It's that time of year again. You have a nerd or geek in your life who's impossible to buy for, and you're flat out of ideas. Time is running out, too: there's only three weeks left until Christmas as of this writing. Fear not. As nerds and geeks who are impossible to buy for ourselves, the TR staff has looked back over the hardware, games, and entertainment that surprised and delighted us the most this year, and we've tried to select our favorites for all ages and budgets. Here's what we came up with.
Jeff Kampman, Editor-in-Chief
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
It's rare that a product doesn't disappoint in any way. Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is one of those rare beasts. The GTX 1080 Ti delights with high frame rates and smooth frame pacing at resolutions and graphics settings that make every other card on the market flinch, all with performance-per-watt that's unequaled in the industry right now. I can't think of a finer gift to give the gamer in your life (or to yourself).
Don't pair a GTX 1080 Ti with a 1920x1080 display, or you simply won't see what this card is capable of most of the time. The GTX 1080 Ti is best for high-refresh-rate 2560x1440 gaming or high-fidelity 4K experiences, and if you pair it with such a monitor, you'll be elated every time you fire up your favorite titles. This card really demands a modern system to help it shine, as well, so if you or your intended recipient are still holding onto a Sandy Bridge PC or something older, it might be time for a shot of Coffee Lake on top.
Aftermarket takes on GTX 1080 Tis abound, and as you would expect for Nvidia's highest-end consumer pixel-pusher, they all seem to be fine products. I would personally give the edge to Gigabyte's $800 Aorus GTX 1080 Ti Xtreme Edition, whose trio of large fans and massive heatsink keeps the GP102 GPU cool while staying whisper-quiet. That said, you really can't go wrong with any GTX 1080 Ti, even the Founders Edition. We don't do year-end awards, but if we did, the GTX 1080 Ti would be graphics card of the year in my book.
For all the time I spend testing the world's most powerful graphics and computing hardware, most of the gaming I've done for my own pleasure of late has taken place curled up under the covers with Nintendo's Switch. That's because Nintendo knows how to deliver games with heart and depth in a way that few other companies or studios can.
The Switch is a surprisingly versatile canvas for those titles, and I've enjoyed using it in my living room just as much as I have in its portable mode. The crisp and relatively large screen for a portable device makes this console the best Game Boy ever in a pinch, and I can't wait to take it on planes or wherever else I might want to get some more Breath of the Wild in.
Some might argue that the Switch is an expensive platform for Nintendo's first-party titles and little else, but if you value quality games that you can really dig into over the widest selection possible, the $300 price tag for this little gem is more than worth it. Like the GTX 1080 Ti, I've never had anything other than fun when I've fired up our Switch, and I can only hope that will continue as more developers and franchises get on board with it. TR contributor Eric Born also heartily recommends Nintendo's latest console to put under your tree, so I'm not alone in my infatuation.
Sometimes the best things in life are simple tools that do one thing really well. Thermoworks' Thermapen Mk4 quickly and accurately tells the temperature of any food item you might have on your stovetop or in your oven, and its lengthy probe, auto-rotating and backlit display, motion-sensing on-off switch, and water-resistant construction make it both convenient and durable in use.
I mostly use my Thermapen for cooking meats, and if you want to nail a perfect steak or figure out whether a massive pork roast has come up to temperature, this little gadget will let you find out whether you've hit temperature targets with enough swiftness to avoid overdoing fast-cooking cuts and with more than enough accuracy to avoid turning medium-rare into medium-well. The Thermapen will be used so often by the choosy chef in your life that it might not even remain in a drawer, much less end up at the back of one like so many other cheap thermometers I've tried. This thing is $100, sure, but it's one of those "last-one-you'll-ever-buy" kinds of purchases, and no gift is better than that.
Your Name (Blu-ray)
This smash-hit anime film, based on a tale written by director Makoto Shinkai, starts with a classic love story and adds a heaping share of twists and turns that will reward a second or third viewing (on top of whatever stop-and-rewind moments you might want to indulge in to really appreciate the gorgeously drawn and colored backgrounds). I won't spoil the story here, but if you're burnt out on the idea of watching yet another ponderous superhero movie (and don't mind the potential for a tear or two), this surprisingly complex and charming tale might be just the ticket. Watch it with subtitles on the biggest screen you can. $20 for the Blu-ray-and-DVD combo pack is a steal.