iCandy: Tech Gifts Beautiful Inside and Out

Good-looking gadgets emphasize style and luxury despite the recession.


Slide Show: Tech Gifts Beautiful Inside and Out

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Jabra Stone ($120). This Bluetooth headset does away with the booms that extend microphones off the ear, leaving the Stone with a clean, swooping design. Jabra says a boom isn't needed for sound quality. The Stone also does a good job of canceling out ambient noise. But it may not fit all ears comfortably. A charger that encases the headset in a smooth-looking package gives rise to the Stone name. The headset's internal battery is rated at two hours of talk time. The charger itself has a battery that can supply another six hours of run time. But there is no way to juice up the headset alone with its proprietary connector to the charger, so the case has to come with you.

[Another stylish Bluetooth headset responds to voice commands.]

Samsung Pebble ($40). Continuing the rock theme, the Samsung Pebble relies on a smooth case that looks like it was sculpted in a flowing stream. The Pebble is only 1.5-inches wide and a half-inch thick, making it look like a pendant when it hangs from lanyardlike earbuds. No screen means limited control over playback, but buttons allow switching between shuffle mode and a 30-song playlist. The functions of the five buttons are clear, but more sophisticated capabilities—such as managing the playlist from within the player—require a trip to the manual.

Neat Desk Scanner ($400). There's nothing sexy about a document scanner. So it's laudable that the Neat Co. has made its scanner attractive with muted colors, rounded corners, and smooth lines. The scanner sits at an angle, easing document handling and reducing its footprint on a crowded desk. The NeatDesk quickly captures both sides of documents with one pass, a convenience reserved for high-end scanners. And a unique insert makes it easier to scan thin receipts and business cards. The included software offers a sophisticated, though not always intuitive, system for organizing documents. The software also makes a reasonable if incomplete effort at turning scans into a text-filled database.

Dell Adamo XPS ($1,800). As the recession deepened this year, Dell bravely announced the latest in its increasingly bold PC designs. The Adamo's jaw-dropping thinness bests the MacBook Air, though the Dell is longer and wider. The Adamo's slimness is made possible by a keyboard and main case that appear to fold into the 13.4-inch screen. Even opening the laptop case is slick, with the clamshell remaining tightly closed until a finger swipe starts the screen swinging on an unusual hinge that also lifts the main case for extra cooling. Specs are respectable for an ultra-thin model. The price is steeper than comparable Windows models, but bragging rights never come cheap.

[The Adamo seemed ill-timed when announced last spring.]

Sonoro Elements W ($500). European styling from German maker Sonoro includes a glossy lacquer and acrylic finish to set the Elements W apart from other Internet radios. The compact case packs an FM radio and WiFi antenna that enable the device to pull in more than 13,000 stations, over the air and over the Internet. A brushed-metal wheel navigates the stations by categories that are displayed on a bright OLED display, while a radio-frequency remote works through walls. But attaching an iPod requires an optional dock that adds $100 to the already steep price tag. At least the base model includes an alarm clock with snooze function.