Welcome to the Engadget holiday gift guide! Picking presents for friends and loved ones is never a simple task, and with thousands of options for each category, buying technology can be an especially frustrating experience. We're here to help. Below you'll find today's bevy of curated picks, and you can head back to our hub to see the rest of the product guides as they're added throughout the holiday season. And don't forget to enter our giveaway -- leave a comment for a chance to nab AT&T's Samsung Galaxy Express.
Gift giving is all about what's under that wrapping paper rather than the package itself, but when the holidays are over those shiny new gadgets won't just protect themselves from the inevitable wear and tear. Whether you're looking for a bag that can fit a notebook PC, SLR and then some; a slim messenger for toting a laptop to and fro or a durable case to shield against bumps and bruises, you'll find no shortage of options that are equal parts stylish and functional. Below, take a look at some of our favorites.
Thule EnRoute Strut Daypack
Thule rucksacks have a special place in the heart of many Engadget staffers, as they hold up through countless trade shows and accommodate an onslaught of gadgets without buckling under the weight. This guy is no different, offering a padded laptop sleeve for up to a 15-inch machine along with a pocket for a 10.1-inch tablet. There's also a crush-proof SafeZone compartment for fragile gear, an organization panel for smaller gadgets and gizmos, an external stash pocket and a side pouch for a water bottle.
Key specs: 19-liter capacity, crush-proof SafeZone compartment, top-load laptop sleeve, organization panel.
Price: $80 from Thule
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Crumpler Nhill Heist
There are only so many possible variations on the backpack, but Crumpler's take is one of the more striking -- and, yes, costly -- options we've seen. The main zippered compartment includes a padded sleeve with room for a 17-inch laptop, and four internal side pockets stow other essentials.
Price: $175 from Crumpler
Case Logic SLRC-206 SLR Camera and 15.4-inch Laptop Backpack
Camera-toting types will appreciate this pack's roomy design, which fits an SLR body with an attached zoom lens, along with up to a 16-inch laptop. Removable shelves provide additional lens storage, and waterproof EVA means the bag is ready for all-weather shoots.
Price: $74 on Amazon
Timbuk2 Control laptop case
The Control is part messenger, part briefcase, with handles and a removable shoulder strap that let you switch between business and casual modes. The external laptop compartment unzips to lie flat for going through airport security, and internal organization includes a dedicated slot for a tablet or e-reader and a pocket for power bricks and cords. The textured oxford nylon exterior -- available in black, blue, gunmetal or gray-- is quite tasteful, to boot.
Key specs: TSA-compliant external laptop compartment, separate pockets for laptop and iPad, waterproof TPU flap, removable shoulder strap.
Price: $69 from Timbuk2
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Belkin 15-inch messenger
If the techie on your list travels light, Belkin's tastefully understated messenger is a great option. It fits a 15-inch notebook (with plenty of padding to keep it safe) and includes a split compartment along with three external pockets.
Price: $33 on Amazon
Booq Boa nerve bag
The design is simple enough to work for executives and students alike, and there's enough room inside for a 17-inch laptop, a tablet, a phone and then some.
Price: $143 on Amazon
Otterbox Commuter series
The Commuter line bridges the iOS / Android divide, with cases for the iPhone as well as the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S III, among other devices. The silicone mid-layer and polycarbonate shell protect handsets from scratches and bumps without adding too much bulk.
Key specs: Two-layer protection to shield against drops, bumps and shock, self-adhesive screen protector, port covers.
Price: $14 to $30 on Amazon
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Samsung Flip Cover
Owners of the Note (I and II) and the Galaxy S III get access to one of the sweetest case designs out there. The Flip Cover replaces a phone's backing and provides protection for the device's display when it's not in use.
Price: $11 to $25 on Amazon
Marware EcoVue cover
E-readers and commuting are a match made in heaven, so why not gift a case that can stow some cash, a MetroCard and other on-the-go essentials? We especially dig the strap for one-handed reading.
Price: $35 on Amazon
Ready to take home one of AT&T's hottest smartphones? Today's offering is the Samsung Galaxy Express, which runs a snappy 1.5GHz processor and sports a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen. To enter for your chance to win, be sure to review our full guidelines, then leave a comment below.
- Leave a comment below. Any comment will do. Duplicate entries will be filtered out and discarded, so adding additional comments won't increase your likelihood of winning.
- Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, 18 or older! Sorry, we don't make this rule (we hate excluding anyone).
- Winners will be chosen randomly. One winner will receive one (1) Samsung Galaxy Express.
- If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes a contact email. Social media contact details are not carried over into our system.
- This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. AT&T, Samsung and Engadget/AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
- The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
- Entries can be submitted until December 31st, 2012 at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!