Regardless of whether you’re a PC building veteran or you have no idea what a GPU is, it can be difficult to find the right gift for a the tech enthusiast. The marketplace is filled with thousands of components, peripherals and accessories. So even if you know what you want for yourself, it's challenging to choose a gift for another person that’s something they actually need or will like.
Below are five tips to help you shop for the tech enthusiasts in your life. For more specific recommendations, check out our lists of best gifts for gamers, pc builders, makers and geeky kids, along with our favorite low-cost stocking stuffers.
1. Don't buy internal components, unless your giftee asked for them by name. Just as you wouldn't get someone a dog or cat, you shouldn't buy them a motherboard or a GPU. Choosing major components is just too personal of a decision for you to make for someone. It's also quite possible that you’d end up getting them a part that isn't compatible with the rest of their system.
2. Your giftee can never have too many of these. If you're worried about buying something that your friend already owns, the following "stock up on" gifts are always a sure bet, because people always need more of them:
- Micro SD memory cards: Good for storage expansion on mobile devices (including the Nintendo Switch) and some laptops, these also serve as the main drive for a Raspberry Pi.
- External hard drives / SSDs: People never have enough room for all of their movies, games, or to do full system backups.
- Toolkits: Even if your friend has some nice screwdrivers, the can probably use a few more tools.
- USB Cables and dongles: If your friend has a USB-C phone, they will definitely have a USB-C charging cable. But do they have separate ones for work, home, the car and their travel bag? You can say the same of SD card readers, portable USB hubs and any adapter.
3. Consider a tech gift card: At first blush, giving a gift card seems like a cop out. If you just hand someone cash or an Amazon gift card (as good as cash in many cases), they could spend it on anything, making the present very impersonal. However, if you give a card for a site that specializes in tech such as Newegg, you're giving them both freedom to choose and a directive to spend it on tech. The same goes for credit on gaming services like Steam or GOG.com.
4. Avoid instructional (paper) tech books: Yes, your giftee may be learning how to program in C# or how to setup Raspberry Pi for the first time, but enthusiasts usually prefer to learn from online materials, most of which are free. Just imagine reading about programming in a book and having to type all the code in manually when you could more easily read about it online and copy and paste the code into your project. Books about the history or back story of tech are welcome.
5. Fan gifts are always appreciated: T-shirts, hats, desk toys, bobble heads -- these are tech gifts too, provided that they celebrate technology. If your giftee loves a particular game franchise, it's easy to find related merch. But you can also get products for fans of particular brands like AMD, Nvidia, Intel, Asus and Gigabyte. For example, Alienware sells this nifty hoodie that has a glowing blue light in it.