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Answering Nerd Gift Questions

It’s the most wonderful time of year! My friends and relatives ask me questions about HDMI cables and memory cards, stuff they want nothing to do with for the other 11 months of the year.

Here’s the most common questions I’ve been getting so that I can just email this link around.

What video game system do I get?

The PS5 is still in short supply, but for hardcore fans of the platform they may not consider anything else. If your gamer is into playing Halo then Xbox may be an option, I would not assume so unless they say so.

I’m suggesting the Nintendo Switch for most people. It’s not as powerful as the previous two but the killer feature is that it is both a console (looks great hooked up to a TV) and can be used as a handheld game (fully portable for creating silence in the car. You’re welcome.)

There are multiple versions of the Switch so it can be confusing. The newest version has an OLED Screen and it’s the one I recommend. The original version is $50 less most places I’ve seen it and that’s not much of a discount for what’s basically 4 years old. The Switch Lite is smaller and cheaper but does not output to a TV which is a dealbreaker for me.

What Do I Need To Buy With A Nintendo Switch?

Games of course. An important point here is you can now choose between buying games from the store in memory cards or just downloading them.

I prefer download because they never get lost. They cards are only the size of a postage stamp and that’s just asking for disaster in my house. If your gamer is a neat and tidy person there is the upside of being able to resell games on memory cards when they are done with them if they like to trade up. For downloaded games that’s the end of the line, you have no access to the used market.

You can buy Nintendo eStore cards all over the place, good games that are new tend to run around $60. Target is currently running a buy one, get 15% off the second on a bunch of video game platform gift cards.

A tip here – our local library network does lend Nintendo Switch games. It’s always great to try them before buying, some games just suck, others can be completed before it has to go back to the library. This can save a huge pile of cash.

Nintendo Switch also has a gaming network, this allows you to play with other gamers online and gives access to a library of a bunch of games from previous Nintendo systems (current Wii games are not in there though.) This is $20 a year for an individual or $35 for the family. This is a cheap way to have a ton of games right from day 1 without breaking the bank.

Nintendo Switch Controllers

The small controllers are the weak point on the platform. They work but they can’t handle the long term abuse that controllers normally get. If your gamer is tough on controllers (like ragequit throwing) a Pro Controller is a required upgrade. It’s very much in the platform gamer standard, strong enough to easily break a TV when tossed and will survive.

I have tried a few upgraded controllers that attach like the stock ones. This Kinvoca Joypad has worked well and not broken as fast as the original. Updated July 2022: I’ve tried two upgraded controllers, one lasted 6 months, the other 9. Forget these, get the Pro Controller.

If you have the original controllers and they are not working, most commonly by “drifting” where things move without you touching the stick, or if you can’t move in certain directions, they can be repaired if you are a little bit handy and not afraid to void your warranty. I have used more than one of these joystick replacement kits that come with all the tools and parts you need.

Get A Memory Card and Screen Protectors

If you are going the downloaded games route you’ll want to add more storage. This is a good memory card.

My kids manage to crack the screen protector every 3 months or so, making screen protectors the best purchase I’ve made with the system, these come in a three pack so we’re never without one.

Smart Light Bulbs and Smart Home

There are a lot of Smart Home Options, we use Alexa for everything since it works with Smart Outlets (Alexa, turn off Christmas tree is a big win.)

Phillips Hue Light Bulbs are expensive compared to the competition but they have a good app and integrate with Alexa. Note that there are bulbs that do different shades of white and brightness and then more expensive ones that can do the full color spectrum. Phillips has a starter kit on sale for the holidays, and my local warehouse club has them.

I have a Google Nest Smart Thermostat, it is only ok. It’s limited if you want to use sensors to adjust the temp by room (at night I want the heat to go on based on the bedroom temp, not the temp downstairs.) If you have one you like please mention it!

TV and Home Theater

This space is crazy, everything has become so cheap. I like buying TVs from the warehouse club (or Best Buy if you still have one close to you) so you can see them to pick, compare, and make sure it fits in your house (also confirm it will fit in your car/truck to go home before you pay.)

TV’s are cheap but the LED revolution has made projectors affordable too. Adding a projector to our living room has changed the game, I don’t like watching the TV anymore and because of the scale it’s better than going to the movies. I’ve already done a post about that if you want to see how I got it together for a screen over 100 inches for less than the price of a 47 inch TV.

Phones

Everyone here is getting upgraded because we are in a rural area and some carriers shutting down 3G is going to be a problem so everybody is getting a 5G upgrade. The real fun here is that I won’t know if this will make life better or worse until we try. It astounds me every day that I live in a town with a top rated liberal arts college and have crappy cell/internet, but here we are.

Headphones, Earphones, Earbuds

There’s a lot going on in this space but the short version is that the Jabra Active Elite 75T are ranked #1 by many review sites and I can agree. Better sound quality than AirPods, great microphones for calls. But, remember there’s no one size fits all, there’s a bunch of reasons why you might want to use something else (number one being not wanting to force something into your ear canal.)

Unfortunately the Active Elite 75T is being phased out and I have not tried any of the new line to know what the best successor is. Right now I would suggest the 85T until the new stuff has been reviewed.

Always happy to talk this topic or…

Trusted Review Sites

I’m a paying member of Consumer Reports for appliances and cars. The Wirecutter is fantastic for trying hundreds of products and recommending the best (Lauren Dragan on headphones!)

4 replies on “Answering Nerd Gift Questions”

I wish a Nest (or something) worked for us. Whoever built this house put in three thermostats in all the wrong places. One controls the central air, the other two, which are basically right next to each other) control the baseboard heat.

So, I need three Nests, plus half a dozen sensors unless I want to rewire the house.

Please let me know what you come up with Re: 3G phone replacements. My iPhone 4 runs on Puppy wireless (a vpn which runs on Verizon Towers) for $11 per month, all in. I’d
Love to keep Puppy Wireless, but will leave to run on Verizon Wireless on a *reasonable* 4g or 5G phone. Yes, I am looking at losing 3g service sometime after Jan 1.

Unfortunately the hardware market for phones has gone insane, I’m not aware of any 5G phone under $300. I’m too invested in Apple so I’m getting screwed on phone prices this year.

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