Season's Best: 16 Top Mac Gifts

As flakes from the first snow of the year drift past my window, I can't help but think of the upcoming holiday season. For all of you who have a Mac fan (or fanatic) on your shopping list, here is the lowdown on the top sixteen items of the season - that won't break the bank!

Looking back over the past year, much has happened in the Mac World. We've seen the G4 Cube come and go, Apple totally revamp their portable line, new G4s with unimaginable power, and a cute little shiny MP3 player called the iPod.

Now that Thanksgiving has just passed, holiday shopping is in full force. With the help of a few fiends, mostly Andrew Hill, I've compiled a list of what I feel are the top sixteen things to give the Mac person on your list. I am not personally endorsing any items; I am just listing products I feel are of good value based on functionality and price.

Top 16 - Sorted by Price and Vendor

Home networking supplies - $2+, available from Cable Club, Dalco Electronics, and others.

So, you have a few Macs, maybe a broadband Internet connection, and a printer or two. Why not combine your resources and create a home network where Macs can quickly and easily share files and networkable printers? It isn't nearly as hard as one might think. All you need is one or more Ethernet-equipped Macs, a hub, and some cabling. Give it a try. Really, it's cheaper than you may think and the rewards are plentiful.

Apple and Mac collector logo items - $10+, available from RedLightRunner, Dougintosh, and others.

You're a Mac-head, right? Why not show the world? Pick up a cool Apple logo item, such as a shirt promoting OS X, a classic 6 color Apple logo coffee mug, or even an Apple logo keychain. You'll be surprised at some of the cool rarities that can be had on the Internet.

JMUG Membership - $10, available from JMUG.

This is one of the best gifts you can give to a fellow Mac user. No Mac user should be left without a Mac User Group (MUG) membership. JMUG is an Internet-only group, which unites Mac enthusiasts from down the street and across the globe into a friendly community of supportive users. A JMUG membership will allow you to take advantage of web space on JMUG's Mac servers, as well as get a custom @jmug.org email account, in addition to accessing the AppleMUG Store and other resources supported by JMUG.

Memory upgrade - $10+, available from Coast to Coast Memory, you local Mac dealer, and many other vendors.

Let your Mac be the best it can be! With drastically low prices, now is the time to give your system that needed boost. You'll be amazed how much smoother your Mac will run and snappier it will respond with even a minor upgrade. There is no excuse not to do it.

Logitech scroll wheel mouse - $20 to $50, available from buylogitech.com.

If one button isn't enough for you, or you have gotten addicted to scroll wheels from using evil Wintel boxes, don't fret! Logitech makes a very nice product line consisting of several multi-button optical scroll wheel mice. They look cool, and you can't beat the prices. From what I hear, they provide good classic Mac drivers for the extra buttons, and all the functions are natively supported in Mac OS X.

Gravis GamePads - $24 and $34, available from the AppleStore.

Gravis offers two very nice GamePads for the Mac. The first one is the GamePad Pro, which is $24 and is shaped and has a button configuration just like the Playstation controller. This is an excellent controller if you enjoy playing Playstation games on your Mac using Connectix's Virtual Game Station. The second is the Eliminator GamePad Pro for $34. This GamePad offers an outstanding array of precision controls and buttons, perfect for multiplayer or online gaming action.

Baldur's Gate - $30, available from the AppleStore.

In this exciting game, Chaos challenges the Sword Coast. The Amn is blamed for some for the problems, but others say it is the trading cartels. Furthermore, some even believe it is the Dukes of Baldur's Gate. Play this challenging and rewarding game to learn the story and live out the action.

Lemke Software's Graphic Converter - Shareware, register is for $30, available from lemkesoft.com.

Graphic converter is one of the most helpful utilities you can have on your Mac. This amazing tool can read over 145 graphic formats and export files in 45 formats. This app does it all. From simple resizing or exporting for the web, to huge batch converts or filter applications, no job is too big or small to be quickly and easily accomplished. Since it is shareware, give it a test drive. I know you'll love it and want to register it.

Belkin 4 port USB Hub - $35, available from OfficeMax/Depot, various e-tailers.

A USB hub is a necessity for any Mac user. As USB quickly gains extreme popularity and is becoming a dominant multiplatform serial bus, it is a must that you can connect all your peripherals to your system or notebook. I chose the Belkin model based on their good company reputation among the Mac community, as well as the hub's sleek low-profile contoured design and the external ice/graphite color composite. A 7 port model also is available.

Logitech wireless keyboard - $39 to $99, available from buylogitech.com.

Besides fancy mice, another cool computing novelty is the wireless keyboard. Whether you like to sit back in your chair and type or use your TV as a computer display, you can't go wrong with a Logitech wireless keyboard. Included in the great price, you get a fashionable keyboard with cushy palm rest and extra Internet and multimedia function keys.

4x4 Evolution - $40, available from the AppleStore.

Enjoy the ultimate off roading experience through 16 different tracks with dynamic difficulty levels and scenic locales. All I can say about this game is, "wow!"

Pop in another Hard Drive - $50+, available from Quantum, Maxtor, Western Digital, IBM, and others.

Hard drives are also super-cheap these days. Show that special Mac user in your life you care by giving the gift of storage. Whether it is SCSI, ATA or external, you'll sure bright up the holidays. Be sure to check what type of interface you're buying the drive for, as well as any special requests, such as a faster spinning drive (more RPM).

Apple Pro Mouse - $59, available from the AppleStore.

Optical mice are the way of the future. Bulky or oddly shaped ball mice are just plain hard to use. As with any ball mouse, you constantly have to fish out dust, grease, or lint, which prevent smooth roller action. The Apple Pro mouse is different from your average optical mouse; it features a stealthy ergonomic design and huge clickable area, along with adjustable 3 level clicker resistance mechanism.

Pyro WebCam w/FireWire PCI card - $93, available from MacMall.

If you're thinking about video conferencing over the Internet or would like to send email video clips, check out this camera. For those of you without FireWire connectivity, this is an extra special treat. This is the highest performing web cam for the money I've ever seen. Unlike its USB counterparts, this camera records in lush uncompressed video over the blazingly fast 400Mbit FireWire protocol (USB can only support a maximum of 12Mbits). With 30FPS recording ability and variable capture resolutions, this camera walks over all other web cams on the market. Did I mention you get a 3 port FireWire PCI card included in the price?

Epson Stylus Color C60 - $99, available from the AppleStore, and various e-tailers.

Penny for penny, you can't beat this quality Epson printer. It boasts good mid-range features such as 2880x720 PDI and 11 ppm black and 8 ppm color. This 4 tank color inkjet outputs rich hues with sharp and accurate details.

Harman Kardon sound system - $169 to $199, available from the AppleStore.

A bright Harman Kardon sound system would make a great addition to any Mac setup. Two excellent 3-piece setups can be found at the Apple Store for a reasonable price. Harman Kardon's line of Mac digital USB speaks has been proven worthy time and time again. Excellent acoustics and cool appearance make them a winner.