Ren's favorite things: 2014 gift guide

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, America! While I'm happily eating my weight in turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes, I'm also making plans in my head for the many, many holiday gifts I need to purchase for my friends, family, and internet buddies.

As such, in honor of the shopping insanity to come, here are a few of my top gadget-and-geekery picks. We've also got lists from Rene, Ally, Peter, and the rest of the Mobile Nations crew to help you select the perfect gift this holiday season.


MacBook Air

Though it didn't get the Retina screen of its mobile brothers this year, the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air remain my favorite long-lasting little portable laptops. Their Haswell processors are speedy enough for most mobile tasks, and the battery life can't be beat — 9 to 12 hours of web surfing! I still yearn for a Retina screen, but when I upgraded this year, I still chose the 11-inch MacBook Air over a Retina MacBook Pro.

• Starting at $899 - Buy now

iPad Air 2

I've been an iPad mini convert since its release, but I'm back to the full-sized iPad as of the Air 2 — it's lighter, faster, and more gorgeous than ever. I thought I'd miss the mini form-factor, but the Air 2 is slim enough that it feels much more comfortable than any previous 10-inch tablet. And the speed is incredible: Whether you're editing a photo or attacking space aliens, the Air 2's processor and GPU are more than up to the task.

• Starting at $499 - Buy now

Apps & Software

Revolution 60

Not only is Brianna Wu a friend and a fantastic spokesperson for women in technology — her company, Giant Spacekat, released one of my favorite iPad-based RPGs this year. Revolution 60 blends 60s-era science-fiction with decision trees and touch-based combat for a great iPad experience. If you're looking for a good distraction over the holidays, you'd be remiss to not check out Revolution 60.

• $4 - Buy now


Photoshop is great and all, but Pixelmator is my new favorite image editor — not in the least because it supports Handoff between your iPad and Mac. The app supports speedy rendering, plenty of photo filters and tweaks, and great photo layouts, and you can do just about everything with the iPad version that you're able to on your Mac.

• Pixelmator for iPad ($5) - Buy now
• Pixelmator for Mac ($30) - Buy now


NYTimes Crossword

If you (or someone special in your life) loves crosswords, there's little better than getting them a subscription to the New York Times crossword. Featuring daily puzzles and a gigantic back-catalog, the crossword fiend in your life should have plenty with which to keep them occupied.

• Free, $7/mo or $40/year subscription - Download now

Casetify Monthly

If you know someone who collects iPhone cases the way others might purses or jackets, you might want to check out Casetify's monthly case subscription. The company builds artist-designed clear rear cases for the iPhone — perfect for matching your iPhone to a night on the town — and offers a monthly $10 case subscription for people who plan to pick up quite a few of them.

The subscription is currently only available for the iPhone 5 and 5s, but you can still pick up a-la-carte Casetify cases for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus if you choose, or design your very own case.

• Casetify Monthly ($10/mo) - Sign up now
• Casetify Design-Your-Own ($40) - Design now


Scosche MagicMount

Things I've discovered this year: I really enjoy sticking my iPhone to random vertical surfaces. By adding one of Scosche's MagicMount backplates to your case or iPhone back, you can stick your device just about anywhere you have a compatible MagicMount front — to the dashboard of your car, your wall by your bed or desk, near the kitchen counter, you name it. It's a great way to keep your iPhone above the fray and neaten up your living spaces, and it's a great conversation starter. ("How… is your phone… sticking to the wall?")

• $10 - $30 - Buy now

Jot Touch with Pixelpoint

I've tested many, many iPad styluses since I started working in technology, and the Jot Touch remains one of my favorites for drawing, sketching, doodling, and writing. Its newest iteration, the Jot Touch with Pixelpoint technology, shrinks the stylus nib to a mere 3.18mm, allowing you greater precision in drawing, writing, and detail-making.

The Jot Touch works with the iPad 3 or later, including the first iPad mini, and incorporates pressure sensitivity and programmable buttons into a bunch of drawing and writing apps.

• $75 - Buy now


If your iPad drawing app of choice is Paper, you might alternately want to consider FiftyThree's Pencil, a stylus built specifically for the company's journaling application. Pencil is impeccably designed and features a special implementation of pressure sensitivity, an eraser nib, blend mode, and palm rejection.

• $40 - $50 - Buy now


Outback Duffel

I fly far more than is reasonable, and if you too have a frequent traveler in your house, check out WaterField Designs' Outback Duffel. As is the company's wont, the bag is both durable and beautiful, bringing an Indiana Jones-style twist to traveling. Both its small and large sizes are TSA-carry-on-compatible, and if you pick up the double compartment option, you can easily separate your dirty and clean clothing while on the road.

• $219 - $279 - Buy now

7 Wonders

My favorite board game for non-board game people, 7 Wonders has become one of my must-gift items every holiday season. It's simple enough for both kids and adults to pick up, supports up to 7 players, and the variety in both cards and wonders ensures that every game will be a little bit different.

• $33 - Buy now

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens

I bought this fixed-focal-length lens off a recommendation from Matt Panzarino for a trip to Italy, and it's since become my go-to lens for shooting anything on my DSLR. It's relatively inexpensive for the quality of image it produces, and it shoots incredible portraits and macro photos. If you have a shutterbug friend who's looking to expand their lens selection, consider buying them this — they'll thank you for it.

• $200 - Buy now

Pocket Reflector

A great stocking stuffer for the photography enthusiast in your family or friends circle, the Pocket Reflector helps shed a little bit of extra light in a photographic situation. Untwist the cookie-sized reflector, and it increases in size to a full 12 inches — perfect for bouncing light on most portrait images and macro shots.

• $15 Buy now

More of our favorite things

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.