Buying the perfect holiday gift can be tricky — especially when it comes to gadgets. Luckily a panel of tech bloggers and Abt Electronics are teaming up to help you make the right decisions.
The panelists include Ars Technica’s Chris Foresman, WGN’s Marcus LeShock and Nancy Loo, the RedEye’s Elliott Serrano and Chicagonista.com’s MJ Tam.
Sure, a holiday gift can range from a $30 stocking stuffer to a brand new flat-screen TV. But not all gifts are created equal.
On the low end are peripherals and gift cards. Anyone with an iPhone or an iPod can use an iTunes gift card to buy music or apps. And if they have an iPhone 5 or the newest iPods, they’ll need one of Apple’s Lightning to 30-Pin adapters. They cost $30 each, but they’re necessary to use any old accessories like car chargers or iPod docks.
Tablets are sure to please as a higher-end gift, but make sure you get the right one.
Nancy Loo said that she loves her brand-new iPad Mini ($329), but she already has an iPhone and other Apple devices. Elliot Serrano has an Android phone and was better served by Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet ($199) — $130 cheaper than the iPad.
Chris Foresman and Marcus LeShock both praised Apple TV ($100), especially since the device can wirelessly stream music and videos from iPhones and Apple computers to HDTVs. Google doesn’t have a competitive solution, but streaming products like the Roku HD ($60) can help bridge the gap.
iPods have been a popular gift for years, but make sure that the person you’re buying for actually needs one before you give it to them.
"I love the design of the new iPod Touch," Chris Foresman said "It's beautiful, but I just don't have any use for it."
Thanks to his iPhone, an iPod just isn't necessary. Likewise, the new iPod Nano might be good for kids or fitness geeks, but many people already have a phone that can play music just fine on its own.
Digital cameras are a tricky gift these days thanks to smartphones, as well. While a $150 point-and-shoot digital camera was a no-brainer gift a few years ago, the increased quality found in smartphone cameras means that many casual photographers are leaving their dedicated cameras at home in favor of the ones already in their pockets.
When asked if she was interested in a separate camera, Nancy Loo shrugged and said "no, I have my iPhone."
Photography enthusiasts will still love a DSLR though, which offers vastly superior image quality and interchangeable lenses. Canon’s EOS Rebel T3i ($650) is a fantastic entry-level DSLR which offers phenomenal photo quality as well as very respectable video recording capabilities.
Finally, there are the truly expensive gifts like TVs and laptops. A decent 46” LCD TV now costs less than $1000, and can completely revolutionize your living room if you’re using a smaller or older TV set. Laptops like Apple’s MacBook Air line and the newest Windows 8 Ultrabooks are a tremendous upgrade from older laptops, but run more than $1000.
Ultimately, all of the panelists agreed on one thing: buy gifts that your recipient will want, not what you want. Ask for a list and be a careful listener, and you’re guaranteed to make your loved ones’ holidays that much better.