoprice Lightning Cable for iOS devices (iPhone 5 and above, iPad mini 2, iPad Air)
Monoprice is where you want to buy every cable for the rest of your life. Yes, it’s cheap. But come on, $40 for a 3ft cable? It’s 2013, people. Robots make this stuff on the cheap. So I’ve heard. I’m recommending two cables that are much longer than the one that comes in your favorite iDevice box. You’ll thank me when your hotel room’s single outlet on the desk is across the room or you want to share an outlet at a coffee shop or airport.
Two options here: 6ft Lightning Cable ($12.91 + shipping) and 10ft Lightning Cable ($13.70 + shipping). Yes, 10 feet. Like I said, you’ll thank me. Get a velcro tie on this sucker and enjoy your organic, free range charging. Comparing the 6 and 10 ft price, that 80 cents for four feet is looking like the deal of the year. Apple charges $19 for that alone. Granted, it would have both tips and be made of the supple yet firm cabling and feel for which Apple is known.
$100 – $500 (no one said loving a nerd was cheap)
Samsung 840 EVO-Series 1TB Sata III Solid State Drive:
Nothing has given new life to an old machine for so little (relatively speaking) than moving away from a traditional hard drive and replacing it with a Solid State Drive (SSD). I started back in 2010 with a 128 GB and I’ve watched prices and bumped it up when the time was right. Amazon has this drive, a Samsung Electronics 840 EVO-Series 1TB 2.5-Inch SATA III Single Unit Version Internal Solid State Drive MZ-7TE1T0BW for $529.
This drive is currently fueling my early 2008 Mac Pro, extending it’s life and usefulness by at least two years. The first boot up might not wow you, but the next 200 will.
If you are installing this into a desktop machine, you might need Thermaltake 3.5 Inch to 2.5 Inch SSD HDD Bay Drives Converter Kit. You can fit this drive into a desktop or other machine, for example, a laptop with a CD/DVD drive that you aren’t using? Some laptops will let you remove the media drive and install a second drive in that bay instead. Note: experts only. You could void a warranty or two, brick your laptop and/or cause a lot of swearing. The desktop install? Easy on older machines.
If one terabyte is too expensive how about a 120GB SSD in the same line? Too stingy? Then pick up a 250 GB SSD for $169. Maybe you want to go halfway and pick up a 500GB version or a touch further, if 250GB can be called a touch, and spring for a 750 GB version. At $449 for the 750GB one, may as well spring for the full terabyte drive for $529. Trust me, the productivity boost in boot time alone will pay for this drive no matter what size you get.
Sonos is the holy grail of wireless speaker systems. They sound great and have a killer app that works with Spotify, Rdio, iTunes and a bunch of other services. Sonos just came out with a less expensive unit called the PLAY:1 Compact Wireless Speaker for Streaming Music and I want one. Very badly. Along with every other piece of kit Sonos makes. I’ll start here now and in 20 years, I’ll have the rest. Everybody’s gotta start somewhere.
Roku 3 Streaming Media Player
This $99 set top box is the one to get. Yes, Apple TV is probably also the one to get if you have a sizable iTunes catalog and want to watch or listen to media on your TV, but for speed and features, the Roku 3 is faster to start than Apple, has more “channels” than the Apple TV and best of all, the Roku 3 comes with a headphone jack in the remote and earbuds to go with it. That means you can watch your House of Cards and your Orange is the New Black without worrying that small ears can hear some of the words meant for bigger ears. Amazon has this for $88 at time of writing. Boom. Done. Note: you’ll need either a wired or WiFi network to use this, but if you have a nerd in the house, you already have one of those. And you very likely already have a Roku. The 3 is worth the upgrade for the headphones alone.
Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon lens for Canon
This is the insane portion of the guide, so bear with me. We start this section with a $1,850 lens I’ve rented a few times and always had stellar results, the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE Series Lens for Canon EOS Digital SLR Cameras. I’ve never been let down and I’ve shot some of the best landscapes of my life with this lens. Like this set on Flickr:Moab Dec, 2012.
Just saying. I want this lens. Manual focus only, but the Canon version will talk to the autofocus and beep or flash the focus indicator in the viewfinder when the focus point is actually in focus. I didn’t use it on these shots, but it’s a nice feature all the same. Want. Like, every day.
Sony – Alpha 7R, QZ10 and QX100 ($2,299, $249, $499 respectively)
Sony is bringing it hard this year in the digital camera market. First up are two lenses that function as standalone cameras, but are really meant to be used as companions to smartphones, the Sony DSC-QX10:
and the Sony DSC-QX100:
This is the beginning of a great idea: use your camera phone as the controller for a higher end lens. The Sony app that controls these lenses gets so-so reviews, but when I borrowed a friend’s QX10, I was astounded at the clarity and ease of use. Yes it takes a moment to pair, but if you travel and don’t want to lug a larger DSLR or even a mirror less camera with lenses, this is a great way to go. For the serious photographer, the QX100 is a Carl Zeiss lens that is less portable than the QX10, but it’s the one that also has the best images. Plus, Sony has announced that it has created an API to let developers create new or adapt existing apps to control these and other Sony cameras. The coolest use so far is getting angles on shots that would be very difficult with a traditional camera by holding the lens in one hand, your phone in the other and you start to see all kinds of angles that you might not otherwise see. This is a bleeding edge gift, to be sure. And expensive. Better really like/love that special someone to get them this. And they better like/love you right back. You will need an extra battery, a micro SD card and patience, but your work will be rewarded.
On the super insane high end is Sony’s Alpha 7R Full-Frame (Body Only) mirrorless camera. This is not a toy, but a serious camera that moves thinner, smaller mirrorless cameras into pro territory. It’s the first serious contender to dethrone DSLRs and the price shows it.
at $2,299 US for the body only, this one isn’t for the faint of heart. However, like the other Sony offerings, if your shutterbug is clamoring for a nicer rig but doesn’t want the weight of a DLSR, the Alpha 7R is looking very good at half the weight of a Canon 5D Mark III. If you want to see super nerdy examples, head over to DPReview.com and play with the drop downs to compare this camera to a long list of other cameras, including more expensive, heavier units. Yes, you will have to throw down another wad of cash for a lens, but the 24-70mm Zeiss lens is a steal at $998 US when you compare the price of Canon’s version of the same lens. $2,199! Who are they kidding?
That puts this gift in the $3k range. If you are a woman buying this for a man, he better do a ton of dishes and laundry for a good long time if this is under the tree. He also should spend a higher than average time doing “basement work”.
*note: Corset not actually being worn. Corset does not include AA batteries or come with requisite counseling for trauma-induced concern trolls. You know who you are. Holidays can be rough. This is meant to be fun and possibly helpful for potentially difficult partners whose nerd shit is confusing, yet is the very thing you love them for. Yes, the previous sentence is horrible. Actually, this whole paragraph is horrible. Strike it from your memory and join me in the now.