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TR's 2014 Christmas gift guide

The best techie-friendly items for under your tree

Our holiday gift guide presents the perfect opportunity to make a snide observation about how rampant commercialization has stripped much of the meaning from the season. But whatever. We all like getting presents, right? And, more importantly, we want to find just the right item for the loved ones on our list.

Tech-savvy types tend to be especially discerning, making them somewhat difficult subjects during the gift-giving season—especially for shoppers who aren't as technically inclined. Worry not, though. Our staff is surrounded by the latest and greatest PC hardware, mobile devices, and other gadgets. We've compiled our favorites for this year's edition of the TR Christmas gift guide.

Scott Wasson

Asus' ROG Swift PG278Q G-Sync monitor
The arrival of variable-refresh displays is one of the biggest things to happen to PC gaming not just this year, but in the past decade or so. We aren't using cathode ray tubes in our monitors anymore, and G-Sync finally frees us from the refresh rate limitations imposed by that legacy tech. Instead, G-Sync monitors display new frames as soon as the GPU has finished rendering them. The result is buttery smooth animation like nothing you've seen before.

The folks at Asus built one of the first G-Sync displays, and they nailed it. The ROG Swift PG278Q combines variable refresh rates with a 27" corner-to-corner LCD featuring a resolution of 2560x1440. The monitor's peak refresh rate is 144Hz, over twice what you'll find in any 4K display. Although the panel is based on TN technology, you might be hard pressed to notice. Its color contrast and fidelity rival mid-range IPS displays, and even the viewing angles are decent. See my full review for the details.

The end result is the best gaming display I've ever seen. The PG278Q is pricey, and you'll need a GeForce graphics card in order to drive it properly. But you're buying awesomeness.

MSI's GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G
If you need a graphics card to pair with a G-Sync monitor, or if you just want a GPU upgrade, now is a great time for it. Cards based on Nvidia's GM204 GPU have changed the math in the graphics card market. You can get more graphics horsepower for less money—and with lower power consumption—than ever before.

My pick among GM204 graphics cards is the GeForce GTX 970, which offers slightly lower performance than the 980 at considerably reduced prices. Among GTX 970 cards, I was hoping to pick the MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G, which took home an Editor's Choice award not long ago. Unfortunately, those cards are now listed as "no longer available," and in their place, MSI is offering a slightly tweaked version that's $50 more expensive. That's not gonna fly.

Instead, I'm recommending Gigabyte's G1 Gaming edition of the GTX 970, which is the little brother to the Gigabyte GTX 980 card that aced our recent comparison test. This card offers triple DisplayPort outputs and a slim triple-fan cooler. Right now, it also comes with one free game. (You can choose from Assassin's Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, and The Crew.) Just be aware that this card is relatively long, so it's probably not the best for installation in smaller cases.

Google Nexus 7 2013 by Asus
I bought my Nexus 7 on a whim in the middle of last year just so I could get a sense of what an inexpensive Android slate has to offer. Since then, I've used the thing virtually every single day, way too many hours to count—and I've barely touched my iPad. When I'm not working, the Nexus 7 is my constant couch-surfing, book-reading, mail-checking companion.

I know there are newer tablets available, but the baseline set by the Nexus 7 remains excellent. The 1920x1200 IPS display is one of the best you'll find, and the quad-core Qualcomm SoC delivers consistently smooth, snappy performance. With 2GB of RAM and an unadulterated version of Android, the Nexus 7 flips between the seven or eight apps I have active at once without delay. And the thing is a featherweight. Here's a dirty secret: although I have a Shield Tablet with a larger screen and better specs, I prefer the N7 for regular use.

Now that the price on the 16GB Wi-Fi version has dropped to $169.99, I see little reason to resist this thing's charms—or to settle for a cheaper Android slate with compromised quality.