The Geek’s Holiday Gift Guide (Under $50)

James Bruce 24-11-2013

Holidays are coming and there’s never been a more exciting time to be a geek. The next-generation of consoles are arriving, but not everyone can afford the $400 price tag this Christmas. So here’s my selection of fantastic geeky gifts for under $50 – gadgets needn’t be expensive.

Advertisement Motion Activated Floor Lighting ($50)

Anything motion-activated is generally guaranteed to be awesome on at least some level, but these under the bed light bars serve a useful purpose as well as just being cool. As geeks, we often fill our bedroom floors with all manner of power cables and other 3-pronged nasty things: these can be particularly nasty to step on at night. Save a visit to the ER with a set of MyLights!

Catan ($50)

For many, a gateway drug to a lifelong love of good boardgames, Catan is a city building, resource gathering and trading game for up to four friends. Unlike that dusty copy of Monopoly sitting in the cupboard that can drag on for hours, Catan will remain a firm family favourite as the tension builds toward the end. If your geek already has Catan, consider getting them one of the many expansion packs instead – Cities and Knights adds a great level of complexity with new resources and city upgrades.

Photo Credit: gadl via Compfight cc

Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard ($35)

Your geek no doubt has a tablet device already – be it an iPad or Nexus 10 Google Nexus 10 Review and Giveaway Google has recently come out with a number of intriguing products, including the Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and multiple different Chromebooks. I've recently reviewed a Samsung Chromebook, and Jackson has taken a look... Read More – but do they have a keyboard? Typing for extended periods on a tablet is pretty much the most tedious and unproductive thing you can do. Add in a real keyboard, and watch productivity fly – leaving them with more time to remove the malware from your clunky Windows machine. Win win!

This keyboard can pair with multiple devices and has a special key to switch between them; and you can charge as you type over USB.



Dungeons and Dragons: An Essential Starter (~$40)

In case you really don’t know: Dungeons and Dragons is a role playing game. That means one person takes on the role of Dungeon Master, and guides any number of other players through an elaborate and rich fantasy world where anything is possible. I feel like Dungeons and Dragons has a bad reputation as being reserved for only the highest order of geek – and that really isn’t fair. For most D’n’D players, it’s an excuse to get together, drink beer, and hang out with your friends. Yes, they make up silly names for even sillier monsters (“you’re attacked by a ravenous bugbear!”), roll dice and refer to stats tables – but that’s all just a ruse to provide some semblance of structure to the core purpose of hanging out. If you think this is something your geek might enjoy, a starter set like this is a good way to sample the hobby. You’ll get some ready-made adventures and characters, plus a tile set, tokens to play with and a set of D4-D20 dice. Be warned: it’s addiction that’ll soon have them buying all manner of monster manuals and miniature figures – but at least you’ll have the next 10 years of Christmas presents figured out.


Portal 2 USB Sentry Turret ($49)

Imagine if you had a puppy in your lap, right now – that gleeful smile of sheer heaven as someone has gifted you something so gosh darned cute. That’s exactly how any geek will feel when given a Portal 2 Sentry Turret. This little cutie is motion-activated with pop-out guns (non-lethal) to protect your desk while you’re away. Don’t knock it over though or it’ll be very sad.


Star Trek The Next Generation Pajama Set ($40)

The “pajama” nomenclature is somewhat inaccurate – you may find your geek wearing these all the time, accompanied by bouts of screaming “Make it so, Mr Wharf!

Wait, am I getting my DS9 and TNG mixed up? Sorry.


New Trent: iDual NT5200 ($25)

5200 mAh of rechargeable goodness with two USB ports will make sure your geeks gadgets always have enough juice; all in a package about the same size as an iPhone. Holds enough juice for two full charges of most devices, and the two USB ports mean you charge both at the same time.



Azio Levetron GH808 Gaming Headset ($50)

Incredible bass sound at a superb budget price, this headset from Azio is designed exclusively for PC gamers, so it connects over USB. If your geek is stuck using a pair of tinny computer speakers, or worse still a laptop (gasp), they will seriously appreciate these. Good luck getting them to come down for dinner, mind.


String of Colour Changing LED lights (~$25)

You can’t really go wrong with colour-changing mood lighting for instant wow factor in any room. Complete with remote control, these affordable LED RGB strip lights come in 5 meter lengths but two sets can be combined to fill any room. Thess are super bright, unlike the ridiculously expensive LED bulbs like Philips Hue, and you can even hack these with an Arduino – here’s a demo of the ambient monitor surround Build Your Own Dynamic Ambient Lighting For A Media Center If you watch a lot of movies on your PC or media center, I'm sure you've faced the lighting dilemma; do you completely turn off all lights? Do you keep them on full blast? Or... Read More I built with them.


Google Chromecast ($35)

If your geek is constantly watching YouTube or Netflix from their mobile device, consider getting this one of these cheap wireless video adapters which plug into any big screen HDMI socket. Super-simple to setup and start broadcasting, though I’m afraid we can’t vouch for the quality of YouTube videos they’re watching. Here’s our full Chromecast review Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway We're giving away a Google Chromecast, so read through our review, then join the competition to win! Read More if you’re not sure. (Not available in the UK)


Every geek is different – but surely one of these great picks will be good for yours? If you have a better idea, do let us know in the comments!

Image credit: gadl

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  1. Chuck U Farley
    November 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    OP is thinking about Mr.Worf from ST:NG. He was the Klingon security officer after Tasha Yar was killed in 1st season. /end geekout

    • Brent K
      November 25, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Correct, Worf was indeed on ST:TNG as well in later seasons of ST:DS9.

  2. Brent K
    November 25, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    I would not recommend the Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Starter Set at this time. Wizards of the Coast is in the process of developing the next edition of D&D, which will most likely be released next year.

    Oh, and not to nitpick too much, but "Mr. Wharf" was on Babylon 5.

    • James B
      November 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      Two things: first, DnD Next isn't changed much, from what I can tell of the beta test. I still recommend going for 4th edition for beginners.

      Second: you're totally wrong. Wharf was a Klingon, nothing to do with Babylon 5. Though I did spell it wrong:


  3. Like Fun B
    November 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Oh, here's another good one for everybody: An Urban Shelf, basically a little fold-out table to stick between your mattress and box springs, designed to hold your glasses, phone and tablet collection. There are holes for device cords. Yes, it's a $16 piece of plastic and that's hard to get excited about, but they're really handy.

  4. likefunbutnot
    November 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    From a geek to not-geek perspective:

    Tabletop-style games are a pretty good geek choice. I bought a few sets of Cards Against Humanity, Jetpack Unicorn and King of Tokyo for far-flung internet friends.

    I'd also like to point out, for those of us with scads of hardware sitting around, that the homemade gift of one of our teensy old hard drives in a new USB enclosure, perhaps filled with the sorts of things that geeks know how to obtain, is generally much appreciated.

    I'm not a huge fan of 'em, mostly because of the lack of Youtube support, but it's perfectly possible to find the less expensive models of Roku for under $50. A Roku that can talk to the Plex Media Server back at your geek abode is something that can make holiday travel a lot more bearable. The Chromecast is interesting but very limited in comparison.

    Finally, the Nook Simple Touch is a solid choice for a $50 e-Reader. It's an e-ink display, so the battery lasts for weeks, and since they natively support .EPUB files, they'll work with pretty much any non-Amazon online bookstore. Nooks are cheap and handy enough to be a good gift for just about anyone. They're a bit outside the $50 limit suggested by the author here, but the Nook HD+ sells for $130 and makes a pretty decent "training wheels tablet" , especially now that they (unlike the Kindle Fire) can talk to the Google Play Store.