Ask the MACist — Holiday Gift Ideas

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Welcome to the latest edition of “Ask the MACist", the column where I answer your Mac and Mac-related questions with hopefully more clarity and insight than you could ever need. As always, I want to thank those of you who sent in questions this week. They are much appreciated. Keep it up!

And remember, if you have a question about anything Mac, Mac-related, or even something about another technology like TiVo or anything, send it to me, The MACist, at: themacist at gmail dot com. This time around, in honor of the holidays, we're going to do something a little different. We're gonna talk about gifts for you as a Mac user and for the Mac using friends and family in your life.

The Holidays are a great time for Mac users (and family of Mac users) everywhere to stock-up on stuff. There are a great deal of things Mac users need and want so it shouldn't be very hard to find something for the Mac user on your list — especially if that person is you. So, let's get on to the gifts.

The first thing that always makes a great gift is, of course, a new Mac! Maybe your trusted friend is getting a little long in the tooth or you are really starting to envy your co-worker's shiny new MacBook Pro? No matter the reason, the holidays are a perfect time to get a new Mac.

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For those on a budget, the MacBook laptop is always a welcome gift. Or, perhaps its a desktop computer on the list? Then, that can be taken care of with a brand new iMac in 17" or 20" size. My recommendations: 2Ghz 17" iMac, 2Ghz 13" MacBook in White (save the two hundred bucks by not getting the black one and spend it on more RAM). Or, if the Mac lover on your list happens to be a mobile professional, consider giving them a 15" MacBook Pro. If you do, they'll be thrilled and will be forever finding new ways to show their appreciation to you. My recommendation: 2.33Ghz 15" MacBook Pro.

And if its raw power and performance you need, nothing does it better than a Mac Pro Tower. These machines will ably do all the heavy lifting needed by even the most demanding pro users. Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Photoshop and any other program you can imagine are no match for the Mac Pro's power. If you need to get work done, this machine will take handle it -- no questions asked. My recommendation: Two Dual 2.66 Mac Pro, 4GB RAM with at least 2 500 GB SATA Drives. Oh, and don't forget to purchase AppleCare -- especially on the laptops. For the desktops, its not a bad idea but not mandatory (although I always get it myself). But for portable computers, its a necessity. You don't have to buy it at the same time you buy the computer but you do need to buy it during the first year you own the Mac before the regular warranty expires.

Ok, so maybe you already have all the computer you need and are just looking to accessorize? Well, nothing is a better compliment to your Mac than a brand new iPod. For me, the best bet in iPods for this holiday season is the iPod Nano, which is available in several different colors including a festive red edition. The Nano's combination of size, weight, capacity and battery life make it the perfect gift for anyone who wants to take their music with them but doesn't need to watch video. My recommendation: 4GB iPod (product) red Nano. Its a great color and you get all the other iPod benefits plus you help out a worthy cause at the same time. So, you can get a little while still giving this holiday season.

What if you or the person you are getting gifts for already has an iPod? Well, nothing helps an iPod perform better than a good pair of headphones. Sure, you could use the ones that came with the iPod, they're ok. But for much better sound, you really need some better headphones. My recommendations: Shure E2C Headphones or if you're on more of a budget, try the Sony MDR-ED21LP.

Ok, you've got your MacBook Pro, your iPod Red and your headphones, now what do you need? Well, a really nice gift for someone with a new MacBook is a case to protect it. There are many different kinds on the market but my recommendation: Incase Neoprine Sleeve. This case slips onto your Mac and helps protect it from scratches, dirt and other issues while its in you backpack, car truck or wherever you keep you Mac. I use one every day on my Powerbook and wouldn't go anywhere without it.

Now that you have a nice sleeve to put your new MacBook in, how about a good bag to carry it (and your other stuff)? Of course, there are as many bags out there as there are models of computers but I always seem to stick to bags made by one company -- Brenthaven. Their bags are strong, tough and hold pretty much everything I need for the road. They have several different configurations (shoulder bag, backpack, etc.) but my recommendation: Brenthaven Pro Backpack for 15" or 17" laptops.

What if you don't use a laptop and instead, are using an iMac or other Mac desktop? Well then, how about a really great accessory that will enhance your Mac using experience? What am I talking about? New Speakers -- something that will be a great addition to any Mac setup. As usual, there are a bunch of different kinds and I've probably tried most of them at one time or another. That said, the folks at M-Audio make some great speakers and, in fact, I'm listening to them as I type this article. So, my recommendation: The M-Audio DX4 Speakers or if you're on more of a budget, The Logitech X-140 Speakers are great for the price.

Now that you have some cool new speakers, how about something to help showcase all those great photos you take? In other words, its time for a new photo printer. For the most part, I stay away from any photo printer that isn't made by Epson or Canon. And usually, I even stay away from Canon. Not because they are bad but more because I personally use Epson printers and so do the vast majority of photo professionals that I know and work with. So, my recommendations for photo printers: The Epson R380 Photo Printer. Or if you want to spend more to get professional results, the Epson R1800 Photo Printer.

Ok, that's a pretty good bunch of stuff. Of course, there is always somethign else that would make a great gift. For more good ideas, head on over to Apple's website where they have put together some gift ideas and also have a running tab of the most popular gifts purchased from the store so far. Or, if you just don't want to leave the house and don't have a clue what to get, you can always go for an Amazon Gift Certificate or an Apple Store Gift Card or maybe even an iTunes Gift Card if they are really into music. That way, the person on your list that's hard to shop for can just go out and get what they want -- whatever that is.

About Chris Ullrich: Chris is a frequent contributor to LAist as well as other sites like Comic Book Resources and Cinematical. He also used to tweak Macs (and PCs) for clients in the Entertainment Industry.

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photo by herkhamer via flickr