The Best Geek Gifts – Christmas 2013

Paul Boag

Every year in the build up to Christmas I share my top ten gift ideas for the geek in your life. This year is no exception.

I am not sure how these traditions start, but every year people have come to expect me to share some gift ideas that will bring christmas cheer to the geek in your life.

Of course in reality, if you are reading this, you are probably that geek. So either this is a list of gift ideas that you can point a loved one to, or failing that stuff you can buy for yourself.

So here we go.

The Tado heating (£250 or £7 per month)

The Tado smart thermostat uses the GPS in your smartphone to automatically lower the temperature in your house when you go out.

Last year I started with a money saving gadget and so it feels right to do the same this year.

Tado is a smart thermostat that uses your smart phone to intelligently manage your heating.

Traditional timers work fine if you have a regular routine, but if you work from home like me, things get complicated. As a result my heating bill was massive.

Tado uses the GPS tracking on my phone to identify if I am at home or out and about. If I go out it turns down the heating. The further I go, the more it lowers the temperature. It also learns about how long I spend at different places and so adjusts the temperature accordingly. If I just pop to the shops the temperature barely drops, but if I go to the pub it knows I will be a while!

Another thing I like about Tado is the thermostat is portable so you can take it into your home office while working. That means the temperature is set right for the room you are actually in, rather than wherever the thermostat happens to be.

The Loop (£30)

The Loop
The Loop is a beautifully designed energy monitor that works with your smart phone to reduce your energy bills.

The Tado is all well and good for lowering my heating costs, but what about electricity? Like all good geeks I have more power sucking devices in my house than a room full of vampire politicians (give it a minute, you’ll get it eventually).

That is where the Loop comes in. It doesn’t actively manage your power bills, but it does make you more aware of them.

Sure, there are loads of energy monitors about but this is a nice one for a couple of reasons. First, it has some well designed smartphone and web based apps. Unlike the competition this device is design led, not just created by engineers.

Second, the monitor that connects to your electricity supply isn’t powered by batteries, but instead uses conductive power from the cable itself. This sounds like a small thing, but trust me, as somebody who had a device like this before, changing batteries is a pain.

Once this device is up and running you can monitor your power consumption, while the app makes recommendations about how to save power and even tells you if you should switch supplier.

Leap Motion (£70)

Leap Motion
The Leap Motion won’t change the way you work, but its a hell of a lot of fun and makes you feel like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

That is quite enough of sensible energy saving gadgets. Now for something completely pointless.

The Leap Motion is a tiny box that connects to your mac or PC. Once plugged in, it allows you to control certain applications using different gestures in the air above it. Think Minority Report and you will get the idea.

When I first heard about the Leap Motion I was excited, but not entirely convinced it would work as advertised. Fortunately the lovely people at Maplins gave me a leap motion to play with so I could find out for myself.

To be honest, my fears were indeed founded. Although a great idea, the practical uses for the Leap Motion are limited. Gestures are great, but the Leap Motion just wasn’t reliable enough in recognising them to replace the gestures you would use on a touchpad.

Why then is it on my list? Well, although its not useful for day to day work, it is still amazingly cool and makes you feel like you live in the future! My son had hours of fun manipulating objects in 3D space and playing the various games available. This gadget might not make you more efficient, but it will make you smile.

Ender’s Game Series (Starting at £4.60 per book)

If you thought Ender’s Game the movie was good, wait until you read the sequels.

I always try and include some non-web reading in my list of Christmas gifts. This year I have picked the Ender’s Game series.

No doubt you are aware of the Hollywood adaptation of Enders Game, but that is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Ender’s Game is just one in a series of books that follows the life of Andrew Wiggin from Childhood through to old age.

Like all good sci-fi, the series is more about commenting on current issues than aliens and technology. The Ender’s Game series tackles subjects such as the soul, war, genocide, morality and what it means to be sentient.

As is often the case, the film does not do the books justice, so if you have even a passing interest in sci-fi, get the books.

An Audible Account (£7.99 per month)

Audible website
If you commute, go to the gym or are generally out and about, an Audible account is a must have.

Like most of the books I read, I actually listened to the Ender’s Game series on Audible.

I spend a lot of time on the road and being able to listen to audiobooks is a great way of passing the time (much better than podcasts!)

Audible has a massive collection of audiobooks including both fiction and non-fiction. They even have a lot of tech related books.

Admittedly when compared to all you can eat services like Spotify or Netflix, £7.99 for one book a month does seem expensive, but it is certainly a hell of a lot cheaper than buying these audiobooks individually.

If you commute, go to the gym or are generally out and about, an Audible account is a must have.

Bose QuietComfort 20 (£248)

Image of Bose QuietComfort 20 being worn
With these earphones you get all the piece and quiet of noise cancelling headphones, but without the bulk.

Talking of audio, why not ask santa for Bose QuietComfort earphones?

I am the first to admit that £248 is an obscene amount to pay for a set of in-ear headphones, but as Santa will be paying who cares!

If ever the phrase “you get what you pay for” was true, it would be true about the Bose QuietComfort 20.

These are no normal earphones. These are noise cancelling earphones. Not noise isolating. These puppies have the same active noise cancelling you find in the over the ear models.

As somebody who flies a lot I have had Bose noise cancelling headphones for years. Unfortunately they are bulky and I often just don’t have space in my hand luggage. However with the QuietComfort 20 I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

Admittedly they aren’t quite as isolating as the over the ear model, but there is not a lot in it. Whether flying or working in a noisy office, you will not regret getting these gorgeous earphones.

Big Jambox (£259)

Big Jam Box
If like me you listen to music while you work, get a decent set of speakers.

Not that you always want to keep music to yourself. Sometimes you want to share it. If that is the case take a look at the Big Jambox.

The Big Jambox is a portable bluetooth speaker of impressive quality. Although not as light as some of the other bluetooth speakers out there the sound quality is far superior. It also has a much more impressive battery life, which is a big deal if camping for example.

Although I don’t use these speakers as much as the earphones, I am still glad I got them. When working at home I tend to stream music from Spotify from my iPhone to my Big Jambox.

OCDock ($80)

If you are OCD, obsessed with Apple and deeply despise cables then you will want this iPhone Dock.

As I am streaming music from my iPhone all day I need to keep it charged. Of course being board line OCD and with an intense dislike of cables, I cannot use any normal dock.

Fortunately there is the OCDock. Designed to perfectly complement your cinema display, the cable for the dock is so thin that it goes under your monitor stand making it invisible.

Is this dock any better than any other? Doubtful. But it is beautifully designed, and its positioning under your monitor turns the iPhone into an extra screen for Twitter, Mail or in my case Spotify.

Logitech Easy Switch Keyboard (£80)

Logitech Easy Switch Keyboard
Having one keyboard that can control three devices and is wireless, proves incredibly useful.

With my iPhone now essentially a second screen available while I work and my iPad also in the mix, I found myself wanting to have one keyboard to rule them all.

The answer was the Logitech Easy Switch Keyboard that allows you to quickly switch between controlling three different bluetooth devices.

I now tend to manage Twitter on my iPhone, email using Mailbox on the iPad and then do the rest of my work on my Macbook Air. This keyboard makes it so easy to switch back and forth between these different devices, while having the three screens lets me see everything at a glance.

Best of all the Logitech Easy Switch Keyboard feels almost identical to using the Apple wireless keyboard. In short, its a very pleasant typing experience.

Apple TV (£75)

Apple TV
You may already know about the Apple TV, but it’s a lot more than an entertainment system.

Talking of extra screens I wanted to mention the Apple TV. If you are reading this then no doubt you are already well aware of the Apple TV. However, there has been a change recently that might mean you want to take another look at it.

For me my Apple TV is the primary way I watch consume entertainment. I use it to watch YouTube, Netflix and of course my iTunes library. I also use it occasionally to stream music to the TV. However, I accept that not everybody is interested in an entertainment centre like this.

Where things may get interesting for you is with the arrival of Maverick. Maverick now allows you to use an Apple TV as a second screen. This means that your TV can now become apart of your desktop computer.

At work we used to use a projector, but it was always noisy and you had to wait for it to warm up when you turned it on. Now we use an Apple TV with a big flat screen TV. Without fiddling around with wires it is now possible for anybody to show their work to the rest of the company, and you can even quickly switch between multiple computers. For me this makes the Apple TV a must have gadget in a way it wasn’t before.

So that is my list. If you would like even more ideas then take a look at last years post.

Now it is over to you. What gadgets would add to your Christmas list?

“retro hip young man glasses holding psychedelic gift box on wallpaper” image courtesy of