Tom’s Hardware’s (Practical) 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Get a jump on your holiday shopping (or personal wish list) with this collection of gift ideas from Tom’s Hardware’s staff and contributors.

Letter From The Editors

This year, we're writing a few different gift guides. This first one covers ideas that most enthusiasts can actually afford, and runs the gamut from traditional PC hardware to home upgrades, health gadgets and unapologetic toys.

As the holidays quickly surround us, the Tom’s Hardware editors thought we’d help you get a jump on some shopping, or maybe create a wish list of your own. What follows is our Holiday Gift Guide, as chosen by our staff and regular contributors.

We’ve been doing this for a while, but last year we received two crucial pieces of feedback. First, many of you said that most of our picks were outlandish and unaffordable. Second, many of you wanted the Tom’s Hardware gift guide models back. 

On the first point, we’re focusing on items that we think are more practical and affordable. We still plan to publish a more fantastical gift guide because, well, we can all wish, can’t we? But for now, we live in the real world.

As for the second point, believe it or not we got just as many complaints about the gift guide models, with readers asking us to grow up, to stop the misogyny and objectification. In other words, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. But ultimately we decided we’d rather be damned if we don’t. Feel free to accuse us of having endured sensitivity training. But we think we’ve just grown up a little. A little. I mean, we’re still Tom’s Hardware, not Thomas’ (no offense to Soderstrom).  – The Tom’s Hardware Editors.

Polaroid Cube

This year, I’m adding a Polaroid Cube, the tiny, colorful competitor to the popular GoPro, to my holiday wish list. The Cube comes in red, black and my favorite, baby blue, at just £89.99. Besides being totally adorable, Polaroid’s Cube packs a lot of nice features into a small box. It records at a wide, 124-degree angle in 1080p for up to 90 minutes on one battery charge. It’s splash-proof, but can be customized with a waterproof case (also on my wish list). The camera includes a microphone, USB 2.0 output, both PC and Mac interfaces and up to 32GB of storage with a microSD card. Additional accessories include a Monkey Stand, a Bicycle Mount and half a dozen other mounts and cases. The Cube is small, portable and appears easy to use. I can see myself taking it to tech events and conferences, vacation, travel and everywhere in between. And I would really love to strap the camera to my dog’s collar, letting him run around and play at the dog park, recording his adventures for my entertainment! - By Kasia Lorenc

Razer Orbweaver

If you ever had your hand cramp up, finger go numb or your wrist tingle after a long gaming session with extensive use of the WASD keys, consider Razer's Orbweaver. The new 2014 version will set you back about £115. The difference between it and the old model is mostly the switches, which changed from Cherry to Razer’s own (by all accounts developed with Kailh). Many actually prefer the old ones. Either way, the switches should last a very long time.

So why would you want a dedicated peripheral for tasks that your keyboard can handle just as well (especially if you already own a gaming keyboard)? Its macro capabilities are extensive, and get even more comprehensive if you have other Razer products. But for me, it really comes down to convenience and comfort. The Razer Orbweaver can be kept right next to my keyboard, in the perfect position for gaming, while the keyboard remains in the right place for productivity tasks. If you prefer different switches for the two activities, then the days of needing to compromise are over.

As for comfort, which is really the main attraction, the keys are right above each other, not offset like on a keyboard, and they’re slanted to the perfect angle for use with the highly adjustable hand/wrist rest. Is it worth big bucks for 20-minute gaming sessions? No. An hour? Maybe. Several hours? Your hand and wrist will thank you! - By Arne Weigold

Acer C720 11.6-Inch Chromebook

I’m well aware that this is an “old” Chromebook. I don’t care. It’s the perfect balance of price, size, features and performance. This Acer C720 was…a moment. Now Chromebooks are getting pricier. Also nicier, (er, “nicer,” excuse me). But I don’t need a higher-res display, nor a larger display, nor touch, nor a zippier processor. I don’t want a £300 Chromebook. And I don’t want a cheap £200 Windows notebook. I want a £200 Chromebook. It’s exactly what I want. The end. - By Seth Colaner

Goji Smart Lock

I am planning to ask Santa for a Goji Smart Lock because I travel a lot. It would allow me to Airbnb my house and make a little extra money while away, without having to worry about who is coming and going. Everything can be controlled remotely from my smartphone. No need to worry about losing the keys, either. And finally, the picture feature (it takes snapshots of your visitors) makes it fun. - By Antoine Boulin

1TB Samsung 850 Pro

I’m not a storage guru, but I certainly store a lot of stuff. When our storage experts tell me that the Samsung 850 Pro is fast and reliable at a reasonable price, I take their word for it. Twice, since I use RAID 1. They say it’s all due to Samsung’s 3D V-NAND, which stacks cells up rather than cramming them closer together, and I’ll take their word for that too. A look at the charts was all it took to convince me.

Price-per-capacity has kept me solidly in the “SSD+HDD” camp, but the 1TB version of Samsung’s SSD 850 Pro is almost affordable. And since Santa has no budget, he can deliver a pair. - By Thomas Soderstrom

Razor Crazy Cart XL

When Razor released its Crazy Cart last year, followed by its Ken Block Gymkhana video parody, I wanted one really badly. However, the regular Crazy Cart is too small for adults. This year, Razor has a solution for the child within us in its bigger and better Crazy Cart XL. Priced at about £350, the Razor Crazy Cart XL accommodates riders up to 240lbs for up to 40 minutes of fun.

The pure electric cart has a variable-speed motor that connects to a single front wheel via chain. A trio of rechargeable 12V lead acid batteries deliver 36 volts of total power. Yes the Crazy Cart is front-wheel drive, but two rear casters connected to a brake handle control drifting maneuvers. There are two casters up front to keep the Cart from flipping over too. Think of the Razor Crazy Cart XL as a taste of what pure electric vehicles offer, but at a better price than Tesla's Model S. - By Ahn Tuan Huynh 

[Ed: For Tuan, who covers Auto for Tom’s Hardware, this actually is a practical gift suggestion.]

LG 34UM95 34-Inch 21:9 Monitor

While 4K monitors sound great, they require a lot of graphics processing horsepower for smooth gaming performance. Even if you have an ultra high-end rig, some titles aren't optimized for a usable interface at that resolution. LG's 34UM95 is 3440x1440, with fewer pixels to push. That results in higher frame rates and a better UI experience. In addition, the ultra-wide 21:9 display format is epic, like gaming on three monitors without those bothersome bezels. Measuring 34" diagonal, this is the PC display I want. - By Don Woligroski

[Ed: OK, Don’s a bit fancy here too, but for a guy who tests graphics cards all day, let’s cut him some slack.]

256GB Corsair Flash Voyager GS USB 3.0

If you’re one of those people who lugs their entire life around on a thumb drive (including favorite songs, family pictures and videos) and you need the space for it, then Corsair's USB 3.0 Flash Voyager GS 256GB is worth a look. It’s one of the faster USB 3.0 drives out there with a massive amount of storage in a scratch-resistant brushed-aluminum package (about 3 x 1 x 1/3in). The 256GB version will set you back around £155. Halving the capacity (and let’s be real here, do you really even need 128GB?) also halves the price. If you want to go really fast, then there’s the GTX version which packs a 256GB capacity point, which also sports some red accents. - By Arne Weigold.

Stephen Fry Good Morning Sir Alarm Clock

Formerly on ThinkGeek, but no longer available there, the Stephen Fry “Good Morning, Sir” Alarm Clock wakes you up with the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry coaxing you from slumber. A host of clips from the clock are still out there on the Web, with gems like this. “Excuse me sir, I'm so sorry to disturb you but it appears to be morning. Very inconvenient, I agree. I believe it is the rotation of the earth that is to blame, sir.” - By Joe Pishgar

Classic New Balance 606 Walking Shoes

Clothing probably isn’t on top of most computer guys' wish lists, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather be wearing in public than clothing.

But why these shoes, specifically? 
Conventions are the cause for my reprieve from the office, and the last thing I want to do when I get to one is sit in front of a screen. Our own editor-in-chief can attest to my walking prowess. [Ed.: I’d call it wandering, but prolific nonetheless] I originally picked these because they were non-flashy, but the Classic 606 from New Balance provided the best support of any shoe during those multi-mile jaunts. Unfortunately, mine gave up the ghost right after New Balance quit making them. Size 13 was first to sell out of most major stores, but I’m sure Santa has a pair in the stock room somewhere. - By Thomas Soderstrom

Yiynova Tablet

Believe it or not, there is no better way to paint and sculpt in 3D these days than a tablet display. Yiynova and other companies are finally bringing the price down to affordable levels with devices that focus on characteristics like tracking speed, resolution and pen pressure sensitivity. - By Jon Carroll

Sonos Play Speakers

Sonos components are rather expensive compared to many popular speaker solutions, so be prepared to find them in the Apple or Bose range. However, the experience of combining multiple speaker units in different rooms and controlling them through an efficient app is really good enough to start questioning your home stereo. To me, it makes more sense to pick a reasonable home stereo or cinema solution where it's needed, and throw in Sonos speakers in select rooms where they are used most. One speaker requires a wired network link to your router. Any additional speaker runs wirelessly.

There are three speaker models, Play-1, Play-3 and Play-5 (£149, £249 and £349). You can add a sound bar or a sub and two speakers can be paired into a stereo setup. Playback can be managed by room and you can group multiple rooms to play music all across your home. Many streaming services, iPhone playlists or DLNA sources are supported for playback. There is a box called Connect that can be used to play music on your receiver through the Sonos app as well. - By Patrick Schmid


Google Nexus 6

My first Android phone was the Nexus One, and I’ve owned or used every Nexus phone since. The Nexii are the purest expression of what an Android-powered phone is supposed to be, and the Nexus 6 is Google’s latest and greatest model. While I would like to say I’d hope to find one under my tree this Christmas, I know I’ll probably just gift one to myself early. While the past two Nexus phones have been compromises in order to hit certain budget points, Google changed its strategy this year and tasked Motorola with building a no-holds-barred Android powerhouse.

The Nexus 6 looks like a super-sized Moto X (2014) and has the same attractive metal-framed design. It is powered by a Snapdragon 805 SoC, has a 6-inch 2560x1440 WQHD AMOLED display, a huge 3220mAh battery and a 13MP camera with OIS. It also runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and is the first phone to do so. I'm only disappointed that Google did not make a deal with the rights-holder to Blade Runner so it could include Roy Batty sound clips for notifications and ringtones. - By Alex Davies

Kindle Voyage

How many holiday wish lists from our youth were filled with paper book requests? Too many. We love books. We love reading and vanishing into rich worlds of imagination. But we love reading even more on the Kindle Voyage. Yes, it’s thinner and front-lit and uses magnets for attaching covers. The new touch-sensitive side bars for navigation (“PagePress”) are nice in an “oh...that’s nice” kind of way.

But the reason to love the Voyage is the 300ppi resolution of its Paperwhite display. That’s almost 50% more resolution than the prior Paperwhite, and the end result is that the Voyage looks as good if not better than paper. Strange but true. And because it’s a dedicated e-reader rather than a general-purpose tablet, you’ll have no built-in distractions waiting to pull you out of your reading flow. Starting from £169, depending on connectivity and “special offers,” the Voyage is not a cheap gift. But it is the best e-reader on the market. – By William Van Winkle

Nest Learning Thermostat

Chances are that you think thermostats are boring, and you’re probably right. Nest, now part of Google, tries to change that with its Learning Thermostat. This is an ARM-powered device designed by the same people responsible for the original iPod, and that shows. Not only does it have a fancy appearance, but it learns your habits to build a temperature schedule. It has a heap of sensors, and even employs a wireless radio for firmware updates and communicating with the Android or iOS app. It’s not difficult to install, and because it’s a smart thermostat, it should pay for itself over the course of one to two years in energy savings. – By Niels Broekhuijsen

Jawbone ERA Headset

Of all the headsets I’ve owned (and there have been many), this one stands alone in voice quality (bi-directional), size, comfort, battery life and noise cancellation. It makes the perfect gift for all of the people you talk to on a regular basis who share more than their voice – you know, their dogs, children, office mates, random wind noise or airport cohorts.

The newest version of the ERA headset comes with an optional charging box. This is unnecessary; the micro-USB charger port works just fine. This is the headset you buy in bulk. – By Josh Linder

Lukas LK-7900 AC Dash Cam

I’ve been eying dash cam systems for a while now, thanks to all those Russian YouTube videos - from car accidents, to street fights, to exploding comets. I now seeing dash cam recording as an important automotive feature, and I’m asking for Lukas’ LK-7900 Ace. It's a 1080p video camera that mounts on your windshield, records at 30FPS with a 16:9 format and uses a Sony Exmor CMOS sensor that, according to a few video reviews, shoots pretty well at night. The unit is powered through the car’s 12V cigarette lighter receptacle, though I’d probably opt to hard-wire it to accessory power myself. That might take some work, but I’m hoping that the benefits of recording my daily drive will outweigh the labor of a custom installation. – By Julio Urquidi

NAD VISO HP50 Headphones And Cyberman T-Shirt

I couldn't wait for the holidays to ditch my lame-sounding, tangle-prone EarPods, so I bought my present early. The NAD VISO HP50 Headphones sound amazing, with tight bass, a terrific mid-range and treble without harshness. They have an accurate, rich sound that makes them suitable for everything from music to movies, and the low 32-Ohm impedance means they can be easily driven from a smartphone, tablet or PC without an external amplifier. The odd-shaped headband makes you look a bit like a Cyberman, so they're best suited for in-home or office use. The PC inspired Cyberman t-shirt completes the look. – By Matt Humrick

The Orange Chef Place Pad

I like to fancy myself a chef. One who makes and eats good, healthy foods. Even if neither of those is as true as I imagine them to be, I continue to collect the best kitchen gadgets I can find, and particularly those with a technology bent. (People in my household can attest: I don’t just collect these, I use them constantly.) This one is pretty special, though. It’s a scale that, combined with an app, can tabulate the health value of your food, both in weight and nutrients. You can scan a food item’s barcode or search for it in the database, which the company claims contains more than 300,000 items. With the app, you can set goals and then use the Prep Pad to manage to those goals. You can even do things like set a carb-to-fat ratio goal. It also pairs with the Jawbone UP so that you can make adjustments based on your exercise. - By Fritz Nelson

Moto G

The price of smartphone components has come down significantly over the past few years, which means even a £200 phone today can be about as powerful as a high-end flagship from two or three years ago. When the Moto G launched last year, it was clear to most that the unsubsidized price point made this device a no-brainer for people interested in a device with no bells and whistles.

Overall, the Moto G 2014 received smaller upgrades than I would have expected this year. But fortunately, it got a major camera upgrade, which makes me happy because that's something I care more about than system performance. At under £150, the Moto G 2014 remains a no-brainer, especially as a holiday gift you can afford for almost anyone. - By Lucian Armasu

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980

This year’s practical gift request may not seem very practical at all to enthusiasts on a budget. Consider your source, though. For years I tested the latest and greatest PC hardware. But as of this holiday season, I still haven’t seen a GeForce GTX 980 in action. I’d love to step up from my more than two-year-old GeForce GTX 680 to the 2048-shader version of GM204, and get more performance at lower power consumption. Sounds like just the adrenaline boost my aging Falcon Northwest Tiki could use for next-gen gaming. – By Chris Angelini

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    Your comment
  • kamhagh
    omg i want them all ! so bad !
  • balister
    Give me a 34" 21:9 monitor that is 120+ Hz and I'll be all over it. Until then, I'll stick with a 16:10 or 16:9 that can do 120+ Hz (because refresh rate beats resolution any day).
  • SirGCal
    97187 said:
    Give me a 34" 21:9 monitor that is 120+ Hz and I'll be all over it. Until then, I'll stick with a 16:10 or 16:9 that can do 120+ Hz (because refresh rate beats resolution any day).

    I agree completely. 60Hz flicker gives me migraines... The FPS isn't as important but I need the smooth flicker of a faster monitor. I can't buy 60Hz units regardless... I actually miss the old CRT days where you could just push 75 or 80... it was so much easier/nicer/etc.But we have to jump from 60-120 or more. My current unit is 144Hz. I'd love a 4K unit but it's going to be a long while for me.
  • 016ive
    As usual Don and Chris hit the mark :D
  • g-unit1111
    I so badly want a 21:9 monitor, I'll gladly skip 4K if I could get my hands on that LG monitor. Watching movies with no bars = :ouch:
  • mitch074
    e-reader : I prefer the Kobo Aura HD - less expensive, same screen resolution (but bigger, so "only" 266dpi), not as fancy (touch screen, not haptic feedback), but FAR MORE versatile- ePub and CBZ on a 32 Gb SD card? Oh yes!
    earphones : I wonder why no one mentions the Grado stuff - especially on a US site! I'm currently using the sr80e, and they are FANTASTIC - for half the price of this year's suggestion.
  • cypeq
    Titlebar... Tom's please put the practical in quotation marks.
  • MasterDell
    Great list, but there was only one thing that was under $100... The Polaroid Cube for $99.99. Would have been nice to see some stocking stuffers! But that's okay because this stuff is still pretty cool :)
  • firebirdude
    A lot of these "gifts" are pretty darn spendy. VERY few people give Xmas gifts over ~$300.
  • iceclock
    nice article
  • ubercake
    I have to say it since no one else has. I miss the "Tom's Girls" in the Gift Guide product images. It was like the once-a-year SI swimsuit issue and now it's all gone.

    There. I said it. You can call me a pre-vert or whatever.
  • MobileEditor
    I did at least offer a $20 shirt suggestion, in addition to the pricier headphones :)
  • RedJaron
    I will say that while the Orbweaver is a little spendy, I think it's worthwhile to anyone that spends a decent chunk of time playing games. As said here, having the keys lined up in columns, opposed to offset on a normal keyboard, makes this much easier to use without looking. And don't forget the profiles aren't just for games. You can program it for video editing, Photoshopping, coding, and many other things. I've been very please with mine. Just be sure to get the Stealth version unless you want everyone in the house to hear you.

    I'd also recommend the MS Band for the list. More than a fitness band, less than a full smart watch, and priced right in the middle. And it pairs with any Android, iOS, or Windows phone. Pretty decent piece of tech.

    299576 said:
    I have to say it since no one else has. I miss the "Tom's Girls" in the Gift Guide product images. It was like the once-a-year SI swimsuit issue and now it's all gone. There. I said it. You can call me a pre-vert or whatever.

    Nah, no need for the name calling. Personally, I don't miss them at all, but everyone is entitled to their tastes. I figure anyone wanting to see models with tech are only a few Bing/Google searches away from it. And it's probably easier for Tom's to make this list if they don't have to hire models.
  • LordConrad
    I disagree with your choice of the Acer C720. Yes I wear glasses, but I think there are a lot of people who would agree with me that an 11 inch screen is too small for a computer.
  • blackmagnum
    The babes did make the tech tastier.
  • ubercake
    749236 said:
    The babes did make the tech tastier.

    That's what I'm talking about. It also set Tom's reviews apart from others. Also, whether people liked the babes or not, the reviews with the babes did generate a ton of traffic as evidenced by the massive number of comments in support of or against having the babes present in the comments section of the 'babes' pages.

    Whether people would like to admit it or not in this PC world we live in, sex sells.
  • seshysama
    Jesus christ, how much do you earn yearly that you think ANY of these are practical???? Practical gifts are under $50. You're putting $500-$1000 computer parts on a list of practical presents? You're incredibly out of touch, guys
  • g-unit1111
    37884 said:
    I disagree with your choice of the Acer C720. Yes I wear glasses, but I think there are a lot of people who would agree with me that an 11 inch screen is too small for a computer.

    Yeah I agree, I used to have an 11" Macbook and I got tired of the small screen and smaller keyboard. My Lenovo I have now is so much easier on the eyes.
  • MasterDell
    537231 said:
    37884 said:
    I disagree with your choice of the Acer C720. Yes I wear glasses, but I think there are a lot of people who would agree with me that an 11 inch screen is too small for a computer.
    Yeah I agree, I used to have an 11" Macbook and I got tired of the small screen and smaller keyboard. My Lenovo I have now is so much easier on the eyes.

    Is your avatar still squinting from the use of that 11"? ;)
  • littleleo
    "I still haven’t seen a GeForce GTX 980 in action. I’d love to step up from my more than two-year-old GeForce GTX 680 to the 2048-shader version of GM204, and get more performance at lower power consumption. Sounds like just the adrenaline boost my aging Falcon Northwest Tiki could use for next-gen gaming. – By Chris Angelini"

    Note to Santa or rich significant other, lol!
  • FritzEiv
    seshysama: Tell us the interesting technology you'd want for under $50? Phone cases? Toys? Mice? By the way, our colleagues over at Tom's Guide do have some (go to the under $50 tab):
  • SavingPrincess
    PSA: The Logitech G13 is superior to the Razer Orbweaver in just about every way possible... and half the price.
  • Draven35
    The Yiynova display is a 'practical' gift for me because I'd actually use it to do work.
  • zthomas
    Reading my mind.. the video card already on my wish list at amazon.. That Yiynova Tablet just made my wish list.. been eyeing the 24inch Wacom tablet for several months.. but the price is such a downer.. 500+ is still allot of money.. thinking about more now.. the artist in me craves the digital format.. Ohh and that reader.. another item on my wish list.. not the one shown here.. amazon has three or 4 different models.. the 80 dollar model had caught my eye.. flipping pages when in bed is such a drag.. the tablet would be great to fall asleep by..