Another year is about to end and what a year it’s been. Apple unveiled its “best product lineup in 25 years,” Google just blew us away with a new Nexus family of devices and Nintendo finally made the Wii U a worthwhile purchase with a string of impressive new games. There are a ton of new gadgets to geek out over, but here are handful that I’m either hoping to receive or I just think make great gifts this holiday season.
Some of the stuff here is personal while other items are general. Some I already own and some I’m still lusting after, but every item on this list has the potential to be a perfect gift.
Money is No Object
27-inch iMac with Retina 5K
There’s no rational reason for me to want Apple’s new Retina iMac. I don’t edit videos or spend much time working with photos, but I still want this computer more than any other one available today. Working on the Internet, I spend a lot of time looking at a display, so why not look at the best display out there?
The Retina iMac could turn even the most mundane tasks into exciting adventures, and it could make reading and watching videos online way more entertaining. Since we’re dreaming big here I’ll spec this thing out to its full potential, which pushes the baseline $2500 price well beyond $4,000.
Gifts Under $2,000
Onkyo HT-S9700THX 7.1-Ch Network Home Theater System
Not to brag, but I have a pretty sweet media setup at home thanks to high-ceilings, a projector and a couple of comfy couches. Throw in a Roku and a PS4 and I’m almost set, but all that’s missing is a solid set of speakers to really cap off the experience. Onkyo’s latest home theater system offers a 7:1 speaker setup with units on the floor and up in the air. It also support Dolby Atmos, which moves sounds around the room using a 3D map to create a lifelike experience.
Paying over $1,000 for a set of speakers may sound like a lot, but I was expecting to pay even more. Surround sound systems can easily cost $2,000 or upwards, which makes Onkyo’s setup a pretty good deal.
Gifts Under $500
We’ve seen a ton of new smartphones released this year, but the OnePlus One is probably my favorite. It offers great hardware, a cool design and awesome Cyanogen software running out of the box. It also comes at a killer price that makes it an obvious choice if you’re looking to give someone the gift of Android this season. You can check out our full review here, but for me the OnePlus One really is the best smartphone of 2014.
Of course, getting your hands on the OnePlus One is easier said than done. The company is still using a complex invitation system, though there’s a second brief pre-order window set for Nov. 7. At this point, there are a also decent number of invites floating around online, so you may be able to dig one up on the company’s own forum or elsewhere.
Wii U and Super Smash Bros.
If you still don’t own a Wii U (like me) now’s the time to get one. Super Smash Bros. is set to launch on Nintendo’s home console in late November and after trying out the 3DS version, I can’t wait to play on a big screen. You definitely don’t wan’t to miss out on any of the action, and it’s never too soon to start honing your Smash skills on the Wii U.
Nintendo hasn’t said whether it will offer a special bundle combining the Wii U and Super Smash Bros., so this isn’t technically one gift. Still, the price of a Wii U ($300) along with a Smash Bros. bundle ($99) that includes the game, a new controller and an adapter for using Gamecube controllers still falls well below our $500 threshold.
Gifts Under $250
Android Wear might not be perfect, but if you’re curious about Google’s new wearable operating system this is the device to buy. The Moto 360 offers a sleek design that won’t expose your nerdy tendencies in public and it’s the first Android Wear smartwatch to support wireless charging. In our official review we gave the Moto 360 a solid 7 out of 10. Sure, battery life could be better and Google still has some work to do improving its software, but overall it’s a solid choice.
The Moto 360 is the perfect gift for any techie friend who cares about style just as much as specs, just make sure they have an Android phone to use it with. Motorola’s first smartwatch is officially priced at $249, though Amazon seems to charging bit extra.
Jabra REVO Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones
There’s nothing like a good set of headphones, and once you experience high-quality audio, the earbuds that come with your latest smartphone just won’t cut it. Instead, check out the Jabra REVO, which offers stereo sound and a wireless Bluetooth experience. They also feature built-in NFC, a durable design and touch controls for skipping through songs without reaching for your phone. Even better, Jabra has also included a 3.5mm jack and a cord to go with it, so if your headphones run out of juice you can plug them into your phone and keep listening.
Gifts Under $50
Super Smash Bros. 3DS
Noticing a pattern? I’m a huge Super Smash Bros. fan. After spending some time with this handheld game I can heartily recommend it, and our own video game editors agree. The fighting game franchise translates really well to the smaller screen, and I love being able to whip out my 3DS XL and play through a few quick matches on the subway. Online mode is also a lot of fun with plenty of options to choose from depending on your mood and skill level.
The big question is whether you really need Smash Bros. for both the 3DS and the Wii U. Until the console version comes out it’s still too soon to know either way. Then again, Nintendo is offering some extra content for anyone who doubles down on Smash, so Mewtwo fans will definitely want to pick up both versions of the game.
Lev Grossman’s Magicians Trilogy
I’m finishing things off with a book, or rather a series of books, that brought me a lot of joy over the past few years. Lev Grossman’s Magicians trilogy takes some of the most popular fantasy stories you grew up reading and turns everything on its head. The first book starts off at a hidden Hogwarts-inspired magic university in upstate New York, but before you know it the main characters are traveling through dimensions, fighting monsters and having adventures beyond anything Harry Potter and his friends ever experienced.
You can grab all three physical books on Amazon for just $36.95 or even cheaper in e-book form for your Kindle. There’s also a special hard cover edition, which offers the entire trilogy for just over $50 if you’re willing to splurge.