Oh boy! It’s holiday shopping season! Everyone’s favorite time of year! The music, the eggnog, the holiday-themed drinks that will soon populate Starbucks’ menus, what more could you want?! Aside from a lovely Christmas-themed sweater that is. How about a helping hand to steer you through your gift shopping adventures? Lucky for you, that’s what we’re here for.
If you want to buy your friends and loved ones some tech while avoiding all the dreck, just stick to this guide. Here we steer you through what you should net depending on the type of gadget you want to get, from all in one desktop PCs to ultraportable notebooks, gaming rigs and more.
MacBook Air ($1000)
Wafer thin and feather light, the MacBook Air is the best notebook you can get if your friend or loved one prioritizes portability, a decent typing experience and good battery life. Powered by a 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor, the MacBook Air ships in 11- and 13-inch options. Each size option has two tiers. Both ship with flash storage, but the lower tier sports 128GB, while the higher offers 256GB. The 13-inch MacBook Air tops out at $1,299, but if you want to save a few hundred bucks on gift shopping this year, you can snag an 11-inch for $999.
Read our 2013 MacBook Air 13-inch review.
Asus G750JX-DB71 ($2000)
Does your kid brother or best buddy game on the go? Do they lack the upper body strength (or patience … or both) to lug a full rig from their place to your pad for weekend-long LAN parties? Say hello to the Asus G750JX-DB71, which offers excellent performance, admirable battery life and a roomy keyboard. It’s a gaming laptop, so at 10 pounds, carrying it around constantly can wear its owners down. However, the Asus G750JX-DB71 is a steal as gaming laptops go. You can snag it from Adorama for under $1,800 as of this writing.
Read our Asus G750JX-DB71 review.
Another year, another new MacBook Pro. While the latest refresh doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking in terms of design or features, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina is still the best all around notebook you can grab for a friend or relative. Combining excellent build quality, superb battery life, a terrific keyboard and great performance spearheaded by an Intel Core i5 2.4GHz Haswell processor, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro simply can’t be matched. What’s more, the new Pro enjoys a $200 price cut over last year’s model.
Samsung ATIV Book 8 ($1200)
The Samsung ATIV Book 8 is a superb Windows 8 notebook that sports a Core i7 processor, dedicated AMD Radeon graphics processor, solid battery life and other goodies. While the newer Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus offers a better processor and comes with an SSD, the Samsung ATIV Book 8 has it beat in one key area quite soundly: price. The Book 8 is $1,200 from Best Buy, while the Book 9 Plus costs $1,800 direct from Samsung. Take those six saved Benjamins and put them towards a vacation. Both you and whoever receives the ATIV Book 8 from you will be very happy.
Read our Samsung ATIV Book 8 review.
Asus M51AC ($900)
If your friend or loved one’s mobile needs are light, they do most of your computing at home and are in the market for a new PC, get a load of the Asus M51AC. The M51AC-US016S we reviewed wielded a speedy Intel Core i5-4430 CPU, 8GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GT 640 GPU while offering an attractive sub-$1,000 sticker price. Though this exact model is tough to find now, the M51AC-US004S, which Newegg is currently selling for $850, bumps the CPU up to an Intel Core i7 and doubles the RAM to 16GB. Though the GPU takes a bit of a hit down to the GT 620, that shouldn’t adversely affect overall performance much.
Read our ASUS M51AC review.
Origin Millennium ($4000)
Is someone in your fam or circle on the hunt for a gaming desktop? Have they been extra good this year? Got money to drain? Good, because the Origin Millennium will cost you. At $4,000, our review unit wasn’t cheap, but you can custom configure your Millennium at Origin’s site, which starts at just over $1,300. For the $4,000 sum, whoever is lucky enough to get this system as a gift will net a rig that absolutely tears through demanding games with all the visual options cranked up. Our Millennium chewed up Deus Ex: Human Revolution and spat it out to the tune of 154 fps. Plus, similarly configured competitors like the Falcon Northwest Talon and the Maingear Shift cost much more: nearly $4,400 and $6,000, respectively. Simply put, the Origin Millennium offers big performance while saving you big bucks.
Read our Origin Millennium review.
Dell Alienware X51 ($1600)
So you want to get a new gaming rig for a friend, but those offered by Origin, Maingear and others are too rich for your blood. We feel you. That’s why we set out to find the best gaming desktop that you can get for your hard-earned dollars. We found that the Alienware X51 fits this mold best. Wearing a slim chassis not normally associated with gaming systems, the X51 is powered by an Intel Core i7 CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD paired with a 1TB hard drive. When we reviewed the X51 earlier this year, it shipped with a GTX 670 card and the entire system cost over $1,800. With the 760 card, the X51 costs significantly less than it did just a few months ago; over $1,500.
Read our Dell Alienware X51 review.
Dell XPS 27 Touch ($1600)
Think the world of the supersized all-in-one desktop lives and dies with the iMac? Think again. The Dell XPS 27 Touch wears a terrific 27-inch 2,560 x 1,440 screen, offers solid performance and starts at $200 less than the 27-inch iMac ($1,599 vs. $1,799). The XPS 27 Touch’s build quality feels a little flimsy in the rear, and its gaming performance isn’t all that impressive. Overall though, these are minor quibbles. If you’re looking for a Windows-based alternative to the iMac, the Dell XPS 27 Touch should be the first batter up for your friend or family member.
Read our Dell XPS 27 Touch review.
27-inch Apple iMac ($1800)
Though the Dell XPS 27 Touch takes an admirable swing at knocking the iMac off its perch, Apple’s AIO still reigns as the top desktop you can snag in this class. The extra $200 you spend for an entry-level 27-inch Apple iMac ($1,799) over the XPS 27 nets you an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce GT 755M GPU. Though you can get an XPS 27 for $1,599, you’ll need to spend $2,170 to get a unit with dedicated Nvidia graphics. Not so with the iMac, and those are the key differences: the prices, and what you get for them. Anyone who gets an iMac for you will be absolutely thrilled, and should be well deserving. Learn more about the 27-inch Apple iMac here.