• MacTalk Christmas Gift Guide | Benny

    I can only think of one thing better than researching cool things on the web to give to others for Christmas, and that's being on the receiving end of said gifts. That said, everyone needs a few ideas for things to give this Christmas season, so here's a few of my suggestions; some practical, some physical, all awesome.

    If you're short on cash but still want to give someone something they'll have an inordinate amount of fun with, why not give the gift of game? Alec already covered this yesterday with his digital video game stocking stuffers, but I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend just two games.

    The first is Ghost Trick, an iOS port what was perhaps one of the greatest DS games ever released. It features one of the best stories of any game I've ever played, combined with some nice brain-tickling puzzle gameplay. Truly a fantastic game.

    The second game recommendation I'm going to make is The Walking Dead for iOS. It's another story-based game, so suitable for people who don't usually game a lot. There's a few cinematics to keep non-gamers happy, and what gameplay it does have is pretty light — but what's not light is the decisions you'll make during the course of the game. I'm not kidding when I say some of them really hit home — if you don't feel somewhat emotional for the characters after certain scenes, you're dead inside.

    Both games are available on the iTunes Store, and both are Universal apps for iPhone and iPad. Paying for these games might be a little tricky if you're doing the traditional gifting thing, because they're both free to play the first chapter/level, and have in-app-purchases for the remainder of the levels. Ghost Trick's levels are $10.49, and The Walking Dead has a $15.99 purchase that unlocks the extra 4 chapters. A $30 iTunes Store gift card will cover both games with dollars to spare, and a little card/note to suggest the above two games will go together nicely.

    Okay, let's get this one out of the way: no geek Christmas tree is complete without some kind of USB flash drive underneath. I mean, flash drives are practically the socks of the geek world. And the great thing is, no-one, I mean, no-one, ever has enough flash drives sticks. If someone says they do they're obviously lying. But wait, instead of just going out and finding any old USB stick this Christmas, why not something a little special? A few recommendations:

    Mimobots USB flash drives are the cutest ones you'll find, guaranteed. Starting at just $20 ex shipping in 8GB capacities and up, they come in all sorts of flavours, from Star Wars, DC Comics, and more. Chances are you'll be able to find one that suits whomever you have in mind.

    For the practical geek, there's the LaCie RuggedKey. Anthony reviewed one earlier this year, and besides also being drop, water, and temperature resistant, it also features USB 3 for speedy file transfers. You can usually find it for around $39 for the 16GB version, but it also comes in a 32GB flavour too: check staticICE for exact prices.

    Speaking of USB 3, if you're going to have a USB stick why not have the fastest USB stick available? Jeff Atwood recently took the Patriot Supersonic Magnum for a spin, and it's practically an SSD in your pocket: 237MB/s reads and 143MB/s writes are no laughing matter for super portable storage. But with great speed comes an even greater price: staticICE says $129 for the 64GB version, and $229 for the 128GB version. But wait, you say, can't you just buy an SSD for that kind of money? Which brings us to…

    Trust me on this one: putting a solid state drive in your machine will make your life better. There's a reason Apple now use flash memory in almost half of their Mac lineup — if you use your computer and want the most responsive machine possible, get an SSD — it's that simple. They're available in plenty of different makes and models, but I have an affinity for the OCZ Vertex series — a 256GB Vertex 4 will set you back $239 from PC Case Gear, and will be the gift that keeps on giving.

    I don't know anyone who doesn't like music, and if you like music, you'll probably like Spotify. As it turns out, a Spotify Premium subscription can be purchased as a gift. You have to be a Spotify member yourself (what better way to give personal anecdotes about the service?), and you can purchase Premium subscriptions in 1-month ($11.99), 3-month ($35.97), 6-month ($71.94), or even gift a whole year of Spotify Premium for $143.88. The great thing about Spotify is that it's essentially music-on-demand, and there are also some pretty good Mac and iOS clients — my review is here if you're interested in learning more.

    What gift guide published on MacTalk would be complete without some kind of Apple-related gift idea? Which brings us to the last item on this list, a gift idea for the true Mac fan: prints from none other than Susan Kare, designer of many of the original Mac icons. Sadly the date for orders to arrive before Christmas has come and gone, but the kareprints website has some pretty good gift ideas. I'm not sure a Metawatch is exactly within my Christmas budget, but you'd definitely score some major brownie points. Otherwise, a nice poster of Clarus or even the book and print set would go down a treat.

    So there you have it, a gift guide to suit almost any budget and giftee. Of course, these are just ideas to get you started, so go forth and find some other cool things.
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