Win a Heart, Keep the Change
Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and we know you're tired of going the candy route. (Hint: Your sweetie is, too.) This year, why not wow your date with one of the following hot tech gifts and gadgets? They'll never know that you didn't spend a bundle.
Some of these products with a V-Day spin happen to come in shades of red or pink (like smartphones and portable hard drives), while others allow you to add your own personal touch (voice-recording GPS software and DIY circuit board kits). And each gift is priced at less than $100, so you and your wallet will be happy, too.
Nikon Coolpix L20 Digital Camera
An easy-to-use point-and-shoot camera, such as the Nikon Coolpix L20, is a fun gift that both of you can enjoy.
The Coolpix L20 performs very well for a bargain camera, producing sharp, vibrant photos. Its 16 different scene modes help you take attractive pictures anywhere, and its 3-inch-diagonal LCD screen is great for reviewing and composing shots. We really like the camera's ability to zoom in and out while in video mode--a rare feature for a point-and-shoot.
Full review | $90
Garmin Nuvi 205 GPS With Free Garmin Voice Studio Software
Create GPS directions in your own voice with Garmin Voice Studio software, available to download directly to your PC.
Garmin Voice Studio is free to download, and recording everything takes about 30 minutes. You can record standard instructions in your own voice--and maybe even throw in a few inside jokes and pet names along the way. "Turn left, honey. No, your other left!"
More information | $99 (average)
GeekStuff4U Heart-Shaped USB Thumb Drive, 2GB
The techie in your life will love one of these geek-chic, heart-shaped USB thumb drives.
Before giving the 2GB drive, try loading it with a few photos, songs, and videos that are special to the two of you--suddenly, this nerdy data tool becomes a heartfelt gift.
The hearts are available in light pink, magenta, and the slightly more masculine red. However, the site is based in Japan, so order early.
Vendor's site | $49
Apple iPod Shuffle
The minuscule third-generation iPod Shuffle packs a lot of power into its simple design. It comes in 2GB (500 songs) and 4GB (1000 songs) versions, with five vibrant colors to choose from, including shocking pink for V-Day. For an extra $5 when you order online, you can even add a personal engraving (allow extra time).
Preload the Shuffle with your honey's favorite tunes and classic love songs--the device's lack of a viewing screen will keep the recipient guessing as to which song will play next.
Full review | $59 for 2GB, $79 for 4GB
Pantech Reveal Smartphone (AT&T)
With a red and black exterior and great call quality, the Pantech Reveal is a solid V-Day gift choice if your sweetheart has been yearning for a smartphone.
Although its multimedia capabilities are not as good as those of other smartphones, the Reveal is easy to use and includes AT&T GPS, e-mail, video, Web access, and AT&T music. To give the phone a personal touch, download some music files or games that you know the recipient will like.
Full review | $80
ThinkGeek LED Flashing Sweetheart Kit
If you have some basic soldering skills and access to a soldering iron, check out this LED Flashing Sweetheart Kit.
Complete with a circuit board, 28 red LEDs, and a range of diodes and resisters, this kit allows you to create a playful, flashing heart keepsake that will certainly win you extra points for handiwork.
Vendor's site | $10
NOTE: If this item is out of stock, ThinkGeek's Circuit Board Necklace makes a great backup gift.
Iomega eGo Portable Hard Drive
If you aren't the romantic type, go with a functional gift like a portable hard drive. The 500GB Iomega eGo is even Valentine's Day appropriate, with its vibrant cherry-red case.
But worry not--this drive offers more than just a flashy design. The eGo is fast, and it comes equipped with two useful pieces of software (Retrospect Express and Iomega QuikProtect) to simplify backups. It has FireWire 400 and 800 ports plus a USB 2.0 connection, and it performed well across the board in our PCWorld Labs tests.
More information | $100
SkinIt Gadget Skins
SkinIt.com specializes in making custom, glossy-vinyl, adhesive gadget skins for your electronic devices. Just select your device, choose your specific model, and browse through the selection of patterns.
Devices aren't just limited to phones and laptops--SkinIt also has patterns for MP3 players, e-readers, and gaming consoles.
SkinIt has a section specifically for Valentine's Day designs (pictured here)--but if that isn't your beloved's style, try something else, like a favorite cartoon character or sports team.
Don't see anything appropriate? You can create a design by uploading an image (a photo of you?) from your online photo account or home network.
Vendor's site | $15 to $40