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John Stokdyk

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HRZone.co.uk’s Christmas Gadget Countdown

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Apple iPhone, 2007 gadget runner-upExecutive peripherals editor Nigel Harris returns to HR Zone with his countdown of the best gadgets of 2008. Which ones tickle your fancy this Christmas? Let us know below!


Nigel’s suggestions, which will be updated in the days to come, are part of a wider poll among members of our fellow Sift Media communities AccountingWEB.co.uk, BusinessZone, UK Business Forums, MyCustomer.com and TrainingZone. In last year’s countdown, the Nintendo Wii console emerged as the Gadget of the Year, with Apple’s iPhone in second place.

Here are this year’s contenders – feel free to add your own nominations and votes by commenting below.

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1. And finally… It was a close-run thing this year. Should the top slot have been awarded to one of the new netbook PCs or maybe the latest all-singing, all-dancing mobile phone? If we were being really serious about it then I probably would have picked one of these, but it’s Christmas after all, a time to get away from dull routine. So what better to name as our joint gadgets of the year but the essential games console games, Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour? It’s difficult to pick an overall winner between these two, although personally I prefer the game play and music selection in Guitar Hero – there’s an Aerosmith special edition after all! But whichever you pick, you’ll have the house rocking over Christmas.

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2. Mobile phones are still at the top of many wish lists at this time of year. This Christmas the decision is between buying last year’s technology and waiting to see what 2009 holds. But why wait? There are some fantastic phones available right now. For Windows die-hards the Samsung Omnia, running the latest Windows Mobile 6.1 with a iPhone-style interface has to be the best of both worlds. Trend-setters will still go for the Apple iPhone of course, and with the growing list of downloadable apps it is still the one to beat. Meanwhile corporate users are being seduced by the stunning BlackBerry Storm. Then there’s the outstanding Nokia N96 if you don’t want to wait for the N97 – or the N98…

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3. Gadgets don’t have to be purely for business – after all, business people need to relax too sometimes. So in third place this year we have a familiar name with a new look, the new Apple <a href="http://www.apple.com/ipodnano/" target="_blank"iPod nano. As an owner of the previous nano model, I’m not totally convinced by the new look, but it is undoubtedly compact, it has enough space for any reasonable person’s entire current music collection, and the interface and supporting iTunes software is still the best.

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4. What about gadgets for the office? After a laptop and a new mobile phone, I reckon a nice new printer comes pretty high up the list of functional gadgets. If my favoutite A3 multi-function powerhouse (item no 11 below) doesn’t meet your needs, have a look at our readers’ recommendations for their Top 10 Printers of 2008. We have categories of printers to suit every budget and office size, and our ever-helpful readers have added further hints and tips with their personal favourites. What’s more, there are some real bargains to be had out there as retailers fight for your business!

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5. Is the standalone digital camera coming to the end of its useful life? It certainly looks like it when you see the spec of the new generation of mobile phones now coming on stream. Top of these is the Sony Ericsson C905 CyberShot, with its 8.1megapixel (MP) camera and the LG KC910 (the camera is only 8MP, but it also has sat nav!). If you want more, just wait a few months and Nokia will probably release a 10MP camera phone with video player and built in expresso machine.

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6. Sat navs are soooooo last year, if not the year before. So what’s new on this front? Garmin and SatMap have some excellent handheld (or bike-mounted) devices that display standard Ordnance Survey mapping in full colour, ideal for recreational use. However, the most exciting development to look out for next year is Ndrive’s fantastic looking sat nav devices with 3D photo mapping. Based on multiple aerial photographs taken from different angles, these look great, although currently the full photo version only covers the major cities in Portugal, Spain and Italy. But if they manage the rest of Europe it’ll be the one to watch.

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7. Now here’s one that I AM very excited about. There is a new breed of portable video projector on the market, and I don’t mean luggable, I mean pocket-size, battery powered LED projectors! Have a look at what Personal Projector has to offer. There are two versions: the 3M MPro 110 pocket projector, which measures a mere 115mm x 50mm x 20mm, can project a 50 inch image from your laptop or portable video device (which could be a mobile phone or MP3 player, of course) for an hour on one battery charge. For pure entertainment use, you would go for the similar-sized Aiptek Pocket Cinema, which can either take a video-out connection (the yellow plug!) from a suitable PC or DVD player, or you can copy a couple of DVDs onto its 1GB memory or and SD card and project a 50 inch image onto the nearest wall without any power or connecting leads at all!! It has its own built-in stereo speakers too.

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8. Digital video recorders really came of age this year, boosting the popularity of video sites such as YouTube. The Flip Mino is probably the most popular, but have a look at the better spec on Kodak’s Zi6 video camera, which doesn’t cost that much more. Do these have a serious application? Well, they do make very cheap cameras to make your own in-house training or promotional videos. How about filming short 1 minute testimonials from clients or topical tax tips and posting them on your website? Or capturing a staff training event on film and putting the video up on your intranet so those who missed it can watch it later.

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9. Gadget mags have been raving about it this year, but somehow I can’t get excited about the Sony Reader – have electronic books really come of age? OK, so this very cool looking device can hold up to 160 books and manage 7500 page views on a single battery charge, but having spent £199 on it why would I want to pay not much less than the full publisher’s price of the printed book to download electronic copies of a very limited range of titles? The display is very easy to read, and there are utilities that enable you to dump (free) RSS feeds onto the Reader, as well as Word and PDF documents, so it could be a great little device for reading online content, offline. I think I’ll stick to the Eee PC for the moment thanks.

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10. I’m still a big fan of DAB radio – and Planet Rock in particular! However, I find myself strangely drawn to Internet radio too. There’s nothing like tuning in online to Gator Country from south Florida on a wet, cold wintery afternoon to listen to country music, wonderfully warm weather reports and wacky adverts from people like Sam’s Tire Shack! So the perfect gadget for me this Christmas would be a Pure Evoke Flow FM, DAB and Wi-Fi Internet radio. All your listening pleasure in one very cool looking package.

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11. I have to thank these very pages for one of my personal favourites of 2008 – the much advertised Brother A3 multi-function printers. These compact new units give you printing, copying, scanning, fax and photo printing from your PC or from a PictBridge-enabled digital camera, media card or USB flash memory stick (6,000 dpi A3 borderless prints no less) for less than £250, which is my idea of a bargain. There’s even a 50-sheet document feeder. Connection is via either USB or the built-in wireless network adapter. In case you’re wondering, a 900-page black ink cartridge costs £21.84 (or less if you shop around), so these are not that expensive to run either. Brother has two slightly confusingly named models, the MFC-6490CW which has fax capability, and the DCP-6690CW which does everything except fax. Retail prices for both are about the same.

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12. The Asus Eee PC was one of 2007’s top gadgets. Fellow accountants seem to love them – see how many you can spot in use at your next CPD course or conference. Last year this was a bit of a novelty. This year the “netbook” has become the norm, with full Windows-powered mini notebook PCs such as the Toshiba NB100 and Dell Inspiron Mini 9. Prices are comparable across the board, but for my money the latest Asus ultra-slim S101 Eee PC is still way ahead of the competition, although I’m waiting for the release of a version with the oh so simple Linux operating system (= low maintenance and lightening quick boot time) like my original Eee PC.

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If you haven’t got the time to post your Gadget of the Year nomination in a comment below, you can still cast a quick vote for some of the contenders in our Gadget of the Year poll. The results will be published in plenty of time for you to ensure that your electronic gifts this year will earn your peers’ approval and respect.

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John Stokdyk

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