Robot vacuum lord and TR BBQ master
LG 25UM58-P ultrawide IPS monitor
According to the Steam Hardware Survey, the 2560x1080 resolution is nearly five times less popular than the enthusiasts' darling, 2560x1440. However, even combined, those two resolutions only account for slightly over 2% of systems surveyed. As you might expect, 1920x1080 dominates the chart, representing over 37% of monitors. It's probably safe to assume that most of those screens are sporting 60Hz TN panels.
Enter my first gift suggestion, the LG 25UM58-P. It stickers at $199, but it can frequently be found closer to $150, and at that price it's a steal. Every aspect of the screen is an upgrade over your typical budget 1080p LCD, including the jump to 21:9, which I adore. Its IPS panel even runs at 75Hz natively. That's a far cry from 144hz Adaptive-Sync displays, but it's still a nice perk in this price range. Without the bump in vertical pixel count that the jump to 1440p comes with, the recipient of this gift may not immediately feel the need for a video card upgrade, another nice consideration.
I bought this screen's cousin, the LG 25UM56-P, for my silly monitor arm experiment. Now, I almost never use the LG 34UC87-C at my desk anymore. I didn't see that coming. All said, I think the LG 25UM58-P would be a great upgrade for anyone you know that's still staring at an "average" screen.
Amazon Echo Dot
I bought an Amazon Echo on Prime Day this year. I may get around to reviewing "Alexa" at some point, but generally speaking, she's fairly impressive. I don't chat with her all that often, though, and while she may seem like a bargain at any price to some, I'm happy I only paid $100 for my Echo at the time.
However, at just $50, the second generation Echo Dot is easy to recommend as a gift for just about anyone, techie or not. Even if one doesn't get much more utility out of it than I do from my full-size Echo, all the little things it can do should prove its worth quickly. Using it with existing speakers just makes sense. Plus, even if the recipient never integrates it with anything in their home beyond that essential connection, there's still a ridiculously long (and growing) list of skills on tap that they can use.
As a bonus, I can personally attest that you won't feel as silly using voice commands in the comfort of your home as you would in public with your phone. In my house, that means setting a lot of kitchen timers, rolling D20s, and playing music, of course. I'll connect Alexa to the lights and thermostat someday...
Ricoh Theta S
Many TR gerbils have already seen the product of my Ricoh Theta S 360 degree camera. I have a few qualms with it, like how difficult it is to live stream from the HDMI output. Even so, it's a really cool toy to have. I've gotten some great "pictures" with it. I'm not a photography pro by any stretch, but even as a novice, I recognize how spherical photos and videos create different rules for shot composition. It's an interesting thing to wrap your head around.
At $350 the Theta S is on the pricier side for gift giving. Based on the impression mine has made with family and friends, though, it may still be worthy of consideration. People love this thing, but it's likely something they wouldn't buy for themselves. If one of those "impossible to buy for" types is on your list, the Theta S could be just the ticket... if you really like them.
Erisan UC40+ LED Projector
After an exhaustive search, I selected the Erisan UC40+ projector for coffee table D&D map projection duty in my house. It's not going to win any contests for specs, but of the dozens of cheap LED projectors out there, it had the most consistent user reviews and was one of the only ones I was able to confirm would attach to a standard tripod mount for ceiling use (it comes with an adapter).
The specs may not be great—this thing only throws out 800x480 natively—but it down scales from 1080p decently, and the image is bright and colorful (as long as you room is fairly dark). Don't count on super-readable text, but for big-screen Rocket League or Finding Dory on a bedroom wall it's a great option. At just $80, it's a lot cheaper than smaller but dimmer "pico projectors" too.
Bissell Spotbot Pet
There are too many pets in my house. Everyone knows it. My trusty robot vacuums aren't the only ones keeping the house reasonably clean, though. When things get ugly, I need to call in the big guns with water and detergent, and that means I'm getting out my Bissell Spotbot Pet. It's got just the right amount of geeky robotic-automation and practicality to earn a spot on my list.
I'm pretty sure this isn't the kind of gift that would get you smacked by the recipient, even though it might look the part at first glance. The SpotBot is fast and simple to deploy and clean after use. Critically, it legitimately works well. Unfortunately, mine has gotten a lot of use since I picked it up earlier this year. But at least I know that for $110 you'd be hard pressed to find a better gift for any pet fanatics in your life.
Anova Precision Cooker
Alton Brown is a personal hero of mine. I have every episode of Good Eats recorded and saved on my home server. When people are talking about food, I’m the guy that says, “Alton Brown says to do it this way” to just about every culinary conundrum. My terrible secret, though, is that I almost never cook anything myself. I’m all talk and no wok.
I recently bought a Anova PCB-120US-K1 immersion circulator so I could further pretend to be half the food nerd that that I act like I am. Think of it as a geeky Crock Pot (not that there’s anything wrong with a normal Crock Pot, of course). I’ve only used it a few times so far, but it turns out eggs like I’ve never eaten before and delicious steaks that only need a 30 second sear on each side at the end.
At around $100, I think an immersion circulator’s precise, low-maintenance, set-and-forget style makes it a kitchen tool that a lot of gerbils would be proud to present to friends or family.
I've played Rimworld on and off for a couple years now. It just hit Early Access on Steam this year though and it deserves gift-consideration for anyone you know who's ever enjoyed playing a city-builder before. Not that Rimworld is a city-builder per se. If you already know what a colony-builder is though, you've probably already tried to get your friends to play Rimworld, making further description superfluous. Now is the time of the year to guilt them into playing it by gifting them a copy.
Have I told you about the time one of my colonists became best friends with a bear that tried to eat her? Oh man, and then there's the many psychotic ways I've optimized killing chickens (the secret is to let the babies starve to death while they are already in the freezer). I could go on and on, but really, these are things you need to let others experience for themselves (and probably warn them not share publicly).
Let's wrap up on a lighter note, shall we? If you somehow missed this indie gem when it broke the internet earlier this year then it needs to be on your radar now because it's a terrific gift for an extremely wide range of people. Stardew Valley out-Harvest-Moons farm-life simulator Harvest Moon in every way.
If you're skeptical, pretend you're Fred Savage from the beginning of The Princess Bride. I'm the grandpa telling you "this game has everything, sword fighting, romance, monsters, uh, agriculture..." Trust me, whoever you get it for will love it.