Technology is inherently beautiful. It’s amazing, the things that can be done with tech. Like, you’re walking around with a tiny little device in your pocket that you can use to talk to someone on the other side of the world. It’s crazy. But just because the tech inside is beautiful doesn’t mean the outside has to be, since few are willing to sacrifice function for form.
Every once in a while, though, you get a gadget that hits that sweet spot encompassing both good looks and usefulness. And even less frequently, you get a gadget that includes some small brilliance of design that enables it to surpass merely good looking and become something unique. Yeah, in some cases you can probably get yourself something slightly cheaper that works just as well, but if you’re a connoisseur of technology that is both beautiful and functional, you won’t want to.
We’ve chosen nine of our favorite examples of technology that melds form with function, and most of them are even affordable enough for you to buy them for someone else. Or yourself. Check them out in the gallery below.
Logitech MX Air
A mouse that looks like a black and chrome spaceship? We’ll take it. Logitech’s MX Air has that spectacularly curvy shape because it’s designed to be used in your hand as well as on your desk. On land, it’s a two button laser mouse with a touch-sensitive scroll wheel and media controls, but hoist it into the air and a gyro takes over, giving you a mouse that you can operate in mid-air. The MX Air is designed for use with media center PCs or TVs where you want to be able to use a mouse, but don’t want to have to try to use the couch cushion as a mousepad, and once you get used to it, it actually works well.
Jabra Stone 2
Who would have thought that designing a Bluetooth headset that looks like a rock would come out so beautifully? The Jabra Stone only looks like a stone when it’s in one piece: there’s a base station of sorts, which contains a battery that can fully charge the headset several times over. The wisp of a headset is surprisingly comfortable (although it doesn’t look like it), and you control volume and answering by swiping your finger up and down the outside. You can also yell at it, and it’ll do what you say. Sometimes.
For something with “box” in the name, the Boxee Box isn’t very, uh, boxee. It sort of looks like it started off as a box and then partially melted before they finished with it. But it’s unique and refreshing, and we like it. You plug this thing into your TV, and it puts all of the Internet’s tasty media right there for you easily and seamlessly. Boxee has gone the extra mile to make sure that media designed for the Internet looks even better on your TV, and the box that’s not a box comes with a handy little remote with a full keyboard on the back, too.
It’s hard to make a solar panel sexy, since you’re somewhat constrained by the principle by which they operate, which relies on having as much surface area exposed to the sun as possible. The Solio Classic hides a trio of solar panels inside its body, which unfold outward in a spiral, and if you poke a pencil through the center, the Solio stands up to face the sun more directly. There’s also a lithium-ion battery stuffed in there (and a USB charging port), and it all folds back up into a compact, protective shape.
Until you get one of these, you’ll have no idea that you’ve ever needed one. The SpaceNavigator is a 3D navigation tool that works with applications ranging from Google Earth to Second Life, and it allows you to navigate around 3D spaces in a completely intuitive way. Grab on to that knobby thing, and pull, push, twist, and tilt to your heart’s content. With six different axes, its total dimensional freedom, and you can’t go wrong the brushed chrome base and blue LED backlighting.
LaCie External Drive
It’s easy to make an external hard drive, but it’s hard to make one that actually looks good. LaCie understands this, which is why they’ve outsourced their external drive case designs to other people who know what they’re doing, including Porsche (pictured above), Phillipe Starck, and Neil Pulton. If you’ve got a pile of these sitting on your desk, they might as well be easy on the eyes, right? You’ll pay a bit of a premium for the swank, but not so much of a premium that it’s not worth the upgrade.
Other computer manufacturers are starting to jump on the svelte laptop bandwagon, but nothing that they’ve come up with looks as good as the MacBook Air. I don’t even LIKE Apple (true story: Evan hasn’t written a single Apple post on DVICE. -Ed), and I’m still including it on this list, so that should tell you something. In fact, I don’t even know what to say about the MacBook Air. It’s functional. It’s beautiful. It’s very expensive. And it’s not likely that any of the slew ultrabooks you’re going to start seeing in the next year or so are going to look anywhere near this good.
Greensound Glass Speakers
First of all, you can’t afford these glass speakers. And second of all, there’s no way you can possibly afford these glass speakers, since they won’t tell you exactly how much they cost unless you ask. But they’re not just speakers encased in glass, the glass is the speaker: those big glass panels vibrate to generate sound. Those holes you see aren’t just for decoration; each one is drilled out with precision to tune the speaker.
Asus RT-N56U Router
Since wireless routers are, you know, wireless, strictly speaking there’s no reason why you can’t just hide them back where your power adapters live and cables and cords defy physics to create knots and tangles without ever moving. Or, you can just get a router that looks nice enough to sit somewhere prominent, like this one from Asus. It’s a dual-band N router that comes with a couple USB ports and some kind of “AI Radar” thing that helps boost signal strength. Just make sure not to plug anything into it, or you’ll spoil the look.