Fast forward: Bright Ideas - Keeping up appearances

Product designers are getting seriously wacky in a bid to give their products an edge. By Martin Skegg and Michael Oliveira-Salac

Things aren't what they used to be - or at least they don't look it. Manufacturers are jumping on the design bandwagon and coming up with products that look good (or at least different) and work well. In some cases, the design is so striking it may be difficult at a glance to realise what they actually do.

iMac (right) Since Apple assaulted the computer market with the innovatively styled iMac, fans have been waiting for the next development. This brings a powered-up version with a faster 266MHz G3 processor and 6GB hard drive, but, more importantly, they now come in strawberry, lime, blueberry, tangerine and grape colours.

Price pounds 779 (plus VAT). For stockists and further information, call Apple on 0800 783 4846.

Miracle Brewzer (below) It might look like something that crash-landed at Roswell, but this is, in fact, a brewing kit. It uses the first-ever all-natural beer powder to which you just add water, and then wait for two weeks. There's no fuss with temperature-taking, sterilising and so on. A pint of beer costs around 65p, and by all accounts tastes like the real thing (beware the 4.5 per cent alcohol content). Price pounds 29.90 (including delivery); refills (10 pints) pounds 6.50, both available by mail order on 0870 600 2337.

Aiwa CSD-MD5 CD/MD (below) An example of the radical design currently afflicting hi-fi, the sleek styling is a definite move away from the ghettoblaster look. Most of the controls are hidden in a fold-out flap which smoothly glides open at the touch of a button. There is a radio, CD player and, in an effort to persuade us that the humble tape is redundant, a recordable MiniDisc. Looks good and doesn't sound bad either. Price pounds 300. For further information and stockists, call Aiwa on 0990 902902.

Power Macintosh G3 (left) The iMac might have drawn gasps for its innovative design, but serious computer boffins (those who use them for games, for instance) are more excited about the revamped G3. Its rounded corners and touchy-feely stand are backed up with faster processors, an easy-to-upgrade minitower (accessible and replaceable components) and up to a gigabyte of memory. What makes this machine a must-have for gamers is a high-performance ATI Rage 128 graphics board as standard. From pounds 1,069 (plus VAT). For stockists and further information, call Apple on 0800 783 4846.

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