profile of Chuck Kolyvas

2012 Tech Gift Buying Guide

If you’re like me, you don’t enjoy Christmas…. but enough about me! Let’s talk Xmas Technology Gift Guide! Ugh… *shoot me*

Technology doesn’t have to be expensive, but often, it is. And if you think you’ve seen fussy, the quiet technophile is one of the fussiest creatures that society has ever created. Here are some tips on how not to fuck things up for your technophile, significant other/kid:

One

If you’re spending a decent amount of cash, there’s no substitute for a live demonstration. So you’ve read the online reviews and you’ve narrowed down your choices—if you can, walk into a bricks & mortar store and try it out. Have stuff written down and show the salesperson you’ve done your research, otherwise, they’re going to go into their high-markup, commission-focused sales spiel, “how can I help you, little lady/man?”

Two

Consult his/her best friend: “I’ve got three choices, which one do you think they’ll like?” The bestie will know.

Three

Buy online. I know it’s probably too late for most online purchases to safely get to you by the end of next week, but many locally-based, online stores will give you a guide on how late you can buy before Xmas. And even if you try a product in-store, walk out and buy that shit online. There can be a lot of markup out there and online retailers are happy to cut it back. ¡¡SHOP AROUND!!

Four

If in doubt, go with brand names you know. At the very least, this makes your job so much easier.

Five

A simple design means more of your spend is going into how well it works.

Here are some easy buys for those last minute tech presents:

iPod docks

Opinions on audio quality are rather broad, so let’s just take my opinion, as an example: Avoid cheap, tinny bullshit!

That $38 iPod dock speaker system with “incredible fidelity” is utter tripe—I don’t even need to listen to it—I just know it is. But it could be the perfect gift for a 13-year-old, because it comes in their favourite colour. Just remember that you or a parent/guardian will have to live with the shrilly barbs that attack your ears every time the kid puts Rihanna’s Diamonds on… repeat.

Sonos’ Play:3 is at the other end of the spectrum. It’s not actually a dock, because there’s no actual dock. However, you can wirelessly run your iTunes through it or use a wide range of streaming services (internet radio, Spotify, JB NOW & Rdio to name a few). Push music from your iPhone, Android device, iPad, PC or Mac. Add a second unit (or more) and you’ve got multi-zone sound—metal in the rumpus room, opera in the kitchen or play the same thing throughout the house. Most folks won’t believe the sound that comes out of the Play:3 either—it has some kick. The price is a hefty $399 (plus $79 for the required wireless box). I bought two of them!

JBL’s 200iD is somewhere in the middle in both price and performance. I helped a friend buy this iPod dock in JB HiFi, 2 years ago. We walked in, stuck her iPhone into a bunch of them and listened to her music. (I hate her music, but) out of all the docks in her price range ($250) the 200iD sounded best. Importantly, it didn’t look like a heap of shite either. Take this Google image search for example, it illustrates how fugly iPod docks are. JB are now selling this doc for $199.

Games

Chances are your technophile has a games system already. If not, basic consoles are going cheap: JB is selling Xbox 360 4GB for $194, PS3 12GB for $259. The new Nintendo Wii U can be had in its basic form for $299, but I’ve already warned you against buying it this Xmas.

If they’ve already got the console, then at least one of these games should make them happy:

Black Ops III reviewed it here. It’s a winner for those who like first person shooters with confusing plots but lots of guys to kill. Gunplay overload. The zombie mode is a highlight!

Assassin’s Creed III—I’ve never been a fan of the series, until now.  The showstopper in this game is the naval battle feature that I’ve harped on about before. Trust me, the battles are amazing—they make all the game’s bugs and interface quirks worthwhile. AC3 takes time to play—not for those who want instant gratification. A good game for an endless summer.

Far Cry 3—notice how they’re all sequels? That’s the state of the games industry right now, but anyway… another beautiful looking game. If any game is extracting the most out of aging games consoles right now, it’s Far Cry 3. You’re Jason Brody, a guy marooned on an uncharted island. Cue lawlessness and much violence!

Tablets

There’s no denying that the darling of the tablet world is currently the iPad Mini. Even I was besotted with it as soon as I picked it up. I’ve now got my sights set on one… perhaps the next iteration of it in 2013. To my mind, buying a tablet is fairly simple. First you’ve got to understand that not all tablets are created equal. Then you’ve got to look at how much investment the user already has in the various ecosystems. If they’re an Apple fan, get them the iPad Mini. If not/if they don’t care, get them the Google Nexus 7. That’s how simple it is really.

iPad Mini—it’s expensive—not quite as expensive as the 10-inch iPad (original), but it’s a fair amount when you compare it to any other brand of tablets. Quite frankly, Apple are playing premium card here. But as soon as you pick it up, you are likely to think, “yeah, this is the right size.” Unless there’s a specific requirement for the 10-inch screen, this is the only iPad to buy. Also, don’t get fooled into forking out for the biggest capacity drive either. Aim for middle of the road 32GB as a maximum. Let the recipient manage their data wisely. Prices start at $369 for the Wi-Fi only, 16GB model. My pick is the 32GB cellular but it’s a massive $619!

Nexus 7—if there’s a worthy challenger to iPad Mini, it’s the Nexus 7. It does everything iPad Mini does, but in a non-Apple way and for substantially less. If your loved one isn’t tethered to the Apple ecosystem, then don’t start them now. The Nexus 7 offers a good level of fit and finish; it’s a svelte monolith of plastic and glass. It packs a quad core processor, a high res screen that even trumps iPad Mini’s display. It’s nice to hold in the hand thanks to its narrower width. Prices start around $230 for the 8GB Wi-Fi only, but my money is on the 32GB 3G model $399. It’s a steal.

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