Geek Gifts 2010: Programmable LED cap

The Programmable LED Cap is geeky, inexpensive, practical, and by far one of the most "novelty" type gifts that we've reviewed so far in 2010.

I like to accessorize just as much as the next geek, but sometimes those t-shirts with uber cool captions lose their magic after you’ve worn them at the office and around the house every week for the past two years. However, with the Programmable LED cap, you can create a brand new clever message to display every single day, if you’re so inclined.


  • Black hat with red LED scrolling sign
  • Velco strap in back for adjustable hat size
  • Displays your own custom message
  • Stores up to 118 characters
  • Re-programmable with easy on-board buttons
  • Adjustable scroll speed
  • Adjustable brightness
  • Low cost of $14.99

Package includes

  • Programmable scrolling sign hat
  • Two (2) CR2032 3v batteries
  • Operating instructions

What I like

  • Versatility: For the creative geeks, you can’t show off your imagination any better than this. Your words will be displayed in scrolling LED across the brim of your cap, so that everyone you encounter will be able to see how geeky and/or witty you are. And there are times when real geeks can’t communicate very well with mere mortals. Depending on the situation, you can let your hat communicate for you.
  • Form factor: A hat is practical. It can cover messy hair on days when you wake up late for work. It can help prevent heat from escaping through the top of your head on cold days. It can also be fashionable, as far as geek fashion is concerned.
  • Value: For $14.99, the Programmable LED Cap is a pretty sweet, economical gift for either yourself or the geeks in your life. If you (or the recipient) only plays with the cap for a few weeks and then it gets stuffed in a closet somewhere, under a bunch of old computer parts and tech manuals, you’re not out a bunch of cash.

What I don't like

  • Programming buttons: Sure, the features say that it’s re-programmable with easy on-board buttons, but there’s definitely a learning curve before you get it down, and those little buttons aren’t so easy to push. After several frustrating attempts to program "I love TechRepublic," I discovered that using the end of your fingernail works best.
  • Comfort: If you wear caps, you know that there’s a comfort factor to consider. I prefer smaller, fitted caps, because I have a little head. The Programmable LED Cap is more like a farmer's cap – it's got a big front area to make room for the display. And while the Velcro strap in the back allows you to adjust the size going around your head, it doesn't help with the overall fit or snugness. (If you're curious to see how the hat looks on me, watch this TR Hot 5 video from April 2010.)
  • Battery life: Before I go dissing the battery life of the two CR2032 3v batteries, I have to confess that I let the cap sit on my desk for a few months – after the novelty wore off. But when TR member gadgetgirl came to the TR Live 2010 event this past summer, she asked if she could borrow it for the Community Open Mic part of the conference. Unfortunately, the batteries had died, and you’d have to REALLY like the hat to go through the trouble of swapping out the old batteries for new ones.

Geek bottom line

It’s geeky, inexpensive, practical, and by far one of the most “novelty” type gifts that we’ve reviewed so far in 2010. In fact, several of the sites that were selling the Programmable LED Cap are out of stock. CPU Wholesale Computer Parts, Inc. currently has them for $14.99, so if this geeky gift fits your budget, I recommend that you order soon. Despite the cons I listed above, the Programmable LED Cap is fun – and fun trumps all.

Geek gift score (out of 5)

  • Fun factor: *****
  • Geek factor: *****
  • Value: *****
  • Overall: *****

Want more reviews of tech gadgets and gizmos? Download the PDF of TechRepublic's Geek Gift Guide 2010.