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Holiday Gift Guide 2014: Brandon’s List

by Brandon Russell | November 7, 2014November 7, 2014 2:00 pm PDT

I’ve made very few tech purchases this year. There was a killer Kindle Paperwhite sale I jumped on, and I bought a few video games through Steam. But, by and large, I typically try to avoid impulse buys, no matter how tempting devices like the OnePlus One and Note 4 are.  I generally like to stick to the essentials—my most recent purchase was a monitor stand for my desk at work. Booooorrrriiiing. But these gift guides give me an opportunity to talk about some cool gadgets without damaging my wallet. I’m always down for that.

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Money is No Object

BMW i8

$136,000

I’m not a car guy. Or at least I don’t swoon over Lambourghinis, Ferraris and anything upwards of $100k. I can appreciate the engineering and beauty of a good luxury car, but the truth is I’d probably be bored at the Geneva Motor Show. (To be honest, I’d prefer a restored old Ford Ranger.) But, man, the BMW i8 sure is pretty. Not only does it looks like something from the future, but it has the pedigree and specs to introduce a new era of luxury hybrids.

The 2015 model year gets 23 miles of all-electric range under the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), and is capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds with a top speed of 160 mph; the i8 has a total fuel efficiency of 134.5 mpg (112.0 mpg in the U.S.). So it has beauty and brains. It has gullwing doors, a few different driving modes and an exterior that will surely turn heads. Of course, at $136,000, it’s only attainable for a small minority of people, but a guy can definitely dream.

Gifts Under $2,000

New Gaming Rig

$1,999.99

I built a low-key computer not that long ago. I didn’t plan for it to run games on max settings, and the truth is I only use it for an hour after work, maybe, to play older titles. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about updating to new components. I haven’t thought much about what those new components might be, mind you, but $2,000 should give me plenty of breathing room to build a future-proof machine. As I learned when I put together my first computer, it really doesn’t require thousands of dollars, but the extra dough will allow me to go wild and purchase a high-end monitor.

Gifts Under $500

GoPro HERO 4 Black

Have you seen the commercial for the GoPro HERO 4? It gets me so amped to shut my computer off and go outside. The sad reality is that I’ll probably never take a GoPro skydiving, cliff diving, or anything else that could be deemed extreme. But that doesn’t make me want one any less. I’ve never actually owned a GoPro, but now seems as good a time as any to hop on the action camera bandwagon.

The newest HERO 4 Black promises to deliver 2x the performance of the previous model, and is capable of capturing 4K video at 30 fps (and 1080p at 120 fps, eliminating that wobbling rolling shutter). As an improvement all-around, I can’t wait to see what awesome action videos we see over the coming months. My videos would probably just be me sitting at a desk, spilling water from time-to-time and angrily hitting the delete key on my keyboard.

Nexus 5

I’ll admit I wasn’t much of a fan of the Nexus 5 when it originally launched. I thought the hardware was cheap, the camera was atrocious (it has been improved a lot over the past twelve months), and it didn’t really have any features in particular that stood out to me. But I’ve come around this year, and actually really like the hardware now; the device is still plenty fast, and with Android 5.0 on the horizon, I’m thinking it just might be the better option over the Nexus 6 due to its size and price. There are a lot of great cheap devices on the market right now, but my money’s on the Nexus 5 (in red, please!).

Gifts Under $250

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime is arguably one of the best deals around. I order a lot of knick knacks all the time (cables, water bottles, books, stuff for my apartment, etc.), and having the free two-day shipping is really handy. The added bonus of Instant Video, music, books and everything in between is definitely nice, too. For an annual fee, I think the price to be a member is worth it, and I know a lot of others agree. If all else fails this holiday season, gifting someone Amazon Prime isn’t a bad idea. (Just hope the price doesn’t go up again anytime soon.)

Kindle Voyage

You know that Kindle Paperwhite I said I purchased earlier this year? I love it, and by all accounts the Kindle Voyage is even better. Sure, I don’t actually need to upgrade, but it would certainly be nice. I don’t read as much as I used to these days—who has the time?—but there are a lot of books I’m hoping to get to at some point over the next few months. What better way to dive into these books than with a shiny new e-reader? It still doesn’t beat the experience of a physical book (the smell, the touch, physically flipping pages), but there’s a convenience about e-readers you just can’t beat.

Gifts Under $50

Minecraft for Vita

My PS Vita has done nothing but sit around on its lazy butt ever since I got it. There was that honeymoon period where I couldn’t put it down, but for the most part it just sits on a shelf collecting dust. That is until I got Minecraft for Vita. I realize it’s not the ideal way to experience Minecraft (I also have it for PC at work), but there’s something totally great about sitting in bed mining for diamonds. The dual analog sticks makes it really easy to play, and the crafting system has been dumbed down quite a bit for consoles. I’ve spent a lot of hours in my world ever since Minecraft launched for Vita, and I foresee many more long nights in my future as I continue to perfect my house. Creepers are not welcome.

Anker 40W 5-Port High Speed Desktop USB Charger

You can never have enough USB ports. With Anker’s 40W 5-Port charger, you should have even more ports for your many different gadgets. And because it’s a 40W charger, you’ll be able to hook up your phones and tablets, giving you plenty of power on your next road trip. I’m always searching for USB ports at work due to the nature of our business; those review phones have to charge somehow. Anker’s solution is just the ticket I needed, and will definitely be coming with me to CES early next year. I just wonder if one 5-Port USB charger will be enough.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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