Vern's Gadget Gift Giving (And Getting) Guide

Every year Iive tried to put together a list of cool tools that the gadget lover in your life would be fall-down happy to get. This year Iim going to list ten items that vary widely in price, but all of them would please anyone from the deepest geeks to the rawest technophobes. Get ready to be thanked -- a lot -- because these are some of the absolute coolest gadgets around.

Logitech Harmony 880 Remote:

The Harmony 880 Remote -- in fact, all Harmony Remotes -- are some of the baddest (the good-bad) remotes youill find anywhere. If you have a widescreen TV, DVD, AppleTV, and a nice sound system then you also have remotes for each piece of equipment. Logitechis Harmony Remotes lets you easily replace all of those remotes with one.

You program the Harmony 880 by creating an account at Logitechis site and entering in the model numbers of all your devices, then you set up actions, like "Watch TV" or "Listen to CDs." The remote downloads all of the configuration information from the Internet into your 880 via a USB cable plugged into you Mac or PC, and, Bada Bing, youive got one remote to rule them all. Logitech has done an excellent job updating its Mac interface as well.

For the price, the Harmony 880 Remote is one of the best remotes available. If you give one, youill likely want one for yourself.

Logitech Harmony 880 Remote

List Price US$249
Street Price US$129

Everki Pace Backpack:

Got a techie whois always on the go? Equip him or her with an Everki Pace Backpack. Padding and large straps make it comfortable to carry laptops, books, and a variety of tech and non-tech items while biking or boarding. There are pockets for everything, from pens to iPods, and you can easily carry a Macbook Pro and feel confident that itis protected. Zippers are hooded to help keep the weather out and thereis a handy handle for grabbing. Thereis even a pocket on one of the straps for your cellphone. And itis got to be one of the most comfortable backpacks Iive ever used.

The Everki Pace is an extremely well built carry-all that makes an excellent stocking stuffer that you can stuff with, um...stuff.

Everki Pace Backpack:

List Price NA
Street Price US$9.99

CVS Photobook:

CVS? The ubiquitous drug store chain? Photobooks?

I know itis a bit odd to pair CVS with something that youid normally reserve for the likes of Apple or Google, but there you have it. CVS is selling photobooks, and pretty nice ones at that. For as little as $12.99 you can walk into most CVS stores and get a nicely bound hardcover 6 x 8-inch book containing up to nine pages of your favorite photos plus a cover page. Each of the nine pages can have up to six photos per page, so you can really pack in the pictures. The only downside I can see is that the pages are one-sided.

If you can wait a few days and donit mind ordering online then you can get a really nice 8 x 11-inch book bound in your choice of real or fake leather or linen and you can get up to 20 pages that are printed on both sides. Prices for online ordered books start at $16.99.

The quality of the prints are good and everything is printed on Kodak paper.

I like the look and feel of the online ordered books, but if you are in a pinch and need a really nice, personal gift really fast, the in-store book are perfect.

CVS Photobook:

Walk-in Starting at US$12.99
Online Starting at US$16.99

Lowepro Cirrus TLZ Camera Bag:

Speaking of photos, if you have a serious photographer on your Christmas list then one thing he or she will likely need is a good camera bag. Many pro photogs depend on Lowepro bags to protect their equipment in all sorts of environments so your photographer is sure to appreciate the design and features of the Cirrus TLZ series.

Padding protects the camera and accessories while a tough abrasion resistant exterior fabric keeps the elements out, and these bags load from the top so photographers can quickly grab that camera.

There are 3 sizes in the Lowepro Cirrus TLZ lineup with prices starting from $24.99.

If youire buying for a photographer, the Lowepro Cirrus TLZ Camera bag may be just what you need.

Lowepro Cirrus TLZ Camer Bag:

List Price Starting from US$24.99
Street Price Starting from $14.25

Roth Motors Motorboard 2000XR:

OK, so the person youire looking to buy for has a Macbook Pro and a Everki BackPack to carry it in, now all she needs is transportation. What better way to get your geek going than with a Motorboard 2000XR from Roth Motor Company.

Whatis cool about the Motorboard 2000XR? Well, for one thing it weighs in at only 16 pounds yet it can carry a 200 pound rider up to 20 miles per charge. That because the Motorboard 2000XR uses those high-powered nano technology batteries from A123, which charge quickly and makes the Energizer Bunny look like a 98 pound weakling. It also sports a suspension that takes the bumps out of urban concrete. And it looks absolutely cool.

The Motorboard 2000XR may remind you of a kidis toy, but take a closer look and youill see that itis serious urban transportation. Hop on the Motorboard and zip to the nearest bus top, collapse it for the trip to work. Hop off the bus and onto the Motorboard for the last leg of the trip to the office. Charge it under the desk for the return trip home. Its never been easier to go green and make coworkers green with envy.

The Roth Motor Companyis Morotboard 2000XR is simple to own, easy to use, and fun to ride. What could be better?

Roth Mote Company Motorboard 2000XR:

List Price Starting at US$799

Vuzix iWear AV920:

The iPods are sweet little gems and owners can enjoy movies and videos on the go. While the screen of the iPod video is nice and sharp it is still a tiny little thing and Battlestar Gallactica doesnit look quite as impressive as it might on, say, a 62-inch screen. Of course, a 62-inch plasma TV is a bit tough to backpack, and it just wonit stow well in airplane overhead compartments. Thatis why your favorite techie will love the Vuzix iWear AV920; itis a set of goggles that lets wearer watch videos or play games while looking at a virtual 62-inch screen and the built-in stereo earphones offers private listening.

I havenit use one of these device yet, but every review Iive read says these are the Mac-Daddy of iPod accessories, and they sure would look great under my tree.

Vuzix iWear AV920:

List Price US$349.95
Street Price US$331.27

Mophie Juice Pack:

Does someone on your list have an iPhone? Then he or she will definitely like the Mophie Juice Pack power extender. Plug an iPhone into this little mobile battery/case and iPhoners can get up to eight additional hours of talk time!! Eight hours! Or, if he likes to watch he can get can get another five hours of movie viewing time.

The Mophie Juice Pack is barely bulkier than most other iPhone cases. In fact, most people wonit know the Juice Pack is a battery extender, theyill just see your techie keep talking, and talking, and talking...

Mophie Juice Pack:

List Price US$99.95
Street Price NA

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader:

While I have yet to get one of these to play with nearly every review Iive read gives Amazonis new eBook reader, Kindle, thumbis up for at least three reasons:

  • First, the large display is very easy on the eyes. You can read text on Kindle anywhere you can read normal paper and, because itis electronic, you can increase the fonts size to suit you. Great for aging eyes.
  • Second, Kindle offers a free wireless connection to the Internet. You can view Wikipedia entries, buy books from Amazon and more anywhere you can get a Verizon cellphone signal, all without paying an extra nickel for the service; the cost is built-in to the cost of the items you buy. This means you never have to plug the Kindle into a computer to get your reading material, your books and magazines download anywhere you happen to be.
  • Finally, the selection of books and periodicals is large and growing. Magazines and newspaper get delivered automagically and many of the New York Times Best Sellers are available for download.

The Kindle does have some cons so read about it before you buy, but if you have a reader on your list you canit go wrong with a Kindle.


List Price US$399.00

Apple TV:

Iim not sure why, but people donit seem to be drawn to AppleTV. Once they see it in action, however, they want it. Bad. Your photos and movies never looked better than when seen on a big HD screen, and your music rocks harder when it pumps out of your killer sound system. AppleTV lets you do all of that easily.

Apple in including a lot more HD content in the iTunes Store these days, much of it is free content (some of which I talk about on a weekly basis in my column Free on iTunes).

I think the reason most people donit have AppleTV is because of the fairly high technical requirements -- wired or wireless network connection, iTunes, audio and video setup -- but if you are shopping for a techie then that shouldnit be a problem.

AppleTV is extremely cool. Stop by an Apple Store, or better yet, a Best Buy and check it out.

Apple TV:

List Price Starting at US $299

XtremeMacis FS1 High Definition Earphones:

OK, so your tech person has an iPod, or an iPhone, and has it protected with a nice case, but for some reason he or she is still using those silly earbuds that came with the device.

I hate earbuds, but that may be because my ears are shaped funny and wonit accommodate them. Still, it doesnit matter if someone likes or dislikes earbuds, one thing you can be certain of is that he or she can always use something better to listen to music with.

Enter XtremeMacis FS1 High Definition Earphones. These bad boys plug into the ear to help isolate the listener from outside noise, and have high quality dynamic transducers similar to the ones musicians use during concerts. The result is music that sounds great even at lower volumes, which means your techie wonit have to trade his iPod in for a set of hearing aids in a few years.

The FS1s come with several silicone sleeves for getting the best fit and they are comfortable so they can be worn for hours at a time. These are really nice earphones and well worth the price.

XtremeMac FS1 High Definition Earphones:

List Price: US$149.95
Street Price US$45.98

OK, thatis my list. Good stuff that just about anyone can use.

Happy holidays.