This holiday is season is approaching fast. Like, really fast. Though it seems like just yesterday we were struggling to remember to write “2013” instead of “2012” on our reports, the days are already starting to get slightly cooler and shorter for fall, and Christmas is just a little under a month away. So, it’s already time to start thinking about what kinds of devices you may want to gift to friends and family (or yourself) this holiday season.
Now, not all the devices that will be available in November and December have even been released yet, but we’re going to go ahead and throw together a top-five list of what to gift this holiday season anyway. And, just to spice it up, we’ll only include things under $300.
5. The Canon Powershot SX260 HS
The Canon Powershot SX260 HS is without a doubt the best standalone digital point and shoot for under $300. This camera will only set you back about $230-$250 new, or about $200 refurbished, and $140-$150 used on Amazon. So obviously, I’m wrong. There are many cameras (even in the Canon family) that are more expensive, and are supposed to be better, and cost less than $300. So I’m wrong. Right? Wrong.
You can compare it to any other camera in the price range I established for this list – the Powershot SX260 HS wins out every time. So, if you’re on a $300 budget, and you or your loved one is in the market for a new camera, this is an excellent choice to consider.
Purchase the Canon Powershot SX260 HS Here
4. The Wii U
The PS4 and Xbox One are without a doubt going to be the star, best selling consoles this holiday season, and they’ll get all the latest third party games – and that’s likely to remain the same throughout the next six to eight years that this fifth generation of consoles reign. But the other guys are just so expensive. The PS4 comes in at $399, and that doesn’t include any games. So that’s an extra $30-$60 to purchase an actual game to play, which… you know… is kind of required for a gaming console. The Xbox One comes in at a whopping $499, with the same no-game-included issue that you’d encounter when buying a PlayStation 4.
The Wii U Deluxe on the other hand is generally in the $290s on Amazon from third party merchants, and it comes with Nintendoland, a combination of many arcade style games with characters from the Nintendo franchise to get you started. It also comes with a variety of accessories, while the other guys just have the cords, the console, and controllers.
So, it’s the best value you can get as far as the current generation of consoles go, but more importantly, it fits in our $300 budget. If money’s tight, and you or someone you know wants a next-gen console this holiday season, the Wii U is not something to eliminate just because of it’s brand name. There are some popular third party titles for the Wii U, including Fifa Soccer 13, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, and Madden NFL 13. There are also some amazing first party titles to sweeten the deal as well, such as Super Mario 3D World, New Super Luigi U, and Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD.
Purchase the Wii U Here
3. (Tie) The Kindle Fire HDX
The Kindle Fire HDX is the latest in Amazon’s series of extremely affordable 7 inch tablets. The software remains the same, with the familiar carousel, categorized UI, and a tight integration of Amazon’s various media services. There is one very important difference between the third generation Kindle Fire and the previous two models, however. This one actually comes in with top of the line hardware. The first two came in with acceptable levels of power, but nothing that would blow anybody’s mind. This one is different, however. For just $229, you’re getting a retina quality display, and a Snapdragon 800 CPU – with 4 Krait 400 based cores, an Adreno 330, and 2 GB of RAM in all of their glory, a very cleverly designed outer shell, as well as a front facing camera (no rear camera here). All in all, you have the highest end 7 inch tablet out right now… hardware wise. The software based aspects of this device are a completely different story however. You’re getting no access to the Google Play store, and you can’t even do so much as log in to Google apps with your Google account without rooting (or a ton of sideloading.)
However, recently, developers over at the xda forums have made it possible for Kindle Fire HDX owners to do just that. So, we can expect roms to start appearing for this tablet as well, and with a custom rom, we’re looking at possibly the best 7 inch tablet, period.
Learn more about the HDX in this quick Hands-On
3. (Tie) The Nexus 7 (2013)
The majority of users aren’t going to want to go through the tedious and warranty voiding process of cracking open their device’s bootloader and flashing a custom ROM. So, what’s the best 7 inch tablet… out of the box? That’s easy. The second generation Nexus 7 from Asus and Google. It comes in with impressive, but not quite game changing specs. That same high resolution screen and 2 GB of RAM make an appearance on this $229 device, but that’s where the hardware similarities end. The Nexus 7 has a much less ergonomic design – still comfortable to hold, don’t get me wrong – but just not quite as natural feeling as the HDX. It’s coming in with a Snapdragon 600 CPU complete with an Adreno 320 GPU – which isn’t quite as powerful as the 800, but still more than capable of handling everything you can throw at it, and, it has a 5 megapixel rear facing camera, something the Fire lacks.
What’s really important here, however, is the software. Being a Nexus device, this tablet arrives with stock Android 4.4 KitKat, and, since this device is co-created by the same company that makes Android (Google.), you’re getting pure Android. No carrier or manufacturer bloatware, and you get Android updates within weeks of their release, all the time.
So, number 3 is a tie between the Kindle Fire HDX and Nexus 7, because, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, and I mean really dirty, the HDX is going to be the best 7 Inch tablet, and if you’re not, the Nexus 7 wins easily.
Buy the Kindle Fire HDX Here
Buy the Nexus 7 Here
2. The Chromebook Family
Despite Microsoft’s recent blasts at the one member of the Chromebook family of laptops, the Samsung Chromebook, as a part of their “Scroogled” ad campaign, the truth is, you shouldn’t pay attention to these commercials. A Chromebook is one of the best things you can buy for yourself or anyone else this holiday season. Microsoft’s claims that “offline, it’s basically a brick” are blatantly and shamelessly false. You can actually do a lot with Chromebooks offline. In fact, they’re almost normal laptops, coming in with the ability to browse the web (duh), use word processors and other productivity apps, run video and photo editors, and even support a respectable casual gaming ecosystem, and, do a lot more, with most of those being available offline. There’s still progress to make, but Chromebooks have a lot of potential.
Functionality wise, yes, Windows blows Chromebooks out of the water, but Chromebooks have less bugs in the operating system, are virus and annoying software update free, get free updates to new versions of Chrome OS (versus $90 to upgrade to Windows 8), and are a lot faster. And I mean a lot faster. Sure, it may not compare to your average ultrabook, but it puts any sub $500 Windows computer to shame in this department. Oh, and did I mention the C720P has a touchscreen? No? Well, it has a touchscreen. The C720P is a great secondary laptop for power users, and a great primary laptop for light and computer-illiterate users. For only $299 it provides 2GB of RAM and 32GB of SSD storage.
There’s also the C720 (4GB), which is the same internally and design wise, but it lacks the touch screen that the C720P boasts while providing a much faster machine. However, this one is only $250. There’s also another C720, which is the same as the C720 with 4GB of RAM, but comes with 2 GB of RAM rather than 4, and is only $200. This Chromebook is the one with the price to beat. All of the Acer C720 Chromebooks also pack Intel Haswell generation chips which provide a lot of power with an incredible battery life.
There’s also Chromebooks from other companies besides Acer, of course, and the main ones are the Samsung Chromebook, HP Chromebook 14, and the HP Chromebook 11. The first is special for being the first ARM-based Chromebook, which has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The latter two are currently the flagships for all of the Chromebooks, and are very colorful and has several very unique gimmicks including microUSB charging and a larger screen.
Pre-Order the Acer C720P: Amazon
Buy All the other Chromebooks Here.
1. Moto G
For #1 on our list, we have the Moto G, which is now on sale in the U.S. The G, needless to say is a budget version of the Moto X. It comes in at just $179 for the 8GB model and $199 for the 16GB model, off contract. And, with an LCD panel coming in with a pixel density of 326 (which, I may add, is the same as the Retina display on the iPhone 5S), a Snapdragon processor (that we’ll call the “Snapdragon 400” for lack of an official name) that is somewhere in between the Tegra 3 and Snapdragon S4 Plus in performance (good enough for most people), and a 5 megapixel camera that gets the job done, the specs aren’t too shabby either.
Overall, this is a pretty decent phone, with more than acceptable specs and performance for most people. That price point though, is what makes this device the best value in the smartphone market, and ultimately the best device you can spend your money on this holiday season for less than $300.
Buy the Moto G Here.
So, there you have it folks, the top devices that you can buy as presents for yourself or a loved one this holiday season. Any one of these devices is guaranteed to make someone’s day, and provide them with a new device to use for years to come.