Holiday Gift Guide 2013: Gadgets, Gizmos and Gear

A variety of doohickeys for work, play, exercise, entertainment and more. Best part? Each gift costs $100 or less.

Computerworld 2013 holiday gift guide

Holiday shopping season is that joyous time when you get to geek out and buy cool tech gear for family and friends. Part 2 of our holiday gift guide focuses on nifty gadgets, gizmos, tools and toys that will enhance their lives at home and on the road -- and each one costs $100 or less.

When possible, we've included a range of prices as offered by various vendors, but be aware that prices fluctuate. As always, be careful of false deals and scams.

Note that you won't find many smartphone or tablet accessories here; those will be featured in coming weeks, as will stocking stuffers for $25 or less.

Don't miss part 1 of Computerworld's holiday gift guide:
Audio gear.

Chromecast
Google

Chromecast

Let's face it: Internet-to-TV streaming has never been a great experience. You've got expensive set-top boxes with confusing remotes and cumbersome onscreen menus. Is this a good holiday gift?

Google's Chromecast changes all that: The $35 device plugs into your TV's HDMI port and lets you send content to the screen straight from a smartphone, tablet or computer using familiar apps: Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus or Google Play Music and Movies. It also lets you beam any browser tab -- and thus any video playing within it -- from your PC to your TV by way of a special Chrome extension.

Simple, inexpensive and easy to use -- now that's a great gift.

Price: $35

-- JR Raphael

Fitbit Flex bands in different colors
Fitbit

Fitbit Flex

Fitbit's superb activity trackers finally come in bracelet form with the Fitbit Flex, a supercharged pedometer that tracks the wearer's steps, mileage, calories burned, active minutes and sleep patterns. The band's five LEDs show how close the wearer is to achieving her daily goal in steps, calories or distance.

Data is synced to an iOS or Android device and to the Fitbit website, where the user can compare his activity with friends, set goals and alarms, or install apps to integrate with services like MapMyRun.

Price: Direct: $100 / Retail: $100

You might also like: For $30 more, the Fitbit Force adds a nifty OLED display to the band and tracks stairs climbed.

-- Ken Gagne

Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K811
Logitech

Logitech Easy-Switch keyboard

One keyboard to rule them all. That's the idea behind Logitech's Easy-Switch K811, a good-looking Bluetooth keyboard designed to pair with any and all Apple devices: Macs, iPhones, iPads and even Apple TVs (to simplify searches and other text-heavy functions).

The two-tone keyboard features backlit keys that illuminate in response to the room's light level -- and only when your fingers draw near. Its USB-rechargeable battery can last up to a year, according to Logitech.

It even has three toggle buttons for quickly switching between devices. If you know someone who has lots of Apple gear, this is the keyboard for them.

Price: Direct: $100 / Retail: $75

-- Rick Broida

iFrogz BoostPlus NearField Audio speaker
Zagg

iFrogz BoostPlus NearField Audio speaker

Looking to give someone an inexpensive speaker that requires no pairing or other setup? Look no further than Zagg's iFrogz BoostPlus. To use it, just turn up the volume on a smartphone or MP3 player and set it on top of the speaker. The sound is amplified using the company's NearFA wireless tech.

The BoostPlus works with most phone-size portable media devices with external speakers (but not most tablets). It's powered via three AA batteries or USB, and there are six colors to choose from.

Price: Direct: $60 / Retail: $60

You might also like: iFrogz's older Boost speaker. It does the same thing for $40 less than the BoostPlus, but it's far less snazzy-looking.

-- Michael deAgonia

D-Link DAP-1320 Wireless Range Extender
D-Link

D-Link Wireless Range Extender

Even if you have a high-end router, robust Wi-Fi signals rarely reach every nook and cranny of your home. If yours won't extend to the backyard patio, attic office, detached garage, or cement-shielded fallout shelter, consider a gift the whole family can enjoy: Wi-Fi everywhere, courtesy of D-Link's DAP-1320 range extender.

It works with any brand of router; just plug it into an AC outlet, push a button, and enjoy up to 300Mbps in hard-to-reach areas of the house. D-Link currently has it on sale for $40; the starting price at most online retailers is $50.

Price: Direct: $40 / Retail: $50 - $60

-- Rick Broida

Nantucket Lapreader
Levenger

Nantucket Lapreader

Ads for tablets and notebook computers always show people using them in their laps. But it doesn't take long to realize that this isn't always comfortable or stable. Your friend who likes to work from her couch will appreciate Levenger's Nantucket Lapreader, a cushioned portable bamboo desk that makes laptop computing as comfy as those ads make it seem.

The slim bolster keeps the device's screen, touchpad or keyboard from sliding too far below the curled lip to be accessible. For those analog moments, the Lapreader can hold a book or a newspaper, and the back has slots for pens or pencils, sticky note pads, and other old-school paraphernalia.

Price: $79

-- Jake Widman

Universal Gadget Wrist Charger
ThinkGeek

Universal Gadget Wrist Charger

The Wrist Charger looks a bit like one of Spider-Man's web shooters, only in this case the wearer is shooting an extra boost of power into his mobile device to keep it going when the battery's low. The clever (if geeky) design makes it easy to keep using a phone, game system or media player while it recharges.

Like most power backups, the Wrist Charger's 1500mAh battery charges from a computer via USB, and it delivers power through a mini USB port with the help of various adapters including Apple 30-pin, PSP, DS Lite and 2.0mm.

But be sure to remind your gift recipient: With extra power comes extra responsibility.

Price: Direct: $30 / Retail: $26

-- Jake Widman

Nessie microphone
Blue Microphones

Nessie USB microphone

If you know an aspiring podcaster or musician, consider Blue Microphones' Nessie. The cardoid mic comes with a built-in pop filter and internal shock mount; you can set it to optimize for talk, live music or raw sound.

It has an adjustable head, a handy mute button and a volume control for the headphone output. To set it up, just plug it into a USB port and adjust the PC's audio controls for the best sound. Your giftee should be happy with the results.

Price: Direct: $100 / Retail: $100 - $184

You might also like: The Samson Go Mic ($40) is a low-cost but good quality portable USB microphone.

-- Barbara Krasnoff

Iogear MediaShair Hub
Iogear

Iogear MediaShair Hub

Who says a gift can't be both practical and cool? The MediaShair looks like a shrunken router and acts like one, too, doubling as a mobile access point. It triples as a mobile charger, providing emergency juice for a smartphone from its 2600mAh battery.

But its primary function is to provide wireless access to media-filled SD cards, which you can do courtesy of Android, iOS or a laptop. That means plenty more music, movies and documents for long road trips.

Price: Direct: $100 / Retail: $57 - $75

You might also like: For less money, the $60 Kingston MobileLite Wireless offers the same basic functionality but lacks a few extras, like support for USB hard drives.

-- Rick Broida

Canon CanoScan LiDE 210 photo scanner
Canon

CanoScan LiDE 210 photo scanner

We'll bet you have friends and family members who have dusty boxes or albums filled with photo prints. Help them bring those images into the digital era by giving them Canon's CanoScan LiDE 210 flatbed scanner.

Its Auto Document Fix and Auto Scan features make scanning about as easy as it can be. There are buttons for one-touch scanning to email or PDF, and the hinged lid makes room for thick originals like books and magazines.

Price: Direct: $80 (on sale) / Retail: $80 - $108

You might also like: Canon's CanoScan LiDE 700F ($130) comes with a film guide and film adapter for scanning slides and negatives at up to 9,600 dpi.

-- Jake Widman

Ventev Powerdash r900 portable battery charger
Ventev

Powerdash r900

There are lots of car chargers that can keep mobile devices powered during a trip, but what happens after you've left the vehicle? Before you know it, you're almost out of juice.

If you've got a friend with that problem, she will welcome the Powerdash r900, a lightweight car charger with USB port that also contains a 900mAh battery -- she can just pull the charger out of the accessory socket, drop it in a pocket or bag, and use it later to provide an extra boost for small devices. The Powerdash will recharge itself from the car socket on the way home while it simultaneously keeps her phone, tablet or other device humming.

Price: Direct: $40 / Retail: $30

-- Barbara Krasnoff