by Bill Snyder

Affordable Holiday Gifts for Geeks

Dec 07, 20124 mins
Computers and PeripheralsLaptopsMobile

Buying holiday gifts like the iPad or an HDTV shouldn't mean you've maxed out your credit cards. Here are five way to get the most for your money when you're shopping for that gadget-obsessed somebody.

It’s the time of year when many of us are heating up our credit cards as we shop for Hanukah or Christmas gifts, and lots of those presents are likely to be digital gadgets of one sort or another. But you don’t have to buy the latest, or the most expensive, model of a digital gadget to get the most value for your money. Here, with an assist from, are five ways to get a good buy as you prepare your holiday shopping lists.

Don’t buy the iPad Mini

Instead buy a refurnished iPad2. Sure, it’s cool to have the latest iGadget, but when you compare these two products, you’ll see why the older one is a better buy. Both have the 1024×768 screen resolution, and as DealNews points out, pretty much everything is the same, except the mini is much smaller. So if you like the idea of a bigger screen, you can buy the iPad2 for $319, $10 less that the Mini. True, it’s refurbished, but that often means that someone bought it and returned it in the same box. In that case, it’s covered by a one-year warranty, the same warranty you’d get with a new Mini.

Don’t Buy an iPhone 5

Instead Buy an iPhone 4 or 4S. This choice is all about price. Assuming you opt for a subsidized phone with a AT&T, Verizon or Sprint, the iPhone 5’s 16GB model will set you back $199. But the very capable iPhone 4S is $100 cheaper, and the iPhone 4, still quite good, is the best price of all — free. There’s another advantage to the older models that’s not price related.  If you buy an iPhone 5 you won’t be able to use the excellent, built-in Google Maps app that you’re used to, and instead will be stuck with the kludgy Apple Maps, or something belonging to a competitor. Of course, to get an iPhone 4S that has Google Maps, be sure it is equipped with iOS 5, not iOS 6, which means you have to buy it from a carrier, not Apple.  

Don’t buy a handheld game console

Instead buy an iPod Touch. If you’re a serious gamer, you no doubt own an Xbox or other console and maybe a high-end laptop. But what do you do if you want to play games when you’re on the go? There are lots of handheld consoles on the market, but you’d do better to with an iPod Touch’s endless library of games, which now includes popular console franchises like EA’s FIFA 13 Soccer, Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty. Price-wise, these apps are considerably cheaper and are more readily discounted than games for the Nintendo 3DS or Playstation Vita, so you or the recipient of the gift can save money in the future when buying new titles.

Don’t buy a 3-D HDTV

Instead buy a standard HDTV. This one’s a no-brainer and I only mention it because there’s a fair amount of marketing hype around 3-D. There is little 3-D TV programming out there, in fact there may not be any in the U.S. And if you want to watch a 3-D movie, you’ve got to buy a 3-D Blu-ray player. What’s more, Dealnews reports that prices on 3-D HDTVs increased by 10 percent in December.

Don’t buy an iTunes gift card

Instead buy an Amazon gift card. I’m assuming that the recipient of this gift may want to buy more than just music. In that case, this is really simple: You can buy pretty much anything these days on Amazon while iTunes is limited to music, TV and movies. When it comes to music, iTunes is unmatched in selection, but Amazon frequently discounts its music, while iTunes rarely does. Dealnews notes that some albums on Amazon are as much as $8 cheaper than on iTunes. The owner can always import Amazon music purchases into iTunes, so there’s no real downside.