The tech Christmas gift advisory

Mark Lyndersay -
Mark Lyndersay -



GETTING A Christmas gift for a technology-obsessed loved one is a challenge. I know this, because the household management read the tea leaves and gave up decades ago.

Still, y'know what to do.

Some ideas follow, coloured by my perspective with a nod at objectivity.

Small but sweet.

Everybody with a serious computing interest needs a USB hub. The multi-port units that are commonplace since USB-C became commonplace on modern computers are handy for travellers, but a working desk is a nest of cables. Jacking everything into a hub means plugging in just one cable to a laptop.

What gets connected to a USB hub, or more properly a port splitter, can vary widely, but the cables are normally legacy USB-A, the commonplace slot-like plug. A four to seven port hub should meet most needs, but be sure to look for hubs rated for USB 3.1 transfers on any computer made since 2020.

USB-C cables, the rounded compact plugs that are now commonplace on mobile devices and computers, were a swamp of differing specifications, but the Thunderbolt 4 standard rolls everything that's gone before into a single cable.

The cables are around 30 per cent more expensive than a generic USB-C cable, but are infinitely more compatible across a range of uses, from high-speed data connections to high-powered charging. The best TB4 cables are manufactured with tangle-resistant braided nylon.

Consider a gift pack of one-foot, three-foot and six-foot cables for maximum impact.

The box of chargers is history. A new generation of gallium-nitride (GaN) chargers with intelligent charging circuitry allow you to charge a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone simultaneously with a single small adapter. Look for multiple-outlet units mixing USB-A and USB-C ports from Belkin, Anker and UGreen.

For just a bit more, you can pair that charger with an inductive charger for your smartphone and possibly a smartwatch.

Most inductive chargers are designed for devices to lay flat on them. I prefer units that hold the phone at a 45 degree angle on my desk, so I can see incoming calls and messages (I muted my phone ten years ago and haven't looked back).

The deep-pocketed giver.

Everyone I know needs better headphones and possibly more headphones. For the record, I detest earbuds. They never seem to fit my ear canal properly, and I constantly expect them to fall out and be crushed underfoot before I can pick them up.

In a post-Zoom era, the only real choice is between wired and wireless headphones. I prefer the responsiveness and secure connection of a wired headset with a positionable microphone on an important call, but for other applications, a comfortable pair of Bluetooth cans fits the bill.

While some headphones promise that you can pair multiple devices, I've never gotten that to work, so I shamelessly have a pair linked to every device I work with.

My favourite brand, MPow, has been booted off Amazon, so I've sampled headsets from JBL (too small), iJoy (audio leakage) and Behringer (excellent, but commandeered by the lass).

Anker's SoundCore Q20+ is on the lower end of the price range with a surprisingly good build and excellent sound containment. The noise cancellation is a bit too aggressive, but you can turn that off.

A mouse is a basic input tool yet too many users stick with the one that came with their system or carried over from the last computer.

A good mouse fit is notable for what doesn't happen. You don't get twinges from cramping too large hands to hold a tiny mouse. You don't waste gestures and patience getting the cursor exactly where you want it to go. And if you're a gamer, you get more accurate hits.

The Logitech Master 3S is the latest edition of their top-of-the-line mouse for general use. It tracks movement at 8,000 dots per inch and has multiple buttons you can program. It's a mouse for a bigger hand and the MX Anywhere or Pebble versions are better suited to users with a smaller grip.

Beyond size and ergonomics, how a mouse connects can affect performance. Wired connections are favoured by gamers for responsiveness and the next best option, radio frequency (RF) connections, are generally stable, though they are tied to a receiver that you plug into the computer.

Bluetooth mice are fine for general work and most offer performance that's more than acceptable.

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of An expanded version of this column can be found there


"The tech Christmas gift advisory"

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