Future perfect: Who says you can't please everyone?
Five pages of the best new gadgets for the whole family. Compiled by David Phelan. Photography by Lee Hacker
Saturday 03 November 2007
Toshiba Qosmio G40 laptop, £2,300
Beautifully designed, the G40 has a huge hard drive (400Gb) and its 17-inch screen is great for playing HD-DVDs. Sound is strong thanks to the built-in Harman Kardon speakers. Oh yes, you can use it for work as well.
Toshiba Computers (08704 448943; www.toshiba.co.uk)
Nokia N95 8Gb mobile phone, free on some contracts
This upgrade to the popular N95 retains the original's cutting-edge camera and GPS receiver for satellite navigation and improves everything else. The screen is bigger, the two-way slide mechanism is smoother than before and there's 8Gb of storage space for your music and videos.
Nokia (0870 500 3110; www.nokia.co.uk)
Logitech MX Air Rechargeable Cordless Air Mouse, £99.99
This cordless mouse is aimed at couch potatoes who use their computer as a media player. On the desk it works as a regular laser mouse; a motion sensor means you can sit at a distance from your PC and wave it around like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.
Unlike most Bluetooth wireless headsets, this one is easy to set up and use. Battery life is exceptional, noise-cancelling systems are excellent, and it looks great, too.
Carphone Warehouse (0800 925 925; www.carphonewarehouse.com)
Philips SHN9500 noise-cancelling headphones, £150
Noise-cancelling headphones are ideal for watching in-flight movies. These are exceptionally comfortable, work really well and even have a mute button so you can hear when the stewardess asks, "Chicken or beef?"
Slingbox Pro, £199.99
Connect the Slingbox to a personal video recorder, a DVD player or even a home security camera, and you can access the device whether you're upstairs or on the other side of the world. Slingbox streams the video to the internet and you (and only you) can watch it on your laptop.
Palm 500, £220
The latest smartphone from Palm is small and neat, and if you want a device that will check to see if you have e-mail, this is a simple but effective option.
Vodafone (08080 365366; www.vodafone.co.uk)
Sky HD Designer Box, £199-299 plus monthly subscription
If you have an HD-ready TV, you need a high-definition source such as Blu-ray, HD DVD or HD broadcasts to make the most of it – such as Sky HD, which includes movies and sports channels. Now you can choose from this series of limited-edition Sky HD boxes to slip under the TV, from Giles Deacon, Jonathan Saunders, Gareth Pugh, Preen and Basso & Brooke.
Sky Digital (08702 424 242; www.sky.com/designerbox)
Archos 605 PMP, from £140
PMP stands for Portable Media Player, which lets you watch video and listen to music. The 605 has a 4.3-inch touchscreen and because it also has Wi-Fi built in you can stream videos from your PC. With the optional dock connector you can also record programmes from the TV, ideal if you want to catch up with last night's telly on the train to work. Available in 4Gb, 30Gb and 160Gb capacities.
Archos (0870 609 1263; www.archos.com)
Apple iPod touch 8GB £199, 16Gb £269
The latest iPod sounds great and looks even better. The touch-sensitive screen, at 3.5 inches, is big enough to watch video on or display photos. It also has Wi-Fi built in so you can surf the internet easily. There's even a dedicated YouTube application so you can stream video to the phone. Battery life is decent and the 8Gb flash memory is enough for 2,000 songs, the 16Gb doubles that. Sensational.
Ted Baker Button mobile phone, £99.99 on pay-as-you-go
Samsung makes the inside of this phone, but the chic casing is designed by Ted Baker, including the navigation pad styled to look like a clothing button. Although it's small, it's a 3G handset so it's capable of fast data transfer. There's a 2-megapixel camera and a decent MP3 player included, making the Button an efficient and good-looking phone.
Carphone Warehouse (0800 925 925; www.carphonewarehouse.com)
Sony T70 compact camera, £229
Cute and effective, the T70 has plenty of features, including face detection with the added sophistication of smile shutter – if the camera spots your subject smiling it takes a picture automatically. The camera's 8.1-megapixel sensor delivers huge detail and the 3-inch touch-sensitive screen makes it easy to use. Tap the screen and the camera focuses on that part of the image.
Sharp Music System for iPod, £90
There are plenty of iPod docks to choose from, but this one looks cool enough to please the most demanding teenager. It's available in black or white and if your MP3 player doesn't fit the cradle, you can connect it to the Aux In socket (though you'll need to buy the cable for this). Extremely simple to set up and operate.
PicoZ Micro Helicopter, £19.95
Weighing just 10g, the palm-sized Micro Helicopter has an infra-red remote control that also serves as the charger. Connect the polypropylene foam flier to the charger and half an hour later you'll be rewarded with 10 minutes' flying time. There's even a blue strobe light on the 'copter which lights up as you take it for a spin.
Sun Jar, £18.95
It looks like a traditional frosted glass jar. In fact it has a solar panel inside. During the day you place it in direct sunlight so it charges up as though it were collecting the light. It knows when daylight is failing and lights up at dusk with a gentle warm glow. Cute and effective.
Sony DVP-FX850 portable DVD player, £249.99
Sony's portable DVD player has a pivoting 8-inch screen that can swivel to any position. This, along with twin headphone sockets and the six-hours battery life make it good for in-car use. The screen makes movies gleam with bright, rich colours. There's a USB socket to attach a memory card and play photos and MP3s.
Horizon H Racer and Hydrogen Station, £74.99
Fill the power plant with water, hook it up to the solar panel and leave in the sun for a few hours. This turns the water into hydrogen and you pump the gas into the car. Both fun and educational, because of the process of turning water into power and because the car comes in kit form.
Nintendo DS Lite, £94.99, silver £99.99
Now available in black, pink, white or silver, this handheld console is a joy. It has two screens, one of which is touch-sensitive so you can tap or draw on the screen with your finger or a stylus to interact with the game. Games are innovative, like Brain Training which poses puzzles to keep you mentally nimble, or Nintendogs where you raise a pup.
For a greener world
Brita Edition Jug, £39.99
Bottled water is tasty, but damaging to the environment. Choose a water filter and use tap water instead. The Edition is a glass jug designed to fit into the fridge door but holds 1.2 litres of filtered water. The Maxtra filter needs to be changed every four weeks, and an electronic cartridge indicator in the lid reminds you to do this.
0870 487 1000; www.brita.co.uk
Knowledge is power, and with the Wattson you can know your power consumption, too. Connect the transmitter to the cable at your fuse box and watch how your power use goes up and down as you turn appliances on and off. A figure lights up on the top of the Wattson to give you the lowdown on how much your annual consumption will cost, and the lights glow blue or red depending on whether you're a low or high power user.
Roberts Wanderer wind-up radio, £34.99
This dinky radio is made by the British stalwart Roberts and it's a good-looking, great-sounding model. Battery life is decent rather than outstanding but this is a great addition to the world of self-powered radios. One minute's wind gives 30 minutes of radio and if you can't be faffed with winding you can fall back on batteries instead. Plus, there's a built-in lamp and even an emergency buzzer.
Tvonics DVR-FP250 Freeview PVR, £189.99
This gadget is green because it has exceptionally low power consumption in standby. It's also one of the best-looking PVRs available. A PVR is a personal video recorder and works like a VCR but uses a hard disk so you don't have to scrabble for tapes when you quickly need to record something. Plus, you can pause and rewind live TV. This one has a 250Gb hard drive, enough for 125 hours of TV. The remote control (pictured bottom right) allows for easy programming.
www.tvonics.com; 0870 80 30 551
Solar Technology Freeloader, £22.95
Free energy that doesn't pollute can only be a good thing and that's what the Freeloader is. Place it on a windowsill and leave for five hours or so and it'll have charged from the sun, ready to trickle its power into a mobile phone, iPod, digital camera and so on. Adapters are included for Nokia N series and other mobiles, TomTom sat navs, Nintendo DS and more.
For the sound and vision connoisseur
Fatman iTube iPod speakers, £399
Valve-equipped audio equipment produces a characteristically lush, silky sound that is difficult to replicate using transistors. The Fatman comes with a valve amplifier, a snazzy iPod dock, an extra input for other MP3 players, two punchy bookshelf speakers and a remote control. With the bass end upped a little, the Fatman makes music come alive with a rich, clear and spacious sound.
Fatman (01462 492 090; www.fat-man.co.uk)
Philips Aurea 42-inch HD TV, £3,500
Philips developed the Ambilight TV – coloured lights which lit the wall behind the TV and changed colour according to what was on screen. Remarkably enough this strange idea works amazingly well, making watching TV a much more immersive experience. This latest model is the most stylish yet and looks great even when it's turned off. LCD screens need image processing technology to make their content look good. Philips has some of the best processing systems available, and the Aurea manages to make even the fastest-moving action sequences look smooth. Outstanding.
Philips (01293 776 675; www.philips.co.uk)
BT Vision, box free, connection fee £30
BT's new box to go under your TV includes a Freeview tuner and a hard drive to record up to 80 hours of programmes. Press the record button twice and it'll automatically record a whole series. Plus, there's programming on demand: stream movies, and TV shows over the internet to the telly. Movies cost from £1.99 and there are monthly entertainment packages, too. You'll need BT Broadband and the BT Home Hub in order to sign up. There's lots of sport, too – Premier League games are shown in full a few hours after kick-off (from £1.99 each).
BT Vision (0800 917 7611)
413 Vita Audio R2 radio, £249
This elegant table radio looks stylish and has outstanding sound quality. The casing is super smooth to the touch. There are 10 radio presets and an option for wide stereo sound. It's easy to use, and the tone, both on FM and digital is excellent. There's a remote control and a line input to connect an MP3 player.
Vita Audio (01702 601 410; www.vitaaudio.com)
USB Turntable, from £89.95
If you still have piles of LPs lying around that you just don't get to play any more, digitise your musical library for your MP3 player. It's not as painful as it sounds – all you have to do is label tracks individually and the software converts the music to a different format. You can clean up the sound to remove scratches, then download a free program from the internet and convert to MP3. A thoroughly satisfying process.
Denon DHT-FS3 Piano Black X-Space Surround, £700
If you want sound as sharp as your flatscreen TV looks, the Denon soundbar is designed to give near-surround effect without rear speakers. There's just the main unit containing six speakers and a cute subwoofer. The X-Space Surround technology inside creates a wide sound so that you don't have to sit dead centre to get the most from it. It looks good and sounds mighty impressive.
Denon (01234 741 200; www.denon.co.uk)
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