Every year in the run-up to Christmas, Nigel Harris, the executive peripherals editor of HR Zone’s sister site AccountingWEB, chooses the 12 objects that most deeply stimulate his electronic devices. This year, we asked you to nominate your favourites.
The Nintendo Wii games console (pictured above, right) has been crowned “Gadget of the Year” in this year’s Christmas countdown. Adding to the product’s cachet, the Nintendo Wii has been notoriously difficult to find in the shops in the run-up to Christmas.How they voted:
Microsoft Xbox 360 v iPod Touch
UK Business Forum
Every year our executive peripherals editor Nigel Harris chooses his favorite electronic devices. To accompany his list – which is published below – we also ran an informal poll among the members of our fellow Sift Media communities AccountingWEB.co.uk (UK), AccountingWEB.com (USA), BusinessZone, UK Business Forums, MyCustomer.com and TrainingZone
While Harris put digital video recorders (PVRs) at the top of his Christmas wishlist, he was aware of the strong demand for the Nintendo device. “I put the Nintendo Wii up early on our countdown because I knew people were going to need time to find one,” he said. “It would have been a best-seller this Christmas if Nintendo had not lost the plot and left retailers short of stock.”
Across all the Sift Media online communities, Apple’s iPhone was the second most popular choice, and enjoyed the most support from members of UK Business Forums, a site where owners and managers of small businesses share experiences and advice.
Entrepreneurs who have to dip into their own pockets to pay for gadgetry are clearly more interested in practical aids that will help their business than in something to amuse them in their leisure hours.
With the Christmas weekend looming, we hope you are able to find the time and disposable cash to locate something to tickle your digital fancies over the holiday period. Here is the peripherals editor’s choice – with your comments and nominations below:
1. Digital PVRs
This is my personal favourite for 2007 because it really has changed my TV viewing in 2007 for the better (despite the loss of 24 on Telewest/Virgin). OK, so it doesn’t have a work-related use that I can think of, but it’s Christmas! I suppose I could say that these devices help the busy professionals make more effective use of their leisure time, which they certainly do. At home we no longer sift through dodgy video tapes in the days leading up to Christmas because all the viewing we need goes onto the hard disk of our Virgin Media V+ box. It holds 80 hours of TV, supports HD high definition television and has THREE tuners, so I can record two programmes and watch a third in delayed or replay mode. Fantastic! This really is life-changing technology – liberating you from ads and allowing you to save and watch all the stuff you really like. For our unfortunate friends in satellite-country, you’ll have to go for the Sky+ box, a poor second with only 40 hours’ capacity and two tuners – Rupert Murdoch can’t get everything right. Outside of these two systems, have a look in your local electrical store – Currys has the Logik LPV2250/TVonics DVR-250 Freeview PVR which holds a massive 125 hours and costs just £180. Video and DVD recorders are dead. Do yourself a favour and get a hard disk recorder this Christmas. You won’t be sorry.
2. Yamaha YSP-500 digital sound projectors
Yamaha’s digital sound projectors are not exactly new, but they ARE fantastic and the latest models are the best ever. For true 5.1 digital surround sound without any wires, look no further. These stylish units contain a row of finely tuned speakers that will give you great sound in the board room for video conferencing and training videos. And, being wireless, they are easy to take home in the evening and tuck under your TV for some leisure viewing – snag is, you might not want to take it back to the office. On second thoughts, better buy two!
3. A portable projector
For work, portable video projectors have been the must-have peripheral this year. With the Dell 1201MP coming in at £349 there is no reason why the smallest office shouldn’t have one in its meeting or training room, or indeed make one available to professionals on the road who need to make presentations to clients. Even in a very small group a projector makes a huge impact. Prices are falling on this stuff – check out sites like Dabs for the latest prices. The online outlet currently has six models at under £300, all big names and decent specs. You could even take it home at weekends (for security, of course) and watch your favourite sports, films or TV programmes (not to mention interactive games) in wide-screen glory. If you’re serious about this dual use then the £862 EMP-1715 with multi-screen technology and USB and wireless connectivity is worth a look, as is the new Panasonic PT-AX200E. At £1,000 it may be a bit pricey, but comes with a special ‘Game Mode’ to optimise the signal from video game consoles. It even has two HDMI inputs.
4. Asus Eee PC
The Asus Eee PC 701 costs just £183, with Linux and OpenOffice included. This isn’t a toy, it’s a decent ultra-portable PC for under 200 quid. I have spoken to several fans and interestingly they have both bought two of them – you just can’t get enough of a good thing! If you need proper computing power in a portable package, look no further. For those with a passion for power, Christmas might be the opportunity to treat yourself to that desktop-replacement laptop you have been promising yourself. Lightweight laptops such as Sony Vaios can easily match a desktop PC in performance (if not in price), and the £1,600 Vaio VGN-AR115 has 17 inch display, Blu-ray disk player and GeForce Go 7600 graphics card. Just the thing to unwrap on Christmas day for a session of serious gaming and video watching before you catch up on the office email!
5. Behringer USB Podcastudio
Podcasting has gone mainstream this year, so any business looking for low-cost, innovative communication tools should be asking Santa for the kit to make their own podcasts next year. There are all sorts of free and shareware solutions, but the Behringer Professional Podcastudio with USB Interface caught my eye because, for around £86, it’s a total solution in a box – it even comes with an illustrated quick-start guide “How to Podcast” – and it’s widely available from UK gadget webstores. Included are a USB audio interface, a 5-input mixer, dynamic broadcast-style microphone, studio headphones and software (admittedly the latter is freeware readily available on the internet anyway, but at least it saves you going looking for it). For £156, Behringer do a Firewire package with higher-quality mic and 8-input mixer, although for simple podcast production, this is a bit over the top.
Where does Apple’s flagship iPhone fit in this year’s countdown? Near the top in terms of innovation and design, but it’s an expensive fashion accessory and only an average iPod music player, so I’m slotting it in at number 6. Phone buyers were spoiled for choice in 2007, the Nokia N95 was a huge success – and is probably more the thing for the mobile professional. Sony Ericsson fans won’t be disappointed with the new W890i Walkman model. But whichever phone you choose, you can be sure that there will be a new, even better model in the shops by Easter!
7. A DVD camcorder
This site’s technology editor John Stokdyk tells me that audio is so last year. OK then, how about video? Something like the Samsung VP-DC175 DVD camcorder, which has a whole range of uses around the office – internal training and promotional videos – you could even use it to record important client meetings (don’t forget the Data Protection Act). It saves still images onto an SD card, so it doubles as an adequate digital still camera. With no fiddly tapes, it records directly to extra long play double-layer DVDs in MPEG4 format, so you can quickly get your Hollywood epic onto a PC and then onto your website or YouTube!
8. TomTom GO 920 T Satnav
Satnavs are a bit like mobile phones – enthusiasts are constantly upgrading to the latest. TomTom is undoubtedly one of the most popular brands in the UK, and this latest model is the bee’s knees. It includes TomTom RDS-TMC Traffic Receiver, which sends you the latest traffic reports and you can operate by voice command so it’s entirely hands-free. Why do you need one? Because time is money, so if you frequently need to drive for work reasons, you’ll need to get there as quickly as possible, and a good satnav will quickly pay for itself in reduced travelling time. As a bonus, the GO 920 T comes with maps of Europe, Canada and USA, so driving on holiday will also be less painful!
9. Sonos Digital Music System
A client has one of these – I thought the remote control was a fat MP3 player until she explained. The Sonos BR100 Zone Bridge connects to your router and streams your music collection, internet radio and Napster’s online music service to any number (well, up to 32 actually) of wireless Zone Players around your house. The nifty CR100 remote control allows you to control every zone, so you can synchronise the music in the kitchen and in your office. And not a wire in sight. I want one (please, Santa).
10. Denon Smartlife S-302 home cinema system
What is Christmas about if not an excess of television? What I really need to enhance my video training sessions and video conferencing is a decent DVD player/sound system, and this new Denon model caught my eye in the gadget magazines. It’s compact, looks good and apparently manages a decent virtual surround sound quality. It also has neat features like an iPod socket, internet radio and audio streaming. Easy to pack into your pilot’s case at the end of the week and take home for some home ‘study’!
11. The new iPod
I had always hated MP3 players and earphones – until I bought one of the new iPod nanos. The new iPods are a triumph of design and useability, particularly the iPod Touch. iTunes is the easiest digital music software I have used. Best of all are podcasts. I have a series of David Maister’s free podcasts on my iPod to while away idle moments waiting for meetings to start. Since you’ll never fill up an iPod with music, they are also an ideal way to carry audio books – just rip them off the CDs with iTunes and you’re away.
12. Nintendo Wii
This one ought to be higher up the chart this Christmas, but Nintendo has really lost the plot. I’m putting it up early on our countdown because you’re going to need time to find one. The Nintendo Wii and DS games machines would be the top sellers – if only there were any left in the shops! All high street retailers have sold out, Amazon and Argos shelves are empty, and those few online stores still claiming to have stocks have doubled their prices. But if you can get your hands on one, especially the Wii, you’ll have no shortage of guests over the festive holiday. If you already own one, make sure you get in plenty of drinks!