Oddly enough, the proliferation of electronic gadgetry, computer stuff and other digital goodies has made buying for the discerning sparkhead (we just coined that — please enjoy and proliferate at will) tougher. With this list, we aim to make the shopping a little simpler by covering suggestions for readers, photogs, movie buffs and gamers. Take a gander and start clicking; your techie giftee will thank you, probably with an email or holographic video message or something.


Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition


The iPhone, that king of the smartphones, has sort of gone off the reservation lately, what with plastic candy- and champagne-colored options hoping to entice, well, people who like candy and champagne. Samsung is playing it straight and offering phone users what they want: an ultra-thin device with a great screen, fast processor and enough power and memory to keep computing, texting, talking, listening, watching and playing through dawn. The Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition, decked out with a 5-inch AMOLED HD display and 13MP camera, also features truly mobile features like a removable battery for swapping in spares and a microSD slot that’ll take up to 64GB of media. The entire Google mobile suite is pre-installed and at the ready for ease of use with the Android operating system, and, as the name suggests, Google Play — with its nearly 1,000,000 apps and games and seemingly endless music/movies/shows/etc. — gets a starring role. Pick up an unlocked version and choose your carrier, or jet set and stay tethered to no master.

Microsoft Surface 2


Ironically, Microsoft’s Surface 2 delves a lot deeper than the surface of the tablet market; indeed, they’re a certain frontrunner in the game. Improved in nearly every way over the previous generation, the 2 is lighter, faster, slimmer and boasts a truly impressive 10 hours of battery life. Preloaded with a made-for-touchscreens Windows Office RT 2013 (including Outlook for email, calendars and more), it’s ready to do computing battle on multiple fronts — and at multiple angles: the built-in kickstand positions itself in two angles so you can optimize your work or play space. A fast NVIDIA processor handles the grunt work while the widescreen HD display runs 1080p video like lightning. Storage and peripherals are a snap: with an SD card slot for media storage, USB 3.0 and the included two years of free 200GB SkyDrive space, you’ll be hard pressed to run out of room.

Sony RX 100II


Not all that long ago, it was impressive when a point-and-shoot had 5MP resolution and some sort of anti-shake mechanism. Granted, Sony RX series cameras aren’t exactly micro-sized, but comparing them to yesteryear’s small rigs borders on laughable: a sensor over 20MP, an f/1.8 Carl Zeiss lens, 3.6 zoom, high speed auto-focus, ISO up to 12,800 and JPEG/RAW modes are all DSLR-level features. An articulating 3-inch display helps frame your shot from most any angle, but the camera will also connect to a smartphone via wi-fi or NFC, so you’ve got a separate monitor and shutter control in your pocket if you need it. A 1-inch sensor collects enough photons to grab low-light imagery with aplomb, and the shoe on top accepts any manner of peripherals, from flashes to viewfinders. A 10 fps shooting rate…facial recognition and tracking…supreme image stabilization…on and on and on. It’s the best microSD camera you can fit in your palm — or in that nerdy stocking on the hearth.

Samsung PNF8500 series HDTV


Automated homes, cars that drive themselves, supercomputers in our pockets — we’ll say it again: the future is now. Samsung’s Smart TV, which searches for shows and movies in response to simple voice commands, is further evidence of that. Smart Hubs (various home screens) accept swipe gestures as a means of navigating through apps, media content, movies and more, while facial recognition registers individual users to call up their separate viewer profiles and tailor content accordingly. Purchase the Smart Evolution Kit and you’ll always have access to the latest version of your TV’s software, so there’s no need to toss it in the trash every time a new unit comes out. Not that you’d be all that keen on ditching a 51-inch, 600Hz Plasma HD TV, but stranger people have walked the earth.

SanDisk Memory Cards & Wireless Storage


Remember how much you paid for your first hard drive upgrade? It was probably the size of a shampoo bottle, wildly expensive, and just a handful of megabytes. SanDisk is the leader in SD memory, and for good reason. Their near-postage-stamp-sized SD data vaults store up to half the space of your standard laptop and move it back and forth at up to 95 MB/second; their CompactFlash cards achieve twice that at 160 MB/second. Memory Sticks expand device memory for better performance from cameras and game consoles. And of course, their suite of card readers makes it possible to use all of these little memory miracles as portable, pocket-sized storage. Many of the gifts on this list gladly accept SanDisk cards, allowing gift recipients (we know you’re buying it all for yourself) to get the most out of their tech. It’s just too bad no one’s got SD card slots in their brain — imagine all the keys we’d never lose.

Editor’s Note: Love SanDisk storage but hate swapping cards back and forth? The company’s new wireless storage solutions are the gift for you. Both the SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive and the SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive make it easy to connect to your content across a host of common mobile devices without having to worry about cords, compatibility or an Internet connection.

Nerdy Books


We use the term “nerd” quite fondly. These men are passionate about their interests, no matter how obscure or non-mainstream they may be. Herein we suggest three books that might appeal to computer science nerds, psychology nerds and music nerds, each featuring a techie element either obvious or a bit more obscure. The 25th anniversary edition of Hackers examines those figures in the tech world who, since the 1950s, have furthered the advancement of computers from room-sized number crunchers to that little thing in your pocket. Smarter Than You Think is a study in brain power in which the author Clive Thompson, of WIRED and New York Times fame, dishes on the positive effects of technology on the modern mind. How Music Works is former Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne’s thoughtful exploration of music — playing it, creating it, navigating its industry and more — as it applies to his own career and to the world in general. Make your giftee a book nerd too.

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DSPTCH Macbook Cases


It goes without saying that DSPTCH knws thr sht. We happen to be big fans, and if you take a look at the computer sleeves they make (not to mention the camera straps, packs and more), you will be too. This is a straightforward Macbook case, but it’s engineered to the company’s exacting standards and hewn of ballistic mesh and nylon pack cloth. Smart cord management loops and a pouch on the front keep unruly cables in check, and this particular version is custom made to fit the 15-inch Apple model with Retina Display. Pop it in another bag or carry it alone and show off your gd tste.

Seiko Astron


We’re quickly approaching the 45th anniversary of Seiko’s Astron watch. In ’69 it was impressive as hell: 100 times more accurate than competitors, the quartz-powered Astron would keep time so well it lost only 5 seconds each month. That meant it would lose only a minute over the time it could run continuously: a year, which far, far outpaced other watches. But that was decades ago. As time has marched on, the mechanical Astron hasn’t lost a beat; in fact, it’s improved by many magnitudes. The current version, aside from being chunky and masculine, will lose only one second every 100,000 years and adjusts automatically to time zones. Eat that, 45 years ago.

Belkin WeMo Home Automation System


The aforementioned automated home is but a few special electrical outlets and an app download away. Belkin has made Ray Bradbury’s nightmares a reality with this suite of gadgetry that allows users to power their homes on (or off) from anywhere they have a cell signal. The light switch activates remotely via mobile device, but can also communicate with the WeMo app to respond to an auto-updating sunrise/sunset program so you’ll never be left in the dark. The Insight Switch shoots feedback to the app so you can monitor energy usage; like the WeMo Switch, it can operate the power in an electrical outlet remotely. WeMo motion makes physical switches a thing of the past, responding to simple movement to activate whatever your heart desires. Finally, WeMo Baby is a trick gadget that turns your mobile device into a baby monitor, which means you don’t have to strap that white plastic thing to your belt anymore.

Vizio Home Theater


A three channel, 42-inch sound bar, wireless subwoofer and satellite speakers doing surround sound duty make this Vizio setup the complete package — a 102dB package with less than 15 of harmonic distortion, that is. Not only is the subwoofer wireless, but your music is too: the system picks up Bluetooth signals from your mobile devices to stream your favorite deep tracks with pristine clarity and big sound. It’s an award-winning bundle originally trotted out at CES this year, a bargain now available for plug-and-play installation in your local home theater.

Phiaton Fusion MS 430


We’d like to suggest wearing cement shoes and/or buckling yourself to whatever surface on which you’re perched should you choose to take in sounds via Phiaton’s MS 430 headphones. Thee ‘phones are constructed of carbon fiber and titanium anodized aluminum, which is reason enough to make your wallet a little lighter. But there’s more — this headgear utilizes 40mm drivers that refine high frequencies especially well and Neodymium magnets that make bass notes just a bit more special. Red accents catch the eye, and the tangle-free cable (with built-in microphone and music controls) is designed to minimize distortion. True music lovers know that the proper sound waves can make a person lightheaded; audiophiles all over will agree these headphones do the same.

Moneul Rydis H67


Unlike other well-known cleaning bots out there, the Moneul Rydis H67 can dry mop and vacuum, and at a reasonable price. It’s even smart enough to sense when the Microfiber Mop is attached and avoid carpeted areas or rugs when in cleaning mode to prevent any accidents of the automated variety. A special Shadow Active Cleaning setting also allows the device to concentrate cleaning on hard-to-reach areas that don’t receive direct light including under your bed and couch. Sure, it won’t keep you entertained like the items above, but it will give you more free time to play with them.