updated 09:10 pm EST, Sun December 22, 2013
We really meant to get this to you earlier but kept putting it off
The last days before Christmas are a special time of year, full of family gatherings and carolers for some, and panic racing thoughts for others. Those latter holiday sentiments, of course, are for those among us who neglected to get all of our shopping done. Maybe you managed to secure a flight back home at the last minute, or maybe you just decided to forgive Uncle Bobby for that incident on Thanksgiving. No matter the cause, you've probably got a few last-minute acquisitions to make, and the gift budget may have already bled into the rest of your budget. Have no fear, though, Electronista is here with the Last Minute Edition of our Holiday Gadget Gift Guide, so there's no need to grab those Starbucks gift cards in bulk quite yet, as there's still time to get folks the tech gifts they'll love.
Here's a gift you can buy in bundles without breaking the bank. Google's diminutive Chromecast HDMI dongle plugs into a television's HDMI port and allows for streaming of content from the Google Play Store, as well as a growing number of both Android and iOS apps, including Netflix, HBO Go, Pandora, YouTub, Hulu Plus, and more. It also lets users stream from the Chrome browser on a notebook or desktop. As far as streaming devices go, Chromecast is quickly catching up to the Apple TV and Roku, and it's doing so at around a third of the price.
Hulu Plus subscription
One of the beautiful things about living in the digital age is that you can buy presents that you don't have to wrap. We've got a couple of those in our Last Minute Edition, and first among them is a subscription to Hulu Plus. For $8 a month, you can give the gift that keeps on giving: television via the Internet.
A Hulu Plus subscription grants access to Hulu's colossal back catalog of shows both old and new, as well as a growing number of movies and short films. Plus, Hulu users can access the service's own original content and a number of exclusives that are available only on Hulu - we may or may not have binged our way through Misfits last week - so there's pretty much no end to the content.
And, as a bonus, Hulu is one of those apps that is compatible with the aforementioned Chromecast. In the biz, they call that "synergy." On Christamas, you can just call it foresight.
Sticking with the content-centric gift suggestions, we'd be remiss if we didn't give a nod to Netflix. Netflix is a mainstay among our most-used apps, and it costs just $8 per month like Hulu Plus. That is to say: you could spend $200 and give your gift recipient - or two gift recipients, if you're feeling clever - access to just about all the movies and television they could hope for. Just like Hulu Plus, Netflix is Chromecast-compatible, and it plays across computers, mobile devices, Xbox devices, and PlayStation devices. Basically, it's perfect for that one cousin who never took up your invite for Breaking Bad Sundays, as Netflix has the entire run stored up and ready to go. Just try to be as excited as she is when calls back excited that [spoiler] totally [spoilers] Gus at that one moment in the [spoiler].
Amazon's Kindle e-reader
At this point, you may be wondering why we're going with an e-reader as opposed to the Kindle Fire tablet, and that's because we think we've likely spent enough time on devices with flashy lights and the content that plays on devices with flashy lights. Picking up one of Amazon's Kindle e-readers is one of those moves that is light on the wallet and will definitely endear you to your resident bibliophile.
As much as we love tablets and smartphones, there is a lot to be said for the barely-ever-needs-charging, only-reads-books, maybe-plays-chess-or-Scrabble e-reader from Amazon. It's also the sort of device that can and often does complement a smartphone or tablet quite well, as its understated e-reader functionality and slim form factor are perfect for curling up with before bed. As a bonus, the comparatively limited functionality means that one can't pop over to Facebook "for just a second" or jump onto the Internet "just for a quick break," meaning your gift recipient will actually get their reading done.
Execuheli Remote Controlled Helicopter
Or maybe your gift recipient is a little bit younger, or just in need of some non-tech entertainment, eh? What does one get for the person who's got everything? The real answer is "love," but a close second could be the Execuheli Remote Controlled Helicopter. We got a demo version of this in the mail a few days ago, and we've got to say it's definitely fun to play with. Put plainly: it's a toy helicopter that actually flies via remote control. If you're still reading this and not off ordering one right now, you'll be interested to know that this does take a bit of practice to get used to. We're still stuck on the "hover" portion of the learning curve, but we've seen people piloting these things all around the room. It's impressive, and it's the sort of thing you can get for anyone aged 8 and up.
And that about wraps it up for our Last Minute Gadget Gift Guide. Fortunately for you, most of these things can be picked up at a Radio Shack or Best Buy or bought online, so you won't even have to worry about getting them on time. If they're not available in store, though, well, that's what next-day shipping is for. Good luck, and remember: it's much more convincing if you believe it when you tell them this is what you had in mind for them all along.
[Lead image via SodaHead]