How to Buy Gifts for the Tech Enthusiast in Your Life

Regardless of whether you’re a PC building veteran or you have no idea what a GPU is, it can be difficult to find the right gift for a tech enthusiast. The marketplace is filled with thousands of components, peripherals and accessories. So even if you know what you want for yourself, it's challenging to choose a gift for another person that’s something they actually need or will like.

Below are five tips to help you shop for the tech enthusiasts in your life. For more specific recommendations, check out our lists of best gifts for gamers, pc builders, makers and geeky kids, along with our favorite low-cost stocking stuffers.

1. Don't buy internal components, unless your giftee asked for them by name. Just as you wouldn't get someone a dog or cat, you shouldn't buy them a motherboard or a GPU. Choosing major components is just too personal of a decision for you to make for someone. It's also quite possible that you’d end up getting them a part that isn't compatible with the rest of their system.


2. Your giftee can never have too many of these. If you're worried about buying something that your friend already owns, the following "stock up on" gifts are always a sure bet, because people always need more of them:

  • Micro SD memory cards: Good for storage expansion on mobile devices (including the Nintendo Switch) and some laptops, these also serve as the main drive for a Raspberry Pi.
  • External hard drives / SSDs: People never have enough room for all of their movies, games, or to do full system backups.
  • Toolkits: Even if your friend has some nice screwdrivers, the can probably use a few more tools.
  • USB cables and dongles: If your friend has a USB-C phone, they will definitely have a USB-C charging cable. But do they have separate ones for work, home, the car and their travel bag? You can say the same of SD card readers, portable USB hubs and any adapter.


3. Consider a tech gift card: At first blush, giving a gift card seems like a cop out. If you just hand someone cash or an Amazon gift card (as good as cash in many cases), they could spend it on anything, making the present very impersonal. However, if you give a card for a site that specializes in tech such as Newegg, you're giving them both freedom to choose and a directive to spend it on tech. The same goes for credit on gaming services like Steam or GOG.com.

4. Avoid instructional (paper) tech books: Yes, your giftee may be learning how to program in C# or how to setup Raspberry Pi for the first time, but enthusiasts usually prefer to learn from online materials, most of which are free. Just imagine reading about programming in a book and having to type all the code in manually when you could more easily read about it online and copy and paste the code into your project. Books about the history or back story of tech are welcome.


5. Fan gifts are always appreciated: T-shirts, hats, desk toys, bobble heads -- these are tech gifts too, provided that they celebrate technology. If your giftee loves a particular game franchise, it's easy to find related merch. But you can also get products for fans of particular brands like AMD, Nvidia, Intel, Asus and Gigabyte. For example, Alienware sells this nifty hoodie that has a glowing blue light in it.

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  • littlejimm
    I would highly contest #4 as that is personal preference. I personally prefer a paperback to reading off a screen any day of the week when I'm specifically trying to learn and focus on something
  • sskoic
    I would recommend some cleaning tool / wet tissues instead of micro SD cards...
  • bluemax2006
    I think a lot of the issue involved is getting to know the person you are buying a present for. That way you know if the screen or software or air duster will work. In general, this is a good list. I second SSKOIC's advice of recommending a cleaning tool / wet tissues.
  • ynhockey
    I disagree that someone can't have too many Micro SD cards or cables/adapters. I have too many of both and have given some away occasionally. Plus, to me either of these seems like a really cheap gift. Even if you get some super-expensive golden audio cable or whatever (why?), it just feels like an underwhelming present. IMO if you want a tech gift at a low price point, get software (esp. games on Steam). There are discounts on good software/games everywhere and all the time.
  • ET3D
    I disagree with a lot of what was said (for example, I don't want hardware branded clothes / hats etc.), but my main issue with this article is that it looks pretty pointless, because, after all, it's on Tom's, so the people who read it are tech enthusiasts.

    Frankly, as a tech enthusiast, I prefer not to get tech gifts. The gift card idea is probably the best. If you insist on giving me something techy, give me some cute, cool tech that's unrelated to PCs.
  • wikiwikiwhat
    Gift card to microcenter or electronic Fry's
  • hoofhearted
    beer
  • cryoburner
    Anonymous said:
    I would highly contest #4 as that is personal preference. I personally prefer a paperback to reading off a screen any day of the week when I'm specifically trying to learn and focus on something

    While I kind of agree that a physical instructional book may be preferred in some cases, I would also kind of agree with the article that they might not be the best option as gifts, especially if the person buying the gift doesn't know exactly what the "tech enthusiast" would find useful. Unless the person buying the book is already somewhat knowledgeable about the subject, and has a good idea of what they are interested in learning about, it could be easy to end up getting something that's not a particularly good fit.

    Overall, I found the advice in this list to be fine, though I'm not sure one can never have too many cables, adapters and so on. I'm sure that Type-C USB adapters may be really useful eventually, but as of now, USB-C is still pretty uncommon. And devices tend to come with the appropriate cables, so most will likely end up with a pile of them laying around.