Christmas gift guide: Touch, tap and twiddle your way to techno-joy
Friday 02 December 2011
From silky sound systems to tactile tablets and fancy phones, here's something to stop every gizmo lover in their tracks
Kobo Vox ebook reader
Although rival Amazon's Kindle Fire colour ebook reader has no UK release date yet, Kobo's is already here. This has a regular colour LCD screen instead of the e-ink displays of some ebook readers, so it's not as easy to read in direct sunlight. The Android operating system has apps as well as over 2 million ebooks, many of which are free. You can expand the memory to store up to 32,000 books. The touchscreen can be sluggish and unresponsive, but this is still a capable and enjoyable device.
How much: £169.99
Where from: www.whsmith.co.uk
Loewe Soundbox tabletop music system
Where do you get your music from? The Soundbox has an FM radio, CD player and a dock for an iPod or iPhone, so most options are covered. There are even clock and alarm functions, so you can use it to wake you up, if you like. It's a stylish-looking beast and the wide stereo sound is rich and powerful. If you aren't mad on the colour of the top edge, don't worry, you can customise it with a choice of inlays.
How much: £459
Where from: www.loewe-uk.com
Bose Soundlink mobile speaker
The latest product from the brilliant boffins at Bose is this portable Bluetooth speaker that allows you to link your smartphone or tablet wirelessly wherever you are. As expected, the sound quality from the Soundlink is exceptional – meaty bass combined with a clarity of high- and mid- frequencies that puts many other Bluetooth speakers firmly in the shade. For the tech heads out there it achieves all this through "four low-profile neodynium transducers" and "dual opposing passive radiators". It's also been tested to resist salt, fog, sand, wind and moisture.
How much: from £259
Where from: www.bose.co.uk
Samsung Galaxy Nexus mobile phone
The Galaxy Nexus is the first smartphone to use the latest Android software, which makes it easier to understand and looks much niftier. The 4.65 inch display is spectacularly high resolution but the phone doesn't feel too big in the hand. There are neat additions like facial recognition to unlock the phone and near-field communication, the same technology used in the London Oyster card. It means you may one day be able to use your phone to pay for things.
How much: free on contract
Where from: www.three.co.uk
Apple MacBook Air
The MacBook Air is super slim and shockingly light. It comes in two screen sizes, 13 inch and the ultra-portable 11 inch version. Both come with keyboards which, apart from the smaller top row of function keys, is identical in size and comfort to the keyboard on the 17 inch MacBook Pro. The keys are backlit, which is a godsend when the room lighting is low. Unlike earlier editions, the current models are fast enough to be your only computer, and you're unlikely to find a better-looking machine. It's not cheap, but the aluminium casing and high-end components mean it's good value.
How much: from £849
Where from: www.apple.com/uk
Pure Evoke Mio by Orla Kiely
Combine Pure's pedigree for making DAB radios with Orla Kiely's design and you have the new Abacus flower print edition radio. It sounds great and the styling is beautiful, from the chrome folding handle to the leather effect front and walnut veneer cabinet. It has an alarm, a kitchen timer, and as new features become available you can update it by hooking it up to your computer via the USB socket – a simple but satisfying process. The screen is pin-sharp and easy to read and the radio sounds good, too. You can even use it to play back an MP3 player.
How much: £149.95
Where from: www.johnlewis.com
Orange San Francisco II mobile phone
The San Francisco is an affordable Android smartphone, even on pay-as-you-go. Orange offers some great specialities, like crystal-clear call quality when talking to other HD Voice users. It has a 5 MP camera, sharp 3.5 inch screen and an FM radio built in, with access to hundreds of thousands of Android apps. Until Christmas, it comes with free headphones worth £60.
How much: £99
Where from: www.orange.co.uk
Apple iPad 2
Tablet PCs are going to be big sellers this Christmas, so you may as well plump for the best. The iPad 2 is beautifully crafted with an aluminium back – protect it with a case like the stylish Knomo iPad 2 Folio (£49 from knomo.com). The iPad 2 has a 9.7 inch touchscreen with frame. Choose from sensible black or fashion-forward white. It's so enjoyable to use, so fast and responsive, it's hard to put down. You can watch movies, check your email, play games, write documents, read ebooks, and much more thanks to 140,000 dedicated apps.
How much: from £399
Where from: store.apple.com/uk
Cole & Mason Manhattan Electronic pepper mill
Technology isn't just there for faster computers and smarter smartphones: this pepper mill is a neat electronic upgrade for the dining table. The stainless steel case makes it look classy and the pleasure of grinding pepper corns with a thumb-press on the button is considerable. You can set how fine or coarse the pepper should be ground, and there's even a light so you can see what you're doing and don't over-season. Works with salt or other herbs and spices, too.
How much: £28.10
Where from: www.amazon.co.uk
Arcam rCube iPod dock
The rCube produces sensational sound that's all the more surprising because of the small box it comes from – it measures 200mm in each direction. It's very well-constructed, solid and heavy, which helps with the audio quality, but it's light enough to be portable. You can power it from the mains or from the built-in rechargeable battery, which lasts up to eight hours. Bass is strong and clear, though if you put the rCube in the corner of the room, you can press a button to lessen this if it's too much. There are sharply defined vocals and no distortion, even at high volume.
How much: £350
Where from: www.arcam.co.uk
Samsung MV800 compact camera
The Samsung compact is slim and highly pocketable. The 3 inch touchscreen display has a fluid, speedy interface that's easy to use. But the MV800's special feature is a hinge: the entire screen flips up through 180 degrees so you can take great self-portraits, instead of relying on guesswork. The camera has a 16-megapixel sensor and 5x zoom, plus plenty of highly useful features, like image stabilisation in case you're not as steady as you'd like to be when you're doing those self-portraits.
How much: £199.99
Where from: www.argos.co.uk
Zomm Bluetooth Wireless Leash
The Zomm aims to stop you from leaving your Bluetooth-capable mobile phone behind. Attach it to your key chain and if you go too far from your phone – you can set it at distances up to 30 feet – the Zomm will start vibrating, flashing and sounding an alarm. The central button quells the alarm turns it into a hands-free speaker kit. An app means you can use the phone to find your keys, too.
How much: £69.99
Where from: www.firebox.com
Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer
Want a big television but you don't have the room? Sony's latest gadget is a head-mounted display that claims to match the effect of sitting 20 metres away from a 750-inch cinema screen – apart from the popcorn. The headset has two small, yet amazingly detailed 0.7 inch screens that provide outstanding picture quality. The effect is completely immersive and the fast refresh rate makes it tremendous for 3D. A great way to catch a movie while the family hogs the TV for Strictly Come Dancing.
How much: £799
Where from: sony.co.uk
Dyson Hot fan heater
If you're tired of the smell of burning dust from most fan heaters, help is at hand. The Dyson Hot is quieter than most heaters and easier to clean. You can adjust the temperature precisely using the cute magnetic remote control. Results are good – a large room can be heated in no time. And in the summer you can use it to cool yourself down, too.
How much: £269.99
Where from: www.dyson.co.uk
This is a great gift for someone who just won't floss. The AirFloss is painless, simple and fun. There's a reservoir on the back that you fill with water or mouthwash. Then place the tip on the gum line between two gnashers and press the button. The liquid is shot out at speed, dislodging plaque and other nasties. It's powerful enough to remove plaque but gentle on your gums. The AirFloss is great for hard-to-reach parts of the mouth. The battery lasts around a week or two between charges.
How much: £54
Where from: www.amazon.co.uk
Revo Heritage internet radio
Internet radios don't come better styled than this. It's a solid, classic design with impressive sound that's rich, punchy and clear. Along with the 6,000+ internet radio stations from around the world available when it's wirelessly connected to your broadband network, there's also FM and DAB. You can download podcasts, and a discreetly placed dock means you can use the radio as an iPod player, too.
How much: £300
Where from: shop.monocle.com
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