Top 10 Holiday Gifts for the IT Professional

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Droid Gingerbread

The holiday season is fast upon us, and with so little time left before Christmas Day, you may find yourself scrambling to grab those last minute holiday gifts. If you have an IT professional [such as a programmer, system administrator, or web designer] in your life, then you are in luck, as this guide will help you find the perfect gift for that computer geek friend or family member. I will be showcasing ten holiday "must-haves" that would make even Bill Gates swoon.

Overall, it has been a great year for technology, especially in the gadget sector. With new gaming consoles, tablets, smartphones, and computers being released, it can be hard to separate the great from the overrated. Fortunately, there is an ample supply of goodies to be had, ranging in price from simple stocking stuffers on up to luxury holiday gifts.

Google Chromecast

One of the hottest devices for IT and non-IT professionals this year is Google's Chromecast. At $35, it will not break your budget and compared to similar devices - which average around $100 - the Chromecast is quite a steal. In a nutshell, the device lets users stream online media from a tablet, laptop, or smartphone straight to their television. It offers support for popular streaming hubs, including Netflix, Youtube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, HBO GO, and, of course, Google Play Movies and Music. It is compatible with Android, Chrome for Mac/Windows, and iOS, so no matter what device you own, you will be able to stream music and videos seamlessly.

Education

The IT world is constantly changing, with new technology - be it hardware, programming languages, or software versions - being released nearly every day. It can be hard [and costly] to keep your skills up-to-date. Fortunately, there are some great options to help keep the learning process inexpensive and simple. For starters, a gift subscription from Safari Books Online will grant your holiday gift recipient access to over 1,400 courses and 10,000 books, covering topics such as software programming, web design, system administration, and database development. Depending upon the subscription [$14.99-$42.99 per month], members can choose anywhere from 10 to unlimited chapters, books, videos conferences, or courses per month without having to pay a separate fee for each one. Since the media is delivered via a digital platform, there is no clutter of computer books building up around their house.

Another great option is Lynda.com. Lynda is highly respected in the IT world, and they offer over 2,000 instructional videos in every technology topic imaginable, from responsive web design to search engine optimization [SEO]. Videos are streamable through the PC or tablet, and subscriptions range from $25-$375.

Fitbit Flex

Keeping the body healthy is just as important as keeping the brain in shape, and because of that, the Fitbit Flex is a great holiday gift for any IT pro. The bracelet-styled gadget looks hip and tracks your health, syncing up wirelessly to your computer or mobile device. It keeps track of the number of steps you take, distance traveled, calories burned, active minutes in a day, hours you sleep, and even the quality of your sleep. You can set activity goals and chart your performance over time. At just under $100, the Fitbit Flex may be a little expensive for your office co-worker, but the gift of health is always priceless.

Quirky Cordies Cable Organizers

Giving the gift of organization may not seem like the most exciting holiday gift ever, but at $10 apiece, Quirky.com's Cordies are a must-have stocking stuffer for any technophile on your list. These rubber marvels have five slots that let you clip four wires to your desk, helping to keep your workspace clutter free.

Pebble Smart Watch

While we are on the subject of cool wrist gear, I would be remiss if the Pebble Smart Watch did not get a mention on our holiday techie gift list. A cheaper, more versatile alternative to the Samsung Smartwatch, the Pebble syncs up to both Android and iOS devices. The smart watch is highly customizable, with changeable straps and customizable faces. It has app support and a long battery life, lasting almost a week before requiring a recharge. It may not be as nice as the Samsung Smartwatch, but at $150 it is a great alternative.

Logitech Washable Keyboard

Tech people tend to be a little messy... and busy. Lunch [and sometimes dinner] is often taken at the desk, and the keyboard usually suffers because of it. Thanks to Logitech though, the days of Doritos-encrusted keys may finally be over. Their washable keyboard is just that - pop it in the sink, apply water and soap, then hand dry to make it look like new. At $39.99, it makes a great gift for sticky-fingered friends.

Mophie Juice Packs

Mophie Juice Packs are another great gift. Part smartphone case/part battery, these battery cases help extend the life of Android and iOS cell phones by up to 100%. The cases themselves are rechargeable and can give your phone an extra ten hours of battery life per charge. Great for those times when you do not have access to a phone charger. Prices start at $79.99.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Most tech people I know are on call and live and die by their phone. Because of that, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a great high-end gift for the IT professional in your life. It features a 5.7 inch HD Super AMOLED display that is bright and crisp, making reading in any condition easy. It comes with many new upgraded features [too numerous to list here] that make it a real competitor for the iPhone line. Prices start at $299 with a new customer activation or upgrade of existing services.

PlayStation 4

Because of the hectic schedule most IT professionals face, having some down time is always important. The PlayStation 4 is a great way to blow off steam and have a good time. Released in November of this year, they can be hard to get, but your giftee will be forever grateful if you can land your hands on one. The system is a huge upgrade from its predecessor, which was released five years ago, and looks to be ushering in a new era of gaming. Look out for bundle deals to make it a little easier on your wallet.

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX

Apple released the iPad Air recently, but with its steep price point, it is facing some stiff competition from the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX. Billed as more than just an e-book reader, the Kindle Fire truly is more of a tablet. Coming in sizes ranging from 16-64GB and sporting Wifi and 4G LTE connectivity, the Kindle Fire HDX is a great alternative to the iPad and Android series tablets. Models on Amazon start at $409.

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