Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, but many of us still haven’t done all, or any, of our holiday shopping. I’ve been looking for things to buy as well, and I’ve come up with a list of mostly affordable items you might want to consider.
Whether searching for the perfect gadget for a tech enthusiast or a unique gift to surprise a loved one, this guide has you covered.
Let’s get to it, and here’s hoping you can find what you want at affordable prices.
The only brand that truly stands out as exemplary in the gaming laptop world is Alienware. Backed by Dell, it represents the perfect balance of brand recognition and world-class quality.
Done right, gaming laptops give up portability and battery life for power, and you won’t be using them on a plane anyway. My pick is the Alienware m18 Gaming Laptop, which starts at $1,599, has an 18-inch screen, and should put a smile on your gamer’s face.
(Image Credit: Dell)
The m18 is well-lit and has that distinctive alien head on the cover that you probably noticed regularly appearing on “The Big Bang Theory.”
For a work or school laptop, I’d go with the HP Dragonfly G4 Notebook with the Intel i5 processor.
At $1,099, it won’t break the bank. Dragonfly is HP’s premium brand, and while this isn’t a gaming notebook by any means, it should serve well for school or work and has a decent combination of relatively lightweight (2.2 lbs.) and over 10 hours of expected battery life.
(Image Credit: HP)
With HP’s Wolf Security on board, it should be more secure than most other notebooks on the market, and it is also one of the better-looking laptops. I’ve been very pleased with the Dragonfly notebooks I’ve tested, and this is the one I’d choose to carry myself.
AI-Enabled Performance Laptop
Right now, there is only one laptop I know of that has been enabled for AI, though that will change in a few months. That is Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio 2, and it has a built-in NPU (neural processing unit), something that will be in most mid- to high-end laptops by the end of next year but currently is only in this one.
(Images Credit: Microsoft)
The Surface Studio Laptop 2 starts at $1,999, has a cantilevered screen and decent self-recharging pen ideal for using tools like Dall-E, and should have performance advantages with ChatGPT-based generative AI programs. Given the huge demand for AI skills, this could be very helpful for someone wanting a bit of an extra AI edge, as this technology is still going vertical in terms of demand for people who know how to use it.
Of the headphones I’ve seen recently, I was most impressed with the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless headphones. Currently on sale for $100 off at $279, these headphones have active noise cancellation and are great for phone calls, music, and watching movies.
(Image Credit: Sennheiser)
With their over-the-ear design, these headphones excel at blocking out ambient noise, ensuring a more peaceful listening experience whether you’re on an airplane or in other noisy environments.
These aesthetically pleasing headphones carry the renowned Sennheiser brand. You can find cheaper headphones, but you want the recipient of your gift to take pride in what you got them, and they’ll be proud of these.
The issue with earbuds is that they are small and not impressive in a box. Still, many people prefer earbuds even though they can make you look like a nut when you are on a phone call. When it comes to any sound product, it’s hard to go wrong with Bose. I recommend the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.
(Images Credit: Bose)
They cost around $200 and come in Triple Black and Soapstone (shown here). These earbuds sound awesome and look less dorky than the Apple AirPods. A strong brand, good looks, and an affordable price make for a good gift.
When it comes to microphones, I like the HyperX QuadCast S – USB Microphone from HP.
(Photo by Author)
This mic has several sound field options, it lights up, so it looks amazing on your desk, and at $119.99 (currently with a $40 discount), it is relatively affordable for that Twitch or podcast fanatic you are buying for.
If you want to get someone a gift that will sit at a desk and remind them of you, this is one of the better choices. It looks good, sounds good, and makes a visual impression.
Another item that is prominent on the desktop is a keyboard. My current favorite is the Dry Studio Black Diamond 75 Advanced Version carbon fiber keyboard.
(Image Credit: Dry Studio)
At $295, it’s pricey for a keyboard, but it is a piece of art. Mechanical switches, an impressive weight, and an awesome appearance make this a keyboard that should not only last a long time but be particularly good for anyone who likes the feel of a quality mechanical keyboard.
The styling language is “supercar,” which shows in the fit and finish. This keyboard almost looks too good to use, but if you want a truly impressive gift, the Black Diamond 75 keyboard is truly impressive.
One of the more affordable PC gifts is a mouse, and the one I’ve enjoyed the most this year is the Mad Catz R.A.T. Pro S3 wired optical mouse currently on sale for about $62. This model is a gamer’s mouse, and it has a ton of switches and options. I just like the feel of it, and it has held up well and still looks great after months of use.
(Image Credit: Mad Catz Global)
The R.A.T. Pro S3 has RGB lighting, and it looks much more expensive than it is. Suitable for general use and gaming, this makes for a relatively affordable PC upgrade. I prefer a wired over a wireless mouse because nothing is worse than having your mouse battery die in the middle of a battle or when you are on a roll writing a paper.
There are times during the holidays when you may want to find a quiet corner, tune out the sounds around you, avoid political discussions, and just disappear into the wallpaper. A head-mounted display will allow you to browse the web, watch videos and movies, or even do some work without anyone seeing what you are doing or being disturbed by it.
The Rokid Max AR Glasses is the most affordable of the headsets I’ve tested so far at $399.
(Video Credit: Rokid)
While they have speakers in the earpieces, I tend to use mine with headphones for that extra level of isolation. I find I can watch movies while my wife is sleeping without bugging her, and these things have been a godsend on planes, particularly when I’m middle seat coach because they allow me to isolate myself from what is happening around me and ignore the typical in-flight annoyances.
There are a lot of scammers around and folks who drive under the influence and won’t admit fault. A dash camera is a great defense. My current favorite and go-to gift this year is the 70mai Omni Dash Cam 360.
(Image Credit: 70mai)
The 70mai web store has these on sale for $110 currently. That’s nearly $80 off and much less expensive than on Amazon, making them one heck of a bargain.
They look like an upside-down R2-D2, and the camera automatically rotates to capture activity around the car even when parked. It will also randomly take a picture of the cabin (selfies), respond to voice commands, and even remind you to take a break if you’ve been driving uninterrupted for too long.
For a car safety device, this is a genuine bargain. Also, knowing there is a camera can often help with issues like road rage and dangerous driving, which will help keep the recipient safer.
Now, while this is expensive, if there is one product I really miss when traveling and use every night when I’m at home is the Chilipad Dock Pro Sleep System.
When I was growing up, my brothers and I would get up early trying to beat each other to the best warm air vent from the furnace. With the Chilipad Dock Pro, I can set it to pre-heat the bed at night, keep me cool during the night (I sleep hot), and then get nice and toasty when morning comes, so I don’t want to get out of bed.
(Image Credit: Sleepme)
If there were a favorite product in my life that isn’t a car, the Chilipad Dock Pro would be it. The price is between $1,000 for a small bed and $1,899 for a Cal King, so this isn’t a casual gift, but it might be one you give your spouse and benefit from yourself. It heats and cools, so it is awesome in the summer, as well, and will reduce your air conditioning and heating costs if used properly.
I hope this guide helps streamline your shopping choices and inspires you to find ideal gifts that resonate with your friends and family.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday — and may Santa be as generous and kind to you as you are to others. Happy Holidays!