Its the time of the year again and here’s a short round up of tech gifts that will bring a bundle of festive joy for your loved ones. The picks here are safe picks that won’t go wrong. Pricey? Yes, but there will be nothing but joy etched on the faces of your recipients. Recommendations here are the cream of current tech.
Smartphones: Samsung’s Galaxy S3, Apple’s iPhone 5
Smartphones are by far the most important second screen to your main computing device. Unlike tablets that represent niche areas of content consumption, a smartphone is something that everyone will need sooner or later. The Samsung Galaxy S3 has hit Singapore by storm. 2 years ago, people were mostly sporting iPhones in public places. This year, the Samsung tide has washed over this island and the S3 has become the most often seen phone being used in public. The S3 is a big reason why Samsung has skyrocketed to become the largest in the industry. For iPhone fans out there, the iPhone 5 will remain the choice. Apple made marginal improvements that were sufficient to make the iPhone 5 competitive against Samsung’s offerings. If you have to get a smartphone, go with the Galaxy S3 or the iPhone 5. You won’t be disappointed.
Special Mention: Samsung’s Galaxy Note II
The Galaxy Note series are a class of its own. It will only fit people who are comfortable with handling large phones. If they are, the Galaxy Note II is by far the best phone on the market currently. Screen estate, productivity options, awesome battery life, a useful stylus and excellent performance puts this phone far ahead both the Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5. But this only applies if you don’t mind handling a 5+ inch device.
Tablet: Apple’s iPad Mini, Asus’ Nexus 7
Tablets are more of a niche device still but are growing in significance slowly. This is mainly driven by the growth of smaller tablets. The 7-8 inch form factor has taken off and with good reason. 10 inch tablets are just too big and bulky to be purely content consumption devices. People expect more from 10 inch giants but 7-8 inch tablets fit nicely in two hands and is light enough to be your third screen. I would recommend Apple’s iPad Mini as the go to device for tablets because of its perfect mix between size and value. The lack of a retina screen is not much of a worry unless your gift recipient already owns a 10″ tablet (if so why bother giving a 7″?). The iPad Mini is perfect for the slightly senior generation as a simple device with a wide selection of tablet optimized apps. Android’s option remains the brilliantly crafted Asus Nexus 7. It has a great form factor (slightly handier than the Mini) but lacks the tablet optimized apps. The Nexus 7 is recommended for those who prefer Android.
Special Mention: Apple’s iPod Touch
The iPod Touch is by no means a tablet but it remains a cheap option in comparison to the iPad Mini. When the Mini first launched, it was touted as a slightly bigger version of the iPod Touch for a good reason. The iPod Touch runs almost every iPhone app and is more suitable for kids in both size and expense.
Laptop: Lenovo’s Yoga 13, Apple’s Macbook Air
Moving to real computing devices, the latest operating systems from Windows and Mac will run best on Lenovo’s Yoga 13 and Apple’s Macbook Air. Windows users will love how the Yoga does both laptop and tablet form factors remarkably well. It’s getting the best of both worlds plus the Yoga is one robustly designed laptop with a very sturdy 360 degree flip. Apple’s best offering is its Macbook Air which is a really sleek ultrabook which does enough for portable computing.
Special Mention: Dell’s Alienware M14x
The options above were recommended for a good mix between portability and productivity but none of them will be great at running games. If the gift is meant for a gamer, Dell’s Alienware M14x remains a solid choice due to its nVidia GT650M discrete graphics option. The design and build of this laptop screams gaming all over. Gamers will appreciate this portable gaming beast.
The truth is, there is no really good desktop PC out there. The moderately good OEM versions are way overpriced both Windows and Mac. You are better off building your own computer and then slapping Windows, OSX or even Linux on it. (For OSX, this is called a Hackintosh). I won’t recommend going to a store and picking up a desktop. You’re getting ripped for moderate performance. The desktop machine is all about power and performance. If it isn’t, your laptop or tablet would suffice. Hackintoshes have a whole series of select components in order for OSX to run on it. You can head here to look up the components. Windows machines have a much greater variety of components to choose from. Here’s a short run down:
|CPU||Intel i5 3570K or Intel i7 3770K||Most people do not need i7 machines. Unless you are doing multi threaded work, stick to the i5s. The ‘K’ versions of a chip represents unlocked multipliers that allow better overclocking options. Get the ‘K’ versions only if you are overclocking or want the option to do so in future.|
|Motherboard||Asus P8Z77-V||Motherboards are very important components basically because you almost never change one mid way through the life of a computer. You want one that provides all the expansion you need. Your motherboard should be equipped with the following:
UEFI BIOS, USB 3.0 native ports, SATA 3, Thunderbolt native ports,good range of PCIe lanes.
|Memory||Any reputable brand DDR3-1600||Memory is dirt cheap. Go with as much as you can. Most people do not need more than 8GB. Your’s truly is working fine with a measly 6GB but well, as mentioned above, it is cheap. There’s no real need to go for RAM sticks with high clocks. Those that are highly clocked often have issues with motherboard compatibility and the like. Also, the performance boost is negligible.|
|Storage||Samsung 830 128/256GB SSD, any reputable brand HDD 1/2TB||Solid state drives have had their price driven down by large margins in 2012. Everyone should have at least a 128GB solid state drive as their boot drive. Your big storage options remain in the mechanical realm with 2TB drives going cheap as well. The Samsung 830 SSD range is not the latest but is one of the best in the industry. Given that the 840 and 840 Pro versions are out, the 830s should be going for a little lesser.|
|GPU||MSI GTX 670 Power Edition||nVidia’s GTX600 series are a huge success because they somehow managed to balance power, performance and heat. While AMD has boosted its flagship with updated drivers, the GTX670 still delivers the best performance when also considering power consumption and heat dissipation. When slightly overclocked, the 670 delivers the performance of a 680 at a far lower price.|
|Monitor||Dell U2412M, Dell U2713HM, Dell U3011||When getting monitors, go as big as you can. 24 inch (1920×1080) monitors ares considered the bare minimum at this point with 27 inch (2560×1440) fast becoming favourites. Of course, the holy grail stands at 30 inch (2560×1600) but there’s a huge price premium for the small gap between 27″ to 30″.|
And there you have it, the best computing devices that your loved ones will be delighted with. Obviously, these options are pricey, most of which will set you back above S$500. Cheaper tech gifts are very subjective and it is recommended that you ask the person what he/she needs so as to fill that gap. It could be a high capacity memory card, thumb-drive, a gaming mouse or even a headset.
Enjoy the season of giving. Happy holidays!