TekSavvy Blog

2014 Gift Guide

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 19, 2014 10:00:44 AM / by TekSavvy Solutions Inc

The holidays are here, and as the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Whether you’re planning on braving your local shopping mall or are hoping to make the majority of your purchases online, we’ve got something for everyone over the next eleven pages, and hopefully we can make your holiday gift grabbing a little easier as the days tick down to December 25th!

Smartphones

Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus
It’s been a long time coming, but Apple has finally bitten the bullet and given consumers the larger iPhones they’ve been begging for! The iPhone 6 takes the standard iPhone model into the same ballpark as flagship Android devices for the first time thanks to its 4.7” display, providing much more real estate than any previous model, while the 6 Plus takes things even further with it’s phablet-like 5.5” display. As is always the case with Apple you’re getting a top notch, reliable smartphone with an abundance of apps and great battery life, whichever model you opt for.

OnePlus One
When the One from OnePlus was announced earlier this year it made some serious waves in the smartphone industry, and thanks to some shrewd marketing and limited quantities, it’s still one of the most sought-after devices around right now. Offering insane specs that include 3GB of RAM and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, as well as a great 13MP camera and the Cyanogen 11S custom Android ROM, for a price that’s, quite literally, unbelievable ($299 for the 16GB model and $359 for the 64GB model).

Samsung Galaxy Note 4
They say bigger is better, and if that’s really the case than the 5.7” Samsung Galaxy Note 4 really should be up there with the very best devices on the market. Samsung has been owning the phablet side of Android for years now thanks to the Note range, but this year’s device is easily the pick of the bunch. Featuring an astonishing Quad HD display (2560x1440 resolution), the wonderful S Pen peripheral, 3GB of RAM and a monstrous 3220 mAh battery with Fast Charging capabilities, it’s a device you’ll really want to be making room for in your life.

Motorola Moto X 2014
Motorola is a company that’s been quietly going about its business over the past year or so, and the end result of that hard work is the awesome second generation Moto X, a smartphone that delivers astonishing quality for a lower price point than the vast majority of its competitors. The Moto X features a full HD 5.2” display, 2GB of RAM, 13MP rear facing camera, water resistance and a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor with Adreno 330 GPU.

Tablets

iPad Air 2
You can’t talk tablets without mentioning the device that kickstarted the movement in earnest, and Apple’s latest full-size iPad, the Air 2, is far and away the company’s most accomplished effort to date - which is one heck of a plaudit. Featuring the new A8X processor, the Air 2 is capable of performance around 40% faster than it’s predecessor, which was by no means sluggish. The 8MP iSight camera once again makes light of its relatively low megapixel count with stunning results and fully HD video capabilities, and the overall aesthetics of the device (it’s a staggering 6.1mm thin) are simply stunning.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3
It might not be a tablet in the traditional sense, given that it’s essentially a fully-featured Windows 8.1 computer crammed into a tablet form factor, but the Surface Pro 3 is nevertheless a device that’s worth giving serious consideration to if you’re looking for a portable, handheld, touchscreen device. Available in a wide range of configurations from Intel Core i3 64GB up to Intel Core i7 512GB, the Surface Pro 3 is a serious piece of kit. Forget about all the previous limitations of tablets and settle back to enjoy performance on a par with bulkier laptops, ultrabooks and desktops - but bear in mind you’ll need to pick up a keyboard separately to get the most out of it.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S
Samsung is no stranger to the tablet market, but its latest flagship, the Galaxy Tab S, is easily its best offering to date. The S comes in two form factors, 8.4” and 10.5”, to cover everyone’s preference, and thanks to its awesome Super AMOLED screen users can look forward to crystal clear display no matter which size they opt for. Like the iPad Air 2, the Tab S is improbably thin at 6.6mm, but packs one heck of a punch thanks to a 1.9GHz octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (upgradable by 128GB via microSD card) and 4900  mAh battery.

Google Nexus 9
While the latest full-size tablet offering from Google might lack the super-low price point of some of its predecessors at $429, it’s still a bargain when you consider the specs on offer - and it’s also the first tablet to come with the all-new Android 5.0 Lollipop as standard. The Nexu 9 features an 8.9” IPS LCD display that runs at a native 2048x1536 resolution, 64-big NVIDIA Tegra K1 2.3GHz processor, 192-core Kepler GPU, 2GB of RAM, 16/32GB storage and a whopping great 6700 mAh battery that’ll keep you in power for as much as 10 hours of constant internet/video playback use at a time!

Audio Visual

Toshiba 50L4353
While a new TV might be a bit extravagant for a holiday gift, we know that there are plenty of generous souls out there among our TekSavvy Insider readers, and one TV that we can’t help but recommend is the excellent Toshiba 50L4353. Not only does this gogglebox come at a very competitive price, but it’s also got an abundance of awesome features that’ll fill you with Yuletide glee! Despite being distinctly “ordinary” looking, this 50” TV offers DLNA connectivity, a decent selection

Sony HT-XT1
As TVs continue to get bigger and better, one area they continually fall down in is their built-in speakers. While the basic setup might do for smaller homes or apartments, the addition of a soundbar like the awesome Sony HT-XT1 can take your entertainment viewing into the stratosphere without breaking the bank. The HT-XT1 features 3 HDMI inputs as well as Bluetooth and NFC compatibility, making it a real powerhouse on the connectivity front, and with fantastic sound, great ease of use and setup, and a striking aesthetic, it’ll take pride of place in your home entertainment system without taking up too much space or trailing cables across the living room.

Pioneer SP-PK52FS
If a soundbar won’t quite cut the mustard in your home entertainment system, or if you’re planning on buying a gift for a real home cinema enthusiast, then the excellent Pioneer SP-PK52FS is a solution that won’t break the bank, but still delivers genuinely impressive sound quality. While each of the components in this 5.1 system are a little on the bulky side compared to more expensive offerings, if space isn’t a major concern you’ll be able to get serious results here. Setting things up might be a little time consuming (as with speaker placement in any 5.1 system), but once you find your sweet spots, you’ll be in for a real treat!

Logitech Harmony One
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier and less complicated, right? Well, if you’re anything like us, the abundance of remote controls you’ll have for your myriad devices in the living room can make life anything BUT uncomplicated, which is precisely why the Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote is the ultimate living room gift this holiday season. Although the device has been around for a while now, nothing has managed to come close to delivering the same level of versatility and ease of use, with the remote allowing you to add as many as 15 devices at a time from the huge database of more than 200,000 supported devices. Setting it up is a piece of cake, and you’ll use it the same way as any other remote control, so you can stop worrying about misplacing yet another remote down the back of the couch and instead sit back and enjoy the delights this baby has to offer!

Samsung UE65HU8500
If money is no object and a TV is riding high on your holiday gift list, then look no further than the incredibly sexy Samsung UE65HU8500. It’s definitely on the pricey side, but that’s par for the course with any emerging technology, and 4K/UHD is no difference. On top of getting an incredible four times the resolution of traditional HD crammed into this luxurious 65” display, you can also look forward to a slick curved screen, phenomenal upscaling quality for your older, non-4K media, surprisingly good audio, support for the HDMI 2.0 standard and a device that’s built with upgradability in mind.

Tablo TV
Although many of us are well underway with our cord-cutting plans, we’re still in the minority, making the excellent Tablo TV devices the ideal way to bridge that gap in functionality. By hooking the device up to your existing cable box, you can record your favourite shows for viewing later using the built-in PVR, or even stream your recordings to any compatible device no matter where you are in the world, so whether you’re looking to catch up on the latest hockey games during your holiday vacation or want to ensure you’re not out of the loop with your favourite shows, you’re covered. Tablo TV is an awesome solution for anyone still rocking a cable/satellite connection.

Roku 3
Streaming media has very become an integral part of the modern living room over the past few years, and there’s nothing on the market right now that comes close to being anywhere near as easy to use as the Roku 3 streaming media box. Not only do you have a huge library of channels to download from the built-in store, but you can also hook it into your existing Plex setup, meaning that streaming from your home computers is a piece of cake, while the countless existing Plex channels can easily be added to your living room TV. Whether you’re looking for a Netflix box, an Apple TV replacement or a way to enjoy your ever-growing library of digital media in the living room over your home network, the Roku 3 does it all with style, making it the perfect way to smarten up that dumb-TV without spending big bucks.

Gadgets

Motorola Moto 360
As gadgets go, 2014 is most definitely the year of the smartwatch. Still very much an emerging market, that hasn’t stopped pretty much everyone with an interested in smartphone from attempting their own device, but so far it’s Motorola’s Moto 360 that stands out most for us. For starters, unlike the majority of smartwatches on the market right now, the 360 features a striking round face, making it more watch-like than its competitors, but it’s also on the functionality front that it stands out, thanks to wireless QI charging (just about making up for the somewhat disappointing battery life) and the ease of use that permeates every fibre of its being. If you or a loved one is on the lookout for a smartwatch, this is easily the best option available right now.

Lemur Monitors BlueDriver
Whether you’re a car enthusiast or simply someone who’s sick of not knowing what’s going on under the hood of your vehicle, the Lemur Monitors BlueDriver has more than a few tricks up its sleeve to make your life a heck of a lot easier. Simply by plugging the hardware dongle into your vehicle and pulling up the free app (available for iOS and Android devices), you’ll be privy to a wealth of information relating to your vehicle's performance, any issues that it might be suffering with, and potential red flags that’ll point at future issues down the line. This is one holiday gift that’ll definitely make lives a lot easier in the new year!

RCA Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna
It’s never been easier to cut the cord and move away from increasingly expensive cable packages, but sometimes you just want reliable live TV to kick back and relax with. Thankfully, there’s an abundance of perfectly legal, free HDTV signals passing through your home at all times, and the RCA Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna allows you to reroute them directly into your TV in stunning HD that’ll make your cable box look positively grainy. It’s worth noting that your mileage will vary in terms of the variety, quality and stability of the broadcasts you can pull in with the device depending on your location, but if you’re lucky enough to be in a decent area, the results are spectacular!

Skullcandy Hesh 2 Headphones
Navigating the minefield of modern headphone shopping can be tricky at the best of times given the abundance of options on the market right now, but Skullcandy’s Hesh 2 headphones are the perfect midway point between price and quality, serving up delightful audio combined with a unique, striking aesthetic that’ll definitely delight.

Best Box Sets

Batman: The Complete TV Series
You don’t have to be of a certain vintage to appreciate the campy goodness of the original live-action Batman TV show, and what better way to enjoy it than in glorious HD courtesy of this awesome limited edition box set. Containing all 120 of the originally aired episodes and more than 3 hours of bonus features, you’ll be bamming, kapowing and socking your way through the holidays with joy.

Sons of Anarchy: Seasons 1-6
When it comes to action packed drama there’s nothing on TV that can hold a candle to the breathtaking Sons of Anarchy, and this special box set brings together the first six seasons of the show for the first time. Sure, the final season isn’t included, but there IS a handy space for it in the bundle, so completionists will be able to finalize their collection as soon as it launches. In terms of extras, there’s more than enough to keep even the most hardcore of fans happy spread across the 17 discs in this collection.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series
Breaking Bad my no longer be on our airwaves, but that’s no reason not to be able to enjoy one of the greatest feats in modern TV whenever the urge takes you. Spread across an impressive 16 discs you’ll find a whopping 2,658 minutes of content to enjoy, including every episode and an abundance of special features, vignettes and commentaries - plus you get a swanky money barrel to hold everything, a Saul Goodman matchbook/flash drive, 16-page collector’s booklet and a Los Pollos Hermanos apron to boot.

Downton Abbey Seasons 1-4
While Downton Abbey definitely isn’t to everyone’s taste, there’s no denying the mastery of the craft on show throughout, with the cream of British acting talent showcasing their abilities with aplomb across four full seasons. You’re probably not going to want to drop this into the stocking of your 14 year old nephew, but the chances are your mother would go ga-ga for the chance to rewatch all her favourites again at her leisure.

For the Kids

Movies
2014 has been a pretty solid year for kids’ movies, with The Lego Movie topping our list of favourites. A great 90 minutes’ fun for the whole family, it’s the kind of flick that everyone can enjoy - even after a dozen or more watches. In addition to that gem, there were a number of other great releases in theatres this year that are now available on Blu-ray/DVD, including How to Train Your Dragon 2, Bears and Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue.

Games
Buying games for younger players is often a difficult task. We shudder to think how many children receive titles like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto each holiday period, so please, please think before you spend and be sure to check whether a game is suitable or not! Titles that come with our recommendation include Mario Kart 8, Wii Sports Club and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on Wii U, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, Mario Golf: World Tour, Pokemon Art Academy and Disney Magical World on 3DS/2DS, Minecraft: PlayStation 4 Edition, LittleBigPlanet 3, NHL 14, Skylanders Trap Team and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare on PlayStation 4, and Minecraft: Xbox One Edition, Skylanders Trap Team, Fantasia: Music Evolved and Project Spark on Xbox One.

LeapFrog LeapReader Reading and Writing System
Having your child get an early grasp of basic literacy skills can help catapult them ahead of their peers and set them up for a life of educational adventures, and the LeapReader Reading and Writing System from LeapFrog is the perfect way to start them off. Not only will it regale them with wonderful tales with great voiced characters throughout, but it’ll also teach them basic writing skills, allowing them to trace over letters without making a mess using the special LeapFrog Learning Paper included within.

Sphero 2.0
Controlled via smartphone or tablet, Sphero 2.0 is a riotously enjoyable product for the whole family. Essentially it’s a small plastic ball, but that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. Inside the device are gyroscopes, motors, lights and more, and they combine to create a wonderfully entertaining toy that offers an abundance of play modes and unlockable goodies. The only thing more fun than a Sphero is two or more Spheros!

LEGO Mindstorms EV3
While most definitely on the pricier side of LEGO’s collection, the Mindstorms EV3 kit is a doozie of a gift for young minds to enjoy. With this kids can build their own robots and even program them to behave in all manner of awesome ways. The end products can even be controlled via mobile app making this a hi-tech toy that Einstein himself would’ve had buckets of fun with!

Xbox

Xbox One
While it’s true that Microsoft’s next-gen console didn’t get off to the best of starts, with a dodgy pre-release PR campaign that did more harm than good, the past six months has been nothing short of a revelation for the system: sales are up, the games just keep coming, and reduced prices make it a much more accessible option for those in search of gaming goodness. With two options available, with Kinect or without, and an ever-increasing selection of bundles, there has never been a better time to dump that 360 and jump into the future.

Xbox One Play and Charge Kit
As awesome as wireless controllers are, and as strong as the Xbox One controllers’ battery performance is, there’s still a lot to be said for the freedom provided by a handy recharging solution, and the official Xbox One Play and Charge Kit ticks all the boxes here. For $29.99 you’re getting a rechargeable battery and generously long USB cable, meaning that once your battery starts getting low, all you need to do is connect up and jump back into the game - and once you’re fully charged you can revert to the fully wireless option once again.

Xbox Live 12-Month Gold Membership
One of the biggest parts of modern gaming is the ability to take your game online and join up with millions of like minded players across the world in your favourite titles - but unless you’re fully stocked up with an Xbox Live Gold Membership you’ll be missing out. Not only does this subscription entitle you to a year’s worth of online play, but thanks to the Games with Gold service, there’s also the small matter of monthly free games to download to your account - and the games are yours to keep even if your Gold subscription expires.

Games
The games are the main attraction with any console, and the Xbox One has been delivering the goods on that front consistently since it launched in November last year. Racing fans will get plenty of mileage out of Forza 5 and Forza Horizons 2, shooter lovers need never leave the house again thanks to the abundance of content packed into Halo: The Master Chief Collection and adventure fans can lose themselves in the beautifully crafted world of Sunset Overdrive over the holidays. There are also great multi-platform titles to look out for including Destiny, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, NHL 15, Grand Theft Auto V and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Just remember to keep an eye on the ESRB age ratings if you’re buying a gift for younger players.

PlayStation

PlayStation 4
Sony clearly learned from the mistakes it made with its bungled PlayStation 3 launch in time for last November’s PS4 release, and the console has gone on to be the biggest selling next-gen system by quite some distance. A very different user experience to that found in the Xbox One thanks to its no-nonsense, lightweight interface that focuses on getting you into the gaming action with minimal fuss, the PS4 has recently added a number of new features to its operating system including the ability to stream music in your game via USB stick, record your gameplay to using external game recording hardware and play with friends using innovative

PlayStation Vita
Although Sony’s latest handheld hasn’t exactly set the world alight in terms of its commercial performance, it’s nevertheless one heck of a system. Perhaps a little held back by the fact that it launched close to two years ahead of the PlayStation 4, the Vita has really come into its own in the past year, with remote play taking centre stage - allowing players to connect to their PlayStation 4 consoles and play their favourite games via their handheld. If you’re looking for that same level of functionality, but aren’t interested in portability, then PlayStation TV, a $99.99 device that is essentially a set-top Vita without the screen, might be the best option.

PlayStation Plus 12-Month Subscription
Just as with Xbox Live, PlayStation 4 owners require an additional subscription if they’re to take their gameplay online, but the good news is that your $49.99 annual PlayStation Plus Subscription will also get you a whole host of monthly freebies spread across the entire PlayStation ecosystem. Each month Sony releases a selection of PS4, PS3 and Vita games that are downloadable, free of charge, for Plus subscribers. It’s a fantastic service tempered only by the fact that, should your Plus subscription expire, you’ll lose access to your free downloaded games until you renew.

Games
The PlayStation 4 came blazing out of the blocks last November with a series of great games that delivered on their next-gen promise, but things have admittedly dried up in recent times on the platform-exclusive front. Despite that, there’s still plenty to get excited about for newcomers to the platform, particularly the awesome LittleBigPlanet 3, a game that offers potentially limitless gameplay, as well as a brilliant creation element that lets creative types build their own levels and adventures from the ground up. Also recommended on the PS4 are Killzone: Shadow Fall, inFAMOUS: Second Son and standalone expansion First Light, The Last of Us Remastered, awesome indie shooter Resogun and MLB 14 The Show. On the Vita front there are plenty of great titles in the back catalogue including Gravity Rush, Borderlands 2, Tearaway and the Ratchet & Clank Collection.

Nintendo

Nintendo Wii U
The Wii U may not have captured the public’s imagination in the same was as its predecessor, the 100m+ selling Wii, but it’s impossible to argue with the stellar software lineup that Nintendo has been churning out in the two years since the console’s initial launch. The cheaper 8GB variant of the console hardware is no longer available, but the 32GB Deluxe Set offers much more storage space for users, which is essential in the era of digital downloads and DLC, so it’s hard to argue with Nintendo’s logic on that front. The console itself is a fantastic device, if underpowered compared to the Xbox One and PS4, and thanks to its unique GamePad controller, is capable of offering an unparalleled variety of gameplay experiences.

Nintendo 2DS/3DS
If Wii U sales have been slow for Nintendo, the 3DS continues to go from strength to strength. This handheld has been mopping the floor with its competitors since it launched back in 2011, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. An all-new variant, the 2DS is a much more kid-friendly device, discarding the sometimes troublesome flip format of the 3DS, as well as the stereoscopic 3D display, ensuring a more long-lasting and robust device. One thing that might be worth noting, however, if you’re considering a 3DS as a gift, is that there’s a new hardware variant coming in the New Year that’ll feature a second analog pad controller, as well as tweaked specs - so it might be worth holding off if you can.

Amiibo
Nintendo has always been a forward thinking company, and its new Amiibo platform takes the fine work done by the likes of Activision’s Skylanders and Disney’s Infinity franchises and tweaks it to work as part of the Nintendo ecosystem. Each Amiibo character can be used in games like Super Smash Bros., Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and Mario Kart 8 to expand upon the options and functionality of the standalone titles. With the ability for each figurine to learn your playing habits and offer up much sterner competition than the regular game AI, it’s a great way for players to practice for online play - and they look awesome displayed on a shelf too!

Games
Where to start when it comes to great Nintendo games… the choices really are almost endless! This year alone on the Wii U we’ve seen awesome titles like Bayonetta 2, Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros., Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and much more, covering most bases and offering pretty much something for everyone. The 3DS has been enjoying a similar vein of rich form with great games like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy, Super Smash Bros., Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, Mario Golf: World Tour and Bravely Default establishing the platform as the go to for the discerning gamer on the go.

PC Gaming Accessories

Oculus Rift
You really can’t talk about gaming peripherals these days without giving serious mention to the Oculus Rift. In the months following manufacturer Oculus VR’s acquisition by social media giants Facebook the topic of VR has come very much to the fore in the mainstream media, and it’s definitely not without merit. It’s impossible to explain just how good the Rift is without strapping one on and giving it a go yourself. The level of immersion on offer is nothing short of incredible - it really will take your breath away - and although the consumer version of the device isn’t set for launch until the middle of next year at the earliest, eager early adopters can pick up the development kit directly from the Oculus VR website for US$349.99.

Logitech G502 Proteus Core Gaming Mouse
Choosing a mouse for a PC gaming fanatic is easier said than done. For starters, there are so many options available categorized by niche (ones tailored for first person shooters, adventure games, real time strategies, MMORPGs etc.) that it can be overwhelming at first, but the Logitech G502 Proteus Core Gaming Mouse is a jack of all trades that offers real mastery across the board. It might not have quite as many buttons as a dedicated MMO mouse, but it’s massively customizable, offers an abundance of features and is built from robust materials that’ll take a lot of punishment without degrading performance.

Corsair Vengeance K70 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Just like with a gaming mouse, a gaming keyboard needs to be robust, responsive and built like a military grade tank! There are countless fantastic gaming keyboards available these days, but our pick of the bunch right now is definitely the Vengeance K70 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard from Corsair. Perhaps best known for its high performance memory, Corsair has proven itself capable of delivering the goods on the accessory front countless times in the past, and the K70 takes every ounce of their previous experience and distills it magnificently into a customizable, striking and reliable gaming board that’ll hand even the most aggressive of gamers without so much as breaking a sweat.

SteelSeries H Wireless Gaming Headset
With online experiences serving as such a major part of modern PC gaming, it’s essential that players have a headset that they can rely on to deliver top quality audio as well as crystal clear voice communications, and that’s exactly what the uber-premium SteelSeries H Wireless Gaming Headset offers. It’s not by any means cheap, but what you’re getting is a genuinely multi-platform 7.1 headset that blows everything else out of the water. The breakout box and oodles of cables can be a little intimidating at first, but once you’ve gotten everything set up, actual use is wonderfully intuitive, and the inclusion of a spare battery that can be charged while you’re using the other one in your headset is a masterstroke from SteelSeries. Even at this lofty price, the H Wireless is a bargain.

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