Welcome back to TechSpot's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide! All of this year's tech gift recommendations are coming individually from our staff members and editors with their own picks on gifts they would like to receive or give. Tim is our features editor, specializing in mobile device reviews, but he also covers news on a regular basis. Find his picks below, you can also see previous gift guide posts here.
LG G2 $99 on contract
I've used a lot of smartphones this year, but the one from the Android camp that I enjoyed using the most was the LG G2. It's more powerful than heavyweights like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, it has a surprisingly great camera, there are some useful software additions, and the edge-to-edge display is absolutely beautiful.
Let's not forget the battery life either, which for its size remains the best I've tested this year. This is an extremely important aspect of the modern-day smartphone, which solidifies the LG G2 as my handset recommendation for the holiday season this year.
USB Drink Cooler $15-35
Sometimes the avid PC user gets thirsty while sitting at their system, and the fridge is often too far away to get up to retrieve a chilled beverage. So what better present than a portable, USB-powered drink cooler? Chuck a can of your favorite drink inside this small refrigerator, and every time you go for a sip it'll be cool and refreshing. You can buy these on eBay for around $25, making them a perfect inexpensive gift for those computer-addicted friends of yours.
Avid TechSpot readers will remember I reviewed this handy gadget earlier this year. Essentially, the LCDSysInfo is a small, highly customizable companion LCD screen that shows information about your PC at a glance. When you're gaming, it can show the current frames per second, and just in general usage it can display your system temperatures, fan speeds, CPU/GPU utilization and more. This gift is more suitable for the enthusiast crowd as the setup can be somewhat complicated, but it's a great addition to a PC gamer's gear.
Review: LCDSysInfo for GOverlay Review
Service Subscription $50 and up
There are tons of fantastic subscription services available for those around the world, which could make the perfect gift this holiday season. 12 months of Neflix is around $96, or you could gift Amazon Prime ($79/year) or Hulu Plus ($96/year). For the console gamers out there you can grab Xbox Live Gold ($60/year) for the Microsoft fans and PlayStation Plus ($50/year) for Sony fans. Music-wise you can pick up Google Play Music All Access, Spotify Premium, Rdio Unlimited (all $120/year) or Xbox Music ($99/year).
These are just some suggestions, as there are plenty of other subscriptions out there to purchase. If some of these yearly prices are out of your budget, consider a gift card for their favorite digital store (eg. iTunes, Steam, Xbox, Windows Store, etc.) which often offer flexible prices.
Last-Generation Console $130 and up
Sure, the new wave of consoles has just arrived with the launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but a lot of people haven't fully experienced the last generation of consoles. For those people you know with an Xbox 360 but not a PlayStation 3 (for example), consider picking up Sony's console for cheap alongside some of the great exclusive games that accompany the platform.
The cheapest gift in my 2013 recommendations is a laser pointer, because you can have a surprising amount of fun with them (especially if you have pets). For just $10 you can pick up the most powerful legal laser pointer in the United States at five milliwatts, and they come in a range of colors as well. Personally I'd recommend a green or purple pointer rather than the standard red, but it's entirely up to you!
It should be noted here that some countries have legal restrictions on the power output of laser pointers. In the United States (and many countries) the maximum power output is 5 mW, but it varies from place to place. Check your local laws before your purchase, especially if you plan on importing, or you may find your gift never reaches its recipient.
Logitech 5.1 Surround Speakers $100-350
Often the best way to immerse yourself in a gaming experience is not through the purchase of a new graphics card, but through a good set of surround speakers. Hearing enemies come from behind you in a game like Dead Space, or feeling the rumble of a subwoofer in combat games like Battlefield 4, is truly the best way to play.
As for which system to choose, I'd lean towards Logitech's strong offerings. For $99 you can get the entry-level Z506 speakers, which pack 75 watts (RMS) of power and sound pretty decent for the price. If you're feeling a bit more generous, consider the superior Z906 speakers for $350 with 500 watts (RMS) of power and multiple digital inputs that accept consoles as well as PCs. I have an older version of the Z906s and they sound incredible, so it's well worth the investment.
Z906 PF score: 79
We've recommended some expensive items in this year's gift guide, but I thought I'd recommend the most expensive yet. If you happen to have a considerable amount of disposable income, and the person is so special to you that they warrant a $5,000+ gift, buy them something truly exorbitant but also amazing: a high-quality slow-motion camera.
Typically slow motion cameras are either low-resolution and relatively cheap, or high-resolution and the same price as an Aston Martin. Somewhere in the middle falls the brand new Edgertronic unit, branded as the "first affordable high-speed camera" (where affordable means $5,500). It accepts Nikon F-mount lenses and records up to 18,000 frames per second, or 700 frames per second at 1280 x 720. Your gift recipient will have some great fun recording slow-motion video with this camera, if you can afford it.
TechSpot's Holiday Gift Guide 2013 is sponsored by Best Buy.