Gifts for the Discerning Geek

As the holiday season approaches, here are some choice geek devices that are sure to please people who love well-designed gadgets.

Aliph Jawbone 2 Bluetooth Headset

The latest Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth headset is significantly smaller than its predecessor, with numerous earbud and earloop options to help achieve a perfect fit. It looks pretty slick. But even more important, when I call my wife on it from my Honda Civic, she can hear me over the ever-present din of road noise. I may sound a bit tinny at times, but I never have to repeat myself.

Monster Cable Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones

If you work in a loud environment, consider Monster Cable's $350 Beats by Dr. Dre. The Beats headset comes with proprietary noise-canceling technology, great sound quality, and sharp (but fingerprint-prone) looks. Use the handy mute button for moments when you need to hear the outside world. Alas, you can't cancel the noise cancellation when you enter a quieter environment.

Denon AH-D5000 Headphones

If your favorite techie needs to tune out the clucking from adjacent boxes of the old cubicle farm, consider springing for a closed headphone such as the Denon AH-D5000. The mahogany-cupped AH-D5000 set ($700) delivers detailed audio that's in the league of world-class open-design cans like the AKG K701. At the same time the Denon headphones block modest levels of outside noise and prevent ported music from blasting people nearby.

Logitech Squeezebox Boom Music Player

For streaming music at home, Logitech's Squeezebox Boom makes a fine choice. It has an easy-to-use hardware interface, supports wireless or wired network connectivity, and comes with an integrated amplifier and speakers. I found the unit a snap to set up (the dial is perfect for Wi-Fi security code input): Within minutes I was streaming music from SqueezeCenter software on my PC. Audio quality is good, considering how small the speakers are, and you can even set the unit to wake you in the morning.

Garmin Forerunner 405 GPS Device

The Garmin Forerunner 405 is a svelte descendant of larger, forearm-encircling models that have long pleased runners interested in GPS-based stats such as speed, distance, and pace. In my tests of a 405 with an optional heart-rate monitor included, I found that the unit offers speedy satellite acquisition, accurate vitals monitoring, and lots of obsession-worthy running data. The touch-sensitive bezel can be problematic, and battery duration ain't grand, but the watchlike 405 should be a great motivational tool for the fitness/tech enthusiast in your life.

Apple iPhone 3G Smart Phone

Yes, it's been overhyped to the hilt, but the Apple iPhone 3G smart phone could make a great gift for a very special geek. I tested the 16GB black version and discovered that--for Web access, mobile applications, and media playback--it simply slaughters my trusty Blackberry Pearl. The iPhone's virtual keyboard and AT&T's spotty 3G coverage remain issues, but this device will thrill most technophiles. If you're looking for the same features minus the phone, a second-generation iPod Touch is just the ticket.

Amazon Kindle E-Book Reader

The Amazon Kindle isn't new, but it remains a near-perfect gift for techies of a literary bent. The combination of fast, simple wireless access to a growing list of books, newspapers, and blogs, plus an easy-to-read screen, makes the Kindle a dream for frequent travelers. I don't love Amazon's DRM; the page-turning buttons are easy to hit accidentally; and the design is, well, ugly. But it's an ugly you can grow to love. As to rumors of a next-generation Kindle, Amazon says that "there will not be a new Kindle until next year at the earliest."

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