In prior years, if you needed a last-minute gift, you might run out to the store and brave the crowds, but in this year of pandemic, that’s not a good idea. Besides, it might not even be safe or practical to visit your giftee in person. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to buy and deliver last-second gifts that arrive instantly, via email, even on Christmas day.
The easiest, but least thoughtful, thing you can do is either send money or buy an Amazon.com gift card, which is almost as universal as cash. But a better idea is to purchase a digital gift that speaks to your giftee’s love of PCs, maker gear or gaming. Here are some digital gift ideas for the tech enthusiasts in your life.
1. Newegg Gift Card
Though it sells everything from crock pots to clothing, Newegg is known for having the best selection and often the best prices for computer components. With Amazon credit, your giftee may end up buying non-tech stuff like toilet paper or cat litter, but if you give them a Newegg card, they'll almost certainly use it to treat themselves to new hardware or software.
- Newegg Gift Card ($10 and up)
2. Adafruit gift card / Adabox
If your giftee loves doing electronics projects with Raspberry Pi, Arduino or other single-board computers -- and if they don’t, they should start -- a gift certificate from Adafruit could be your best option. Not only does Adafruit stock all the major computers and controllers -- every version of Raspberry Pi, for example -- but it also has an entire universe of add-on boards, RGB light setups, robot kits and more. The company is not just a seller: as most of its custom boards and accessories are manufactured in its New York City-based factory. The company’s Braincraft HAT won our Raspberry Pi accessory of the year for 2020.
If you buy an Adafruit gift certificate, you can also feel good about supporting this amazing business. Founded in 2005 by Limor “Ladyada” Fried, Adafruit employs over 100 people and is dedicated to helping everyone learn more about STEM. The site has a vibrant community and over 1,000 tutorials to help you do everything from creating an LED sign to soldering or designing RGB clothes.
You can also give a subscription to Adabox, which is a blind box filled with everything you need to build an electronics project and comes out quarterly.
- Adafruit Gift Certificates: Available in any denomination and emailed.
- Adabox Subscriptions: Starting at $60
3. Digital Game Store Gift Card
No matter what platform your giftee plays on, there's an associated digital store with downloadable games. PC Gamers will almost certainly find something they love in the Steam store. For console players, get a card for the PlayStation Store, the XBox or the Nintendo eShop, depending on what system they use. Most cards start at $10, but I recommend spending at least $20, the cost of many lower price games.
- Xbox Gift Card ($10 - $70)
- PlayStation Store Card ($10 - $75)
- Nintendo eShop ($5 - $70)
- Battle.net Store ($50): Lets you buy any Blizzard game (Warcraft, Overwatch, etc)
- Steam Store ($5 - $100)
4. Minecraft Game or Minecoins
Minecraft is a huge hit with kids from five to fifty. The game lets you explore and create worlds filled with 8-bit adventure and you can even use it to learn about programming. The game itself is available on every platform you can imagine, even the phone, but if your giftee already has it, consider getting Minecoins. Minecoins are used to buy all kinds of add-ons within the game.
- Minecoin Pack: ($9.88)
- Minecraft Windows 10 Starter Edition ($29.88)
- Minecraft Dungeons for PC ($19.99): New Minecraft-based game
- Minecraft Java Edition ($26.95): Good for Mac or PC (even Linux)
- Minecraft for Xbox One ($19.99)
5. Individual Games
If you know what games your giftee wants and is likely to play, you can buy them a direct download. Here are some ideas for PC gamers.
- NBA 2K21 ($29.99): The ultimate basketball game, NBA 2K21 features the latest players and teams.
- Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 ($59.99): One of the most popular games of the year, flight simulator makes you feel like you’re flying a real plane in very realistic parts of the world.
- Cyberpunk 2077 ($59.99): The game of the year has been slow on XBox One and PS4, but runs great on any PC that meets the Cyberpunk 2077 system requirements.
- Star Wars Squadrons ($23.99): Fly an X-Wing or a Tie Fighter.
- SimCity Complete Edition ($7.49): Who wouldn’t want to build a city? Includes two different games and five content packs.
- Battlefield V: Definitive Edition ($14.99): This World War II battle game looks absolutely gorgeous, whether you have a GPU that supports ray tracing or not.
- The Sims 4 ($4.99): A great game for giftees who like simulation games and have older PCs, the Sims 4 will run on a CPU as old as a Core 2 Duo (over 10 years old).
6. Streaming subscriptions
Whether it's music or movies, there's nothing quite like the gift of content. Here are some services you can buy.
- Disney+ ($69.99 for a year): A great gift for anyone who is not already a Disney+ subscriber, this service features all the Star Wars, Marvel, Disney and Pixar content you can imagine.
- BritBox ($69.99 for 1 yr): The ultimate gift for fans of British TV, especially Doctor Who, BritBox is the only place in the U.S. where you can stream all 26 seasons of Classic Doctor Who. It also has all eight seasons of Red Dwarf and a slew of British mysteries.
- Netflix ($25 - $200): The good thing about this card is that, even if your giftee already has Netflix, they can always use this to either upgrade their plan or pay some months in advance.
- Spotify ($10 - $60): The most popular music service has something for everyone. If your giftee already has a single-user subscription, they may want to use the extra credit to move up to a family ($14.99 / month) subscription.
- Hulu ($25 - $50): Get access to a slew of movies, network TV shows and original programs like The Handmaid's Tale and Castle Rock.
- HBO Max ($69.99 for 6 months): WIth all the new Warner movies coming straight to HBO Max, this makes a great gift. However, there’s no gift code so you’d have to basically do it for someone with their knowledge.
7. Online game services
Sure, your giftee has a powerful game system with lots of games, but do they have the subscription they need to play online and broadcast streams? Here are some subscriptions that can help them. Unfortunately, the best offerings here are primarily for console gamers.
- XBox Live Gold ($59.99): This service not only connects you with other gamers online and lets you stream to Twitch, but it also provides free games and huge discounts.
- PlayStation Plus ($59.99): If your giftee has a PlayStation 4, this membership will allow them to play multiplayer, online games, store data in the cloud and even get a couple of free titles a month.
- Nintendo Switch Online ($19.99): Play multiplayer Switch games and free access to some classic Nintendo titles.