It's that time of year again! In amongst the jingling of bells and the mulled wine, the question always remains: What do I get that special someone as a gift? Whether you are shopping for a fresh Maker just starting out, or the engineer who has it all, we've got you covered.
Here's the holiday gift guide for Makers, 2022!
What to Look for in a Holiday Gift for Makers, DIYers, and Tech Enthusiasts
When you're shopping for a do-it-yourselfer (DIYer), there are many considerations. Begin with their interests and needs. Perhaps a few not-so-subtle hints have been dropped about a particular maker board, microcontroller, or component that's needed. Or you could get a gift based on interest. For instance, if you're buying a present for a maker that's into robotics, you could get them an Arduino robot kit. Age and skill level are key qualifiers. For budding builders, a kids-oriented STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) gift is a great choice. What's appropriate for children, young adults, and adults varies. Skill level is crucial. Often, as DIYers we enjoy challenging ourselves. But you don't want to gift an extremely complex present to a novice maker lest that thoughtful donation collects dust. And finally, money is a major limiting factor. You could go the cheap route with a $5 or $10 present or break the bank with a present costing several hundred dollars!
Maker holiday shopping considerations:
- Skill level
The Raspberry Pi Pico is the first Microcontroller based board from Raspberry Pi, which features the RP2040 chip designed and made by Raspberry Pi. It's caused quite a stir since its release and joins the roster along with the Raspberry Pi Zero W, the Zero W 2, Rasbperry Pi 3 B+, and Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computers (SBCs). While the Raspberry Pi SBCs are definitely the most versatile, with their full Linux operating systems and GPIO pins, the Pi Pico might make the perfect gift. Why? What you get for the price.
Put simply, the Raspberry Pi Pico is among the best-value microcontrollers out there, and it is incredibly well-documented. Beginners can get MicroPython code running on the board within minutes, and seasoned tinkerers will find the C/C++ SDK is equally well documented, with lots of great examples. From blinking your first LED to getting deep with the PIO system for super precise timing and interfacing, the Pi Pico is the perfect learning tool.
Want to take it up a notch? The Maker Pi Pico Base adds a buzzer, audio output, microSD card slot, Neopixel LED and 6 Grove connectors to the Pi Pico - the perfect way to kickstart any curious Maker's career!
Best for: Beginners, intermediate, and seasoned makers alike. Good surprise gift
Yes, for the first time in a long time, the single board computer we recommend isn't a Raspberry Pi. This has nothing to do with how hard it is to find a Pi at the minute however, and everything to do with the LattePanda 3 Delta. It's a completely different kind of SBC, running x86 instead of ARM, courtesy of its powerful Intel CPU. This also means it'll happily run Windows 10/11, and at a fair clip too. During our review of the LattePanda 3 Delta, it was easy to forget I was using an SBC at all - I even played through Portal 2 again on it.
It's a highly capable SBC that can be extended thanks to M.2 slots, M key supporting NVMe SSDs, and B key for a variety of other add-ons, including 4g/LTE support. The LattePanda 3 Delta also comes with an Arduino built into the board. The ATmega32u4 is the same chip you'll find in the Arduino Leonardo and Micro, and it can be controlled via the Arduino IDE, or from the host operating system via Firmata.
All of this performance does come at a price, though, but at just over $330, we still think the LattePanda 3 Delta is great value for the performance and versatility it shows.
Best for: Computer enthusiasts, seasoned tinkerers, homelabbers, and anyone needing a do-it-all SBC!
MicroSD cards make fantastic stocking stuffers. They're small and actually fit in a stocking. Plus, you can get even high-capacity microSD cards on the cheap. With 512GB microSD cards going for around $75 USD, 128GB and 256GB SD cards are pretty inexpensive. I'm always in need of a microSD card, whether to use with my Raspberry Pi, pop in a phone or tablet, stick in a 3D printer, or something else. A 64GB or 32GB microSD card is the sweet spot, although larger is perfect too.
Best for: All makers
All things retro are in style. While you can buy the ultra-popular Arcade1Up cabinets, there's another option: build your own arcade cabinet with a Raspberry Pi! The Pimoroni Picade (our review) lets you accomplish just that. Available in two different versions, one with a 10-inch screen and the other with an 8-inch display, the Picade is a miniature bartop Raspberry Pi-powered arcade. Whereas arcade cabinets from the likes of Arcade1Up are limited to a handful of games, a do-it-yourself arcade can run hundreds or even thousands of games from a variety of different systems, all while maintaining a retro flair.
Best for: Retro gamers
There's a reason Arduino microcontrollers have become so popular. They're extremely affordable and flexible plus calable and easy to use, so you can begin with simple projects such as blinking an LED, then move up to more advanced projects like smart home automation. Arduino microcontrollers allow you to get familiar with hardware such as servo motors too. Even if that special maker in your life already has an Arduino or several, a kit still boasts a phenomenal value what with the various hardware components inside. You can find beginner kits for Arduino and even intermediate Arduino starter kits.
Best for: Beginners, intermediate, and advanced users alike
The Seeed Studio Grove Beginner Kit for Arduino (our review) is a simple yet extremely versatile Arduino bundle. Uniquely, the various components come pre-connected so there's no wireing or soldering required. However, you can break out the different modules and use simple DuPont connectors to hook everything up. With 10 pre-connected modules and a bevy of sample projects included, the Grove Beginner Kit for Arduino is an awesome Arduino all-in-one bundle that's perfect for newcomers to the arduino platform. Additionally, with its excellent value, the Grove Beginner Kit is also great for more advanced makers looking to prototype quickly.
Best for: Newcomers to the Arduino platform
If you are looking for the perfect gift to spark an interest in robotics, the Macqueen robot for Micro:Bit is perfect. It's compatible with all Micro:Bit boards (including the Micro:Bit V2, which is a big improvement over the older ones), and you don't need to know any code to use it. The MakeCode online IDE allows you to program using visual blocks - the perfect way to learn the basics of programming and how to instruct robots!
The robot comes without the Micro:Bit, but it packs in a bunch of useful things, including ultrasonic sensors, Infrared detection, a buzzer and a battery pack! Robots are not only the perfect gift, but fuel for curious minds, and this one is a perfect, pint-sized pick this holiday!
Best for: Young/Beginner Robotics Enthusiasts
Looking for something a little more complex? Who doesn't want a robotic arm? Unless you're a T-1000, you probably don't already have one, but the good news is that you can buy one! The Tinkerkit Braccio is a fully-operational robotic arm. It's Arduino-controlled and may be assembled several ways for a variety of different uses. Plus, you can attach components like a solar panel or camera for additional functionality. The Braccio robot arm is a seriously cool device that's fun to show off to friends and family, plus right useful.
Best for: Robotics enthusiasts
3D printing filament is the gift that keeps on giving. A standard spool of filament can go a long way, even with large print jobs. And extra filament is never an unwanted gift. Whether it's a new color or merely more filament, there's always a use for a fresh spool. Since you can print everything from tabletop miniatures to cosplay items and funcitonal objects, additional filament is a great stocking stuffer.
Best for: 3D printing enthusiasts
3D printers are super cool. I've got a handful of 3D printers in my maker space and regularly use them for fun and to fulfill needs. Recently, while searching for a headphone storage solution, I opted to print a headphone stand rather than buying one. If there's a maker in your life that you really care about, you could shell out for a good 3D printer. Luckily, there are loads of budget 3D printers available including the Anet ET5 Pro, Flashforge Adventurer 3, and Elegoo Mars Pro. Granted, even an entry-level 3D printer is over $100 USD usually, so cheap is admittedly relative. Before buying a 3D printer, make sure that this particular maker is on your nice list.
Best for: 3D printing enthusiast, a maker on the "nice" list
Best Holiday Gifts for Makers and DIYers - Maker Holiday Gift Guide 2022 Edition
Overall, there are tons of holiday maker gifts that you can get. Raspberry Pi boards, Arduino microcontrollers, and microSD cards make great stocking stuffers. More filament is always useful. Office equipment like a desk or chair is a welcome present. A 3D printer is incredibly thoughtful, although pretty pricey. Gift cards, subscriptions, or online courses are fantastic too. Ultimately, no matter what makers, DIYers, and tech heads are on your gift list, there's a present for them.