Gadgets & Gizmos: O2 X4
Sony DCR-PC53E
Pure Sonus 1XT
JBL Encounter
Canon Ixus 700

Charlotte Ricca-Smith reviews the best new products


O2 X4, £200 (pre-pay), 0870 225 7879;
www.o2.co.uk

O2 X4, £200 (pre-pay), 0870 225 7879; www.o2.co.uk

O2 may be a latecomer to the 3G market, but it seems to be one of the few manufacturers to understand what consumers want from their mobiles - and contrary to early advertising campaigns, it isn't video calling. So the X4 has ditched this feature in favour of a much more compact handset, which is a far cry from other super-sized 3G models. But it does offer a 1.3-megapixel camera, which takes pretty decent pictures, as long as the lighting conditions are good (its flash seems to be redundant).

But its big attraction is that you can use it to access the recently improved O2 Active Portal, where you can download or stream film previews, music videos, sport, news and more. And its 262,000-colour screen is all the better to view them on.

It also has an MP3 player - and with its USB cable you can get your tunes straight from your computer. It has 10-megabyte of on-board memory, and comes with an additional 64-megabyte memory card, which is enough to keep you entertained on the daily commute.

A nice looking, well-made phone that has all the favourite 3G features, without the added bulk.

Sony DCR-PC53E, £450, 08705 111999; www.sony.co.uk

This is the smallest miniDV camcorder in the world, according to the blurb, and I can well believe it, as it's not much larger than the DV cassette it uses. But, despite its diminutive dimensions, its design isn't very ergonomic and it is awkward to hold - although the manual does show you how, but should it have to?

Thankfully, from here on things get much easier. It has a generous three-inch LCD touch screen, and is incredibly easy to follow, despite its numerous functions and features (white balance, spot meter, spot focus and exposure to name a few). But if you want to keep things really simple, just press the "easy" button for instant access to basic operation. All you have to do is point, zoom (using the powerful 120x digital zoom) and shoot. The large screen is also great for replaying footage - just stick it in its cradle and you've got your own, miniaturised film show. You can also record on to Sony's Memory Stick Duo for easy transfer to your computer.

On usability, functionality and price, the PC53E is hard to fault - if only it felt more comfortable in the hand.

Pure Sonus 1XT, £119, 08456 049 049; www.johnlewis.co.uk

As more and more digital radios appear on the market, it is increasingly difficult for manufacturers to be heard - which, I assume, is why Pure has launched a DAB radio that can shout down all the competition. That's right - it talks. Or maybe I'm just being cynical, as the Royal National Institute of the Blind was involved in the development of the Sonus 1XT. And it will make life a lot easier for those visually impaired. Using a human voice (you can pick male or female), it tells you the available stations as you scroll through them, and if you tap the SnoozeHandle, you'll get a speaking clock; tap it twice and it lets you know the alarm settings. It can verbally guide you through setting up the radio and you can turn the speech off.

Another great idea for all users is its Volume Equalisation Technology, which enables the radio to monitor and adjust the audio levels of every station, so the volume stays at your chosen level.

Whether you think the Sonus is a gimmick, or a great idea, it is a well-made, well-thought-out radio with a reasonable price tag.

JBL Encounter, £105, 020 8731 4670; www.jbl.com

With the advent of internet radio and MP3 music, more of us are using our computers as hi-fis. The problem is, most computer speakers just aren't up to the job. The solution is to buy your own, like the Encounter. JBL is renowned for making quality products and this speaker system doesn't disappoint. It looks suitably high-tech - a bit like the love child of an iPod and those aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (ahh, so that's where the name comes from...). It consists of two small satellite speakers for your desktop, and a large amplifier and woofer combined that you can hide away by your feet. It takes seconds to set up and the sound is very impressive: loud and clear, with no distortion, and a sub bass that could seriously upset the neighbours. Interestingly, the music doesn't sound like it's coming from the speakers - but from your computer

My only gripe is that the bass and treble controls, along with the on/off button, are on the back of the amp/woofer unit, which is tucked away under your desk, so not very accessible. But for the money, you won't find a better-looking, better-sounding speaker system.

Canon Ixus 700, £399, 08705 143723; www.canon.co.uk

Another month, another Ixus. This time it's the 700, with - yup, you've guessed it - 7.1-megapixels, which produce stunning photos. For the time being, it's Canon's flagship model, and with its brushed stainless steel finish and contoured design, it certainly looks the part - and it feels reassuringly heavy. It isn't shoddy on features either. It has a 3x optical zoom, USB 2.0 connection, VGA video clips at 30 frames per second and PictBridge functionality, which enables you to print pictures directly from a compatible printer. Its two-inch LCD screen is great for taking and viewing your images, but if light conditions aren't ideal, its QuickBright function takes the screen to maximum brightness for shooting outdoors, while a Night Display option improves visibility.

For the budding photographer, it has 14 different shooting modes and you can even play about with the colour options with its unique My Colours function. Or you can just keep it on automatic and let the 700 do the hard work for you.

Whichever mode you go for, you'll find the camera incredibly responsive (it doesn't suffer from the usual digital lag) and very easy to use. Grab one before it becomes last season's model.

Arts and Entertainment
TV Review: Sabotage, a meltdown and, of course, plenty of sauce
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100'Geography can be tough'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Louis van Gaal looks dejected after Manchester United's 4-0 defeat by MK Dons on Tuesday night
sport
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - Lewes / Brighton

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

PE Graduate?

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Are you a PE graduate looking for a ...

Primary Teacher

£90 - £135 per day + travel expenses: Randstad Education Newcastle: Key Stage ...

Humanities Teacher

£100 - £150 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Permanent Teacher of Humaniti...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?