Gadgets: PersTel DR-101 DAB digital radio
Sony Clie PEG-NX70V
Logitech Quickcam cordless
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Monday 27 January 2003
PersTel DR-101 DAB digital radio, £169, (0870 774 7474; www.perstel.co.uk)
With last year's onslaught of MP3 players, it makes a refreshing change to get something that you can take straight out of the box and enjoy. No burning CDs or downloading from the internet; just instant music of all varieties. Because this is essentially what digital radio offers you – 264 free stations of music and chat from around the world. Except now you can take this entertainment with you; about the same size and weight as a pack of cards, the DR-101 will slide into the tightest of pockets. The only problem arises when you have reception difficulties and need to pull out its telescopic aerial – just try not to stick it into the ears of your fellow passengers. But it is incredibly easy to use: within seconds I was bopping away to Justin Timberlake, and a minute later to a local Asian station. The LCD screen lets you know what you're listening to – it's able to show the station name and other programme information, such as artist and track title, if available.
Sony Clie PEG-NX70V, £450 (0870 542 4424; www.sony.co.uk)
Sony strikes gold again with the NX70V, which is one of only two PDAs (the other is the Palm Tungsten) to feature Palm OS 5 – a serious challenger to the Pocket PC operating system. The results are impressive: colourful, clear icons, simple short-cut menu and a powerful 200MHz processor making it quick and responsive when navigating through its applications (of which there are many). Besides the usual features there's a voice recorder, an MP3 player and a 10,000-pixel still and movie camera, the results of which can be stored on its Memory Stick. Splash out a bit more and you can buy Sony's Wi-Fi wireless LAN card, which slides into the back of the unit, providing e-mail and internet access. You can also sync it with Microsoft Outlook, although Mac users will have to get an extra software package. But the real head-turner here is this PDA's 320 x 480 colour screen that flips and rotates, turning it into a tiny laptop. Unlike so many novelty gadgets that place style before function, Sony manages a healthy dollop of both.
Logitech Quickcam cordless, £180, (01753 870900; www.logitech.com)
Once the domain of spotty teenagers and dodgy porn sites (or both), the webcam is fast becoming a popular choice for all the family. You can chat to your aunt in Australia or share your child's first smile without splashing out on expensive equipment. So why then would you choose to spend almost £200 on Logitech's latest webcam? Because it is cordless. While you previously had to organise any action around your computer, the Quickcam lets you roam around the house, videoing any activity you choose. The 25-metre range lets you create a gardencam, kitchencam, or even my roadcam, although other electrical devices can cause picture problems. I managed to get a reasonable picture through three walls and past my home entertainment system, and it looks suitably Star Trek when positioned around the home. Stills aren't bad for e-mail purposes, and its battery lasted the full five hours. It is also a breeze to set up, thanks to its helpful PC (only) installation process.
Motorola T720i, £80-£100 (depending on network) (0870 9010 555; www.motorola.com)
Determined to make a serious splash in 2003, Motorola announced its latest mobile range in Shanghai. The first phone to hit the high street is the T720i, complete with large colour-screen and digital camera attachment. The screen is impressive, making everyday tasks such as reading text messages a breeze. Motorola has also addressed the user interface, so that it is far easier to use, although it is still not as intuitive as those of the Scandinavian company they are still trying to take on. A great deal of thought has gone into the camera attachment, which allows you to swivel the lens 180 degrees between your face and the world around you, without flipping the image. Once you've snapped your picture, saving and sending it is easy – if you have actually got the photo: capturing the moment only happens if your subject is motionless. Best stick to still lifes.
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