The Best Geek Gifts for Christmas
If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the geek in your life, look no further. Here are the must-have gifts, the absolute best of the best from 2011, in gadgets, movies, TV, video games, and more!
Best All-in-One Device: iPad 2
Nobody needs an iPad. If we’re being perfectly honest, it’s a completely superfluous device. But come on. Who doesn’t want one? The thing gets better all the time, and the apps being made for it are showing ever greater creativity. Sure, there are other tablets out there to choose from, and many of them do cost less than Apple’s “magical and revolutionary device.” But they’re just wannabes. Apple singlehandedly defined the computer tablet with the original iPad, and then refined the concept with the significantly faster, slimmer, and sexier second edition. Seriously, the only reason not buy an iPad 2 is because you’re waiting for iPad 3’s debut next year, which is rumored to sport Apple’s higher-resolution “retina display” and upgraded specs. Want to gift an iPad 3 now? Buy an Apple gift card so the recipient can use it next year. iPad 2 starts at $499.
Best Gadget: Belkin Wireless Travel Router
You know it, I know it: hotel wifi sucks. Belkin’s Wireless Travel Router is perfect for all of your geeky travel needs next year, such as that annual jaunt to San Diego Comic-Con. This sleek plug-and-play device creates a personal wifi hotspot in your hotel room for all your wireless needs. It’s about the size of an old cassette tape, and it comes with everything you need, including an ethernet cord and power cord (numerous adapters are available as extra accessories for power outlets around the world). It even comes with its own little zip-up carrying case that’s smaller than your [travel kit]. To work it, just plug the router into your hotel room’s modem, and then plug it into a power outlet. Passwords are already set and can be found in the installation pamphlet. Will be particularly useful if you’re rooming with a friend, and you both need to be online simultaneously. Retails for $79.99.
Best TV: Doctor Who – Season 6 Blu-ray
Its detractors call it “too kid-friendly.” But fans know the truth: Doctor Who boasts some of the best writing, acting, and good old fashioned science fiction on TV. Season 6 of the show saw one of the most mythological seasons of the show ever with the long-awaited story of River Song. River is undoubtedly one of the show’s best characters ever, and it’s wildly entertaining to watch her history play out over the course of the entire season. Matt Smith came into his own as the title character, creepy new enemies were introduced (the Silence! Headless Monks! the mustache-twirling, eye-patch wearing Madame Kovarian!), and the Doctor faced mortality like never before. The extras on this crisp, gorgeous six-disc set include some awesome behind-the-scenes Doctor Who Confidential episodes, the final edition of which is required viewing because it includes the complete story of River Song from beginning to end, told from her point of view as narrated by Alex Kingston herself. There’s also prequels, new scenes that show what happened on the TARDIS between episodes, a pair of surprisingly good Comic Relief 2011 mini episodes, audio commentaries, and more. Season 6 on Blu-ray retails for $89.98, or DVD for $78.98, and it’s worth every penny.
Best Game: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Everybody has their pet favorite (this blogger’s love for Assassin’s Creed knows no bounds), but I don’t think any game this year generated as many kudos, conversations, and marathon play as Skyrim. Bethesda’s epic fantasy RPG was heralded by critics and fans both for its staggeringly vast, open world — and what a vibrant, living world it is. A place of tremendous beauty and never-ending quests, the land of Skyrim encourages players to explore its endless secrets like no other game I can remember. All of the fantasy trappings are here, including elaborate histories, races, locations, hundreds of names, and more. Few fantasy series can claim as complex a mythology as Lord of the Rings, but Elder Scrolls is one of them. (For another, see the next entry.) The many improvements Skyrim made over Oblivion — graphics and physics chief among them — not to mention its incredibly believable game world, make Skyrim the most compulsively playable game of the year. Is it the series’ finale? Who can say? If so, it’s a grand one. Retails for $59.99.
Best Book: A Dance With Dragons
I was sorely tempted to pick Steve Jobs, the riveting and unflinching biography of the late Apple CEO, but the real book of 2011 was George R.R. Martin’s fifth A Song of Ice and Fire novel. Weighing in at more than 1,000 pages, the lengthy tome found the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in more peril than ever. Main characters died, the War of the Five Kings rages on, and Westeros is brought ever closer to the brink of devastation. A Dance With Dragons seemed to leave fans evenly split over its quality and necessity; some found it every bit as gripping as past entries, while others accused Martin of stretching his story to accommodate more books, and therefore, generate more profits. The one thing they all could agree on was that A Dance With Dragons was the book of 2011 that simply had to be read. Retails for $35.00.
Best Movie: The Muppets
It’s gotten a bad rap as a poor year for box office returns, but 2011 has nonetheless boasted some truly great movies — for “serious” film lovers and popcorn viewers alike. This was the year that brought us the revelation of Ryan Gosling as an action hero in Drive, Martin Scorsese’s brilliant adaptation of Hugo, the head-spinning scifi concoction Source Code, the sublime animated fun of Rango, the thinking person’s spectacle that is X-Men: First Class, the so-much-better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be origin story Rise of the Planet of the Apes, J.J. Abrams’ scifi love letter to moviemaking Super 8, and the superhero movie perfection of Captain America (my personal favorite). But towering over all of these achievements was the triumphant return of The Muppets, the one movie guaranteed to put you in touch with your inner, geeky child more than any other. You knew going in that Jim Henson’s beloved troop of puppets will win the day and save their beloved theater from Chris Cooper’s evil, rap-loving oil tycoon. That’s not the point. The fun is in the journey, and the Muppets’ life-meets-art reunion is jam-packed with inside jokes that only parents will get, lowbrow fart jokes that kids are still laughing at, and genuine heart. The home video version’s release date isn’t yet known, but there’s still time to take your favorite someone to see it in theaters as a special Christmas gift.
Best Comic Book: Daredevil
Letting Mark Waid write the Man Without Fear was just what the doctor ordered. As great a character and a series as Daredevil has always been, we’ve seen Matt Murdock plunge further into darkness than ever before in the years prior to Waid’s run (Shadowlands, et. al.) so a writer coming in and deciding to show some new and different colors on Daredevil’s emotional palette was smart, daring, and utterly refreshing. Daredevil has always been a superhero, but his most riveting moments of drama have always stemmed from his terrible losses and inner guilt. Waid’s decision to turn that on its head and have DD show off more of the “hero” side of his superhero persona was incredibly bold, and could have easily fallen flat on its face, particularly among the hardcore fans. But Daredevil instead became the most consistently enjoyable read on comic book stands in 2011. Waid somehow managed to hold onto the title’s “street-level crime” sensibilities while pushing Murdock into far more inspiring, heroic territory. And yet all the while, eagle-eyed viewers are secretly wondering if Murdock’s turning-over-a-new-leaf sincerity… isn’t playing with a full deck. Waid’s Daredevil is this medium at its most engaging and its most fun. Issues #1 through #6 of Waid’s run are in comic book stores now, as well as Marvel’s digital comics store; the trade paperback collection arrives in February.