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TR's 2012 Christmas gift guide

What's on our lists... and what should be on yours

Winter is coming, and you know what that means. White Walkers! Also, Christmas—or the non-denominational holiday season, depending on your affinity for political correctness. Whatever. It's gift-giving time for most of us, and you may be wondering what to buy for the techie in your life or, if you're like us, what to put on your own Christmas list.

Fortunately, certain kinds of presents are right up our alley. We spend our days immersed in the latest PC hardware and the coolest consumer technology, so we have an acute sense of what makes a good gift for tech-savvy folks this season. Our staffers have made their lists and checked them twice, providing us with plenty of fodder for a Christmas gift guide.

Scott Wasson

Corsair's Vengeance M60 gaming mouse
My immune system must be pretty robust by now, because I've probably been exposed to twice the number of viruses and bugs as the average guy. You see, I'm always searching for a better computer mouse, and to me, mice are all about their feel in the hand. I have to grip one in my palm in order to know its worth. So, every time I step into a busy trade show booth or a retail store with mice on display, I've gotta grab each one and size it up.

During my long and microbiologically diverse career, I've handled a lot of gaming mice. I've felt up everything from Razer's original Boomslang to Thermaltake's new BMW-inspired contraption with tilt and height adjustments.

And, I have to admit, I've rarely liked any of 'em.

Most gaming mice seem "extreme" in ways that don't make sense, and a lot of them have awkward shapes, as if they were made for people with rare and bizarre hand deformations. Razer's mice, I think, are made for the little gray dudes from The X-Files; their long, slender digits should reach the scroll wheel and two main buttons. Mine will not, not without straining.

I really don't get that. Many of the cheap, high-volume mice from Microsoft and Logitech seem superior, even if they don't have 200,000 DPI sensors and programmable buttons. That's why, although I've tried nearly every gaming-oriented rodent you could name, my daily driver has almost always been a middle-of-the-road Logitech.

You can imagine my shock when I first gripped Corsair's Vengeance M60, then, and found its shape to be... pleasing? Impossible! The contours, the way it meets the palm, the button placement, even the beefy scroll wheel—they're all nearly ideal. Better than anything from Redmond or wherever the heck Logitech is. The materials are first-rate, too. Your hand meets nicely textured, high-grade plastics with not even a hint of gloss. The base looks to be aluminum, and it accents a design that looks racy but maintains traditional contours—you know, the ones that fit your hand.

I suppose the M60 has gee-whiz DPI sensors and everything else in it. You can read the specs for that. There are lights and weights and such, but none of it gets in the way while I'm popping bandit noggins like pumpkins in Borderlands 2. I'm just happy to have found the right feel. Everything else is gravy.

Sherlock season one DVDs
As a fan of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, I was cautiously optimistic about the BBC's attempt to bring Holmes into present day London and update him to contemporary sensibilities. Although the original character is over a century old, Arthur Conan Doyle's protagonist sleuth is a thoroughly modern man, so the potential is there.

Fortunately, in this case, the update works exceptionally well. The casting, tone, and substance of Sherlock are all rock solid, and the result is bliss for anyone who enjoys a good mystery—or, heck, just a good drama. I'm very happy to see the show delving into the darker Holmes meta-lore, too, not just doing a mystery of the week.

Yes, CBS has also brought Holmes to modern-day New York with Elementary, and that's not a bad show, but it pales in comparison to the BBC's Sherlock.

Bradley BTIS1 original fully automatic four-rack smoker
For years, my long-held ambition to produce my own delicious Kansas City-style barbecue in the backyard was kept on hold by the realities of my schedule. Like many folks, I simply can't dedicate countless hours to tending a wood or charcoal-based fire and keeping the heat steady. Those GPU reviews aren't gonna write themselves.

I was aware of electric smokers, with their convenient automatic functions, the same way display purists are aware of TN panels. Then a buddy of mine brought over some ribs he'd smoked in his electric smoker—some of the finest pork ribs I'd ever had—and I realized I was a snob for no reason.

This Bradley smoker was my Christmas gift last year, and I've successfully used it to produce ribs and chicken that would start a fistfight in the line at Oklahoma Joe's. The Bradley keeps the temperature and smoke constant with very little fuss, so I can concentrate on devising evil new ways of torturing graphics cards and still have a tasty meal at the end of the day. Highly recommended.