Gadgets & Gizmos: IRiver H10
Pentax Optio 750Z
Charlotte Ricca-Smith reviews the best new products
Wednesday 02 March 2005
IRiver H10, £199, 020-8960 6000;
IRiver H10, £199, 020-8960 6000; www.iriver.com
As more women are buying MP3s, the emphasis on players has shifted from massive hard drives to compact size, and as a result there is a current flood of five-gigabyte models on the market. The iRiver H10 is one of these new "minis", and comes in four colours. I had the pleasure of playing with the pillar-box red model, which certainly isn't for shy types, and I loved it.
Navigation is via a vertical touch-pad, which is suspiciously like the one found on the Creative Zen Micro. Coincidence? I'll leave that for you to decide. There are some nice extras such as a recordable FM radio, voice recorder, and you can also record directly from a CD player if you splash out on the optional cradle. But its star feature is that you can store and view digital photos on its colour screen, although at just 1.5 inches, you need to squint to see them. You can also view text files on it, but again its small screen makes for very limited reading.
Sound quality is far more impressive, which, combined with its good looks and added features, makes the H10 a serious contender in the mini MP3 market.
Nokia 7260, from free with contract, 0870 055 5777; www.nokia.co.uk
After last month's look at the avant-garde 7280, I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of reviewing the second family member in Nokia's new "fashion" range. But after the poor performance of its skinny sibling, the 7260 was a joy to use. Essentially, it is a standard Nokia handset but in very funky clothing, reminiscent of flashing dancefloors and glitter balls. Unlike most fashion models, the 7260 carries a bit of extra weight, but it fits nicely into the hand and into most jean pockets, and the build quality is great.
Nokia has chucked in some nice extras, such as an FM radio (note the nylon-coated headphones, complete with matching retro design on its control), voice recorder and VGA camera with a 15-second movie capability. But the Oscar for best supporting role goes to the clothes- and shoe-size converter, which clearly has the fashion crowd in mind. And as you'd expect from Nokia, navigation is delightfully straightforward.
A great handset for those who want simplicity with a touch of sparkle.
iPod Shuffle, £69 (512MB) or £99 (1GB), 0800 783 4846; www.apple.com/uk
Keeping up with the Joneses has never been easy, so I don't envy the task of MP3 manufacturers trying to compete with Apple. Just when they think they're giving the Mini iPod a run for its money, Apple goes retro and launches a USB flash-memory stick. Around the size of a cigarette lighter, the Shuffle holds either 512 megabytes or one gigabyte and there is no screen. So how do you select tracks? You don't, hence the name. Fill it up with up to 240 songs (the 1GB model) and it randomly selects the tunes. It has the familiar iPod wheel enabling you to pause, repeat and skip if the Shuffle reads your mood wrong, and it has a slider on the back so you can play the songs in the order the artist intended. Syncing the Shuffle to your Mac or PC is just as straightforward: plug it into the USB port and drag and drop the tunes you want to hear.
Cheap, simple but effective, the Shuffle is a blatant swipe at the bottom of the MP3 market and you just know that Apple will pull it off.
Siemens SK65, from free with contract, 0870 533 4411; www.siemens.co.uk
If you've been here before you'll know I'm a big fan of the Blackberry, a handy device that provides instant access to e-mail on the move. Now, for the first time, the technology has been incorporated into a standard handset - although the SK65 only just makes it into the mobile phone category. It is longer, chunkier and heavier than most mobiles, to allow room for its big screen (all the better to see your e-mails with) and full qwerty keyboard (all the better to write your replies with), which is revealed by twisting the top of the phone 90 degrees. You then type e-mails using your thumbs, which is fast and effective thanks to the large and responsive keys.
Despite its interesting swivel-design, everything else about the SK65 is very businesslike. Its build is solid and dependable; its looks, stylish and understated. There is no camera, as many paranoid businesses won't allow them on their premises, but it does have 30 megabytes of memory, Bluetooth and all other standard features. As a business tool, the SK65 is hard to fault, but you'll probably want to keep another, smaller handset for personal use.
Pentax Optio 750Z, from £332, 01753 792731; www.pentax.co.uk
The 750Z combines classic good looks with all the fancy features of a decent digital, including seven megapixels, a 5x optical zoom and flip-out LCD screen, which allows viewing from almost any angle or position without glare. Its disadvantage is that the screen is a bit on the small side (just 1.8in). Build quality is also less substantial than its looks lead you to believe, largely due to the fact that Pentax used plastic instead of metal on much of its design - not what I'd expect from a camera at this price.
In terms of functionality, however, it's hard to fault - once you've got used to its dawdling start-up time of about three seconds. There are more features that you can shake an SLR at, including aperture and shutter priority, white balance, double-exposure capability, voice recording, VGA video and world clock with not one, but three, alarms. What's more, the menus are clear and easy to follow, and you can customise the controls so that the function button provides instant access to all the major features.
If you're after a digital that performs like an SLR, the 750Z is a good, if slightly expensive, choice.
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