While it is no surprise that everyone and their mother is putting out a gift guide during the holidays, the problem is that most of these guides are basically the same. It is not that they aren't useful—many are quite comprehensive, featuring the most popular gadgets today. But what if you are not interested in picking up an iPhone this year? Watch me prove just how generic five gift guides turned out to be, then check out five alternative guides that offer a refreshing departure from the norm:
Common Gift Guides
To test how lemming-like guide-makers were in picking all the same stuff, I chose 10 popular tech toys—iPhone, iMac, MacBook, any iPod, TomTom GPS, any game console (Wii, Xbox 360 or PS3), Vizio HDTV, Slingbox, any Blu-ray or HD DVD player, and any Canon PowerShot or Sony Cyber-shot camera—and checked which of the major guides were serving them up. Here's how the mainstream gift lists panned out:
• Cnet - 8 products out of 10: iMac, Macbook, various iPods, TomTom Go 720, all gaming consoles, Vizio VM60P HDTV, Slingbox, Canon PowerShot SD 850 IS, Canon PowerShot S3 IS, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W80, Canon PowerShot A710IS [Link]
• PC World 2008 (?) Guide - 8 products out of 10: iPhone, MacBook, various iPods, Wii, PS3—Xbox got dissed—Visio VX32L HDTV and L37 HDTV, Slingbox, Sony BDP-S1 Blu-ray Player, Canon PowerShot A460 [Link]
• Yahoo Tech - 6 out of 10: iPhone, iMac, MacBook, all three gaming consoles, Samsung BD-P1400 Blu-ray player and the following Canon PowerShots: SD430, S3 IS, A630, A640, SD800 and SD900 [Link]
• PC Magazine - 8 out of 10: iPhone, iMac, MacBook, various iPods, TomTom Go 720, all three gaming systems, Slingbox, Canon PowerShot SD1000 [Link]
You're starting to get the drift, right? This rampant genericism is why I decided to look for alternatives. If you are looking for something a little different, the following websites offer plenty of brilliant and unique ideas:
My pick: Delkin eFilm ExpressCard 34 CompactFlash Adapter—Transfers photos "faster than a greased pig" for only $59.95. [Link and Product Page]
• Treehugger Green Gift Guide: There are a few gift guides out there promoting green tech, but Treehugger's is definitely one of the best. Perfect for any geeky, green gadget fan.
My pick: HYmini—Charge your small gadgets with wind power. Available for $50. [Link and Product Page]
• Fortune Small Business Gift Guide: 10 gadgets developed by small businesses. A unique guide for anyone looking to help out the little guy (and get some cool gear at the same time).
My pick: Vudu—Delivers glorious web video content directly to your TV. No PC or cable box required. Available for $399 [Link and Product Page]
• Uncle Mark's Gift Guide and Almanac: Sure, there are a few generic products featured in this guide, but there are some wildly unique ones as well —and you can't beat his delivery and old-timey tech wisdom.
My pick: 20q Ball—It is inside your head for only $15. [Link and Product Page]
• Make's Open Source Hardware Gift Guide: When it comes to unique and geeky gift guides, nobody does it better than Make. Their latest open-source gift guide is out, and the items it contains are sure to be a hit with hackers.