The Classy Geek’s 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are fast approaching, and this classy geek desperately needs to get to holiday shopping. If you’re shopping for a classy geek of your own, or if you’re just looking for a nice gift that will show your recipient that you’ve got a good head about your shoulders, we’re here to help. Regardless of whether you’re looking to spend big bucks or pocket change, here are 15 gifts that you can pick up that have style and substance, show off a little geek cred, and are actually useful, fun, and things that with any luck won’t show up on Craigslist or eBay by Valentine’s Day.

  1. Panasonic TC-PxxG10/TC-PxxS1 Plasma TVs
    Don’t get me wrong, the market share of plasma televisions has been steadily declining over the past several years, and the future is definitely in LCD televisions, specifically LED LCDs and 240Hz LCDs. But plasmas on the other hand, have gotten a bad rap. They’ve come down in power consumption (although still gobble up more than an LCD) and gone way up in quality. You don’t have to worry about replacing a lamp over the life of the TV anymore, and you don’t have to worry about burn-in like you used to. There’s no reason not to consider plasma anymore, and they’re remarkably cheap.

    There are some great holiday bargains out there on televisions, and you don’t even have to look far. You can scrub your favorite deal sites or just pick up your local big box store circular and there they are, and among some of those great bargains are Panasonic’s plasma lineup, well regarded as some of the best bang-for-your-buck HDTVs on the market. I partially say this because I have a 50 inch S1, but partially because the S1 and the G10 have garnered excellent reviews from PCMag and CNet for being excellent TVs with big screens and few imperfections.

    If the geek on your shopping list this year hasn’t made the shift to HDTV, or is sitting 13 feet from a screen about 26-inches across, Panasonic’s 42-54 inch versions of the S1 and the G10 can be had for anywhere between $600 – $1200 for the smaller screens to the larger screen versions. The S1 came out before the G10 and the G10 offers some updated pictures and additional features, and will cost you maybe a $200 premium over the S1 series of TVs. If you look a bit, you can pick up a 50 inch S1 and a Blu-ray player together for less than a grand. I did, and it’d make a great family gift for the geek or movie aficionado on your list.


  2. Sony Bravia KDL-32XBR9
    Okay, maybe you’re more interested in an LCD, but you still want a massive screen for the geek on your list. Maybe you’re interested in giving yourself a present as well, or you don’t want a big screen HDTV but still want one that’s going to look great when you put your favorite movies up on it. Look about for one of the Sony Bravia KDL XBR series of HDTVs. The nice thing about the series is that you can pick one up in any size that works for you, from 32” all the way up to 52”, and you can pick them up at great prices.

    The only panel that has multiple configurations is the 32-inch, so you can save a little money if you go with a 720p panel at 60Hz, but I can’t in good conscience recommend to anyone that they do that. Now’s the time to get a great deal on a 120Hz (or even a 240Hz) panel at full 1080p resolution, and these Sony panels look gorgeous – you can even pick up a 32-inch panel at 1080p and 120Hz for around $700 if you look hard, which is perfect for a geek’s master bedroom or even a smaller living room, or even to get someone who’s not really a movie or TV buff into the whole high-def space without breaking the bank. And can you imagine the look on someone’s face when this puppy is wrapped up under the tree?


  3. Sony PS3 Slim
    Probably one of the best, and still one of the most affordable Blu-ray players on the market, and this year’s must-have video game console. If you’re shopping around for one of those high-end Blu-ray players this holiday season with Netflix and special downloadable movie features and other really swanky tools and bells and whistles, you can’t really beat buying a Blu-ray player where one of the “bells and whistles” is that it’s amazing video game console. Don’t believe me? Look around for Blu-ray players; you’ll find that as you start to pile on the features, the price tag quickly approaches and then surpasses that of the PS3.

    At the same time, if you’re a gamer and you’ve been waiting to pick up a PS3, now’s the time to do it. With titles out like Little Big Planet, Uncharted 2, and Demon’s Souls along with downloadable titles like Wipeout HD, there’s no reason not to have one, and there’s no reason to get stuck behind last year’s impression that the PS3 was the platform without a quality game library – that’s changed entirely. Add to this that there are some incredible deals on the PS3 and bundles with some of the season’s hottest games, and you can thrill yourself, the gamer, or the movie lover on your list by putting this puppy next to the menorah this holiday.


  4. Nintendo DSi
    Nintendo released the DSi earlier this year, and if you already have a Nintendo DS Lite or even a DS, you’ll be hard pressed to justify the purchase of a DSi, but if you don’t have a handheld gaming platform and haven’t experienced the joy of puzzle games like Puzzle Quest, Professor Layton, or Phoenix Wright: Ace Attourney, then you haven’t lived. You’ll do yourself a favor by giving someone else a DSi this holiday season, because then you can borrow it and get into those games yourself. Alternatively, if the geek on your gift list this year has a long commute or takes public transit, they’ll love the option to play games on something that won’t necessarily vibrate every time their boss sends them an email asking when they’re going to be in the office.

    At the same time, if you’re like me and have geeky parents in your life who love puzzle games, they’ll appreciate you giving them a gift that sates the geek in their heart with something techy and good, but something that also passes the idle time with something intellectually stimulating. All the way around, it’s a great gift, and affordable, too!


  5. Dragon Age Origins
    Here’s one for the gamer on your list. Bioware’s newest RPG offering is a dark fantasy story with antiheroes galore, rich and deep story, hours upon hours of rich gameplay, tons of character customization and party companion options, and multiple paths through the game that all lead to different and interesting endings. If the gamer in you or on your list this holiday hasn’t already picked this game up, there’s no excuse not to get it for them, considering it’s available for the Xbox 360, the PS3, and for PC.

    There’s a reason why everyone and their mother has been talking about this title this year. In the game you play a Grey Warden recruit, a member of an elite fighting force tasked with holding the evil darkspawn at bay to preserve the peace and safety of the world. That being said, you’re only as much of a goody goody hero as you want to be. That’s the glory of a Bioware RPG – you have complete and utter control over the kind of character you play and the decisions you make – not to mention which of your lovely party members you choose to bed down with, if any.


  6. Muramasa: The Demon Blade
    This is the title that should make you go out and get a Nintendo Wii if you don’t have one, and if you have one, this is the title that’ll make you turn it on for anything but Wii Fit or Wii Sports. If you had one and you sold it because the novelty wore off for you, this is the title that should make you go back out and get one, especially since it’s a Wii exclusive.

    You think I’m kidding, but Muramasa: The Demon Blade is a 2D side scrolling adventure game that’s so stunning and beautiful that I personally think that if it were bundled with the console I’d consider the console the free part. It’s gorgeous, fun, and sports an engrossing story and tons of replayability. You have the option to play Kisuke, a ninja who has lost his memory, or Momohime, a princess possessed and forced to do the bidding of the soul co-habitating inside her. Both characters start on opposite sides of Japan and as the story progresses they move towards each other and pass each other, and their stories cross in an interesting way.

    The game’s 2D art is reminiscent of the game Odin Sphere, which if you haven’t played you should (hey, pick THAT up as a gift for the gamer on your list, it’s a PS2 title and it’s definitely in the bargain bin by now) so expect it to be absolutely stunning and immersive. It doesn’t hurt that the story is so incredibly compelling as well. If you have a gamer on your list who’s ever mentioned the old school titles they used to love, they’ll appreciate this very new game that was made with the mastery of old school games.


  7. Apple iPhone 3GS (or iPod Touch)
    If you haven’t gone smartphone yet and you live in a town where AT&T service is good, there’s no reason for you not to run out and pick up an iPhone 3Gs. I know, I know, Apple this, sandbox that, data plan this, text messages that – look. The iPhone is more than just a smartphone, it really is one of the first breed of mobile computing platforms that we’ve seen in the marketplace, and while there are lots of great other options in the market today, the iPhone still stands out as a device that not only makes calls and plays music, but can also keep you entertained with thousands of free and affordable games to download, can keep you organized with tons of apps designed to help you manage your life and get the best price on the goods and services you buy, stay in touch with your friends, and more.

    Not interested in buying someone a cell phone (and of course, saddling them with the inevitable contract it comes with) for the holidays? Snag them an iPod Touch, which gives them all of the benefits of an iPhone, including wifi and all the apps you can download, just without GPS and the ability to make phone calls or use cellular data networks. It’s even a good PDA if you’re the type who likes to have an organizer that may not be your phone.


  8. Droid by Motorola
    The first major competitor to rise against the iPhone, the Droid by Motorola lives over on Verizon Wireless’s data network, which as we all know is the best in the country. (That doesn’t mean that it’s the best in your town though!) If you want the benefit of Verizon’s network but also want a smartphone, the Droid is where it’s at.

    Motorola’s making a strong comeback with the Droid, and since it runs Google’s Android operating system for mobile phones, there are tons of great and useful apps to choose from to do everything from comparison shop when you’re in a store to update your friends on Twitter and see what your friends on Facebook are doing tonight. The hardware itself is stunning as well, about as thick as an iPhone 3Gs with a slide-out keyboard and a gorgeous bright screen that’s big enough to display an entire webpage when viewing in landscape mode.

    If someone on your list is geeky even in the slightest and is currently stuck with a crappy Verizon Wireless mobile phone because they love the network but previously never had options for a decent device, give them the gift of a new mobile contract with a data plan and pick them up a Motorola Droid. They won’t be disappointed.


  9. Amazon Kindle eBook Reader
    If there’s a bibliophile on your list in any way, they’ll appreciate the gift of an eBook reader. The Amazon Kindle certainly isn’t the only eBook reader on the market, but it’s definitely the most well-known and the most mature as a product. You can download books from Amazon for $10 USD flat, read your blogs, update your social networks, surf the Web, and carry it everywhere with you since it has cellular network capabilities. The Kindle can download books in a snap, and by using e-ink technology you can read the monochrome screen without glare even with a light right over your shoulder – perfect for reading on the beach or outside on the patio with a cold drink in the summertime. Additionally, the Kindle sports text-to-speech and can even read supported books to you, read your blogs aloud at you, or read the day’s news to you while you’re making your morning coffee.

    The kindle isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely the gift that keeps on giving if your geek is a book lover. You can even give them the gift of a few books to read on their shiny new eBook reader. Add to that the fact that Amazon has a massive catalog of over 360,000 books for the Kindle and you have an eBook reader that wins hands down this holiday season.


  10. Gift Certificate
    If you’re holiday shopping for someone who has a long commute or does a lot of traveling this holiday, give the gift of audiobooks. Nothing makes a long drive go by or a wait on the tarmac at an airport easier to deal with than listening to a book through your headphones or through your car speakers. Best of all, books are recorded in beautiful quality and work on your iPod that you can just connect to your car stereo.

    Trust me, loading up an iPod with audiobooks that will teach you a new language or tell an amazing story or help you figure out how to stay organized or motivated at the office is much better than having to carry a bunch of individual CDs into the car or on the plane and switch them out when you listen to them.


  11. iTunes or Amazon MP3 Gift Card
    Give the gift of music this holiday season, and the best way to give that gift is to give your loved ones gift certificates to the biggest online music stores out there. iTunes and AmazonMP3 both allow you to give your friends and family gift certificates that they can redeem on the web to download their favorite bands. Don’t worry about getting them the wrong type of music or the wrong band this year, just let them go get what they want! Seriously – buying CDs for yourself is one thing, buying them and wrapping them as gifts? Unless that’s how you and your recipient roll, stop it.


  12. Harmony One Universal Remote
    If you’re like most geeks, you probably have an entertainment center full of game consoles, DVD players, a receiver, a cable or satellite receiver, and other assorted goodies. And if you’re like most geeks, you’re not alone. Pick up the gift that will keep giving every time your recipient picks it up to turn on their TV and watch a little cable, or play a video game, or watch a movie: a Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote.

    Logitech’s Harmony series of remotes can handle just about any device you might happen to have in your entertainment center, and it’s insanely easy to program. You don’t need to have cumbersome model numbers and product IDs for your devices (although in some cases they definitely help) anymore, and you don’t have to punch in codes to your universal remote and hope they’re the right one – just plug the Harmony into your computer via USB and tell the software what type of TV you have, what type of cable box you have, and so on, and you’re golden.

    It’s the kind of gift you don’t have to be a geek to appreciate, but when you have someone over for a quiet evening, a drink, and a movie in front of the big screen, nothing says class than picking up one remote to turn everything on and start your movie instead of having to wade through four or five remotes just to get the right things turned on. Your recipient will be glad you’re the geek who thought of it.


  13. Bodum Chambord French Press
    I’m something of a lightweight coffee snob. I’m not super specific and the learning process isn’t over for me; but one thing I have done is give up my standard coffee pot (except for when I’m making a lot of coffee at one time) for a French press. The taste of the coffee is completely different, and you’ll really appreciate the richness and the complexity of your coffee when you’re brewed it in a French press. So why not share that deliciousness with your friends with an inexpensive gift?

    Chambord’s line of French presses aren’t exactly the most expensive and probably not even the best, but they’re affordable, available everywhere, and they make a lovely cup of joe that even your friends who traditionally don’t like coffee can probably appreciate.


  14. Metrokane Rabbit Wine Opener
    If there’s a food lover on your gift list this year, they’ll appreciate a wine opener that doesn’t involve twisting a corkscrew themselves and fiddling with handles to try and get a cork out of a bottle. Matrokane’s “Rabbit” series of wine openers and sets open bottles in seconds instead of minutes, and even automatically eject the cork once you have the bottle open and you’re ready to serve.

    Never again will your giftee have to struggle with a bottle of wine at the serving table or risk getting it all over themselves – or alternatively worry about exactly how much force they should use to try and open that expensive bottle of wine you brought to go with the holiday meal. Besides, products like this (and comparable, the Houdini wine opener (also from Metrokane) add a touch more class to your love of wine (if that was even possible) and make it ridiculously easy to open bottles. Once you use one, you’ll never go back unless you left it at home.


  15. Kurig Single-Cup coffee Brewer
    I used to be pretty down on single-cup coffee brewers and “pod” coffee machines because they don’t give you the control over the beans and the blend that you can get just by roasting and grinding your own or buying roasted beans from a local roaster and a grinder from your grocery store. Heck, you can even buy roasted beans at the grocery store, grind in the store, and enjoy at home if you want – but with pod brewers you’re left at the mercy of the manufacturer and wherever they get their coffee, and if the company vanishes you’re out of luck on the pods, too. That’s why you should go with a company like Kurig or Tassmio, that’s probably not going anywhere.

    I still wouldn’t recommend replacing your coffee maker with one of these or even your French press (see above), but if you’re as much of a coffee lover as I am and love a good fresh cup through the day, I would absolutely suggest this as an expensive but perfect desk accessory. If I had an office where the only available coffee was the goo out of a push-pot that probably hasn’t been cleaned since before the dot-com bubble, I’d drag one of these to the office with me and keep a couple of cups with it.

    Anyone, geeky or otherwise, would love to unwrap something like this, and they’ll love you for giving them the gift of a delicious caffeinated beverage without having to leave their desk or home office.

Well there you have it ladies and gentlemen, guy and gal geeks. Regardless of whether you’re a big spender on someone you love or want to impress, or you’re buying for your own household and willing to drop some cash on a shiny new HDTV, or you have a couple of bucks to toss at a video game for your gamer friend or coffee lover, there are some suggestions on the list that you can pick up at any price point that will thrill their recipient. And hey, if you’re buying for a household, you may even get the opportunity to enjoy some of them too…that is unless you’re reading this and feverishly adding items to your own wish list.

In any event, here’s to a geeky holiday to you, regardless of what you celebrate!



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5 responses to “The Classy Geek’s 2009 Holiday Gift Guide”

  1. Rachel Avatar

    Nice list! Especially the Harmony One remote… we have one and it is amazing. Actually, we have almost everything on this list. ;-)

    Here are a couple more suggestions off the top of my head (on the upper end of the price range though):

    1) Home Server! No geek home is complete without one.

    2) Bose noise-canceling headphones. Expensive, but practical. It’s probably the single best thing you can do for your music collection.

  2. sjon Avatar

    I would skip on the TVs and game consoles. But the others are good gifts. To get as well as to give ^_^

    (the phones make good gisfts but around here different models and different contracts work)

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