I have split the list into price bands to help you easily get some inpsiration for your budget.
- UHD TV – LG UHD TVs come in at under $2000 and represent pretty good value for a 4K TV at 55 inches.
- Gaming PCs
- Alienware 14 Gaming Laptop is a very gamer capable gaming laptop made easy for the non-technical. For around $2300 you are getting a solid laptop built for the heavy lifting demanded by todays games.
- Alienware Alpha Console topping out at $1300 is a great alternative if your gamer is a Steam subscriber (look at steampowered.com for more about steam). This is a great platform that will give PC level gaming on a massive home TV with Steam Big Picture Mode straight out of the box with room for upgrades down the track.
- General Purpose Laptops
Lenovo is one of my favorite brands (they are the people that made IBM’s awesome thinkpads) and the Yoga series of laptops are well built laptops that cater for many types of users and budgets.
- Digitial SLR cameras
A good place to find a gift with a real wow factor for the digital photography enthusiast. Brand will depend on personal preference or existing lenses the recipeint may already have. Personally I like the Canon EOS cameras as they have a good range of readily available accessories for the consumer. Nikon also rates pretty highly. There are packages over $1000 that will put a smile on anyone’s face and of course you can go as high as $2000 or more for the budding professional.
- High End Home Theater in a Box
These packages can really deliver the goods in the audio section if you have a big screen TV or projector. Big names like LG, Onkyo, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony all have impressive speaker, amp and Bluray packages that are ready to go with a minimum of fuss. It might come close to satisfying the kind of home theatre geek that would build their own system and would blow away most consumers that just love big pictures and big sound with little effort for under $2000.
- Phones (Outright)
Samsung is always a top performer with the new Galaxy Note 4 you get a lot of phone for around $950. New features aimed at improved photography and overall performance, the Note 4 is designed to please. If you are willing to go over $1200 you can get the Galaxy Note Edge with its innovative wrap around screen. This potentially opens up some massive opportunities for new ways to interact with mobile technology.
Apple of course still gets a mention as the top competitor with Samsung on popularity and sales. The tribal nature of these phones will require you to find out which camp the recipient lives in to avoid that look when you give them “the enemy”.
The HTC series of phone as well as the Microsoft, LG, Sony and Nexus brands offer a really wide range of options.
- High end tablets
It is hard to go past the iPad from Apple. One of the most well known tablets ranging from just under $300 to a shade over $1000 there is bound to be a model to suit. There is also offerings from Microsoft, Lenovo, ASUS and Samsung. With so many brands and models available you are bound to find something you like. Word of advice : stick to the well known brands as some of the really cheap tablets lack in features and sometimes are lacking in security potentially exposing sensitive information.
- High range still and video cameras
This realm of budget still provides some good SLR cameras, lenses, some amazing point and shoots and a couple of video cameras that impress.
You are spoilt for choice but the dollar would go further in the next price range below this one. The offerings here are slim compared to other price bands and makes it feel like you are kind of buying into a name instead of an actual product or a budget.
- Gaming Consoles
This price band lends itself wonderfully to the next generation consoles as the $500 mark will net you a Playstation 4 or xBoxOne gaming bundle ready to get someone up and running with the latest in home gaming.
Easily the best way to choose a console is to look at the games that you think the reciever will enjoy and make sure you get the console that supports the game or games. Most really popular games however will work on both consoles so making the best choice will be easy.
Hint : Try starting a conversation about console games like “What is everyone playing these days?”. This will be a big deal because being able to play with friends is a big drawcard. Find out what friends are playing on to ensure the recipient can play with those friends online.
- Mac Book Air, Microsoft Surface or Similar
Ultrabooks or really slim notebooks can slip in under $1000 for a good quality model and the price range can still get under $500 depending on brand and features. Be prepared to shop around to get the best deal but avoid paying for warranties that are not offered by the manufacturer as these can mean slow repair turnarounds and limiting conditions. Manufacturer warranties are pretty much the last word in hassle free computing.
There are many good quality large format HD TV sets available under $1000 and can still easily fill the role of a second TV that weighs in at over 40 inches well into the $500 price range.
- Soundbar/home audio
Soundbars are coming into their own as good alternatives to full home-theater audio packages with some nice features built in. If setting up a multi-speaker monster is not on the cards then a soundbar with subwoofer will still get the big sound in your home theater or everyday TV. At the higher end you will find names such as Bose, Klipsch, Sony, Harman/Kardon, Samsung and Sonos which will deliver performance and features in spades and will continue to enhance the existing built in TV speakers right down to the $200 price bracket. Not only will soundbars make your TV sound better but you will often be able to connect your smartphone or tablet for a big audio experience.
- Action Cameras
This category is growing in popularity for the traveller and athlete. Brands like Sony, Kaiser Baas and ExtremeX start from just under $100 and ramp up to $499 for the category dominator GoPro for the Silver Hero4. Picture quality and features will vary and the range of accessories will provide your co-conspirators with lots of options for gifts to supplement the key component including a dizzying array of mounts that include ways to attach the camera to cars, bikes, boards and even the family pooch.
- Bluetooth Speakers
Ideal for travelling or for filling the bedroom with satisfying audio, portable bluetooth speakers are a vital component for any technophile or teenage music fan. Compact and powerful packages from Marley, JBL, Jabra and my two favorites Jambox and Sonos.
Get a big sound in a tiny portable package to suit just about any taste or budget.
Parrot AR is one of the clear leaders in domestic hobby drones. Safe, affordable and simple these drones can provide hours of fun and fire the imagination while providing an introduction into drone technology without breaking the bank or potentially running foul of the aviation authorities. Ideal for indoor use the Parrot AR Jumping Sumo is a wheeled drone able to leap up to 80cm for a little over $200 while the rolling spider can roll along walls and ceilings with its attached wheels or fly freely around the room for under $150.
Great gifts with a wow factor that is hard to beat.
Monitor, Bluetooth Speaker, small computer, point and shoot camera, GoPro, Bluetooth Car Audio, Viper Smartstart GPS module, GPS, Mid-low range tablets, Sonos Play 3 speaker.
- Apple TV
This device has pretty much put the nail in the coffin for video rental stores. With a fast internet connection you can rent and buy the same movies and TV series you would normally have to leave home for and in some cases it is even cheaper to get this online than it is to go to your local DVD store. The best part is that there are no returns as rentals simply expire and you avoid any late fees. Some ISPs even include iTunes content as “free” meaning that your video rentals will not count against your monthly download allowance. For a few dollars over $100 this is a great choice for the movie aficionado.
The AppleTV gets my nod for the sheer volume of content that you can enjoy with the AppleTV.
- DAB Radios
Digital Radio has been around for a couple of years now and the range has grown while prices have shrunk. Now is a great time to look into Digital Radio Receivers as gifts with prices as low as $60 and a well established brand is Bush as well as the ever-present Sony.
Take note that Digital Radio does not automatically mean you will get better coverage. Simply more channels with better quality audio.
Personal Audio in this range is set to impress. From high quality over-ear “cans” to cordless and even waterproof earbuds you have everyone covered.
Good music deserves good headphones and these hit a sweet spot with brands such as Bose, Beats, Monster, Plantronics, Sony, Sennheiser, Skullcandy and Sol Republic. Some have microphones included making them ideal for smartphones while others are all about the audio.
This category is a little more specific as I was simply overwhelmed with the choices available. This is actually pretty easy to navigate from pop culture toys to video games to just plain fun stocking stuffers.
Find out what they like and you are sure to find something related to their interest that has a tech or pop-culture angle.
- Google Chromecast
A more cost effective version of the AppleTV is my main pick in this range. The Google Chromecast is a great way to make your TV so much smarter. Very similar in features and function to the AppleTV this gadget is just under $50 and also gives you access to slightly cheaper rentals and purchases through the Google Play store.
- Console Subscriptions
If you mark is a console gamer, you cannot go wrong with online subscriptions. For just under $100 you can buy an XBOX gamer a years subscription to the xBox Live service. This keeps the recipient well-connected to their preferred gaming network for the next 12 months.
Sony Playstation owners can also get a treat with a 12 month subscription to the Playstation Plus service. Access to free games and features that just keep on giving.
- PC Game Time/Subscriptions
For PC Gamers, steam credit is a great way to keep them in games for a while. Go to steampowered.com to find out more.
If they are World of Warcraft players then extra game time is idea. You can get this from most retailers that stock games.
- Google play and iTunes credit is also great if you are short on leads.
- iON iCade Retro Cabinet.
If that someone special has an iPad and love arcade games then you cannot go wrong with the iOn iCade retro cabinet. With heavy buttons and a classic joystick the iPad is paired using bluetooth and with the old arcade games loaded through the App store you have hours and hours of old-school arcade entertainment.
- Of course there are plenty of video games available including.
- The Crew ANZ Limited Edition (PG)
- Destiny (M)
- Call of Duty : Advanced Warfare (MA15)
- Super Smash Bros (WiiU) (PG)
- Lego Batman 3 : Beyond Gotham (PG)
- Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor (MA15)
- Dragon Age Inquisition (MA15)
- WWE 2K15 (M)
- Far Cry 4 (MA15)
- Grand Theft Auto V (R18)
- Assassin’s Creed : Rogue (MA15)
- PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) 2K15 (G)
- Assassin’s Creed Unity (MA15)
- World of Warcraft :Warlords or Draenor (PC) (M)
- RockSmith 2014 (M)
- Disney Infinity (PG)
- Civilisation : Beyond Earth (PC) (PG)
- Just Dance 2015 (G)
NOTE : When buying games for kids, take a look at the ratings first. These will help make sure that kids get appropriate content. I have written about this here.
You are certainly not limited to the ideas I have listed. There are also things like smart watches, tech related experiences like time on a commercial flight or driving simulator, gift cards, hardware, geek-insired stuff (eg. have a look at Thinkgeek for more inspiration), TV series or geeky movies on Bluray or DVD and even season passes or expansion packs to existing games.