Top 5 Gadget Recommendations

July 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Reprinted with permission from my original article featured on the TalkTalk official blog

Navigating the tech jungle can be hazardous at the best of times, but following a flood of summer releases just what are the most desirable gadgets now available on the market? I’ve come up with a Top 5 list designed to hit different product types and budgets, so let’s kick on…

MP3 Players

SanDisk Sansa ClipThis category may be slowly swallowed by ever more capable mobile phones but if you want a cheap and cheerful purchase you can’t do much better than the venerable SanDisk Sansa Clip. Apple may rule the roost with the iPod line but the Clip is everything the iPod shuffle wishes it could be. Unlike the shuffle it sports a screen, sequential playback, an FM radio and microphone recorder. Battery life is also 50 per cent better than the shuffle at 15 hours from a single charge and while tiny (29 grams) the Clip isn’t so small you’ll lose it down the back of the sofa. Perhaps best of all however is the price with an 8GB Clip costing just £39 and a 4GB Clip a mere £29. An iPod shuffle? £59 for 4GB. Ladies and gentlemen we know where most people’s money goes, but this is where you put the smart money.


Olympus Pen E-P1Ever wish you could have the quality of a professional DSLR digital camera combined with the small, lightweight convenience of a compact? The Olympus Pen E-P1 could just be the first camera to do it. Launched just last month, it employs ‘Micro Four Thirds technology’ to cut down on overall bulk without sacrificing image quality. Furthermore, just like a professional camera the lenses on the E-P1 can be swapped for different sizes and even a dedicated Flashgun can be fitted on top. The Pen E-P1 will also shoot High Definition video and features HDMI output so it can be plugged straight into a TV to view your latest masterpieces. It doesn’t come cheap with prices starting from £599.99, but right now there is nothing else like it.


Samsung NC10The laptop has long eaten away at sales of the desktop PC but it seems in these recession haunted times that the new ultra portable, low cost ‘netbook’ category is quickly devouring laptops. A flood of virtually indistinguishable models have landed thanks to Microsoft imposing ‘maximum specifications’ on manufacturers, but the best of these to date is the unassuming sub £300 Samsung NC10. It may not be the most beautiful, but the NC10 is superbly built, features a fantastic keyboard, bright screen and outstanding battery life (more than six hours on a single charge). The newer Samsung N120 will soon replace it, but with a £60 price premium for virtually no difference you’re best snapping up the NC10 while you still can.


FlipVideo UltraHDJust a few years ago High Definition video recording was only available in professional production equipment costing tens of thousands of pounds. How times change. Like the netbook market, budget camcorders have also exploded onto the scene over the last 12 months. The FlipVideo line is arguably the most successful and the launch of the Flip Video Ultra High Definition Camcorder this month brings High Definition recording into the palm of your hand for just £159. Operation is simply a matter of point and shoot, there’s two hours worth of recording courtesy of the 8GB of onboard storage and you can also take still shots. If you enjoy sharing content the UltraHD’s built in software can automatically upload it to YouTube, batteries are replaceable and there’s even an HDMI port so everything you record can be displayed straight from your device onto an HDTV. Goodbye expensive camcorders.




Mobile Phones

iPhone 3GSFinally, and perhaps predictably, we can’t have a gadget roundup without mentioning the new iPhone 3GS (available at Carphone Warehouse – Ed). It may have been more evolution than revolution but Apple’s third generation handset remains king of the hill thanks to a focus on craftsmanship in a sector too long dominated by specifications. If you can afford the steep tariffs proposed by O2 (a network believed to be coming to the end of its iPhone exclusivity) the 3GS is without doubt the best mobile phone money can buy. If you’re looking for a sneaky sixth recommendation and the iPhone 3GS proves a little too rich for your blood check out the HTC Magic on Vodafone. Built on top of Google’s exciting Android mobile phone operating system it may lack the glamour of the iPhone but Google doesn’t like to be second with anything and it remains a hugely impressive handset on a fast evolving platform. In fact this time next year it may just be Apple iPhones which are the poor man’s Google phone.



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Apple iPhone 3GS

June 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Here we go again. The Apple ‘iPhone 3GS’ is now on sale and it is already shaping up to be even more controversial than both its predecessors. On the hardware side it brings a slightly improved camera (3 megapixels with autofocus, compared to 2MP fixed focus), video recording, marginally better battery life and up to 3x faster performance. It sounds good, but more importantly what’s NOT to like…?

The preamble: My cult and contentious reviews’ system. Designed as a time saver to highlight the potential deal breakers in a product before you commit to reading lengthy reviews on your favourites sites and/or magazines. For a more detailed description please read: the Rules

Just the Bad Points Review: Apple iPhone 3GS:

Apple iPhone 3G S (yes, there's a space)
Apple iPhone 3GS (the original space between ‘3G’ and ‘S’ has now been removed – go figure!)
  • Evolution not revolution. This is the old model tweaked, not an overhaul
  • iPhone OS 3.0 brings most of the software benefits to iPhone 3G owners that the 3G S offers. Find a full features list here
  • Price. The iPhone 3G S is far more expensive than the iPhone 3G was at launch. Check with local telco before setting your heart on it
  • Push Notifications bring third party app alerts but do not represent full multitasking. When a programme closes it closes completely
  • Addition of turn by turn GPS still requires the purchase of third party software such as from flagship partner TomTom, which is extra expense
  • Low light camera performance is worse than the iPhone 3G (big problem if you want to take photos on nights out)
  • Screen not improved at all. Same resolution (320 x 480 pixels), jump not made to OLED
  • Searching emails across the server only checks the recipient and subject line details, not the body text
  • Looks just like the old iPhone 3G. There’s not even an ‘S’ on the back

Flaws still present from before:

  • A new model should be announced by June judging by Apple’s past track record
  • Camera lacks a flash
  • 16GB & 32GB options capacities available but no SDHC/microSDHC expansion slot to add to it
  • No second camera for video calling
  • iTunes tie: media content locked to specific computer, no simple drag & drop way to add files
  • Limited codec support excludes likes of Ogg Vorbis audio and – crucially – AVI video so lengthy format conversion required with third party software
  • Non-removeable battery so it can’t be swapped out on long journeys & requires expensive procedure to replace at an Apple store should it degrade outside the warranty
  • No Flash support in the mobile Safari web browser