Come the holiday season, we all get caught up in a blitz of hot deals in emails from online retailers, tear-away coupons from local malls, and TV ads interrupting our favorite programs to tell us about huge discounts somewhere in a seemingly all-pervading bazaar-land.
If you already feel you are drowning in deals, worry not. We have done the homework for you, so you can instead turn your attention to enjoying your holidays with friends and family.
We not only looked at a marketplace for engineers—Arrow Electronics—and perused products, but we put together this simple science-based advice for you before you dive into our list below: There’s less of a positive association between gift appreciation and its price (study here) than there is between gift appreciation and a gift that reflects the giver (that study is here). We must add that you keep the receiver firmly in mind as well.
Now, on with the list.
Raspberry Pi 3 ($29.99)
So, what might better reflect you, the giver, but an easy-to-use development board loved by both engineers and hobbyists? The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B brings upgrades to its predecessor with a 1.2-GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM processor, 802.11n WLAN, Bluetooth 4.1 and Bluetooth Low Energy. It retains the 1 GB of RAM, four USB ports and HDMI support in the same form factor as the Pi 2. Full specs here.
If the fortunate recipient of your gift is just starting off and your budget allows, we recommend getting the starter kit, which includes an SD card, a case, an HDMI cable and optical mouse and keyboard. The bundle costs $129.97 at Arrow.
If the vanilla Raspberry Pi isn’t enough, the Picade will let you turn it into a fun, retro arcade game center for your desktop. The kit includes black powder-coated cabinet panels, Picade PCB (Arduino compatible with stereo 2.8W amp), 8-inch LCD panel and driver board, 2 speakers, a 3.5mm stereo socket, HDMI, audio and USB cables, and an arcade joystick. Just bring your Raspberry Pi and power adapter to the party.
Snap Circuits Jr. ($37.43)
With science becoming unpopular in certain circles, you might want to start a kid off early in exploring electronics. Snap Circuits Jr. (Elenco SC-100) is a good first foray, giving a kid a hands-on experience to support learning by trying. The basic kit has 30 color-coded components that simply snap together, including a photoresistor, a music IC and a motor. The kit allows simple projects like an alarm and sound activator. Learn more or order here.
If that’s limiting—though, the vendor does claim 100 experiments—you can upgrade to the Pro version (Elenco SC-500), which includes a recording IC, FM module and transformer, for projects like FM radio and digital voice recorder. The Pro version is here.
Mavic Pro Drone ($999)
What you need to know is that DJI’s Mavic Pro is equipped with a stabilized 4K camera and a visual navigation system, a 4.3-mile range and a long 27-minute flight time. Other niceties include gesture-based control, following objects it recognizes like people, bicyclists, cars, boats and animals, and pairing with DJI Goggles (sold separately).
DJI has two other consumer models you might consider: Spark and Phantom Pro 4. The Mavic Pro, however, gets the balance between portability and quality just right.
Weller SP25NUS Soldering Iron ($17.16)
The Weller consumer soldering iron is a back-to-basics gift for someone who likes to be hands on and spend time on their home projects. Standout features include quick heating capabilities, accurate temperature setting, as well as 3 LEDs to illuminate the point of solder. You can order it here.
Finally, it’s worth noting...
Any purchase over $20 automatically qualifies for free one-day shipping from Arrow.com, so make sure to fill that cart up.
— Vivek Nanda has been a technical editor and content manager for over 20 years at B2B magazines in the electronics industry. He enjoys creating contextual content, crafting content strategy and working with online product development teams.