With laptops and tablets flying off the shelves, people seem to know exactly what they want in terms of the big hardware purchases for Christmas. But what to give tech-minded family members who are already laden with devices? Here are some moderately priced ideas.
• Leather covers for everything from tablets to e-readers are available at Oberon Design ( oberondesign.com), where the craftsmen work with beautifully tooled leather in a variety of designs and colors. Available for iPads, Kindles and Nooks, these covers are a distinctive way to protect expensive screens while suggesting the look and feel of leather-bound books. $65-125
• A good over-the-ear headset beats earbuds every day in my book, offering you better sound quality and – dare I say it – a somewhat less goofy look. Sol Republic’s Tracks headphones are an excellent value, lightweight, comfortable, and deliver as good a sound for the price as I have found anywhere ( www.solrepublic.com). They’re available in “ultra” models that ramp up the cost, but for my money the $99 Tracks On-Ear Headphones are more than sufficient.
• The gifts I always appreciate the most are the ones I use every day. On that score, you can’t do better than a new keyboard. The Logitech K800 does the job – it’s wireless and offers backlighting, a feature you’ll come to love. I’ve gone through dozens of keyboards over the years, always in search of the best tactile response (the old Northgate keyboards were the best). But Logitech’s offering is a worthy choice for long keyboarding sessions. $100
• Storage is cheap and perplexingly hard to upgrade on many of the devices we use daily. Toshiba’s Canvio Slim Portable External Hard Drive is about as big as a smartphone but offers you 500 GB of storage capacity for your PC or Mac needs, using a USB 3.0 connection to power up and transfer your files. Its brushed aluminum look can be replaced with black, but either version is stylish, lightweight and versatile, a welcome data warehouse for $115.
• If you’re on the road enough to notice spotty or nonexistent wireless just when you need it the most, the Kanex mySpot can come to the rescue ( www.kanexlive.com/myspot). This is a tiny wireless access point – plug it into an Ethernet port and you’ve got a personal wireless network that will feed a signal to your e-reader, phone, tablet or laptop. $60
• I’ve found a small mouse essential for mobile work – I hate touchpads! Microsoft’s Wedge Touch Mouse is a surprisingly usable choice in a small package, and it’s a good peripheral to have if you’re trying to get serious work done with a tablet and add-on keyboard. The “touch” angle relates to basic scroll functions only, but for ease of use, I can’t think of a better mobile mouse. A bit of creative shopping will find this one cheaper than the $70 list price.
• It may not be something you can wrap up and put under the tree, but an operating system upgrade is bound to be on the mind of many tech users this Christmas. I can’t recommend Windows 8 just yet, because while its touch-screen interface shows Microsoft’s new direction (and it’s cheap at $40), it needs time to get the bugs out. But Apple users may be tempted by OS X Mountain Lion, the company’s latest desktop operating system, a $20 gift that continues the evolution of the desktop Mac in a world increasingly dominated by iOS mobile devices.
• The $200 (and up) Google Nexus 7 offers a 16 GB tablet that competes head-on with the Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD and iPad Mini.
Correction: In my recent column on anti-virus software, I referred to John McAfee as being head of the company that bears his name. McAfee severed his relations with the company in 1994.
Paul A. Gilster is the author of several books on technology. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.