Black Friday deals aren't what they used to be, especially now that most of us are shopping online, but now there's an entire week of super cyber deals that you can pick up for your sysadmin. This is a list, in no particular order (and no vendor preferences) of cool things for a sysadmin or any technophile for whom you need to buy Christmas, Hannukah, or Kwanzaa presents. Currency and pricing are in US Dollars.
Note: You should always check reviews for any item you want to purchase and more reviews are better. If there are hundreds or thousands of positive reviews, it can be a sign that this a good purchase, but watch out for fake reviews. I usually read a few of the 'one-star' reviews just for reference.
High-capacity SD/mini-SD card
Whether your sysadmin flies a drone, uses a digital camera, writes code, or just has a lot of files to backup, every one of them can use a high-capacity SD card. I'm using SD card to include standard and mini-SD cards. You can find 512 GB SD cards for about $20. The high-performance ones cost two to three times more, depending on capacity. The high-performance ones (Identified as Class 10 or SDXC) are for video and other electronics that require a fast write speed. For example, 4K (and higher) cameras and drones often specify 80 MB/s and higher speeds. These are the ones you want to buy.
Yes, I know that everyone's mobile phone has a camera and some of them are pretty good. But that little sensor doesn't give you a lot of usable detail. Sure, it's good enough for YouTube, Vimeo, TikTok, or other venues, but for real photography phones just won't do.
A good entry-level digital camera can cost from $400 to $1,000. Full-frame (35mm film size sensor) cameras typically start at over $1,000 and can go very high into the $4,000 range. And then there are lens choices. There are too many to list but a nice zoom lens is always a great accessory. Be prepared to spend $1,500 or more for a great combination.
Is your sysadmin a vlogger? If so, there are a few things they'll need. And, perhaps they already have some of these, but more equipment is never a problem.
A nice tripod is a gift that keeps on giving. Find out what type of videos your sysadmin creates and then do some research. All tripods are not created equal. Some are great for very light cameras, some reach heights of more than 70 inches, some can be bent around and wrap onto poles, chairs, and other objects for stability. You want to select the right tripod for the camera's size and weight and for the application. Monopods are great for hikers, run-and-gun photographers/videographers, and sports photographers.
Tripods and monopods range in price from $20 to hundreds of dollars. Look for lightweight materials, sturdiness, and capacities.
Every photographer and videographer needs lighting. Whether it's a camera-attached LED or a vlogging ring light or a set of studio soft boxes, your vlogger needs light. Lights have a broad range of prices as well. You need to know how they want to use light. Ring lights are fairly inexpensive. Soft box setups can range from less than $100 per pair to hundreds of dollars. On-camera lighting needs to be lightweight, have adjustable brightness, and be battery-powered.
Of course, microphones are a big deal in video. It's said that if your sound is bad, your audience won't forgive it. So, in the world of video and vlogging, sound is more important than video. So, your vlogger can use a mobile phone for video but they need great sound. A really nice microphone and recorder might cost $200. Again, there's a wide range of possibilities. Look for vlogger recommendations and reviews for more info.
For vloggers, a camera doesn't have to be expensive or high end. A mobile phone might suffice for many. However, there is one feature that every vlogger must have and that's the ability to see themselves in the shot. A flip-out screen or front-facing camera is the solution. The vlogger must be able to see themselves so that they can be sure that they and whatever it is they're discussing is also in the shot. You can buy inexpensive 1080p cameras with flip-out screens for less than $200.
Items that vloggers might also need include backdrops, tables, bounce reflectors, remote shutter releases, and a teleprompter app for a tablet are all examples of miscellaneous accessories and equipment. These items vary widely in price from a few dollars to $200 or so. Check reviews and recommendations for options.
Wireless keyboard and mouse
Wireless accessories are very cool for professionals who work remotely or even for those who just want a change of scenery. Wireless keyboards and mice are inexpensive and handy gadgets to have. I use a Bluetooth mouse every day. In fact, there's one next to me right now. I take it everywhere. Wireless keyboards range in price from $15 to $200. And wireless and Bluetooth mice range from $30 to $100. You can also find some nice combo deals for the pair. Reviews are your best recommendations. For example, I found a nice wireless keyboard for $40 that has an impressive 4.5 stars with more than 3,600 reviews.
Premium headsets and earbuds can cost more than $300 and as little as $30 (or less). Quality varies widely and so do tastes. If your special someone is a gamer, they likely will want a fancy headset/microphone combo that is noise-canceling and comfortable. For conference calls, podcasting, vlogging, and other non-gaming applications, there are more choices that require less stringent requirements. Remember that sound is more important than video for everyone but gamers.
You can find some very nice monitors capable of 4k for under $500. For those who aren't so visually driven, you can buy a very nice 22-inch (or larger) monitor for under $200. What technology-oriented person doesn't want a really cool monitor or additional monitor? And gamers want the highest-end monitor possible.
Video graphics card
Gamers want high-end video (graphics) cards to prevent lag and "swimming" screen refreshes. Expect to spend $150 to $300 for a good gaming card. The really high-end stuff can cost over $1,000. Remember that these cards only work in "desktop tower" type computers. Laptop video isn't typically replaceable. If your special someone is a gamer, then they have a desktop computer and would love to have a new graphics card. Just search for PC gamer graphics cards. They're sometimes referred to as GPU, so be aware of that moniker. I recommend that you ask your gamer or graphic artist which graphics card makes their mouth water.
Backpacks are not only functional, they're also kind of a status symbol/fashion statement. I hope this isn't news to you. Sure, you can find $30 backpacks at discount stores but you should probably go online and search for something a little bit more appealing. Quality backpacks range from $45 to over $100. That said, I found a very nice backpack online for about $30 that is rated at five stars with more than 27,000 reviews.
Drones are very cool accessories. I have one and I love it. Mine cost about $400 and is made by a company that knows drones. However, there are some nice options for under $100. Realize that the better drones are going to behave much differently than the low-cost ones do. Buying a first-time user a low-cost drone might discourage your gift recipient from ever pursuing drone video or photography because of performance issues. If you purchase a quality drone, buy the replacement insurance for it. Don't allow your investment to end up at the bottom of a pond or crashed into a building or tree. Be aware that most drones require that the operator take and pass Part 107 of the FAA exam and be registered. Drones under 250g do not have these requirements. Also, be aware of local restrictions and laws governing drones.
I know it might seem a bit impersonal to give someone a gift card but it also gives them a chance to buy the exact thing that they want. No confusion. No awkwardness. And no mistakes. No matter how much research you do, sometimes you're just not going to be able to get the right piece of equipment. Let them do their own shopping and you still get the credit.
There you have my recommendations for sysadmins and technology types. Cyber week comes but once a year so make the best of it. Remember to do your research, check those reviews, and even go so far as to have your sysadmin make a wish list.