The holidays are just around the corner, and with them the tech shopping season. In spite of it being a strange year thanks to the pandemic, it’s been a good year for technology. Some amazing new gear’s hit the shelves, and you can get some great items at pretty cheap prices.

Here’s what’s on my list of items for either yourself or those on your shopping list:

2021 10.2” iPad (www.apple.com/shop/buy-ipad/ipad-10-2): Apple knocked it out of the park this year with amazing improvements in the iPad’s processor, speed, display, and camera upgrades. The new iPad is available in sleek Space Gray and Silver colors, and its introductory model ships for $329 with 64 gigabytes of onboard storage, which is still a good amount for most users. The 256-gigabyte model starts at $479, and as usual, you can get the Wi-Fi + Cellular model if you’re planning on hitting the road and aren’t sure if you’ll be within reach of a reliable Wi-Fi network. The iPad comes with free engraving, is also compatible with accessories like the Apple Pencil and wireless Smart Keyboard, and communicates well with third-party accessories.

USB External Backup Hard Drives: I’ve harped on the need to back things up both online and locally, and nothing beats having a good local backup on your desk if your computer decides it doesn’t want to cooperate that day. Head over to Amazon.com (or your favorite online shop), search for “USB external hard drive” and see what comes up. You can get large (generally one terabyte or larger), incredibly cheap (about $50), and incredibly powerful USB external hard drives for extremely little money. Look for quality brands such as Western Digital, Seagate, and G-Drive, shop for whomever needs it, and once they unpack it, follow up to be sure they’ve connected the external hard drives to their computers and set up either Time Machine or Windows Backup on their machines.

Razer DeathAdder Essential Gaming Mouse (www.razer.com/gaming-mice/razer-deathadder-essential/RZ01-03850100-R3U1): It may sound silly to recommend a gaming-oriented USB mouse to your Christmas list, but Razer has developed a reputation of making quality computer gear, and this is as comfortable and precise a mouse as you’d ever want for your Mac or Windows PC. Other neat bells and whistles include an incredibly precise internal optical sensor, five programmable buttons, switches, and handy rubber side grips. In short, this mouse is sharp, accurate, retails for about $29 before delivery, and is a perfect accessory to keep by your desktop PC at home or in a briefcase or school bag in case you need a precise mouse to use along with your laptop.

USB Flash Drives: Pricing for USB flash drives (or “thumb drives”) is around an all-time low, they’re available, they’re reliable, and they make the perfect stocking stuffer. These can be snagged online or via a quick trip to a CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Target, or Walmart, and you can now buy an incredible amount of durable, portable storage for under $10. Give these as a gift, and remind your friends and family to keep their important files backed up, no matter what. Check around for USB flash drive designs that the recipient will like best (such as things from their favorite books or movie franchises, their favorite characters – you can’t go wrong with a USB flash drive shaped like R2-D2) and you’ll be passing along a neat, useful gift no matter what.

Finally, just remember to buy as quickly as you can and leave plenty of time for shipping this year. If you thought the Postal Service was bad last year, its intentional slowing of certain kinds of mail that began in October could affect the shipping of some of your gifts. Check shipping times and buy ahead of schedule to have a great Christmas this year.

Chris Barylick is the owner of East Bay Mac Menders (www.eastbaymacmenders.com) as well as a veteran technology writer since October, 2000. His work has appeared in Macworld, PC World, TechRadar, the Washington Post, Playboy, PC Gamer, and an assortment of other publications.

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Chris Barylick is the owner of East Bay Mac Menders.(www.eastbaymacmenders.com) as well as a veteran technology writer since October, 2000. His work has appeared in Macworld, PC World, TechRadar, the Washington Post, Playboy, PC Gamer, and an assortment of other publications.