Gift-giving holidays in geek homes almost always include some gadget or other, or perhaps a dozen of them. Here are some gadgets and accessories chosen by our GeekMom writers that would be perfect to give your loved ones this holiday season. What favorite gadgets have we neglected to include? Mention them in the comments below.
The New iPad and iPad Mini
First on the list of many geeks this year may be the new iPad Mini, or the New iPad (AKA the iPad 3). Cheaper and smaller than the regular sized iPads, the Mini has the same memory options, and is more portable. I certainly covet one, but won’t be able to justify it for a while. I’ll have to live vicariously through the rest of you.
ioSafe Rugged External Hard Drives
If you prefer your computer to be backed up locally instead of, or in addition to, on the cloud, any product from ioSafe is a very good choice. Solid, reliable hardware combined with fire- and waterproof technology gives you confidence that your data will be safe, regardless of natural or other disasters. ioSafe also makes more portable hard drives, and are branching out into NAS (Network Attached Storage).
Idapt Charging Station
If you have a variety of devices to charge, don’t go hunting around the house for the right charger. The Idapt charging station has many tips available for different kinds and brands of devices, including those that charge via USB. Simplify your charging station with an Idapt unit.
emWave2 Portable Biofeedback Device
Learn to control your stress and anxiety with this portable biofeedback device. It will help you calm down, combat stress, or fight panic attacks. It can help you achieve certain goals such as relaxation, or awareness of your heart rate and breathing. And it’s small enough to fit in your pocket. The accompanying software gives you even more options for use.
Tenqa Bluetooth Headphones
Free yourself from cords and use these headphones with any Bluetooth-enabled device. Watch movies on your iPad, play games on your laptop, or listen to music on your iPod. These rechargeable headphones last seemingly forever on a charge and allow you to move around while you watch or listen.
Buying for a family that loves movies? Consider hooking them up with a Roku HD. The small box offers big entertainment — simply hook it up to the TV, link it to your wireless network, and point it to your subscription services like Netflix, HuluPlus, and HBO Go. It took us just half an hour to go from the boxed product to viewing movies. But it’s not just movies. You can also link Roku HD to your Pandora account to listen to tunes through the TV, play games like Angry Birds, and watch Japanese anime. While some services — like Netflix — require a subscription, other channels available on the Roku HD are free.
Brickcase for iPhone
Go ahead. Brick your iPhone. This Lego compatible case features a platform that allows users to customize their iPhone or simply build creatively while waiting for the kids to finish that Pokemon tournament.
Mophie Juice Pack Plus iPhone Battery Cases
The Mophie is a case and battery in one for the iPhone 4/4S that you can leave on your phone all the time, just like any other case. Simply slide your phone into the two-piece hard shell case and you’re ready. You can still access the on/off, volume and camera buttons and there’s nothing covering the glass front so there’s no interference with the touch sensitivity. You can take a nearly drained phone and bring it right back up to 100% while you’re still out and about. No more searching for outlets to charge!
myCharge Power Bank Portable Batteries
We’ve all got a lot of gadgets to charge which can be a challenge, especially with a family on the go. The myCharge line of portable batteries is the perfect solution. They come in a variety of sizes so you can choose the smaller Sojourn that fits in a pants pocket and will give your iPhone a boost or the larger Peak 6000 which offers iPhone, USB and micro USB adapters so you can charge a variety of gadgets at once. You’ll want these in your carry-on bag the next time you’ve got a long flight with the family!
Soul By Ludacris SL300 Noise Canceling Headphones
Yes, they’re on the high end price-wise, but put them on, turn up them up, and you won’t care because it’s all about the sound. The Soul SL300 headphones deliver fantastic sound and comfort with optional noise cancellation and they fold down to fit in a hard-shell case so you can take them anywhere. If there’s an audiophile on your list who does a lot of traveling, they’ll love these headphones.
Big Blue Audio Wireless Bluetooth Speakers
Brookstone’s Big Blue Audio products are affordable wireless Bluetooth speakers that are easy to operate, stylish and provide fantastic sound. The Big Blue Studio is the larger of the two and will easily fill an entire room with music after it’s paired to a Bluetooth device, which happens with the simple press of a button. A more portable version is the Big Blue Live which is small enough to fit in a backpack or purse. They’ll have you enjoying your favorite music anywhere, anytime.
HMDX Jam Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
The Jam Wireless Portable Speaker from HMDX Audio is very attractively priced and comes creatively packaged in a little plastic jam jar in not colors, but flavors like Strawberry, Grape, Blueberry, Blackberry, Apricot, or Apple. Wireless connection is simple via Bluetooth from up to 30 feet away with any Bluetooth enabled smartphone or tablet and most laptops. Operation is is also easy with an on/off switch, volume and fast forward buttons on the side of the speaker. It’s small enough to take anywhere yet easily fills a room with rich sound and happens to fit nicely in a Christmas stocking.
Powerbag Backpack by Ful Lets You Carry Your Stuff And Charge Your Gadgets
This product combines a Ful backpack with a 3000mAh battery that plugs into a port on the bottom of the bag’s interior pocket. It gives you enough power to charge most smartphones twice. To recharge the battery itself, you just plug the included AC adapter into the front of the bag, rather than having to dig through a full bag and remove the battery each time. You can even leave all your devices plugged in and charging and they’ll charge up first followed by the Powerbag battery. This is the perfect way to keep the whole family’s gadgets charged on your next adventure and is indispensable for those who attend fan conventions.
House of Marley Headphones and Earbuds
The House of Marley Stir It Up Headphones and Zion Earbuds are inspired by Bob Marley in several ways. First, they use reggae as their benchmark, creating a rich bass sound that won’t distort or lose integrity at higher volumes and have a good balance so the highs aren’t drowned out and every voice and instrument is clear and discernible. Second, the company uses renewable materials in their products and packaging, like FSC-certified woods, organic cotton, and recyclable aluminum in order to lessen their environmental impact. Lastly, they fund a charitable organization that gives back to our communities. Not only are their products of superior quality, but so is their sense of corporate responsibility.
Jawbone Big Jambox Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
There are a lot of wireless Bluetooth speakers on the market, but the Jawbone line is the top of the heap, and with good reason. Connecting your Bluetooth device is seamless, with audio prompts to let you know that it’s working. Once connected, the sound that comes out of this speaker is absolutely incredible. The bass is strong and rich so that you hear and feel your music. It manages this without drowning out the highs which come through clear and bright. This is the top of the line, and worth every penny for the audiophile on your list this year.
Ballistic SG Maxx for the iPhone
Give the gift of iPhone protection with the Ballistic SG Maxx for the iPhone 5. Four layers of protection will help keep the iPhone safe, secure, and dry from basic spills.
Galaxy Note II
$300-$650, depending on locked or contract version
Both Andrea and I had a chance to review the Galaxy Note II, and both of us were impressed. I was surprised, in fact, in how much I loved this phone. The large screen and pressure sensitive stylus make this an amazing tool for the creative smart phone lover on your list, and it’s big enough to really take the place of having both a tablet and a phone to carry around. A true phablet.
Read Andrea’s review here.
Griffin Beacon Universal Remote for iOS or Android
$32.95 (these list at $79.99, but I’m not sure they’ve ever been sold at that price!)
There are a few ways to turn your phone into a remote control — an instantly appealing idea since most of us lose our phones far less often than we lose the remote. The Griffin Beacon makes it both relatively cheap and quite easy to do so for your entire home theater setup with either an Android or iOS phone or tablet. To use the Beacon with iOS, you just download the Dijit remote app from the iTunes store (free) and connect your device through Bluetooth. The Beacon itself looks like some kind of modern art sculpture from a Japanese garden. The base looks like your average black entertainment device, less than 4″ square, but atop it sits a shiny, red-black, rounded rock. And with that rock, you have one remote to rule them all.
$79.99 ($99.99 for WiFi version)
VTech has followed up last year’s popular kids’ tablet, the InnoTab, with the InnoTab 2. The biggest change is the addition of a 1.3 megapixel rotating camera that lets kids take pictures of you, their siblings, and thanks to the rotation, their favorite subject — themselves. A built-in set of editing tools lets them become amateur Instagrammers. For your aspiring film directors, it also takes video.
The five-inch touchscreen nestled inside a chunky frame might seem small when you’re used to looking at a regular tablet. But this is a device that was designed with kids in mind. It’s easy to hold and plenty of room for all the things they want to do “just like mom.” Many of the apps that come with it will look familiar from your own “real” devices, like a calendar, contact list, calculator, and e-book reader. The InnoTab comes with two free downloads. You can purchase additional downloads or cartridges featuring your kid’s favorite characters.
The device also comes in the InnoTab 2s version, which has the additional feature of a WiFi connection for downloading new games, books, and music. The extra benefit is that you can connect to Learning Lodge Navigator (the system through which you download new apps, books, and music) over WiFi rather than having to connect it to your computer.
The MobiGo 2 is a handheld gaming and learning device for 3 to 8-year-olds. This second version of the MobiGo has added two extra inputs, a motion sensor and a microphone. It also has a touchscreen, directional keypad, and button controls. What sets it apart from similar devices is a pop-out keyboard hidden under the screen for games and interactive learning.
It comes ready-to-go with an art app, coloring book, and three games. Once you install the Learning Lodge Navigator software on your computer (the V-Tech gateway to downloadable content), you’ll instantly get three free downloads to give you a head start. You can also purchase cartridge games for it.
D-Link Cloud Router 2000
$119.99, but almost universally available for closer to $70
If you’ve been thinking it was time for a new router, the Cloud Router 2000 is a good choice with a feature that your old one probably doesn’t have. With its mobile app for iOS or Android, you can check the status of your router, the traffic (including what your kids are up to online), and get easy access to files, including your photos, music, and movies. You can stream or transfer them from a connected USB drive to multiple mobile devices. It’s dual-band, so you can use the 5 GHz band for the tasks that demand it while doing the low-stress stuff on the 2.4 GHz band.
$19.99 and up
Mimobots are the perfect geek gift, combining the need for tech with the love of pop culture in USB sticks featuring your favorite characters. They have a new line of Star Trek characters, just released November 20. This first release in the Star Trek line includes Captains Kirk and Picard, Spock, and Data. Each comes pre-loaded with never-before-seen material from the Star Trek: The Next Generation™ Blu-ray release, vintage toy commercials, and vintage comic books, as well as desktop theming content and sound effects that play when you eject the stick. If Star Trek isn’t your gift recipient’s thing, look to their variety of lines, which include Star Wars, DC Comics, and Transformers.
Wahoo Fitness Run/Gym Pack
The Run/Gym Pack for iPhone by Wahoo Fitness has come to my rescue for integrating everything I want in my geeky running workout. I have reviewed numerous other fitness apps and each of them held a slice of a puzzle of gadgetry that I have come to know and love. Wahoo Fitness put everything together for me! The company has found a niche in coming up with iOS-device-compatible fitness technologies, including Bluetooth-enabled cadence and pace sensors, ANT+ transmitters and receivers, and bike computers. Wahoo’s free fitness app brings together numerous statistics, GPS-mapping and now the heart rate monitor into a one-stop shop for all the data you could ever dream of! I’ve reviewed many of these parts separately, from the Nike+ Running and iMapMyFitness apps, to the Sportiiiis heart rate monitor, to the Bluetooth headphones that give you plenty of freedom from cables. Everything together has been heavenly!
Out of Print eReader & iPad Covers
Out of Print contacted the country’s oldest bookbinder about keeping alive a classic trade with a modern twist. These are authentic hand-assembled cloth-bound covers with a molded styrene plastic pop-in holder for the iPad. Out of Print has a mission of spreading its love of classic literature and it donates books for every product sold through the Books for Africa. As we recently discussed here, anything sold to Americans that’s made in America is appealing also. This iPad case would be a great gift this holiday season. It’s a fun way to dress up your iPad (or other eReader or tablet device) and keep those around you guessing. Read the review here.
CEIVAShare Digital Photo Frame & Subscription Service
$129.99 for the frame, + 1 year of subscription; $6.95-9.95 per month thereafter to maintain subscription
I had the pleasure of reviewing CEIVA’s CEIVAshare photo frame over the past two months. The CEIVA digital photo frame system includes a frame along with a one-year membership to CEIVA’s photo sharing service. When users upload the photos to a frame’s CEIVA.com account through one of a variety of methods, the frame will display those pictures within 24 hours (with a phone line) or instantly (with a WiFi connection). This is an outstanding gift for loved ones who might claim ignorance (or fear!) of other popular photo sharing services, such as Flickr, Picasa, or Facebook. It couldn’t get any easier: Anyone with access into the CEIVA (pronounced SEE-vuh) frame’s account can upload pictures to the account from a variety of sources: CEIVA.com, Facebook, Picasa, iPhoto, or through your mobile device straight from a camera phone. Read the review here.
NetAtmo iPhone/iPad Enabled Urban Weather Station
$179.99 + shipping
Are you tired of downloading those great weather apps for your iPod, iPhone or iPad and realizing that the weather at your local airport doesn’t remotely resemble the weather at your house? You need not wait another minute! Today the Paris-based Netatmo company is launching their Urban Weather Program, which combines their Urban Weather Stations with iOS apps to become a worldwide network of in-home weather stations that will eventually contribute to meteorological models and other environmental applications. Unlike most other out-of-the-box weather stations on the market, the Netatmo system is unique in that it includes sound pollution and CO2 value reporting. This is data that’s more often measured in Europe and Asia, but it is worth being aware of these values. This would serve as a good high-end first weather station and would make a great gift for that Apple-products-loving gadget-geek in your family or circle of friends. Read the review here.
Toddy Wedge iPhone Stand
The Toddy Wedge is a multifunctional tool that serves as a smartphone stand, a screen cleaner, and a fun conversation piece to sit at your desk. The size of a closed fist, this small beanbag weighted stand is crafted of a microfiber plush on one side to clean, and a microfiber silk on top to gently cradle your Smartphone while it’s at your desk or while plugged in at the charger. The Wedge comes in numerous designs, including national flags, The Toddy Wedge will make a great stocking stuffer or White Elephant gift exchange item for your geeky workplace holiday party!
uBling iPhone 5 Case by Bling My Thing
Bringing back memories of my Lite Brite creations, the uBling iPhone case is a case that includes a panel with 260 holes with which you can decorate with these TEENSY little beads, called POPs. After you design the pattern, you overlay a panel on top that “seals in” the beads and you’re left with a fun conversation-inspiring custom iPhone case! This website and this iPhone/iPad app can help with designing patterns. The case includes 500 beads in an assortment of bright colors and a set of tweezers with which to apply the “POP” beads. This case is slim and minimal, and won’t survive a fall from a tabletop without cracks, but at least the case took the crack and not the phone itself. A great stocking stuffer for your artistic iPhone fans.
CarBots by Desk Pets Micro Robotic Racers
A crazy-fun stocking stuffer for office-mates and your gadget-loving friends and family! CarBots are little micro robotic racers that come with an IR sensor for your smart-device. Plug in the sensor, download the Desk Pets remote control panel, and you’re off! Each color of CarBot has a unique frequency…do you know what that means? Battle of Cubicle Farm!!! Don’t have a smartphone with which to control the car? That’s okay, you can still have lots of fun with the car without a controller. CarBots come with a flip-down USB charger and takes four LR44 button batteries for your choice of power.
Etón FRX-Series American Red Cross Emergency Radios
FRX-1: $25, FRX-2: $40, FRX-3: $60
The Etón FRX-Series radios use a hand-cranked turbine or solar power to provide charging power to a lithium-ion battery. This power allows users to operate AM/FM radios and NOAA Weather Band channels, giving critical information to users in case of power outages. They also all have powerful LED flashlights. The FRX-2 and FRX-3 models have solar panels as well as a USB-charging capability. My family had the opportunity to test all three radios in the FRX-series.
The FRX-1 is hand-cranked only, and my oldest son’s 5-minutes of hand cranking powered the radio quietly playing an FM station for over six hours! We were very impressed. The FRX-2 is similar in size and capability to the FRX-1, but includes a small solar panel that allows an alternative to hand-cranking. During the day we could operate NOAA Weather Radio all day long at our campsite. It also claims a USB-charging capability, but you won’t be able to listen to the radio or use the flashlight at the same time. The FRX-3 is the most powerful of the bunch, providing more battery capacity, thus more charging capability for USB-charged devices. The FRX-3 also has an alarm clock and an ALERT capability with the NOAA Weather Radio. I need to make it clear that these radios provide EMERGENCY charging only. A fully charged FRX-3 sitting in the sunlight could only charge my iPhone 2% before it totally drained…and couldn’t generate enough power to maintain that charge without disconnecting. Click here for more information.
DropCam HD WiFi Personal Security Camera
The DropCam WiFi camera system will be a fantastic gift or a great addition to your own home or office. It’s currently Amazon’s #1 best seller for home security systems and baby monitors! The camera easily installs on your home WiFi network and then you can place it absolutely anywhere in the WiFi network where you need an extra set of eyes (so long as it’s near an AC outlet). The sky’s the limit on uses for the DropCam: Watch for burglars, use it like a video baby monitor, or check on your pets or babysitters while you’re out. Or…you push the geek-envelope like we have at our house; we turned our camera outside during the day as a weather webcam, and on many evenings my husband will bring the camera to the train room and let his fans watch a live feed of his trains running on his model railroad.
With 720p HD available, the image quality is exceptional, and a night-vision option can be turned on as needed also. The camera is sound-enabled if you wish (you can even speak through your DropCam to whoever is in the room!), and you can zoom it into five sectors of the camera’s field of view. You can also set motion alerts and sound alerts. All settings are controlled from your DropCom.com account, or through one of the Android or iOS apps available. You can receive alerts via email or on your smart-devices. With a weather webcam, I’m receiving alerts as bird fly by, when rain falls, and when our kids and dog are outside running around.
The DropCam feed is always available in streaming form at their website (DropCam.com with a login). You may choose to publicize this feed, share it on Facebook, Twitter, G+, or via email, or you can keep it private for only those with a login and password. You can run the feed through other websites with available embed code. DropCam.com also has a subscription option to save the files for future use with prices from $9.95/month through $299/year. My review included two weeks of saved data, which has been great for going back and capturing clips to share with people through social media. Click here for more information. Watch GeekMom Patricia’s Weather Webcam (daylight only). See a saved clip of her dog walking around the backyard.
JLabs JBuddies Kids’ Volume-Limiting Headphones
Designed with audio-safety in mind, the JBuddies headphones are bright, well-fitting, and safe for your children aged 2 and up. It’s acoustically designed to limit volume to not exceed 90 db, complying to both EN50332 and ASTM recommendations. The soft earpieces are hypo-allergenic and can easily be removed for spot-cleaning. There is a volume control on the ear piece, which was rather difficult for my children to adjust…this might be a blessing for parents whose kids are always fiddling with the on-cord volume control devices. I have a 10-year-old son with larger-than-normal ears, and found that the cushioning didn’t cover his ears very well, so older elementary school children might not be as fond of these.
The headphones come with a number of peel-and-stick holographic decals that your child can use to customize the headphones. Work very carefully with your child on peeling the backing off the decals, my younger son peeled the entire adhesive off because he did it too carelessly. My sons tested these headphones with an iPhone, iPad, PC and Mac computers, and their Nintendo DSes. For more information, click here.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download