Best Gifts for PC Builders 2018
Buying hardware for a PC builder can be tough, unless you know exactly what platform they have and what parts they're after. No builder is likely to balk at an expensive gift like a new Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti or Threadripper 2950X. But even then, if they don't have the case, power supply, or motherboard to handle those extravagant components, they're going to have to spend hundreds more on compatible hardware.
So we tried to pick 20 potential gifts for builders and upgraders that are both reasonably affordable and not tied to any specific PC or motherboard platform. Nearly all of these gift options land at under $70, and most should appeal to any PC builder, whether they’re putting together a new system, or just looking for a nice upgrade to their existing PC.
WD 4TB My Passport Portable External Hard Drive
SSDs are fast and generally reliable. And online storage is a great place to put those files you always need access to. But for backup purposes, it’s tough to be portable hard drives—primarily because they’re convenient, affordable, and compact enough that you can easily keep a copy of your files off site or in a waterproof fire safe (in case of a fire or flood). We like the 4TB WD My Passport because it’s roomy, edges under the $100 mark, and is available in six colors (note that some colors push the price up by about $10). Color options won’t matter to everyone, but if you like the looks of your drive, you might actually use it more often. And when we’re talking about backing up your can’t-lose data, regularity is key.
HDE 20+4 Pin LCD Power Supply Tester
At worst, plugging a faulty power supply (PSU) into your system and attempting to boot can seriously damage your other components. But even when that doesn't happen, a faulty power supply can cause boot issues, lockups and other major frustrations. And it's often not clear whether the PSU is the issue or it's something else.
This $15 gadget will let you know for sure whether your PSU and its various cables are delivering the voltage and current that they should, so you can rule it out as a problem or go buy a replacement. It belongs in every PC builder's troubleshooting kit. It may not be the most exciting of gifts. But chances you'll get thanked down the line when this gadget saves them hours of troubleshooting--and maybe the expense of having to buy another PSU just to rule out a power supply issue.
Silverstone Mobile Series MS09 SATA M.2 SSD Enclosure
Those who only need access to small files like JPEGs and/or documents may have shifted their storage access to the cloud. But for some of us, there will always be a need for extremely fast, pocketable local storage. If you happen to have a SATA M.2 SSD laying around -- maybe you've updated your laptop or bought a roomier desktop drive now that prices have come down -- Silverstone's Sub-$40 M.2 enclosure can turn it into a very fast--if a bit big--thumb drive.
The all-metal enclosure supports M.2 drives up to 80mm in length and supports USB 3.1 Gen 2, so you won't be bottlenecked by an older interface. Just keep in mind that this is a SATA-only drive enclosure. If you're after something that supports faster NVMe drives, look to the next slide for MyDigitalSSD's M2X enclosure.
MyDigitalSSD M2X Portable USB 3.1 Gen 2 M.2 PCI Express SSD External Enclosure
$40 for a drive enclosure is a little expensive. But if you happen to have a spare PCIe/NVMe M.2 drive and are looking to turn it into something handy and portable, the M2X is well worth considering. It supports drives up to 80mm in length and 2TB in capacity.
The company includes a thermal pad for keeping the drive’s temps in check, and both USB-C and USB-A cables in the box. Drop in a compatible M.2 drive and you've got some shockingly fast, pocketable storage that (probably) won’t break when you drop it.
Intel 660p SSD (512GB)
Who doesn't love cheap, fast storage? We certainly do and gave the surprisingly affordable Intel 660P M.2 drive an Editor's Choice in our full review. But it's not just the speed and affordability that makes this drive interesting: It's also the first consumer QLC (quad-level cell) drive, packing more storage bits into the same space as previous-generation TLC (triple-level cell) drives.
If you really like the person you're buying this for and have a bit more to spend, the 1TB model is also finally available for about $190. That's a lot of speedy storage for under $200. The competing Samsung 970 EVO, for instance, sells for almost $100 more.
Byte3 Mini PC Fanless with Windows 10 Pro Apollo Lake J3455
$210 might sound like a lot for a gift idea, until you realize the Byte2 Mini PC is a complete fanless PC (with Windows 10 Pro included) that's able to handle 4Kvideo playback and easily tackle mainstream productivity tasks. The included 32GB of storage is the primary downside here, but the machine has both an M.2 connector and a SATA port for a 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD (or both!).
We like cheap, surprisingly powerful silent PCs, especially when they're easily upgradable. If you know someone after a basic, dead-silent system for productivity and/or media playback, we think they’ll like the Byte2 as well.
Inateck Superspeed 7 Ports PCI-E to USB 3.0 Expansion Card
If you're like us (or at least like me, with a desktop hooked up to two sets of keyboards and monitors), you can never have enough USB ports. And chances are if you've got a mid-to-full-size desktop, you probably have a PCIe x1 slot to spare.
Drop this $27 add-in card into that slot and your USB woes are instantly over, as you'll have seven more USB 3.0 ports waiting for all your peripherals. Note that two of those ports are internal, so you may have to route them to a bay device in the front. But with this expansion card, you'll get five extra ports around the back to plug all your USB devices into.
Lian Li Strimer
Do you know someone who loves RGB lights and already has blinking lights on their RAM, light strips in their case, and RGB-enabled cooling? Why not help them turn their 24-pin motherboard cable into a rainbow road.
You'll need a 12v RGB header on the motherboard to control the Strimer via software. But fear not if you don't have that spare header, as Lian Li includes an expansion bracket in the box that lets you control the brightness and lighting effects with the push of a button.
EEEKit Precision 45 in 1 Screwdriver Set Repair Maintenance Kit
No matter how many screw drivers they have now, your builder friend can always use a new tool kit. This model from EEEKit has 45 different pieces, including suction cups, tweezers and a slew of bits. And just remember, if you buy this for that handy friend, they are morally obligated to fix your tech when it it stops working right--and it will at some point stop working right.
TP-Link TL-WN821N N300 USB Wireless WiFi network Adapter
You may be planning to plug your finished PC into an Ethernet jack, but if the cable won't reach the work area where you're building or upgrading and your board doesn't have WiFi, a cheap USB dongle can save you lots of hassle.
For under $13, the TP-Link TL-WN821N is tough to argue against. It's no throughput barn-burner to be sure, but it'll let you grab drivers or updates for a system without having to grab a flash drive and run to another PC. If you're often building or upgrading PCs away from an Ethernet jack, it's well worth the money for the convenience of plug-and-play Internet connectivity.