According to a survey from the Consumer Electronics Association on the wishes of consumers for this holiday season, gadgets beat out money, peace and happiness. While Linus would be disappointed with those results, we hope the following gift ideas will inspire you to spread a little peace and happiness.
Wi-Spy DBX Spectrum Analyzer
Price: $299 (900 MHz), $199 (2.4GHz), $599 (5GHz)
Description: Don't let RF interference cause holiday static. MetaGeek's Wi-Spy DBX spectrum analyzer is a thumb-drive-sized tool the company claims can identify RF interference in 900, 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. However, each band requires a different model, which ramps up the cost pretty fast, so you might want to put this purchase on your corporate wish list.
Description: Don't let holiday travels deprive you of high-powered gaming. The 17-inch Eurocom Scorpius is one of the fastest gaming laptops around. Powered by the most recent Intel Core i7 Extreme Edition CPU, dual Nvidia GeForce GPUs, up to 32GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and up to three hard drives, it would take more than a few zombies to slow it down. It might also have some work use for designers, engineers and data crunchers. At12.9 pounds it's heftier than a tablet, and its $5,000-plus price tag means you'll have to have been very good this year to earn it.
Company: Power A
Description: For dedicated gamers, a fast smartphone is a mixed blessing. It can run fairly high-res games fast enough to be fun without tying them down to a console. On the other hand, smartphone controls are awkward. Clip your Android device into a Moga Mobile Gaming System game controller, however, and you have what feels like a console game controller with a built-in computer. Bluetooth lets the controller talk to the phone, it works with any Android OS, version 2.3 or later. The controller includes two analog sticks, shoulder triggers and four action buttons. Games have to be specially ported, which limits options to about 40 games, but that number is climbing, according to PowerA.
Description: Data-sucking accessories, too many apps, too much texting and too big and bright a screen will kill your tablet or smartphone almost as fast as dropping it in the sink. Mophie's Juice Pack Powerstation looks cool, doesn't weigh too much, doesn't cost too much and lets you recharge your iPad and iPhone simultaneously (also works with non-Apple products, but only if you promise not to tell anyone).
Description: It's hard to impress anyone with a mouse, but Logitech's Cube makes a good effort, and largely succeeds. It's small – three fingers wide and two deep. It works with any Bluetooth device, scrolls with a swipe of the finger and shifts easily into a handheld controller for PowerPoint presentations with a range of up to 85 feet. Downsides include buttons that can be hard to find and a touch-sensitive surface that makes it easy to scroll by accident.
Company: Kingston Technology
Price: Not announced
Description: If it's hard for a mouse to impress your favorite geek, how much harder would it be for a thumb drive? What if it's a thumb drive that boots your own customized Windows desktop when you plug it into someone else's PC? That would lighten the carry-on bag a bit. While there are plenty of bootable Linux USBs, there are precious few with Windows. Kingston Technology's DataTraveler Workspace carries Windows to Go, the ultra-portable addition to Windows 8. Kingston is one of three thumb drives to be certified for it. It comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB versions and USB 3.0 speeds, but still needs to boot on top of a machine running Windows 7 or Windows 8.
Description: It doesn't take too much bad audio, or interruptions from texts and other apps, to put your average commuter off the smartphone-based audio experience. Blue Ant's Ribbon tries to smooth over some of the rough spots with a set of earbuds and a controller that can clip anywhere and be used to pause tunes so they're not interrupted every time you use the phone for what it was meant for--Web browsing. It's not a remote mic replacement, so don't ditch that not-at-all-obnoxious-looking Bluetooth headset. It does let you listen to your Android or iOS device read texts or GPS updates, however.
Price: $230 (128GB) $449 (256GB) $849 (512 GB)
Description: Anything that can simultaneously boost the performance and battery life of a PC deserves its reputation as a miracle worker. Enter Samsung's 830 series of SSDs. The consumer version of the drive, the 840, automatically encrypts everything on the SSD when you create a password.
Description: "High performance" and "tablet" don't go together yet, but Microsoft knew weak hardware could tank Windows 8 before it could make a dent in the tablet market. So Microsoft built a tablet with some zing. The Surface delivers lively performance, a solid feel and some nifty features, including a combo cover/keyboard, responsive touchscreen and host of apps to make learning the new interface seem worthwhile.
Price: $199 (16GB, WiFI) $249 (32GB, WiFi) $299 (32GB, WiFi, HSPA+, AT&T)
Description: You'd probably want the 32GB version ($249) rather than the basic unit, but the middle of Google's three sizes of Nexus matches up nicely with Apple's own competitor in the 7-inch weight class. With the latest version of Android, a quad-core Nvidia processor, WiFi, Bluetooth and a front-facing camera for video chat, the Nexus has higher resolution than the iPad Mini, comparable performance and a lower price. The unavoidable connections to Google's Play and other online businesses may be too close for some, however.
Price: $199 (16GB) $249 (32GB)
Description: Amazon shocked Apple (and probably itself) when consumers started buying and using an enhanced ebook just like a real tablet. Turns out an ebook with a browser, WiFi and decent performance running casual games equals a decent tablet. At $199 for the 16GB version and $249 for 32GB, however, the latest 7-inch version of Kindle Fire HD competes directly with Google's Nexus 7, with unfortunate results. There is an 8.9-inch version, but with prices starting at $499 for 32GB, it's not nearly the bargain its younger siblings were.