It's that time of the year again — time for everyone here at iMore to share our favorite things in the hopes it gives you some ideas for both the Black Friday sales and the holiday season. We've already posted the mighty Mobile Nations gift guide, which has something for everyone, but we also wanted to do something more personal. (We are people, after all, and tech alone cannot contain us!) So, whether you're looking for a gift idea, trying to find an excuse to treat yourself, or are simply curious about what all of us here have been using throughout the year, we've got you covered — with a few of our favorite things!
Retina 5K iMac
Apple has brought Retina to the desktop and it's stunning. Sure, you can get fast processors and tons of RAM and storage, but you could always get those. The Retina 5K iMac is all about the Retina 5K. It's about a display that looks as good at the iPad Air but at a whopping 27-inches. As gifts go, it's stupidly expensive, but if your loved one is a photographer, designer, or works in visual media in any way, it can also be the absolute best one.
The iPad Air 2 has an incredible laminated display and a powerful Apple A8X chipset. It's thinner, lighter, and faster than ever. But once again the technology alone is not enough. For the mainstream, but iOS and the enormous variety of apps means it remains the most usable, most enjoyable tablet on the market. With iOS 8 Extensibility and Continuity, it's also now one of the most flexible and functional. For anyone who wants a computer in their hands, who travels a lot, who wants access to a ton of apps and amazing games, the iPad Air 2 is a great gift.
iMovie is fine for most things, but Final Cut Pro X takes it to another level. I edit our video podcasts in FCPX. It's the easiest, most accessible professional-level video editor I've ever used, and I've been editing video since the Toaster. Earlier this year, after all of 5 minutes of instruction, I managed to turn around a 3 camera podcast edit in about 45 min. My mind is still boggled. Again, it's expensive, but it can help your loved one get started in something great.
It looks great, it sounds great, and it plays great. Space Age is an 8-bit cosmic adventure that takes you back to the future for alien encounters, puzzle solving, and more. Best of all, it's just a few bucks up front, with no in-app purchase or up-sell of any kind. It's fun the way fun is meant to be.
I've been using Photoshop since... pretty much forever. Originally I got education versions, then licenses through work. But it was always expensive so I only upgraded every other version, every few years or so. When I first heard about Creative Cloud, I was skeptical. It seemed like a way for Adobe to get more money out of me more often. It's turned out to be the exact opposite. Now, for $10 a month, I can get Photoshop and Lightroom, and keep them updated, all the time. If your loved one uses those apps, it's as good a deal as it is a gift. When you factor in the mobile apps the subscription enables, it's as great a one.
You know all those awesome Marvel movies, like Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, X-Men, Spider-Man, etc.? They call began as comic books, and almost all of their classic and best story lines can all be found in Marvel Unlimited. I just re-read Walt Simonsons Thor run, and previously re-read Frank Miller's Daredevil and everything ever drawn by Art Adams. Next up, some classic Avengers. Think of it as Netflix for comics, right on your loved one's iPhone and iPad.
I currently light my studio with 3 Philips Hue lightbulbs and 2 blooms. I have 2 Hue lightbulbs in my kitchen, and 1 in my hallway as well. I intend to keep adding to them until most of my lighting is powered by Hue. Why? Because I can control it from my iPhone or iPad, and that includes not only each individual light's intensity, but color as well. Watching Star Wars while your room is lit red and gold like Tatooine dawn? Priceless. Start with the combo back, build from there. Best of all, you can gift different lights to different members of the family.
Kevin Michaluk has been recommending SONOS to me forever. I have an open, octagonal living room and I've never been happy with the way I ran speaker wire around it. When my old receiver started vomiting HDCP errors all over the place, I decided it was time to pull the trigger. Now, my TV and network cable plug straight into a Playbar, and two Play:3 speakers handle rear surround duty. I also have the SUB on order. It looks great, it sounds great. It can be controlled by my iPhone or iPad, and, no more speaker wire. Definitely for the music lover in your life!
I'd previously used the Incase DSLR slings, but had grown to dislike non-balanced bags. (Back and neck problems, ugh.) I just ordered the backpack, and its combination of amazing camera and lens storage and laptop pocket makes it just about perfect. If your loved one loves to travel with a DSLR, they'll love this bag.
My family gives me one or two of these knives every year. Yes, they look like the cheese grater on the classic Mac Pro, but that's just a bonus. From the single piece design to the amazing quality, there's just nothing else like them. The starter pack, with block, is pricy but if you know someone who cooks a lot, oh so very worth it. (And these are the kind of gear they can pass down through the generations.) Otherwise, start with a good chef's knife and help them build from there!
Espresso machine? Need a masters degree. Drip coffee? Burned on the bottom. Instant? What are we, animals? French Press? So last decade. Unless you earn Clover money, right now AeroPress is where it's at. Easy enough for everyone, good enough for a serious coffee snob. It's not an expensive gift, but it's a terrific one.
If your loved one already has a coffee maker they like, then consider getting them some coffee they're love. Most of the brown liquid we ingest these days isn't coffee. It's a stale, over-caffeinated, coffee-flavored something. Blue Bottle (formerly Tonx) is coffee. Fresh roasted, fresh shipped, punch-you-in-the-face-when-you-open-the-bag coffee. It's absolutely delicious. Gift subscriptions also makes sharing it really easy.
When I needed something cool for my podcast studio background, I went straight to Lego Batman and the Arkham Asylum set. It's big, it's bold, and it's a lot of fun to put together. I hunted down and added every extra mini-fig I could find, of course, but it comes with plenty to get you started, including Batman, Robin, and variants of the Joker and Harley. If you know someone really into Lego, it's a great gift. If you're looking for something less expensive, there are a lot of cheaper sets as well, and even individual mini-figs.