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Seven Geek Gift Guides for 2013

It’s that gift-giving time of year again, and if you’re thinking about giving that special someone a high tech gift — or putting such an item on your wishlist — the collective wisdom of the Internet’s technology publications is here to help.

But you won’t find one from us. After many years of producing entire gift issues of TidBITS (our most recent, with links to previous years, was in “TidBITS Gift Guide 2010,” 6 December 2010), we decided once again not to venture there — while the technology world has grown by leaps and bounds, it feels like the sort of items that generally end up on tech-related gift guides, including our own, are either obvious (who wouldn’t want an iPad mini) or perennial suggestions that appear each year. In short, we didn’t feel we could add enough value to make it worth doing.

That said, we know many of you may be looking for ideas, or at least help with choosing a particular digital camera or ebook reader. To aid in that effort, here are seven geek gift guides we’ve found worth a look.

The Wirecutter — Where the Wirecutter normally focuses on the “best” technology based on extensive research and hours of testing, their gift guide is, well, unusual. Organized by price, the Wirecutter’s suggestions are wonderfully eclectic, and don’t bother with the standard suggestions that you’ll read about in all the other gift guides.

When you scroll through the Wirecutter’s guide, you’ll find well over 100 items, including beard oil (yes, such a thing exists), a Mars globe, a corkboard map of the world, and a Lego Architecture Studio. It’s well worth reading to get ideas for those on your list who are hard to shop for.

The Verge — Less a list than a Web app, the Verge’s 2013 Holiday Gift Guide looks great and is fun to click around in, but is awkward to use. You can either click callout links in the umbrella collections (Cook It Up, At Play, On The Street, etc.), or just scan the more obvious categories (Appliances, Audio & Speakers, Food & Drink, and so on). Each item’s card can display more info (but only a few sentences), and links to the product’s Web page. Some, but not all, items also link to reviews on the site.

The Verge’s approach works relatively well in the categories where it feels that they’re picking the best variants from a wide selection of products, such as in Cameras and TVs, but in Books, Games, and Movies, the recommendations seem random. And in categories like Game Consoles, Phones, Set-top Boxes, and Tablets, where there aren’t many competitors, the Verge seems to punt on choosing and just lists them all.

iMore — Being an Apple-centric site, it’s no surprise that iMore’s gift guide focuses exclusively on Apple products. If you’re considering an iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Mac as a gift, it’s a useful overview of the pros and cons of each model.

Of course, that focus is also limiting; it won’t help you go beyond the narrow world of Apple’s product line, even for software, accessories, or peripherals.

Engadget — Tech blog Engadget broke its holiday gift guide into separate articles, each focusing on a particular category, such as Smartphones, Gaming, E-readers, Cameras, and Household. In each category, Engadget sorts by cost, ranging from On the Cheap to Money Is No Object although you won’t find many items under $100 at all.

It’s a lot of information to sort through, but if you’re looking for something in one of their categories, it might be useful. What you won’t find in Engadget’s gift guide are the quirky ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

CNET — Of the guides we’ve seen so far, CNET’s gift guide is the hardest to navigate and the most confusing. It’s split into categories such as Smartphones, Gaming, Portable Audio, and Wearable Tech, but each category has a number of sub-categories, so the Portable Audio category actually encompasses Gifts for Mobile Music Lovers, Wireless Speakers, Wired Headphones, and Wireless Headphones. That’s confusing enough, but a set of More Holiday Suggestions that appears both in a top-mounted scrolling banner and in a right-hand sidebar cuts across the categories for collections with titles like Editors’ Top
Picks, Best Tech Under $50, and Ultimate Luxuries. Worse, once you get into a category, the actual recommendations are presented in slideshow format, making it impossible to compare easily.

If you can get past the awful presentation, CNET seems to have gone beyond many of the obvious recommendations to suggest items that you might not have considered, particularly on the low end of the price spectrum.

Wired — At least CNET offers a landing page that brings together all their different categories. Although Wired has a Wish List 2013 article, it collects only five articles at the moment, despite there being quite a few more. The only commonality seems to be the “wishlist-2013” tag. Each article is a slideshow, and luckily, the Next link and navigation thumbnails scroll the page appropriately for viewing, since the layout is otherwise maddening.

Without a comprehensive overview of the various articles, it’s hard to get a sense of everything that Wired has covered, but major categories include outdoor gear, health-related items, things that are reusable, and the more expected suggestions for photographers, audiophiles, dog lovers, and car buffs. Thanks to a variety of ideas that deviate from the beaten path, it’s worth a look, but be prepared to put in some effort navigating.

Boing Boing — The eclectic editors of Boing Boing have compiled an equivalently eclectic gift guide that reflects their personal tastes. As such, there’s no sorting by price or category, but you can filter by editor, if you have your favorites.

There’s a bit of everything in this highly scannable list — by far the easiest to read! — including tech gizmos, comic books, DIY kits, low-tech gadgets, odd toys, clever games, and much more. You’re certain to find some great ideas here.

We’re sure there are many other tech-focused gift guides out there, so please let us know in the comments which you’ve found particularly interesting!

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