Worried about frayed wires, or sick of having to loop your headphones in a certain way to get them to the right length? Hacking putty, from Sugru, may be just what you need. This claylike substance is essentially a self-setting rubber and is perfect for do-it-yourself enthusiasts who want to keep all the cords for their favorite tech reinforced and in good repair.
You can fix not only weak cords but also make a little bumper for your small but fragile gadgets, use the putty to make permanent cord grips, or even use it to fix a cracked screen if you’re particularly dextrous. You can also use the putty for non-tech applications — stopping ropes and shoelaces from fraying or for custom pencil grips, but it works particularly well for gadgets. Consider it a good stocking stuffer for the techies who like to make their own solutions.
Get it: If you’re a die-hard DIY-er
Skip it: If you’re rather not get your hands dirty
Price: $10 and up
There’s almost no message more depressing for tech addicts than the pop-up telling them that their phone is running out of battery. The problem is, of course, that we all are leading more data-dependent and Internet-driven lives that can quickly drain the juice from our beloved gadgets.
Enter the Mophie JuicePack, which acts as an external battery for a range of popular smartphones while also providing some protection. Users will have to charge up the case itself, but once that’s done, it will provide up to 80 percent more battery life for your phone and extend your ability to talk, text, surf and stream on the go.
The downside to that extra lease on life, of course, is the fact that even the slimmest Mophie packs add quite a bit of bulk to your phone. But if you’re ever in a tight jam, you may be willing to give up your sense of aesthetics for those extra minutes of power.
Get it: If you’re always low on battery
Skip it: If you think light phones are better than long-lived ones
Price: $79.95 and up
Grid-it packing organizer
Every techie should have a “go bag”: a small bag stocked with all the necessary cords, thumb drives, gadgets and other essentials, and Grid-it’s packing organizers are some of the best and most efficient tools to help keep everything in its place. But it’s not always easy to keep that bag organized — particularly when it comes to cords.
These gadget-keepers are made of interwoven elastic bands that hold objects of nearly any size in place without your having to do much work getting them in order. The elastic is tight enough to keep looped cords in place, making that emergency search for your phone charger a much easier quest. Grid-its come in all sizes, so you can keep everything from your pens — or styluses — to your phone in place. The company even makes cases for tablets and laptops, so you can store all your necessities in just the right place for when you need them.
Get it: If a cord rat-nest drives you crazy
Skip it: If you don’t even fold your clothes
Price: $10 and up
While it may not be the newest gadget on the market, Amazon’s Kindle e-reader is still one of the best ways to get your e-books, particularly if you like to sit in the sun while you read. While tablets are fast becoming one of the most common ways people read digitally, screen glare is still a big problem — and not one you’ll ever face with the Kindle’s e-ink display.
That said, there aren’t many other feature on a Kindle other than pure reading — even making marginalia notes can be a bit cumbersome — but that’s probably just fine by true bibliophiles. If you want a device with more features but the same access to the Kindle library of books, you may be happier with a tablet or phone that can download Kindle apps. And if you like to read in the dark, you may want to consider the Kindle Paperwhite ($119), which comes with a lighted screen. But if you want to really dive into a good book or 20 for a good price without having to lug around a heavy tote, the Kindle is still a solid gift.
Get it: If you want to seriously impress your book club
Skip it: If you read just fine on your phone or tablet
Price: $69, with ads
(Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos
is the owner of The Washington Post.)
The Chromecast is essentially a shortcut to getting a smart television, and it cuts a lot of the pain of streaming by letting users shoot Pandora songs or YouTube, Netflix and Hulu Plus videos straight to the television by way of an HDMI port. This smart TV on a stick will also let you stream tabs from an open Chrome browser, meaning that you can show off your computer screen to friends and colleagues when needed.
While the apps that work with the Chromecast are limited right now, Google has priced the little device low enough that it’s still a smart purchase even though it doesn’t support too many services. Setting up the Chromecast is easy — just connect it to your home’s wireless network. Netflix, YouTube, Chrome and Hulu Plus have updated their services, on mobile and desktop, to pass content onto any Chromecast devices on the same network. While the Chromecast takes up a port on the TV and an outlet, it’s quite a bit more convenient than gathering around a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Get it: If you’re sick of crowding around your laptop
Skip it: If streaming just isn’t your thing
Okay, okay, we’re cheating in a couple of ways here. For one, this smart pen is not under $100 — in fact, it’s quite a bit over at nearly $150. And, you may be saying to yourself, a pen is not exactly your idea of a tech gift. But the Livescribe pen, now in its third iteration, is notable because it takes a stab at fixing one of the biggest problem of the analog-to-digital age — how do you digitize all the things you write down? It’s a big problem for people, particularly those who don’t type as quickly as they write, to organize their ordinary paper notes in any meaningful digital way. With the Livescribe pen, your notes are instantly digitized — you can even watch the words appear on your iOS device — and you can search them, tag them and even link them to audio recorded by the pen itself.
There are some serious drawbacks. For one, the pen works only on Livescribe paper, which you can buy separately. While fairly inexpensive, it does make it a bit inconvenient. Plus, the pen is rather big, considerably bigger than a normal pen, in order to house the battery and Bluetooth receiver. All the same, this is a great tool for writers, students and or anyone who prefers to take notes by hand rather than by keyboard.
Get it: If you’re a major note-taker
Skip it: If you haven’t put pen to paper in years