Geek gift guide 2013: From Legos to Leathermans

Last-minute gadget shopping got you down? Let our experts guide you to the most sought-after geek gifts for the technically inclined.

Everyone has a geek on their gift list -- a technology-oriented, smart person who can be very particular about his or her toys.

Chances are they have Xbox One or PlayStation 4 and can regale you with the pros and cons of each. The iPhone 5s or 5c? So three months ago.

Thus, we looked beyond the most popular consumer gadgets on the market to some more esoteric items that can make you look like a savvy star among your geek friends.

The Lego robots are coming

Yes, Lego.

The old-school plastic bricks have gotten a new lease on life for grown-up geeks with various deluxe sets devoted to everything from Star Wars to Breaking Bad. A plethora of these sets can be found on Amazon under the heading "Grown-Up Toys."

"Lego are all about building something," one of our geek consultants said. "They mirror coding in that you take building blocks and create something that is greater than the sum of its parts."

For the truly advanced Lego builder, there is also a product called Mindstorms that can be used to make static sculptures into programmable robots with ARM processor "brains." These are not for the faint-hearted gift-giver, however; Mindstorms retails for $350 and higher.

If the geeks you know aren't particularly into creating their own robotics, there are a number of pre-built ones also available, such as artificial intelligence remote control cars, drones and even robot turtles.

"These things are super slick!" another of our tech-savvy advisers raved.

Television and the Internet: Staples of geek life

You may think you've seen it all when it comes to Internet streaming devices for television, but Google has turned heads this year with its Chromecast, which plugs into any HDTV and retails for just $35.

"Apple TV is limited on apps. Chromecast can also mirror your computer's Chrome video output to a TV -- think outside standard audio/video and into business apps," said one geek gift adviser who already has a Roku and an Apple TV, but still covets a Chromecast.

Chromecast automatically allows the use of a smartphone as a remote control, but geeks may also enjoy building their own remote using a Web-based tool called iRule Builder.

Another phenomenon that has lit up the Internet this year is Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a virtual currency that uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks.

"Bitcoin extends the open source mentality into one's personal finances, allowing an 'open market' that mirrors the open software geeks use at work and for play," one of our geek gift guides said. "The community aspect, the fluctuations and user-driven valuations and so forth, are all classic geek."

Finally, there's always good old Amazon, whether it's gift cards for e-books or perhaps a minimum server package on Amazon Web Services for developing projects in a geek's free time.

The greatest gift of all: Peace and quiet

Top-shelf noise-cancelling headphones such as Beats by Dre or the Bose QuietComfort line are a must-have for geeks on the go. Whether it's for music that helps meet a coding deadline, instruction or podcasts for extending knowledge and skills, or just drowning out noise, headphones are critical geek gear.

"Once you experience a pair of noise-cancelling headphones on a three-plus hour airplane ride, you will never travel without them again," said one of our gift advisers, who added that they help maintain "sanity."

Still stumped?

If none of those gift ideas fits the bill, a good multitool, such as a Leatherman Skeletool CX or Gerber Cable Dawg might.

"Most IT guys I know carry a multi-tool of some kind," a geek gift adviser said. "There are just too many instances during the day where the quick screwdriver is necessary."

Our advisers also recommend an ergonomic keyboard, a subscription to the Spotify online music-sharing service or Leap Motion, a device that allows a geek to control a computer in a three-dimensional way, using hand movements.

Wearables are also big this year, including smart watches, a Fitbit wristband or a Jawbone wristband.

If all else fails, according to one of our geek advisers, there's always the tongue-in-cheek option of an NSA surveillance protection kit.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchCloudComputing. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTTon Twitter.

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