Whether you’re a PC building veteran or you have no idea what a GPU is, finding the right gift for a tech enthusiast is a unique challenge. The marketplace is filled with thousands of components, peripherals and accessories, which makes it incredibly difficult to choose something for another tech fanatic that they'll actually need or will like.
If you don't feel like shopping yourself, we've already curated some picks for you for various types of tech enthusiasts, whether you're looking for the best gifts for gamers, the best tech stocking stuffers (cheap alert!), the best gifts for PC builders, tech gifts for makers or the best STEM toys.
Below are five tips to help you shop for the tech enthusiasts in your life.
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 graphics card for their PC. 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 items. If you're worried about buying something that your friend already owns, the following 'stock up on' gifts are always a sure bet, because tech fans always need more of them:
- MicroSD 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: Tech enthusiasts are constantly running out of room for all of their movies, games, photos or for backing up their system. You can find our favorite choices for external storage on our breakdown of the Best External Hard Drives and SSDs. And if you're not so tech-savvy yourself, keep in mind that when it comes to hard drives versus SSDs, SSDs are speedier and more reliable but more expensive.
- 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 phone that charges with a USB-C port, they definitely have a USB-C charging cable already. 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 may seem 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.
4. Avoid instructional (paper) tech books: Yes, your giftee may be learning how to program in C# or how to setup a 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. However, books about the history or backstory 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, Dell gaming brand Alienware sells this nifty hoodie with a a glowing blue light in it.