2008 green gift guide for geeks

A wealth of presents await the eco-minded tech enthusiast

Wouldn't you know it? Another holiday season is upon us, which means it's time to scour stores and Web sites for gifts to bestow upon friends, relatives -- or oneself.

But what's that you say? You're a tech enthusiast who's resolved to invest only in eco-friendly wares? Well, rest assured that there are plenty of gifts suited for green geekery.

[ For more gift ideas, check out InfoWorld's 2008 geek gift guide and Vintage geek gift guide. | Check out last year's green gadget guide for geeks.]

Holding a cell phone in your hand and talking as you drive is downright dangerous, which makes hands-free Bluetooth-powered alternatives a smart idea. Even smarter: a hands-free, Bluetooth product that runs on so-lar energy. The Anycom Solar Car-Kit fits that bill splendidly.

Anycome Solar Car Kit
Anycom Solar Car Kit

The Anycom Solar Car Kit conveniently affixes to your windshield with suction cups, enabling you to have cell-phone conversations while keeping your hands on the wheel. Not only does its rechargeable lithium polymer battery provide up to 15 hours talk time; it also has a high-performance so-lar panel on the back, capable of soaking up sunlight to power your calls. With sufficient sunlight, three hours of charging will provide 30 minutes of talk time.

Pricing for the Anycome Solar Car-Kit starts at around $56.99.

Apple MacBook Air

If your OS of choice is Mac instead of Windows, here's a tasty green Ap-ple for you to sink your teeth into: the slick, slim MacBook Air. The slen-der machine weighs in at a mere three pounds and measures 0.16 inches at its thinnest point. That reduced size mean it contains fewer plastics and other non-renewable resources than other machines on the market.

Among its other green bragging points, the MacBook Air has a recyclable aluminum enclosure, as well as a mercury-free LCD display with arsenic-free glass. Inside, the system contains no brominated flame retardant, and the cables are PVC-free. The system also complies with the European Un-ion's Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS). These green criteria and other have earned the system a Gold rating from EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool), which grades computing products based on their greenness.

The lean, green machine consumes the least power among all Macs: It can run for five hours without its batteries needing to be recharged.

The MacBook Air is powered by a 1.6 GHz or 1.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 4MB L2 cache and includes 2GB of memory and a 120GB hard drive as standard features.

Pricing for the MacBook Air starts at $1,799.

Like other good things, green computers come in small packages. In fact, a minute form factor is one of the eco-friendly selling points of Dell's Hybrid Studio Desktop computer. The sleekly designed system is 80 percent smaller than standard desktops, which means it contains less plastic and other non-biodegradable materials than its rivals. Moreover, the machine surpasses the requirements of the RoHS.

dell studio hybrid
Dell Hybrid Studio Desktop

Adding to the Hybrid Studio's green appeal is its high level of energy efficiency: Consuming 70 percent less power than a typical desktop, the machine surpasses the requirements laid out by Energy Star for desktops. These traits help earn the machine a Gold rating from EPEAT.

Don't let this system's green pedigree or minute size fool you, though: It's a highly capable computing machine, designed to be muscular enough to run Microsoft's weighty Vista Home Premium operating system. It includes up to a 4GB 667MHz Intel Pentium Dual Core processor, up to 320GB of storage space, a CD/DVD writer, built-in wireless networking capabilities, and optional Blu-Ray functionality and TV tuner.

A rainbow of colorful, interchangeable sleeves is available for the Dell Studio Hybrid, though if you want to be extra eco-friendly, you could opt for one made from bamboo.

Pricing for the Dell Studio Hybrid starts at $499.

HP TouchSmart
HP TouchSmart IQ500 series

One of the interesting features of the TouchSmart is that it features HP software designed specifically for touch. A finger tapped or swept across the high-resolution screen delivers quick access to information. Without using a keyboard or mouse, you can play music and create playlists, zoom in or out of photos, and quickly check the weather or watch TV.

The environmental advantages of the TouchSmart are many. To begin with, the machine itself uses 55 percent less metal and 37 percent less plastic than standard PCs and monitors. Moreover, HP's power management technology provides up to 45 percent energy savings compared to PCs without power management enabled. The system complies with the RoHS directive and has earned a Silver rating from EPEAT.

The TouchSmart IQ500 series is available with two display sizes, 22 inches and 25.5 inches. The machines feature 4GB of memory, a media card reader, and a large-capacity, high-speed hard drive. The system also includes a wireless keyboard and integrated WLAN. Depending on which model you opt for, the computer comes equipped with a TV tuner and Blu-Ray; some models are also wall-mountable.

Pricing for the HP TouchSmart IQ500 series starts at $1,299.

Whether you're driving, cooking, or juggling, being able to talk on your cell phone using a headset-free handset is the way to go. And what better way to add to that convenience than by reducing the need to charge your headset from the wall?

iqua 603 sun handset.jpg
Iqua 603 Sun Bluetooth Headset

The Iqua 603 Sun Bluetooth Headset is the first solar-powered Bluetooth headset in the world. This wireless device has a photovoltaic cell that uses any available light -- outdoors and indoors -- to charge itself and extend its operation times. The 603 Sun offers about 12 hours of phone time with a standard charge.

The Iqua 603 Sun Bluetooth Headset lists for $99.99.

The Vers Audio 2X is a minute iPod docking sound system with two three-inch speakers, yet it produces a rich, natural full-range sound, great for the kitchen, den, or office. Its extended 14-function remote gives users a high degree of control over their iPod menu and playlist navigation functions, as well as standard audio functions, from up to 25 feet away.

Vers 2X
Vers 2X

There's a significant different between the Vers 2X and its rival speaker docks: its casing is made from wood, one of the most renewable resources available. Tree-lovers, take heart: The eucalyptus and pine wood stock used for the system walls comes from locally sourced and managed plantations; all the trees that are harvested are replanted. In building Vers systems, the entire tree - roots, trunk, bark, branches, and twig -- is used.

Adding to the system's green resume, it complies with the RoHS. The company doesn't add formaldehyde to its wood, either. Additionally, the Vers 2X system is designed for easy disassembly, making it easier to recycle at the end of its life.

List price for the Vers 2X is $179.99.