Cool gifts for geeks, 2011: Home and office gear

Presenting the gems in your home or office environment.

They say that a man's home is his castle - we figure that if you're going to have a castle, it needs to be filled up with some really cool, high-tech stuff. If you're working at a home office or just want to boost that home network in order to get a better connected home entertainment system up and running, the following products are great gift ideas:

Watch a slideshow version of some of these products.

strong>Products reviewed in this category

Time Capsule (3TB; Model MD033LL/A), by Apple

WNDR4500 N900 Dual Band Gigabit Router, by Netgear

Meteor Mic, by Samson

Amplifi PowerLine AV 500 4-Port Gigabit Switch, by D-Link

Wormhole KM Switch, by J5 Create

Wormhole Station, by J5 Create

Universal WiFi Range Extender (WN3000RP), by Netgear

Motormouse Mini-Cooper edition, by MotorMouseJabra Pro 9450, by GN Netcom

Wireless Touchpad, by LogitechWES610N 4-Port Dual-Band N Entertainment Bridge with 4-Port Switch, by Cisco (Linksys)N750 DB Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router, by BelkinOoma Telo Wireless Adapter, by Ooma

Artisan 837 Color Inkjet All-In-One, by Epson

Internet phone, by Bedol

The reviews:

Time Capsule (3TB; Model MD033LL/A), by Apple

Apple's Time Capsule is a clever combination of dual-radio, dual-band 300Mbps 802.11n wireless router, a four-port switch, and, in the case of the particular model reviewed, a 3TB hard disk drive that is perfect for use with Apple's Time Machine continuous backup feature, now standard on Macs. Time Capsule mostly eliminates the need for RAID storage and manual backups, mostly because there may be a gap between writing new data to the Mac's local hard drive and Time Machine running to back up the data to the Time Capsule - but that can be tuned to a user's preference. There's a big incentive to build your home or small-business network around a Time Capsule - three necessary devices in one.

Setup is easy if you have a Mac or even an iOS 5 device, as configuration is now built into these, but it would be nice if a standard HTTPS interface were included as well. Yes, there's a downloadable utility to use the Time Capsule with Windows, but still. The Time Capsule has two separate radios, so two different WLANs can be operated at 2.4 and 5 GHz simultaneously. The built-in power supply eliminates the need for a power brick. There's a clever guest networking feature that grants Internet access (and not network access) for visitors. Other features include a local USB print server, and a USB port that can be used to connect a shared external hard drive. Time Capsule can also be used to provision network storage without Time Machine, so PC users will find the product useful as well. A separate configuration utility is provided for Windows.

I've been using an older Time Capsule for some time, and the new model is noticeably faster. Two radios and the guest networking feature have both been quite useful. If you or that special someone on your gift list is a Mac user, it would be hard to imagine living without this one. If you've got a PC, well, get a Mac (see the review of the MacBook Air - also a fine gift - elsewhere in this package)!

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars
Price: $299 (list, 2TB); $499 (list, 3TB)
Reviewed by C.J. Mathias

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