Mobile Computing: Low-Price Gift Ideas

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Feature: Low-Price Holiday Gifts

Last week's gift guide gave the high-rollers among you a head start on your shopping. This week's guide is for more frugal shoppers. The following ten gift ideas range from $15.50 to $200. Just think: With all the money you'll save, you'll have plenty left over to buy something for yourself.

Friends and colleagues recommended some of these products; the rest I've tried myself.

$20 and Under

A petite PDA cable. Here's a stocking stuffer for your favorite geek: BoxWave's MiniSync, a tiny cable that links a PDA to a computer's USB port for syncing and recharging. The company offers a MiniSync for most Pocket PC and Palm devices for $15.50 a pop.

A baggage lock. You know how you had to stop locking your checked suitcases when you flew? Now you can secure your bags again--as long as you use a lock approved by the Transportation Security Administration. The locks are designed so that only you and trained TSA screeners, using a master key, can unlock them. Brookstone's Easy Check Luggage Locks ($20 for two) are among those now available.

A big, tiny light. While you're visiting the Brookstone site to look at its luggage locks, check out the Microbeam flashlight--a small keychain fob that projects a big beam. The LED flashlight comes in blue, green, white, orange, and red versions ($20 each), and there's a multicolor model too ($25). I bought Microbeams for each of my key chains; and as the saying goes, I never leave home without one--particularly at night. You can lock the "on" button into place, making the light continuously shine. Now you can read the complete wine list in a romantic restaurant without straining your thumb. (I hate it when that happens.)

$21 to $50

A PDA screen magnifier. The only thing I have in common with Clint Eastwood is that we've both been known to squint. To our rescue comes the Office On the Go Go Magnifico, a 2X magnifying lens designed to make small PDA displays more legible. It's available in two models: one that attaches to the PDA ($30) and another with its own stand ($40). If you see Clint, please tell him to buy one of these things immediately, will you?

Flash memory free-for-all. SanDisk's ingenious ImageMate 8 in 1 Card Reader/Writer ($40) is a must for anyone who juggles multiple card formats. The four-slot device sits in a docking station, or it can be connected directly to an available USB 2.0 (or 1.1) port. The ImageMate accepts CompactFlash Type I and Type II cards, Memory Sticks, Secure Digital cards, SmartMedia cards, MultiMediaCards, and XD Picture Cards.

FM radio on a PDA. The $50 IBiz PocketRadio is an FM tuner that slips into a PDA's SD slot (and if I use any more acronyms, I'm going to be investigated by the CIA, the FBI, and the SPCA). The included software lets you tune and preset stations and adjust volume.

$51 to $100

A tiny speaker/voice recorder. Belkin's Voice Recorder for IPod w/Dock Connector ($60) attaches to an IPod's ear phone jack, allowing you to make voice recordings with Apple's MP3 player. The audio files are saved in the WAV format. I've tested the recorder, and the sound quality of the files it creates is only so-so. But the recorder includes a small speaker, which the IPod lacks--and that means you can now use your IPod as a compact, oh-so-cool travel alarm clock. (You can go to the PC World Product Finder for the latest prices.)

A card-reading mouse. For the neatnik on your list, Fellowes' Card Reader Mouse ($63) cleverly conceals one Compact Flash and one SD slot inside a black computer mouse (cheese not included). For details, go to the Fellowes site and type 99200 into the search field at the top of the page.

$101 to $200

A Bluetooth headset. Though they're still not in wide use, new Bluetooth-compatible mobile phones are coming out all the time (see "Bluetooth's Growing Pains" in the "PDAs & Gadgets" section). And that means it's time to accessorize. Case in point: Plantronics' M3000 Bluetooth headset ($140), which lets you talk hands-free and wires-free on your Bluetooth phone--as long as the phone is within about 30 feet of you, that is.

A headphone/audio player. Talk about hearing something straight from the source: TDK's Mojo 1 ($200) is a neckband-style headphone that also happens to be an MP3 player. In other words, the ear piece contains a small MP3 player. The gadget includes 128MB of memory and an SD slot for adding more tunes.

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