Flash drives can be amazingly handy, but their small size can also make them a huge pain in the ass to find. Keep yours handy by making it a SanDisk Cruzer Orbit ($30-$50). This intelligent drive sports a circular design that makes it a snap to attach to key rings, carabiners, lanyards, and binders, and doubles as a protective mechanism for the USB connector. Available in 8, 16, and 32 GB capacities.
We don't expect there's a huge market for the Qumarion Humanoid Input Device ($TBA), but if you happen to be one of those people who could use it, it will likely be a game changer. Like the ubiquitous artist models, the Qumarion is a posable, human-like figure — but unlike the artist models, it communicates directly with a computer. As a result, you can use the Qumarion to move and pose on-screen 3D characters, making once challenging poses and movements as simple as adjusting an action figure. Great for animators, illustrators, or people who just enjoy collecting unusual gadgets.
Home studio recording just got simpler with the Propellerhead Balance ($450). This sleek, Red Dot-winning breakout box offers eight input connections — two high impedance guitar and bass inputs with pads, four line inputs, and two microphone preamps with phatom power — as well as balanced outputs and a powerful headphone amplifier. It connects to your computer via USB, and includes Reason Essentials, a fully-functional "basics"-style version of the company's award-winning Reason recording software. All you need are some instruments, a computer, and talent.
Whether you use iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, or plain ol' Winamp to play music on your computer, you can get more out of it with the Meridian Explorer USB DAC ($300). Hand assembled in the UK, this high-resolution DAC connects to your PC via USB, offering 24bit/192kHz native conversion capability, asynchronous data transfer, a built-in headphone amp, 3.5mm and optical audio outputs, and Meridian's resolution enhancement technology to ensure that your music sounds its best — no matter what the source.
Having used Apple's AirPort routers exclusively since they arrived on the scene over a decade ago, it'll take a serious contender for us to replace the white boxes next to our modems. The Almond+ Touchscreen WiFi Router ($100) might just be it. Forget the fact that it offers dual-band 802.11ac + 802.11n Wi-Fi for blazing fast speeds — something no Apple router can currently claim. It also features built-in support for the ZigBee and Z-Wave home automation standards, removing the need for a separate hub, and thanks to the built-in touchscreen, you don't need a separate controller, either. Don't feel like getting up to interact with your lights, outlets, and other sensors? An app for both iPhone and Android is planned to let you control the action right from your phone or tablet. Your move, Apple.
No, the LaCie Blade Runner Hard Drive ($300) doesn't come emblazoned with graphics from Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic. Instead, this limited edition hard drive's Philippe Starck design, which features an anthropomorphic metal interior and a cage-like shell, attempts to mirror the combination of human and machine discussed in the movie. Of course, computer peripherals generally need to do more than just look cool, and as such it also features 4TB of storage and a speedy USB 3.0 interface. Limited to just 9,999 worldwide.
Have some data that you need protected? Store it on an ioSafe Solo G3 Hard Drive ($400). This external USB 3.0 drive is both fireproof — up to 1550º for 30 minutes — and waterproof — down to 10 ft. for up to 72 hours. It's also nearly silent, compatible with Kensington locks and padlocks, and includes backup and encryption software. But the real kicker is the ioSafe Data Recovery Service, which provides a one-time data and hardware recovery, no questions asked.
While we love the stark aluminum look of Apple's products, the sheer precision can give them a cold feel. Add a bit of natural warmth back with Lazerwood Keys ($40-$45). Available for Apple's desktop and laptop keyboards, these precision-etched key add-ons are just the thing to humanize your otherwise perfectly sterile computing device. Choose between cherry or walnut.
Still wary of uploading your precious media and memories to a cloud service? Create one of your own with the LaCie CloudBox ($120-$180). Available in 1TB - 3TB capacities, this dead-simple device plugs into the wall and your router — using Ethernet — and in minutes appears on your Macs and PCs just like a normal connected device. Thanks to its UPnP capabilities, it can stream music, movies, and photos to devices like the Xbox 360 and iPad wirelessly, and can also provide streaming service over the Internet with its MyNAS feature. The handsome Neil Poulton design is just icing on the cake.
Although the name might be slightly confusing — if you're really designing intelligently, you're probably not using a mouse at all — but the Intelligent Design Titanium Mouse (€400; roughly $520) is sexy nonetheless. Crafted from grade 1 titanium and high quality plastic resin, the mouse features a seamless titanium exterior shell, a neodymium magnet scroll wheel, Bluetooth, and precise laser tracking.
It's inevitable: no matter how much you wash your hands, any keyboard you use day-in, day-out is bound to end up with all matter of crud lodged in between — and sometimes under — the keys. The Logitech Washable Keyboard ($40) takes care of this problem by allowing you to wash it off in the sink, while also offering a full compliment of F-keys, a number pad, a slim design, laser-printed key characters that won't fade over time, and a standard USB connection. Cheetos during an extended session of Diablo III? No longer a problem.
Need a bunch of redundant data storage, and need it to go? The Drobo Mini ($650) has you covered. Built from metallic carbon fiber with a soft touch finish, this sandwich-sized box holds up to four 2.5" drives — giving you a total possible capacity of 3TB — offers both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 connectivity, and, like the company's full-sized boxes, uses BeyondRAID technology to ensure that your data is safe, no drive configuration wizardry required.