TechSpot Holiday Gift Guide 2012By
Gifts from $0 to $60
Odds are, you're someone's go-to tech support guru. Solving the inane PC problems of your friends and family might've been a fun way to practice your skills at one time, but after a while it can grow a little frustrating, especially when you've fixed the same issue a dozen times and explained how to avoid it. Whether you realize it or not, your frustration probably shows and you're likely not the most pleasant person to deal with -- rightfully so, perhaps. For a cheap gift this year, why not hand out homemade "coupons" for free tech support with a smile?
Gamers who cut their teeth on early consoles often revisit their favorite decades-old titles with software emulators on the PC. Although most emulators support modern gamepads, playing Super Mario Bros. on an Xbox 360 controller just doesn't feel right. A gamepad from the appropriate generation is pretty essential to having an authentic experience, and this can be accomplished by purchasing a third-party reproduction hardwired with a USB connector or by finding an original controller and pairing it with a USB adapter. In either case, you'll definitely want to read customer reviews before you pull the trigger because the retro controller market is full of low-quality duds.
With the frosty weather rolling in, you may have come to the realization that conventional winter gloves don't work with touchscreens, which require contact with a conductive surface to function. If the thought of missing a call or having cold hands is unbearable, then you or someone you know sound like a prime candidate for a new pair of touchscreen-compatible winter gloves. Obviously preference will vary based on gender, taste, budget and climate, but you're bound to find something that's suitable at Glider Gloves, Echo Design or Outdoor Research.
Practically everyone has a favorite TV show or movie, and they're generally not shy about sharing it. In other words, it should be easy to pick something out for them. We'd aim for a full collection of sorts to make the gift that much more special, but here are some varyingly priced options: The Avengers Four-Disc Set, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures, TMNT: Complete Classic Collection, Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection, Harry Potter Wizard's Collection, Star Trek: The Next Generation Season One (Season Two hits Blu-ray on December 4), Star Wars: The Complete Saga and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Extended Edition.
Does someone on your shopping list own a computer? Of course they do! And unless they're on top of Microsoft and Apple's software updates, their operating system is probably a generation or two behind. Fortunately for you, the latest Windows and OS X releases are cheaper and easier than ever to install. A digital download of Windows 8 costs only $40 and introduces a new touch-friendly environment as well as a handful of desktop-related improvements, while Mountain Lion costs a measly $20 and improves interoperability between OS X and iOS devices.
Although companies boast of devices with all-day battery lives, that claim rarely holds up to heavy usage and long hours away from home, and being caught with a dead phone or tablet could prove disastrous if you rely on them for work. Fortunately, external backup batteries are compact, affordable and provide a major boost in autonomy. For instance, the $40, 5200mAh Trent iTorch can allow for up to 27 hours of video playback on iPhones and it can extend the iPad 2's battery life by half. Besides keeping gadgets powered on the move, a backup battery offers peace of mind during power outages, when a handset could be your only source of information and communication.
Between the countless new releases and Steam's infamous Christmas sale, there's no better time to be a gamer than now. However, between all of the holiday mayhem, even the most battle-hardened player is bound to miss some of the action. Here are some safe bets depending on your special someone's genre preference and existing library: Far Cry 3, Assassin's Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Hitman: Absolution, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Borderlands 2, Dishonored, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, LEGO The Lord of the Rings, Torchlight II, FTL: Faster Than Light and The Walking Dead (episode five is due in November).