Welcome to the second of our Pocket-lint guides on the perfect presents to buy this year. Yesterday we started the ball rolling with our perfect presents for photographers, but today we're talking laptops. Whether the person you're looking for has a notebook or a netbook that they simply won't put down, here are 10 excellent ideas of what you can buy to help feed their habit and bring a rosy-cheeked smile to their face on Christmas morning - at least until they bury it in their LCD and keyboard for the rest of the day.
picoStick TV tuner
Who said size doesn't matter? No one told PCTV Systems, part of Hauppauge Digital, who sell this tiny picoStick Freeview tuner. The minuscule USB DVB-T receiver simply has a USB connection on one end and a connection either for an aerial or a screw-in mini antenna at the other. Accompanying software will handle Teletext and EPG functions, as well as allowing pause or time shift functions and recording in MPEG1, 2, or DivX formats. Come and take a look to appreciate how small these things are and then fork out the £37 while your jaw's still hung open.
Huawei E225 USB modem
The gift of mobile broadband is a wonderful thing and entirely necessary these days if you're hooked on laptops. There are all sorts of contract deals out there but you can skip all the hassle by picking up an unlocked dongle, which you can put any SIM card into you like. One of the easier to find is the likes of the Huawei E225 which you can currently get for around £30. Chances are that your giftee already has a decent data package on their mobile phone SIM which they can slot in at will or if not, you can often find good PAYG SIM only packages from the likes of 3 which offer free chunks of data for a nominal top up.
Come on, who doesn't want to out-sleeve the next man? These aren't new items but, like clothes, you can simply never have enough of the them. One amuser of late has been the Undercover Sleeve which you can pick up for £20 but other beauties include the 9 to 5 from last year and the My Documents folder for ultimate geek chic. If you really want to get the perfect one, then head over to Etsy and knock yourself out and you might even find a crafter who'll make one to order.
Speck CorePack Fly
Take the sleeve one step on you've got yourself a bag with cushioning for the portable number cruncher as well as space for all your other bits and pieces. Right now, the CorePack Fly from Speck is the pick of the crop for the frequent flier as it features a separate and removable section for the laptop so it can be scanned by those airport machines with minimal fuss. If the $89.95 price tag and trans-Atlantic postage are a sticking point them you can always go with something simple like the £29 Canvas PC messenger bag from Muji.
The more portable the laptop, the less memory it's likely to have. Combine that with the computing equivalent of Parkinson's law such that states that your file library will expand to fill the memory allotted and you can see pretty quickly that just anyone with a notebook is going to need an external HDD. An SSD would be preferable but, frankly, who's going to spend the bucks on those right now? Fortunately, 2.5" travel friendly ones are remarkably reasonable. Some couple of goodies to suggest would be the Western Digital Passport Essential 250GB for £48 and the HP SimpleSave 320GB HDD for £69.
Spare/Better laptop battery
What do you mean "that doesn't sound very exciting"? It is. It's one of the best presents money can buy. The person you give it to will bless your name every time their machine powers down en route to an important meeting/half way through the latest downloaded episode of Mad Men on a long haul flight. They'll promise great gifts back onto you when they reach inside their CorePack Fly and pull out a vastly superior, pre-charged 6/8/12-cell battery.
You'll need to sneak a look a at the make an model of the one they already have and then get yourself onto one of the usual online electrical e-tailers for the appropriate unit. Do not buy one second hand and cheaper non-brand options are not always as efficient as those from the original manufacture.
Logitech Comfort Lapdesk
There's a lot of things like these available for those who wish to compute on the sofa while giving both the notebook and their rapidly heating thighs enough air to breathe. Plenty have USB powered fans and some can get quite expensive but the only one we'd really recommend at the moment is the cheap, simple and, best of all, most comfortable, Logitech Comfort Lapdesk. The clue was in the name. You can pick them up for £20. Very reasonable.
Samsung SE-S084 Super WriteMaster
So you're friend or loved one has a netbook or very small notebook and, guess what, it doesn't come with a CD or DVD drive does it. What's the solution? Well, there's plenty out there to choose from but the Samsung SE-S084 Super WriteMaster Slim External DVD drive is certainly a strong contender. It's not "oh my god" small, but around the same size and thickness of a double CD case. More to the point, though, it performs all the necessary buring and reading tasks at an affordable price of £39 and it looks pretty good too.
Kensington Flylight 2.0
Yes it's silly but only marginally so. Every now and then as a laptop user, you'll find yourself in dark place - usually a plane - and you're trying to type without a backlit keyboard. Worse still, your nice bright LCD screen is rendering any dark vision you might develop utterly useless. Along comes the Kensington Flylight 2.0 for its annual rescue and your USB power supplies all the illumination required. Fortunately, it's an LED lamp and so uses very little juice - less than 90 seconds of power per hour of normal use. Very tidy for £8.69.
iRock Foldable Speakers
The rest of the world might curse you for it but you giftee will enjoy these rather basic portable, foldable speakers from iRock. Yes, you do. For £16.99 they come with a 3.5mm plug and can charge their Li-ion batter via USB at the same time. They also happen to have a little magnetic base which is great if you want to pretend they're police sirens and try to stick them to the roof of your car.