Cool Stuff: Your 2006 Holiday Gift Guide

All the best technology gifts to give (and get) this holiday season

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Home Office Help

Many of us make the mistake of using subpar equipment in our home offices. Save your loved ones from this fate with a few well-chosen office tools.

Wireless mouse: Logitech VX Revolution

Selecting a wireless mouse can be a very frustrating experience. A Computerworld editor recently bought three of them on successive days, returning each of them the next day -- whereupon she gave up on wireless mice. The entire affair is very subjective experience, to be sure. But after lots of hands-on testing, we've found the perfect wireless mouse for typical business and home use.

Logitech's VX Revolution is a dual-laser wireless mouse with a flywheel-style scroll wheel that can also be set to click, click, click like conventional scroll wheels. The wheel works great in both settings, and the flywheel is perfect for long-scrolling pages. The VX Revolution's dual laser is more accurate and more forgiving on uneven surfaces than earlier dual lasers we've used.

The VX Revolution feels great in your hand. Courtesy of Logitech.
The VX Revolution feels great in your hand. Courtesy of Logitech.

This mouse offers the standard five buttons plus zoom in, zoom out, and search; it also scrolls left and right with the scroll wheel. The built-in search button lets you highlight a word on a Web page and click it to search with your operating system's search facility or with Web-based search engines. The accompanying USB stick is very small and slips into a door at the back of the unit. Press a button and it pops out again.

Like many Logitech mice, this one feels great in your hand. But the single best feature of the VX Revolution is its overall size. It's a small desktop mouse or a large travel mouse. That makes it the ideal size for people who want to use this mouse all the time. Surprisingly, the small size doesn't hurt the ergonomic feel. It's a little ingenious in that regard.

We could find no downsides at all to the VX Revolution ($55 to $75). Logitech has perfected the dual-laser genre. (product details)

Honorable mention: If you're looking for full-desktop-size wireless mouse with fewer bells and whistles, Logitech's MX 610 is a good choice. It feels great in your hand, has five buttons, comes in a left-handed version, and costs less ($45 to $60). Just don't expect all the software notification LEDs to work. (product details)

—Scot Finnie

External hard drive: Iomega Rev 70GB

For the person who has infinite data storage needs, the Rev 70GB removable hard drive from Iomega won't disappoint. This slim drive comes with a removable cartridge that holds 70GB. Not enough, you say? Not to worry -- when a cartridge gets full, just pop it out and insert another. The cartridges can be labeled and stored just like any tape cartridge, but the Rev 70 blows tape out of the water with its backup and restore speeds -- 30MB/sec., 10 times faster than DDS-4 tape cartridges.

If a Rev cartridge fills up, pop it out and insert another. Courtesy of Iomega.
If a Rev cartridge fills up, pop it out and insert another. Courtesy of Iomega.

The Rev 70, compatible with both PCs and Macs, lets you store movies, music, photos and documents -- and manage them all with slick drag-and-drop functionality. The drive is plug-and-play and connects via USB 2.0 (there's also an ATAPI bare-drive model). It comes with 2:1 compression software, password protection and encryption, and includes EMC's Retrospect Express software for backup and disaster recovery -- though you can also use CA's BrightStor ARCserve or Symantec's Backup Exec software. There's a three-year warranty on the drive and a five-year warranty on disk cartridges.

While the Rev 70GB drive has a suggested retail price of $599, we found it for as low as $410 online. Replacement cartridges run from $56 to $65, or $200 to $230 for a four-pack. (product details)

—Lucas Mearian

Personal server: Mirra Sync and Share

Equal parts home network server, data synchronizer and data protector, Seagate's new network storage product is a perfect gift for the geek in your life -- even if that geek is you. The Mirra Sync and Share Personal Server connects to a router and provides easy access to a centralized network storage drive that can be accessed via a home wired or wireless network and -- get this -- via the Internet.

This device is the only network-attached storage drive we've encountered that is capable of synchronizing data across multiple PCs. If you're like us and have a desktop and laptop upstairs and a second desktop downstairs, this is a huge benefit. Not only will you be able to sync up important work files from multiple locations, but you'll also be able to keep your photos, music and other media libraries up to date.

Back up, synchronize and protect data across your home network with Mirra's personal server. Courtesy of Seagate.
Back up, synchronize and protect data across your home network with Mirra's personal server. Courtesy of Seagate.

The Sync and Share is available in 320GB ($435 to $500) and 500GB ($520 to $600) sizes. High-powered network file protection and the ability to restore data to failed drives round out what is an excellent network package. (product details)

—George Jones

Wireless office headset system: Plantronics CS70

This year, give your special someone freedom -- the freedom to roam about while on a land line phone. The CS70 Wireless Office Headset System, which you can find from $220 to $340, is Plantronics' deluxe model. The cornerstone of the set is the headset piece. It's comfortable enough to wear all day, fits easily and sounds great.

The system also includes a charging base and a handset lifter. Yes, a handset lifter. We used to think they were silly, but their usefulness becomes clear once you've used them a few times. Pressing the answer button on the side of the headset activates the lift and answers the phone; pressing again conveniently drops the handset back into the cradle.

The CS70 wireless headset system is the Cadillac of office phone headsets. Courtesy of Plantronics.
The CS70 wireless headset system is the Cadillac of office phone headsets. Courtesy of Plantronics.

But what makes this product stand out is the clear sound. This wireless device has superior interference rejection and is good for about 300 feet. If you like to move while you talk, you'll appreciate the long leash. (product details)

—Yuval Kossovsky

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