Products that inspire passion
You don't have to hug your hardware to know that there are certain bits of tech you can't live without. It could be a keyboard or a mouse. It could be an app, a game, or a cool gadget. Whatever it is, it makes your life easier or more fun. It makes you feel smart or incredibly productive. If this product ever broke or otherwise left your life, you would be sad.
If that's not the geekiest kind of love, we don't know what is. Here's our collective Valentine to the tech products we love most.
The Up is a 24/7, lifestyle-monitoring ring of awesomeness. Packed with a wee motion sensor and a teeny-tiny battery good for ten days of use, the Up records your sleep cycles at night, and how many steps you've taken during the day. Other fitness gadgets perform the same tricks, but the $130 Up earns my love for its incredibly engaging and easy-to-use iOS interface. I'm a fool for killer infographics, and Jawbone has absolutely nailed the way it reports the Up's data. —Jon Phillips, PCWorld editor
For tracking to-do lists and brainstorming, nothing feels mightier than a pen in hand—especially a pen with a brain. After all, brain research proves that writing by hand boosts your memory. Livescribe's Sky Wi-Fi Smartpen ($170 to $250) adds intelligence by recording audio along with your notes on paper, and then uploading it all via Wi-Fi to Evernote so that you can access it anywhere. If you can't remember the details of yesterday's meeting, just hit Play and watch your doodles draw out in sync with the conversation. —Elsa Wenzel, senior editor
I couldn't live without the CPU-Z freeware system-monitoring application. It provides a real-time glimpse of your computer's CPU, RAM, and motherboard configurations in nitty-gritty detail.
The software really shines when you dive into the exotic world of component overclocking. Being able to easily verify your RAM's tweaked timings or your CPU's multiplier and voltage is a major boon for die-hard tinkerers. (For overclocking graphics cards, turn to GPU-Z.) —Brad Chacos, senior writer
There’s no better platform for playing games than the PC, and there’s no better place to get PC games than Steam, Valve’s premier digital-distribution platform. It's free, and it provides instant access to a huge community of gamers and an unparalleled library of PC games for purchase at regularly discounted prices. Steam's forums and game-specific community hubs let players share their favorite mods, strategies, and stories. You'll even find machinima-making software available on Steam for free. Download Steam. You won't be disappointed. —Alex Wawro, associate editor
Razer Blackwidow keyboards
My Razer Blackwidow keyboard ($100) offers a tactile bond that physically merges my will with the computing power hidden inside my lovingly built PC. The soft-touch mechanical keys feel wonderful, and they utilize Cherry MX Blue switches, whose clickity-clack-clacking reminds me of the trusty typewriter I slaved over in my younger years.—Brad Chacos, senior writer
The Blackwidow Ultimate mechanical keyboard (shown, $140) is the PC peripheral I never knew I always wanted. Even if you don’t need the convenient command keys, macro recording options, and extra USB ports on the Blackwidow Ultimate, typing on a mechanical keyboard just feels more satisfying than doing so on a mushy membrane keyboard. —Alex Wawro, associate editor
Bowers & Wilkins MM-1
I can't live without Bowers & Wilkins’s MM-1 speakers ($500). They connect to my PC’s USB port and keep the audio signal in the digital domain until it reaches the speakers. The cabinets housing the 3-inch woofers and 1-inch Nautilus tube tweeters look as exquisite as they sound, and they’re compact as well. —Michael Brown, senior editor
Editors have lives, too. Juggling my family's schedules is easier with Cozi. This free online app’s unified calendar displays all the appointments, deliveries, lessons, meetings, birthday parties, and show-and-tell days, each one color-coded by family member.
We can check our password-protected schedule online at any time, or get our upcoming week's schedule emailed to us. A $5-per-month upgrade to Cozi Gold gives you event reminders. —Laura Blackwell, downloads editor
Minecraft ($27) is the sandbox game that lets me become whatever I want to be: an adventurer, warrior, explorer, architect, magician, or chemist, in a randomly generated world that I can manipulate. It encompasses every video-game trope I've come to love, with the depth and complexity I've come to expect from the largest indie game of all time. It's fun to play alone, cooperatively, competitively, and creatively. Also, it allows you to skip the jewelry store on Valentine’s Day, since it gives you diamonds. —Alex Cocilova, assistant editor
Microsoft Xbox 360
I use my Xbox 360 ($99 with a two-year Live Gold membership) as a media center extender, streaming my massive collection of videos and music from my Windows machine to my big-screen TV. Between the PC connections, the cornucopia of streaming apps available for the system, and, you know, the games, Microsoft's console serves as the beating heart of my living room.
How much do I love it? I'm currently on my fifth Xbox 360, and will have to buy a sixth soon. —Brad Chacos, senior writer
My PC games are loud. But my love for high-quality sounds and music in games is strong, and I'm not willing to give that up. Thus the Logitech G35 Surround Sound Headset ($130) fills my ears with that blissful, virtual 360-degree audio experience.
Another important aspect to PC gaming is communication. I can whisper sweet nothings into the attached microphone all night long.
I don't think my fiancée appreciates the noise-canceling feature, though. —Alex Cocilova, assistant editor
HP Photosmart 7520 e-All-in-One Printer
Here’s how a printer could coo sweet nothings into my ear: "(whir-click) Ooh...automatic duplexing ... (ka-chunka-chunka) ... Hey, baby, my inks are soooo reasonably priced...." The $200 HP Photosmart 7520 e-All-in-One Printer promises me all that and more, including good speed and print quality, an extra input tray for photo paper, and an automatic document feeder for the scanner, with two-sided scanning capabilities. This is a printer that has what it takes for a long-term relationship. —Melissa Riofrio, senior editor
Love for Logitech
I’d be lost without three peripherals from Logitech. The Unifying Receiver ($10) is a barely-there USB dongle that establishes a wireless connection to multiple USB devices, including the mouse and keyboard in my office and the matching mouse and keyboard in my home office. The Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 has a strip of photovoltaic cells across the top that convert light into electricity, so I need never worry about its batteries running out. And the Anywhere Mouse MX ($60) features Logitech’s Darkfield laser, which means I can use it on any surface—even glass. —Michael Brown, senior editor