Offbeat Holiday Gifts for Geeks

Kindle Fire cases, wearables for engineers, gadgets and nerdy cat toys - this offbeat, affordable gift list for geeks has it all.
Written by Violet Blue, Contributor

I don't know about you, but I'm the kind of gadget geek that likes to give really unforgettable tech-smart gifts. This list of offbeat gifts for geeks combines quirkiness with whipsmart engineering to create a hybrid of shopping list and personal wishlist.

More than ever, this year I'm finding it tough to sift through the overwhelming noise of gift lists on tech and gadget websites.

I think so many of these lists are packed with duds or sponsored items, only to have one really got-to-get-it item buried ten clicks deep into a post that leaves me feeling tricked out of my clicks.

Quick links to each item on my Offbeat Holiday Gifts for Geeks 2011 list:

In response to the hit-or-miss gift list chaos, I made this list to show you what a quirky, techsmart list full of great-gift winners looks like.

This list is a few of my favorite things all on my personal 'want' list. Several of them I've already bought for myself, and for friends. I hope this makes your geeky shopping easier, and your nerdy holidays brighter!

Photojojo's iPhone Lens Dial ($249, free shipping)

Many people I talk to right now don't carry cameras as much as they used to. That's especially true with iPhone users.

Photojojo added a new level of excellence to all camera phones when they started making superlative macro, fisheye and zoom lenses for both iPhone and Android. But now Photojojo takes the iPhone's camera an awesome step further with their new iPhone Lens Dial.

It's a slim aluminum case that snaps onto the iPhone and has a dial with a 3-in-1 lens set: fisheye, wide angle, and telephoto. To switch between lenses, just rotate the disc - and the case has two tripod mounts.

On the next page: [The ultimate Kindle Fire cases...] »

Kindle Fire Sleeve: CaseMate's Venture ($50) and Tuxedo ($40)

CaseMate's Venture (pictured) and Tuxedo Kindle Fire cases are the only ones right now that combine a low-profile gender-neutral leatherette cover with a built-in fold-out stand and a tasteful overall design. Both cases remind me of the Amazon folding leather Kindle case I like so much.

The Venture's stand props it up for viewing or you can hold it like a book or tablet, the port and button remain accessible, and it's got a snug velcro and snap closure. The Tuxedo has an even lower profile with a very simple folding cover that turns into a stand, and secures the Fire with (replaceable, gentle) adhesive.

Unlike most other outlets selling the more sophisticated Fire cases - especially ones with a stand - the Venture and Tuxedo are in stock and available right now.

Next page: [Most wanted new point and shoot cameras...]  »

Most Loved New Point and Shoots: Nikon S1200pj ($429.95), Canon S100 ($429)

Reviews are in across the gadget blogs and tech columns, and two cameras have risen to the top of the holiday heap. The Nikon S1200pjand Canon S100 are the top picks of the season.

Nikon's S1200pj - the "pj" is for "projector" - has a built-in projector that projects photos and movies up to 60 inches diagonally. It's Mac-friendly (as in you can project from your iPhone and iPad), is 14.1 MP, includes trendy shooting modes such as Pet Portrait, Smart Portrait for automatic candids, and Skin Softening. Lots of reviewers love it even though its battery is somewhat short-lived.

The Canon S100 is the wide-angle darling this year, and is flying off the shelves. At 12.1 MP you'd think people would pass it over, but no. It inherited processing technology from Canon's DSLR's and produces low-light photos that have reviewers genuinely excited. It has a ton of features, plus it's worth noting that video is shot in iFrame.

Next page: [The solar-charging solution to mobile power issues...]  »

The Piggyback Solar Powered Gadgetbag ($119.99; USB; charges when cloudy)

I didn't think I'd be jealous when a friend got a solar backpack that charges his gadgets nonstop - but I was. Especially every time I've had to play mobile battery charger roulette with my different devices on the go.

New to Think Geek, the Piggyback Solar Powered Gadgetbag - even if you live in foggy San Francisco - is exactly the thing to solve mobile power issues. Its "piggyback" design connects it to any backpack or bag you already have so you don't have to make a fashion statement if you don't want to.

The Piggyback turns sunlight into 1000mA at 5.6 volts (enough to charge your iPhone), the Lithium Ion battery pack soaks up excess light on cloudy days and its two zippered pouches fit an iPad and/or a Kindle.

Next page: [Sophisticated decor for the sci-fi geek in your life...] »

Serenity and Firefly Travel Posters - the Blue Sun Travel Poster Set ($29.99)

These rich wall prints are so gorgeous and retro that everyone will compliment your Serenity and Firefly Travel Posters before noticing that they subtly advertise luxury and vacation travel to in-world locations within the sci-fi cult epics. They look like Blade Runner meets Chinese propaganda design meets Joss Whedon - in a good way.

The 17" by 22" full color prints come in a set of five on high-quality 100 pound satin-finish stock and advertise Persephone, Serenity Valley, Miranda and more; a newly released set of five include additional destinations - even Jaynestown.

Next page: [The black Circuit Board Tie, and for her - the Bipolar Earrings...]  »

Sleek Black Circuit Board Tie (30$); Bipolar Current Earrings ($24.95)

You wouldn't suspect an electronics company would have tasteful wearable accessories perfect for holiday events, but then again, Adafruit Industries has shown it's never going to play by anyone else's rules. Thank goodness for that.

The new Black Circuit Board Tie (above) is pretty much the prefect gift for the geek who wants a subtle finishing touch that says he's dressed up but isn't going to stop flying his geek flag just because he's got to wear a suit. Black with silver ink.

For her, the Bipolar Earrings are dressy yet subtle, and they are indeed the perfect mix of pretty and brainy. Made of quality sterling silver, one drop has an NPN symbol stamped on it, the other a PNP. They're lovely and classic; So tasteful, they're going to be a great gift for cute engineers and awesome geek moms alike.

Next page: [A build-it-yourself robotic arm ideal for nerdy kids of all ages...] »

The Robotic Arm Kit ($49.95)

Spending a lot of time in front of the computer or in Skyrim is good and all, but sometimes nothing beats geeking out on things you can actually get your hands on. The problem has been that good robotic project kits are usually really expensive, and are either too simplistic to be interesting or too complex to casually build - or work on with a your favorite kid engineer in training.

The OWI Robotic Arm isn't a beginner's kit, but there's no soldering required - and still, it's complex enough to be an exciting project. Plus the final result is an awesome robot arm with a gripper and a lot of possibilities.

Next page: [Finally, a water bottle that fits in any bag...] »

The Vapur Flexible Water Bottle (sale: $6.99)

Staying hydrated is important - and I kind of think that techies are among the worst when it comes to remembering to drink water. One way I think we can get around this is by finding water delivery systems that fit our lives but are also engineered smarter and designed differently than the kind a gym bunny would tote.

The Vapur is a foldable, reusable water bottle that can stand on its own when full and gets folded up (or rolled up) when empty. To my surprise, it's freezable! It also comes with its own carabiner to attach it anywhere you might want to hang some water.

Next page: [ClamCase makes iPad into the ultimate MacBook Air...] »

ClamCase iPad Keyboard Case ($149)

The ClamCase has been hailed as the best iPad case above all, and there are a lot of good reasons for the strong sentiments.

The durable polycarbonite case protects your iPad and adds a bluetooth keyboard, which serves to free up screen space when you want to type. Plus, the hinge can open to 360 degrees to become a solid stand. It's also great if you'd like an Air but don't want to give up your iPad - or shell out the money for a full-on MacBook.

Last page: [Gifts for kitty are actually gifts for everyone...] »

Cat DJ Scratching Deck ($40)

If your cat is Keyboard Cat quality, but shuns classical music to stay hip with the kittens, then your kitty might like to try their paws at the Cat DJ Scratching Deck.

Let kitty spin all the Deadmaus they want with the cardboard "album" on the simple-assembly turntable; the scratchable surface spins and the faux-needle's swing arm moves for a touch more realism. Get it on video, remix it, and you'll be cleaning up the next YouTube star's poop in no time. Live the dream!

Want to go back? Quick links to each item on my Offbeat Holiday Gifts for Geeks 2011 list:

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