Geek gifts 2022: Business travel essentials and music-making

It’s debatable whether 2022 truly marks the start of a post-pandemic era. But most of our geek advisers resumed business travel to in-person conferences and meetings this year, which was reflected in their choices for top geek gifts.

Given the gap in regular travel for most professionals the past two years, there are now plenty of opportunities to upgrade portable electronic devices and accessories on a range of budgets. Many of our geeks prefer the Apple “stack” of MacBook laptops, iPad tablets, iPhones, AirPods headphones, and accessories such as the Apple Pencil.

“Conferences have opened up after the pandemic and do not seem to be letting up, leading to the need for pieces of technology to help mobility,” one of our geek gifts experts said. “Accessories like an AirPods and Apple Watch would complete this stack, enhanced by an iCloud or Windows Office 365 [subscriptions].”

Most of these core devices are on the pricey side. The smallest 14-inch Apple MacBook Pro with the sought-after M1 processor starts at $1,999 on Apple’s website. Most geeks will already have the core devices of their choosing. But for some, a few of the smaller items such as the latest AirPods Max ($499 on Amazon) might be appealing, particularly if they travel often.

“The noise canceling is insane — makes flying a different experience,” one of our geek consultants raved.

For smaller budgets, most of these devices have a multitude of accessories available, and geeks on the go recommend portable power sources as a sought-after item. This portable Apple Watch charger recommended by one of our geeks goes for just over $20. Many other portable power sources are available for non-Apple devices too.

An area where portable electronics and air travel can collide painfully for geeks these days is in-flight entertainment systems delivered via seat-back TV sets on many airlines. Most require a hard-wired connection — considered passé by many geeks who prefer to connect using Bluetooth. Until airlines catch up, third-party Bluetooth transmitters are available to connect AirPods to in-flight screens. Our geeks mentioned the YMOO and Twelve South brands, specifically.

Other portable electronic gift ideas for geeks who either aren’t Macolytes or already have every possible Apple product include new tablets which range from the reMarkable 2 ($299 from the manufacturer) to deluxe portable 4K pen displays such as the Huion Kamvas Pro 16 Plus ($729 on the Huion website).

Elsewhere, the Oura Ring Gen 3 ($399 from the manufacturer) is the latest in biometric sensor gadgets, which one of our geeks said has gained appeal after a health-conscious three years of viral outbreaks. The light, water-resistant ring uses a sensor worn on the palm side of the finger to collect biometric data on sleep, activity, fitness and more. It’s compatible with several fitness apps, including Apple Health and Google Fit.

“Post-COVID, I see lots of geeks looking to hack their health,” one geek gifts adviser said. “This is one of the best gadgets for it.”

Geek gifts for travelers need not be big splurges, however. Another geek expert suggested a sleek leather business card and credit card holder that sells for $39 online from Saddleback Leather. Now that in-person activities have resumed, some geeks may welcome experiences over objects, from taking them out to see the new Avatar movie to touring a geeky theme park such as The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour in London.

“For better or worse, tech workers generally have enough money to have bought things if they wanted them,” one of our experts said. “Between that and the social distancing the pandemic brought us, I am most looking forward to spending time with friends this holiday season. … Take your friends out for a meal or invite them over for something homemade. The best people in tech, the ones everyone wants to work with, are good people first.”

Geeks rock out: musical tech gifts for 2022

Our informal geek gift surveys each year are like a box of chocolates. You never know what interests and hobbies geeks are going to be into. This year’s surprise theme: musical geeks!

Electronic musical instruments were the favorites of more than one of our geek experts, including the Otamatone, which originated in Japan and is distributed in the U.S. by Hamee and Amazon. The touch-sensitive musical instrument may look a little silly but, in skilled hands, can produce surprisingly moving music that sounds similar to a human voice.

Otamatone geek gifts
Otamatones, an electronic musical instrument, are among our geek gifts suggestions this year.

“My daughter is crazy for one of these,” one of our geek friends said.

Geeks that remember the early days of synth and new wave music may want to emulate their favorite rock stars with a Theremin, an electronic instrument also featured in science fiction films.

“You can now build your own with an open source software and hardware kit sold by GaudiLabs that you pair with an Arduino,” one of our geeks said.

Do-it-yourself machine-building, open source and geeky music? Sounds like a trifecta.

When it comes time for a geek to perform on one of these instruments, they may find a metronome useful to keep time. A geek we know recommended the Korg KDM-3 ($121.99 on Amazon) as the ultimate in tempo-regulating nerdery.

“If you are trying to learn a piece, this is an absolute silly overkill of a metronome with way more options than you need,” he said.

Musical geeks working in home offices may appreciate a Blue Yeti microphone ($129.99 from the Bluemic) recommended by one of our experts. It can pull triple duty as a videoconferencing microphone, podcast recording device, and “when it’s time to shut down the lappy, the microphone is awesome for recording via Direct Input (for vocals, guitar, etc.), and the lights have a multi-color disco flashing mode!”

There are also Bluetooth speaker options available when it’s time for musical geeks to enjoy the fruits of their labor or just chill out to their favorite tunes. One of our geek advisors has his eye on a Leslie model ($189 on Amazon).

“For the techy audiophile, I’m mentioning this only because I’ve seen them, heard them and put this on my own personal holiday wish list,” one of our geek consultants said. “It’s a retro-looking Bluetooth speaker, made to look like an old Leslie cabinet from the 60s and 70s.”

The best of the rest: toys + home office upgrades

Your mileage may vary depending on your geeks’ interests and existing collection of gadgets, but this year’s recommendations also included toys such as the Lego Marvel Infinity Gauntlet, a GoCube phone puzzle accessory and a motion-activated cat laser toy “for the geeks that are too lazy to get out of their chair and play with their cats,” one gift guide adviser said.

Take your friends out for a meal or invite them over for something homemade. The best people in tech, the ones everyone wants to work with, are good people first.
A geek with the true holiday spirit

Last year’s geek gifts list covered home office gadgets. But this year we received suggestions for the latest updates in this category, including wireless headsets from Jabra, which ranged from the Jabra GN model ($104.99 on Amazon) to the Evolve 75 ($385 on Amazon).

“I use AirPods with Teams at the moment but have to connect via my phone. When connecting direct to Windows on the computer, the sound quality is dreadful,” one geek with the Evolve 75 on her list said.

Other geeks mentioned ergonomic wireless mouse and trackball devices, colorful mechanical gaming keyboards, and even the latest in-home smart locks to protect all their valuable equipment. Coffee-related devices in all forms are also usually a hit with geeks, from programmable coffeemakers to coffee subscriptions and self-heating mugs.

Finally, this year our geeks were also concerned with the cleanliness of their home office environments. The latest in self-guided vacuums made the geek gift wish lists, specifically the eufy, as well as home CO2 monitors and HVAC filters, specifically the Aranet 4 CO2 monitor and Nordic Pure filters.

“In today’s work-from-home environment, you’ve got to make sure you’re not just breathing your own fumes all day long,” one of our experts explained.

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.