I, like most geeks, enjoy the form and function of a well made gadget. Below we present some of the favorite things we’ve reviewed this year. Any of these would make great gifts, or wish-list additions.
The latest unique pen on my desk is the Polar Pen. Aside from being a decent writing instrument, it’s a great fidgeting toy. The barrel of the pen is constructed out of cylindrical magnets with black zinc coated steel for the clip and ends. The pen writes well, and feels nice, though a bit heavy, in the hand. Not so heavy you won’t get used to it though. In addition to the ink pen, there is a rubber tipped stylus that works well on my tablet. I managed to drop it a couple times and it didn’t shatter like some other magnets I’ve had, but I wouldn’t recommend making a habit of it.
The Polar Pen started out as a Kickstarter and was later picked up by our friends at Nano Magnetics. They’re working with some of the world’s best pen spinners on a video challenge, giving one pen away every day through December 18, 2014. You can find out more at PenSpinning.SplashThat.com. Be sure to click through to YouTube and check out the videos. There are quite a few good ones.
[Review pen was provided by Nano Magnetics]
Most Bluetooth speakers are, for want of a better word, lackluster. A balance must be struck between weight and battery capacity, and too often makers go for smaller, lighter, and therefore less powerful. You need some juice to power the kind of drivers that reproduce sound well. Which is why the UE Booms can double as (very stylish) doorstops.
But they’re doorstops that can produce room-filling sound with well-balanced bass, mid-, and high-ranges. They’re not just good bluetooth speakersl they’re good speakers.
Even better, they put our 360-degree sound, and with a special mobile app, you can sync multiple speakers up to fill bigger spaces, or even sync pairs up to put out L/R stereo sound. Nice!
But the best review I can give is that I gave one to each of my two teenage boys, and they’re hooked. These are the speakers they use exclusively to play music in their rooms, and they’re happy. ‘Nuff said. (KD)
Price: $199 each on Amazon.
We’ve been a Dyson family for a few years now. It’s a really solid vacuum that can handle pretty much whatever we throw at it. We weren’t looking for a new vacuum.
Which is why, after a couple weeks with the B+D cordless stick vac, we’re blown away. It’s smaller, lighter, it gets under cabinets and furniture that the Dyson can’t reach, and it’s CORDLESS.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have all the power we need. We have an average 3 bedroom California ranch style, and it takes care of business without a problem. And the dual functionality of an upright, plus the ability to pull the hand-vac module out of it for smaller jobs, is just amazing.
I know a vacuum isn’t the most glamorous gift to give for the holidays, but any present that makes peoples lives better will always be well-received, and this little vac will do just that. (KD)
Price: $299 on Amazon (available soon).
Apple’s iPad is a great tablet for kids. Mine use theirs for everything from watching videos to gaming, listening to music and reading. They’re also reaching the age where they need a laptop form factor for school. That’s where the ZAGG Rugged Book for iPad comes in. Slip the iPad into the armored cover and it’s well protected from the punishment kids can dish out. That cover attaches magnetically (and securely) to a keyboard base with backlit keys and two-year battery life. Now you have a ruggedized and still highly portable laptop! Available for iPad Air and iPad Mini. (BM)
As someone who works from home, I like to occasionally escape the confines of my basement office to hang out somewhere sunnier, like the living room or on the deck. Setting up shop with a laptop, iPhone and mouse was always a pain until I discovered the Slate Mobile Lap Desk. It looks amazing (no plastic, it’s made of bamboo), tons of holes offer plenty of ventilation plus room for cables, it has a slot for a tablet or smartphone, choice of left or right-handed integrated mouse pad and lots of work surface. It really is my mobile office. (BM)
Who hasn’t wanted to shoot fireballs from their hands like Mario, knocking down Goomba after Goomba? Now you can. The Pyro handheld fireshooter from illusionist Adam Wilber can fire four fireballs up to 10 feet. The Pyro is pricey at $175, but it’s a small price to pay for magical powers. Of course, if you’re feeling motivated, you can always build one yourself for a fraction of the price. Whichever option you choose, just remember to be careful and to always use your powers for good. (DB)
When you set this stocking out for Santa, you send a message. It says “please Santa, leave me lots of cool and geeky gadgets and tactical gear!” The stocking comes with a heavy duty carry handle, 2 rotating clip hangers, MOLLE attachments, a draw string pouch, zipper patch, and a square of velcro for patches. Awesome! (DB)
Juno Power HUE Pro
The Juno Power HUE Pro is a handsome, durable travel charger that boasts some astounding features. Sporting a 10,000mAh capacity, dual USB 5V (1A and 2.1A) outputs, a minimalist and easy-to-read LCD display and even an onboard LED flashlight, it’s everything you need and more. Its compact size means it stows easily in your carry-own with your tablet, your 3DS and all your other power-hungry devices, and its rugged designs means it can withstand all the bumps and other mishaps that plague the modern traveller. [Review materials provided by: Juno Power] (Z.)
Are you still fetching your phone from your pocket every time it chimes? You won’t believe how freeing it is to have all those notifications–and so much more–right at your wrist with the Pebble Steel. I was a little unsure about how this third party offering would interface with my iPhone, but it works like a charm. An open platform means lots of great apps are already available, it’s waterproof up to 165 feet, and you can remotely control music with it. Get the metal watchband, sold separately, for bonus style points. Buy it from Amazon. (MH)
[Review materials provided by Pebble]
A few weeks ago, I lost my wallet. You know the drill. Cancel your credit cards, hit up the DMV for a new license, and kick yourself for being so forgetful. Then, worst of all, find the darned thing a week later in a pair of jeans at the back of your closet. But if you have a Tile stuck to it, you just pull out your iPhone and you know precisely where the wallet was the last time it paired via Bluetooth. Then you can push a button and the Tile will start chirping, guiding you to it like Ripley searching for chestbursters. You’ll never lose anything ever again, but if you do, you’ll know exactly where you were when you lost it. Buy it from Tile. (MH)
[Review materials provided by Tile]
The K-Board is a great little USB MIDI keyboard that hooks up to your computer or mobile device and gives you a new way to play music though apps like GarageBand. The case is virtually indestructible (apparently) and the silicon keys offer control over velocity, pressure and pitch bend to create some crazy effects with all those virtual synths tucked away inside your computer. The K-Board is available from Guitar Centers throughout the U.S. priced at $69.99 for the holidays, read my review for more info. (NB)
SENICC G9 Stereo Headphones
In our house, kids peel through headphones on a regular basis. Every five months or so, we find ourselves replacing cables, mic covers, and entire headsets. It adds up fast, so we are always on the prowl for durable tech. The SENNIC G9 gaming headphones are great for our young technophiles. Affordable and sporty, kids feel like a pro, without risking expensive tech on the less-than-reliable good sense of a budding gamer. This durable headset features pads large enough to cover children’s ears, and a fold-down hard plastic microphone. At less than $30, the SENICC G9 headset is a great gift for your gamer. (RS)
Working in the public eye, I have sought long and hard for reliable options for streaming music, without my clients thinking that I’m not paying attention to them. The Tadpole Portable Speaker from Ifrogz has provided my solution. Solely Bluetooth operated, the Tadpole is a standard wireless speaker. I simply clip it onto the back of the office stereo, and it appears to be the radio playing. I just have to keep my phone on Do Not Disturb to ensure my ringtones aren’t broadcast across the office. At less than $15, it has been an extremely affordable option for my workspace. (RS)
Combine a FitBit Aria Scale and a Flex (or any of FitBit’s other pedometer-type products) and keep track of your fitness and weight. Completely integrated together, these products help you reach your goals in a way that any data lover will adore. In this day of gadgets that can do everything (but not do everything well), it is refreshing to use simpler gadgets that do what they are supposed to do, very elegantly. (JW)
(Image credit: FitBit)
This extremely protective and smooth-as-glass (um, because it is glass) screen protector works very well and is a great choice for anyone who prefers the feel of glass to the feel of plastic. The best screen protector I’ve ever used, Zagg’s InvisibleShield Glass Screen Protector goes on easily and effectively. (JW)