Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We’ve got lots of them. We’re just starting to roll out this year’s gift guides, so check back from now until the end of December for more!
Once upon a time, I used to write TechCrunch’s travelers’ gift guide. It was fun and people liked it. People love travel gadgets! Of course, the events of last year left many of us grounded for an extended period, so we shifted to a remote work gift guide — assuming that, by 2021, we’d be back to traveling.
The best laid plans, etc.
For most of us with office jobs, remote work is going to be the default for the foreseeable future — for better and worse. In fact, it’s a safe bet that the pandemic is going to radically change the way many businesses think about working. Since it’s more than just a passing fad, what better time to make the home office a bit more comfortable for the remote worker in your life?
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Apple iMac 2021
I included an Intel iMac model in last year’s roundup, so you know I’m going to add the M1 model introduced earlier than this year. Downsides out of the way first: 1. It’s smaller, currently only available in 24-inch. 2. It needs more ports. I really want an SD card reader back (been eyeing this one from Satechi). 3. Not all apps are supported by the new M1 chip.
That said, the new iMacs are powerful, compact and look great. If you want to splurge on someone who’s been struggling to adapt to working from home, this is a great addition to any home office.
Price: Starts at $1,259 on Amazon
Twelve South Curve Laptop Stand
If an all-in-one desktop isn’t their thing, a great laptop stand makes a big difference. There are a ton of different options out there (and you can get one for fairly cheap). It’s a simple product on the face of it, so mostly you’re choosing between aesthetics. Twelve South’s stuff is always solid, so this is a good place to start.
Price: $60 on Amazon
HUANUO Adjustable Laptop Stand for Desk
Speaking of stands, this is a clever (not to mention extremely affordable) standing desk converter. A full standing desk might well be out of your budget — not to mention the cost and pains of shipping something that size as a gift. This sits on top of a desk and adds up to 16.5 inches in height for laptops up to 15 inches.
It’s a nice way to take a break for so many consecutive hours of sitting. Haven’t you heard? Sitting is the new smoking.
Price: $38 on Amazon
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that the past year-and-a-half has been…a struggle to work from home. My issue of five concurrent construction projects in ear shot might be a very New York one, but we all struggle from time to time with unwanted noise — particularly those of us in big cities. A good pair of noise-canceling headphones can be a life — or at least sanity — saver. Seriously.
There are plenty of great earbuds to be had for a decent price, but if you really want to drown out the sound, look into an over-ear model. The natural sound-muffling cups pairs well with built-in active noise canceling. That’s doubly the case if you plan to wear them for an extended period — they’re far more comfortable and the battery lasts a lot longer. Most models should get you through more than a day of use on a charge — teleconferencing meetings included.
There are plenty of good options. Bose just released new Quietcomforts, for example. But while the Sony WH-1000XM4 are a bit long in the tooth these days, they’re still the reigning champion — at least until the M5 come out. They sound great, have solid noise canceling and are extremely comfortable. If you’ve seen me do any virtual interviews for TechCrunch, you’ve seen me with the M4s on my head.
Price: $348 on Amazon
Can you tell I stopped drinking? I’m, like, super into water now. Last year I sung the praises of the Aarke Carbonater. This time, I’m back to tell you about the Larq Pitcher. A Kickstarter success story from the same folks who made those wildly popular UV water bottles, the pitcher is based around the same principle.
Along with a carbon-based filtration system found in more traditional pitchers, Larq blasts the water with UV-C for an added level of purification. I’ve been using it for a few weeks as of this writing, and I dig it. We’re blessed with good tap water here in NYC (ask the people who make the bagels), but added peace of mind is never a bad thing.
Like the Larq bottle before it, I was impressed by the design language here. I’ve never given a second thought to how pitchers work (it basically lives in my fridge), but hey, that’s a good-looking pitcher. I’ve also never considered the need for a connected app to let me know the filter’s health, but not a bad thing to have, either.
Price: $148 from Larq
Hyken Mesh Task Chair
A great home office chair is something I suspect a lot of people didn’t think about prior to the pandemic. These days, however, it’s a lifesaver. Honestly, this is probably the number one purchase I’ve made during the pandemic in terms of my productivity and posture.
Made by Staples, it looks great and is solidly built (requiring some assembly, naturally). It offers a ton of support and comfort (including a headrest) at a good price. It’s easy to pay three or four times that for a decent chair, and listen, we’re not made out of money here.
Price: $200 from Amazon
The thing about built-in webcams is that they’re mostly terrible. It’s just not something most manufacturers think about, even as smartphone cameras have continued getting better and better. That’s begun to change a bit during the pandemic, but unless you’ve got a newer system, you’re probably out of luck.
These days, anyone with a desk job has spent more hours than they’d care to admit on camera, so they might as well make themselves look as good as possible. For a majority of folks, there’s no reason to go all-in on, say, a DSLR for virtual meetings. Elgato’s latest is a nice plug and play solution that’s highly customizable using the camera hub app.
Honestly, the system may have more firepower than most people need, shooting 1080p video at 60 FPS, but if you’re gonna be on camera a lot, you might as well look good.
Price: $200 from Amazon
Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic
A lot of people ask me which microphone I use for my podcast. Since moving virtual, I’ve recorded everything on the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic. It also doubles as my meeting microphone. It’s a great sounding unidirectional mic that looks like a classic stick mic. The back has both a standard XLR and USB-C out, the latter of which connects easily to desktop.
This is about as plug-and-play as desktop microphones get, with few settings to fiddle with. Those settings are what tend to get most people in trouble. Just remember to turn the power on (a mistake I’ve made more than once).
Price: $99 from Amazon