The top 10 gadgets we'll be lusting after in 2006

Smaller, lighter, faster, better, clearer, sharper, easier and - in some cases - cheaper. David Phelan selects the best
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Oregon Scientific Music Sphere

One of the more sophisticated new ideas that will arrive in force in 2006, the Music Sphere is a neat and stylish way to play your music all over the house, or even the garden. There are more hi-tech ways to do this, such as the excellent systems from Philips which stream music from your PC to different rooms, even playing different tracks simultaneously, but this is a simpler, more down-to-earth option. A little smaller than a football, the Sphere connects wirelessly with a base unit that plugs into your hi-fi. Then you can place the Sphere up to 30 metres away, and because you're not tied down by cables (it has a rechargeable battery) you can have it in places wires usually don't go, such as the bathroom or garden. It sounds great and is very versatile - up to three audio sources can be connected at the same time, and controlled from the Sphere. There's also the iSphere, with a slot for your iPod.

Music Sphere £179.99, iSphere £199.99, 0871 222 1966,

Microsoft Xbox 360 games console

The most advanced games console in the world (until the PlayStation 3 arrives next spring) launches in Europe on 2 December. It has an elegant wireless controller, is sensational for playing fast games over the internet, and there are some breathtaking new games. Project Gotham Racing 3 is an astonishingly real driving game, Perfect Dark Zero is a first-person adventure with merciless shooting, and Kameo is a brightly coloured romp in which you assume different shapes, including that of a large, blue ice warrior and a waddling Venus flytrap. You can use it as a DVD player, though it can't play Blu-ray discs (one of the two high-definition successors to DVD) as the Sony machine will. Still, Microsoft says that doesn't matter, as it will be a long time before games need more disc space than DVDs offer. Many games for the original Xbox will work on the 360, and the internet gaming service pits strangers of equal abilities against regional, national and continental opponents. £280,

Motorola PEBL

Having taken the higher end of the mobile- phone world by storm last year with its catwalk-thin RAZR V3, Motorola looks ready to dominate next year's phone market with the PEBL (pictured) and another, rather more upscale handset. Like the RAZR, the PEBL looks great. It feels just as good, with its smooth rubberised skin and flat, pressure-sensitive keypad. But the real joy is getting to the keys - stroke the lid lovingly towards you and it opens like an oyster. Gimmickry aside, it means the phone is extremely easy to use one-handed. There's a camera, though at 0.3 megapixels, it's no digital camera substitute, and a clock on the outer screen. Price to be announced. Meanwhile, those with expensive taste should consider the V600. The phone's been around for a while, and very good it is too, but now it comes covered in diamonds, all set into an 18-carat white-gold bezel. PEBL price tba, V600 $50,000(!), 0800 0151151,

Sony PlayStation Portable

The PSP has better UK distribution now, so you can actually get hold of one. Since it first arrived, it's been in high demand - something that looks likely to continue throughout 2006. That's because it is a great games machine (mostly because of its enormous, bright, richly coloured screen, dominating the entire front of the unit) but also manages to attract interest from people who have never had any interest in video games. You can use it as an MP3 player, putting music on a Sony Memory Stick that plugs in to the unit. And, best of all, the large screen means it's great for watching movies on the go. Now, when a film is released on DVD, many studios simultaneously release it on UMD, the disc format for the PSP. There is a danger with portable screens that the images are blurry or smeared, but clarity on the PSP is excellent. The Giga Pack (available from 21 November) includes a 1GB Memory Stick so you can store 30 times the number of songs or photos as you can on the standard 32MB pack. Standard pack, £179.99, Giga Pack £214.99, 08705 111999,


As Apple's CEO Steve Jobs said, "The iPod has been very successful for us, so we thought we'd replace it." So if you try to buy a full-size iPod now, you should be offered the new model with video capabilities. It has a 2.5-inch colour screen which lets you watch music videos or content you've downloaded from iTunes. Plus, Jobs claims that this iPod is the best music player the company has made. And if you worry that you're paying over the odds for the new player, when you really only want it for audio, he's one step ahead of you. The new player comes with a larger capacity than the model it replaces, but for the same price. So a 30GB model comes with space for 7,500 songs, 25,000 photos or up to 75 hours of video. There's also a version with 60GB. And the success of the tiny iPod nano in black as well as white lead to this unit being available in both options too. 30GB model £219, 60GB £299,

Sky HD

This is the real big news on the technology front for 2006. High-definition (HD) TV marks the same step up in screen image quality as that from VHS to DVD. In other words, you won't want to go back. You'll need an HDTV (such sets will have a sticker marked "HD Ready" and will mostly be flatscreens), and then an HD signal to show on it. Sky is launching its service in the spring, initially with six channels, including two movie channels, Sky One, Artsworld and Sky Sports. It's this last channel that will drive the take-up as next year's World Cup approaches, with HD cameras at every match. The box will have a hard drive built in so that, as with Sky+, you can record, pause and rewind live TV. Expect it early spring. Price tba,

Nokia N91 mobile phone

You've got a mobile phone, a camera, an MP3 player, a diary, an address book, a portable radio, and not enough pockets. Nokia is coming to the rescue with the N91. It's a chunky phone with 4GB hard drive, so it's aiming to make your iPod redundant. The 2 megapixel digital camera doesn't compare with dedicated snappers, but with autofocus and a Carl Zeiss lens, the pictures are extremely good, better than those from any other cameraphone with the exception of the Sharp 903. Of course, it also has your phone numbers in its contacts, an elementary diary and an FM radio on board. Early reports suggest that sound quality is excellent and that some elements, such as the speed at which tracks start playing and the absence of music skipping mean it's equal, if not superior, to the iPod. It's out in January. Price tba. Nokia, 0870 500 3110,

Tivoli Model DAB digital radio

Tom DeVesto, president of Tivoli Audio, the company which makes exceptionally high-quality radios with rich, full sound and classical, stylish looks, was slow to embrace DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast). Even now, launching a DAB radio, he has included an FM tuner as well, and recommends that if you can pick up a good FM signal, that's the one to go for. If you can't though, this radio offers an excellent digital alternative - like digital television, with DAB radio you either get a great signal or a terrible one. And it does offer extra channels too. The Model DAB comes with clock and alarm functions and a design which is detailed without being fussy. Every part of it, from the walnut casing to the firm tuning dial, feels classy. You can get an optional extra speaker. £229, 01702 601410,

Yamaha YSP-800 surround sound speaker

The more impressive the visuals on your TV, the more you want the sound to live up to them. But the problem with surround-sound systems is that they come with lots of boxes and miles of cables. A company called One Limited developed a way to put lots of speakers into a flattish unit that fitted under a plasma or LCD screen and sounded astonishing. The problem was that it cost £25,000. Now Yamaha has licensed the technology and brought the price right down. Individually angled speakers in the single 80cm-long unit focus the sound into beams and bounce them off the walls, so it seems as if you have speakers all around you. It's extremely simple to set up - plug in one cable, press the set-up button and that's it. It has 23 digital power amplifiers, powering 21 drivers and two woofers. Science aside, it sounds wonderful. £600, 01923 233166,

Sony HXD-910 hard disk & DVD recorder

Although Blu-ray, one of the high-definition replacement for DVD, is sure to be a big thing next year, it's unclear when Blu-ray recorders will arrive. In the meantime, the best gizmo for recording TV is a PVR (personal video recorder) which saves programmes to hard disk. This machine also includes a DVD recorder so you can lend your recordings to friends. Hard disk capacity is 250Gb, enough for 400 hours of TV, and it comes with a Freeview tuner built in. £530, 08705 111999,