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ACCESSORIZE: Gadgety gift ideas for the holidays

OK, so you've got your tablet, you've got a case, you're ready to go. Right? Wrong. Sometimes you need some additional materials, whether it's a nice stylus, a mouse or a keyboard or other fun gadget.

Holiday gift guide 2012

A quick guide to Network World's favorite gifts

This category is compiled with a bunch of gift ideas for items that are cool and that go along with other, bigger items (notebook, tablet, etc.). Many of these would make great stocking stuffers for the holidays.

Note: Products are listed in no particular order or preference. Prices are also rounded-up estimates from either the product's website or Amazon.com. Better deals may be offered online during the holiday season.

Targus Ultralife wireless mouse

$50

Wires are so yesterday. Targus piles on to the wireless trend with its Ultralife wireless mouse. As you unclutter your workspace, the Ultralife wireless mouse is a breeze to get started. Especially since you don't have that Christmas day letdown where a AA battery is actually included. In fact, it took longer to get the two-button mouse out of the packaging then it did to set up.

After installing the battery in the back of the mouse, just put the tiny receiver into your laptop's USB port and you are good to go. The mouse uses laser sensor technology with a 1200 DPI optical sensor. The only issue with the receiver is keeping track of it. If you don't keep it in your laptop at all times, then you'd think it is like finding one of those pump needles to blow up balls - a proverbial needle in a haystack. Targus ingeniously makes the receiver able to attach to the bottom of the mouse via a magnet to quell such fears. The only downfall is at almost $50, it seems a bit pricey than other wireless mice on the market.

- Ryan Francis

GoSmart Stylus 200 Series

$25

I've been searching for a stylus that would let me take notes and sketch on my iPad with the same ease I have with pen and paper. I want something that is well balanced, responds well to the tablet surface, maintains contact regardless of my hand position or speed, and allows precision.

The GoSmart stylus is my current favorite, and I've tried many. Initially, I was put off by the delicate, spiraled wire tip that looks quite fragile. The machining on the stylus is very sleek, and I didn't see a way to replace the tip. The packaging needs some more detail! A visit to the site reveals that the Teflon-coated tip is indeed replaceable for $6. And it is fundamentally sturdier and more flexible than it first appears.

Bolstered with that info, I gave it a bit of friendly abuse and was happy to see it held up well. The very thin wire is twisted into a flat disk shape with an open center. This allows you to see EXACTLY where the stylus will touch the iPad and allows for very precise line connections (if you're drawing, you'll know where to connect lines, for example).

When not in use, the magnetized barrel clings to the iPad and is a nice feature. Pricing is reasonable at $25, unlike some I've researched at $40 and up. This would make a great stocking stuffer for your favorite artist-nerd. (Note to Santa: I've already ordered mine).

- Mary Lester

Das Keyboard Model S Professional keyboard

$130

Das Keyboard continues to be one of my favorite peripheral companies - a few years ago they launched their all-black keyboard, which had no labels and was something that touch-typists like myself could brag about their skills. The company followed this up with its Professional line of keyboards, with mechanical keys that make the "clicky" sound, which should remind users of the "golden days" of typing on an electric typewriter or early computer models.

The latest version released this year is the Model S Professional, which continues to make improvements to the keyboard system. The German-engineered mechanical key switches are gold-plated, continuing to give tactile feedback that should appeal to hardcore typists. Other features include a USB 2.0 hub (the keyboard attaches to your computer via USB) that can power additional devices, and Media Control buttons that give you quick access to volume control, mute, stop, pause and "next track" or "previous track" for music applications.

Another nice feature is an extra-long USB cable - this model has a 6.6-foot cable that can help you place your keyboard more efficiently (if you like keyboarding farther away from your computer), or if you just want to have less clutter on your desk.

While the keyboard works with PCs and Macs, they do make a special Mac version. In my tests of this model (the PC one), the inclusion of a blue Function key made it more difficult for me to do the copy/paste keyboard commands I was used to with a previous keyboard. This slowed me down on some of my functions, but eventually you figure out the proper finger combinations. Knowing that there's a special Mac version that addresses this would be helpful if you are buying this for a Mac user.

If you want the benefits of the keyboard but don't want the clicky keys (I gotta admit, at times the clicking can get noisy), a "soft" version is available for $135.

- Keith Shaw

Targus Ultralife Stylus

$20

If you own a smartphone or tablet and are sick of getting fingerprints on the touch display all the time - or if you're using a drawing app and want a little bit more control of your strokes (let's face it, using your finger to draw things ends up making everything look like fingerpainting), then you'll want to pick up a stylus.

The Targus Ultralife Stylus is part of its new Ultralife design - the stylus here uses a soft rubber nub that makes contact with any capacitive touch device - you can use this with your smartphone, tablet or even a touch-based display (if you're using Windows 8 with touch). A bronze finish makes this more stylish than a plain-old plastic stylus, and the design lets you use this in two ways - you can hold like a pen (if you're using this with a smartphone or tablet) or hold the end of it like a musician's baton (useful for notebook or display monitor touchscreens).

A small magnet on the inside of the stylus lets you attach it to your tablet if you are prone to losing these types of things, but we found this most useful for our tablet - our phone was too small for attaching it like that (plus, our cover got in the way).

- Keith Shaw

Newer Technology NuScribe 2-in-1 touch screen stylus and pen

$20

Here's another stocking stuffer idea for anyone on your list who owns a smartphone or tablet. The NuScribe combines a stylus for using on those devices with a pen, which can be handy for those times when you go, "I have no pen!"

The Stylus part is a soft rubber nub that sits in the location where an eraser would normally go on a pencil, and the pen is a standard ballpoint-type pen. It's very thin - thinner than a normal pen, but can still write like you would with any other normal writing instrument.

The stylus part is handy on a smartphone or tablet if you get sick of constantly cleaning off fingerprint smudges on the screen, or if you have an app where you need the accuracy of a pen (drawing apps, handwriting apps, etc.).

The only odd part I discovered was when using the stylus, the pen was upside down - I kept feeling like the ink was going to run out of the pen. But that's probably not the case - I was just likely having flashbacks to my junior-high days when pens tended to explode if they weren't handled properly.

- Keith Shaw

Lunatik Touch Pen

$20 to $40 + shipping

No matter how proficient you are with your tablet and no matter how many note-taking and drawing apps you've downloaded, you will inevitably find yourself in need of a traditional pen from time to time. For a good-quality stylus that includes a great pen, check out the Lunatik. This is a well-tooled instrument with a soft, rubberized stylus tip and grip area that also includes a tiny hole for the writing point to emerge from and retract into. The pen tip emerges from the stylus by clicking the top of the barrel, just like you would on a normal pen.

It's convenient to use, and easy to switch from stylus to pen tip with a familiar gesture. The writing tip is a replaceable fine-point gel pen -- very smooth and responsive. The stylus tip is rather large it's the one drawback to this tool. The case is available with either an aluminum or plastic barrel. Both options come in several colors. When I am at a conference and need to minimize the amount of gear I'm schlepping, this is the stylus I grab.

- Mary Lester

Hand Stylus

$29.95 + Shipping

For note-taking, a small stylus tip is key. For longevity, a rubber stylus tip needs to be protected.The Hand Stylus does both with handsome, industrial panache.

The 4mm tip is the smallest rubber stylus tip I've found. The tip retracts into a knurled metal collar. Toss it into a bag or briefcase with no worries. The hexagonal barrel comes in comfortably-weighted anodized aluminum. The clip is magnetic and clings obediently to the iPad for convenience. For gift-giving, this stylus offers custom laser engraving, six barrel colors in either matte or gloss finishes.and arrives in beautiful metal case. Extra tips are available as well.

With more than 7,500 pledges, the HAND Stylus project ended as the most funded stylus ever on Kickstarter.com. Order one and you'll see why.

- Mary Lester

GoSmart Restpad mouse pad and wrist rest

$35

The Gosmart Restpad combines a mouse pad with a therabeutic wrist rest. When I was first handed the box, I thought, "This has got to be the silliest-looking mouse pad ever. They want me to review this? Who would want to use this, let alone purchase it for someone as a gift?"

How wrong I was. This device is like wearing an UGG boot on your wrist - for fashionistas or fan favorites of the Tom-Tom UGG, you know the comfort and softness that I'm talking about. The wrist rest is rounded and covered in "breathable sheepskin" at just the right ergonomic lift for my wrist. For maneuvering a mouse, it works just as well.

Because it has a larger surface than most mouse pads, the Restpad caused some co-workers to ask about this giant funny looking thing on my desk. Some even wondered whether it's too big for my desk. But I think they're just jealous.

The mouse pad comes in a variety of different color options as well, making this a stylish accent to your desktop as well as a comfortable one. As an affordable holiday gift for a co-worker or as a holiday grab item, I'd recommend this restpad - especially if they have ergonomic wrist discomfort from using a mouse all day long.

- Rari Hilditch

Kensington Presentair

$70

The Kensington Presentair is a Bluetooth-enabled presentation remote control (page forward, backward, etc.) that also includes a red laser pointer and a tablet stylus. The unit is powered via USB port with the included cable, and it comes with a handy carrying case. The unit is about the size of a giant ballpoint pen, or about the size/shape of a cigar. Four navigation buttons (up, down, left right) control the presentation as well as the laser pointer. The Presentair can also be placed in Media Mode, which lets you play/pause, stop and move to next track/previous track on any media playing app.

The tool is aimed at anyone who needs to present and wants these functions - the stylus tip is an add-on that seems to be there to give the Presentair something to do when it's not assisting with a presentation (or, for the growing number of people who are giving presentations off their tablets or smartphones).

I tested this with my MacBook Pro - connecting via Bluetooth was easy (consult the quick guide so you know how to press the buttons to get into pairing mode), and the system worked well enough. In music mode I had some issues with the left/right (next/back) buttons with my Spotify app - but in iTunes it worked just fine.

For anyone on your gift list who needs to give a lot of presentations and wants a handy stylus for their tablet as well (or if they just like harassing cats with a laser pointer), check this out!

- Keith Shaw

Dockem Koala Mount for tablets

$20

The Koala Mount answers a question that most people would never ask - "How can I mount my iPad on a wall?" The back part of the package gives at least four areas where you might want to mount an iPad - in the kitchen (for following recipes, I guess) at the gym (for viewing video content?), in the bedroom (alarm clock or videos) or in the office (as a second or third screen?). I'm sure there are more scenarios as well, but those four give you a good idea of the use cases.

Fortunately, the type of mounting provided by the Koala Mount is not permanent, and doesn't require screws or knowledge of drilling holes in walls. The package provides two mounts - you'd put one on the bottom left, and one on the bottom right side. Then you slide in the tablet and you're done.

The mounts attach to the wall via included 3M Command strips, which leaves no damage or residue if you want to remove the mount (you can use on painted walls, wood, metal and "most other smooth surfaces", Dockem says). The two pieces also means that you can adjust the width to fit the tablet you want to mount - so this also works with Android tablets or e-Readers if you want (the Dockem website has a full list).

I'm not completely sold on these as a gift idea - unless there's someone on your gift list that really needs to wall-mount their tablet.

- Keith Shaw

Brookstone Roll Up Keyboard

$60

If you need or want a keyboard to go along with your iPad but don't want a hard case that adds additional weight to your travel back, then check out this roll-up keyboard from Brookstone. Made of a flexible silicone, the keyboard can roll up quickly to store in a laptop bag, and the keys are water-resistant, so if you spill your coffee on it, it won't frazzle the keyboard.

The keyboard uses Bluetooth to wirelessly connect to your iPad (we tested with an iPhone 4 and it worked just fine too) or any other Bluetooth-enabled device (except for BlackBerry systems - sorry folks). It also comes with a mini-USB cable that is used to recharge the battery of the keyboard.

It's not the fastest keyboard in the world - touch typists might have to slow down a bit when using this - but it certainly can make typing out long emails or creating word processing-type documents a lot easier on an iPad than by using the device's on-screen keyboard. I'd recommend this keyboard if you plan a lot of typing on your tablet, and if you're concerned about spilling things or need a lighter keyboard option than the hard-case ones.

- Keith Shaw

iOmounts iOstand for iPad

$100

If you're looking for an extremely solid stand for your iPad or other large tablet (e-reader), check out this stand, which uses a very powerful magnet to connect your iPad to the stand.

You can tell it's a powerful magnet for two reasons. First, there's a warning label inside the box that warns you from keeping the magnet away from any electronic devices that have spinning hard drives (computers, older iPods). Newer tablets and computers that use either solid state drives or flash memory are fine to be near the magnet, and to attach to it as well. Second, the small red part with the magnet is very hard to remove from the metal orb at the top of the stand. When the magnet is attached to the orb and your tablet, you can be assured that the tablet is not going to fall off.

In order to mount a tablet onto the iOstand, you need to affix a small magnet to the back of your tablet. The company calls these iOadapts, and recommends that you attach these to a case rather than directly to the tablet. Why? The iOadapts use very strong 3M adhesives - anything you connect these to will be permanent. The company recommends against attaching to soft suede, leather or silicon type cases - look for a case that has a smooth and hard surface.

Once the adhesive sets (about four hours), you can then connect your magnets and mount the tablet onto the stand. The magnet that connects to the metal orb can rotate around, so you can adjust the angle of the tablet on the stand to fit your needs, whether you are setting this on a kitchen table to look at a recipe, or if you're using this to watch a movie or TV show in the living room.

The solid nature of the stand sets it apart from other iPad and tablet stands I've seen - if you're very picky about how you want to mount a tablet, these high-end stands should be on your wish list.

- Keith Shaw

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