The best gadgets you’ll actually buy (2010 edition)

We see a lot of electrics here at LG, and spend even more time reading about them. It makes us a bit shallow, really, going from gadget-to-gadget in a glut of unabated consumption.

So when something stays in our mind – or even more impressive, stays in our house, we like to give it some credit. Here are my favourite gadgets of 2010, three of which live in my house, two of which I bought myself and one that I gave as a gift.

iPhone-4-Round-Up

iPhone

The world’s greatest smartphone – and I’ve been sampling Android and Windows Phone 7 phones all year. It’s beautifully designed, while the screen’s high pixel density makes words appear printed.

There was a bit of an antenna PR disaster at first, but realistically, the only thing barring me from surfing the web on-the-go is Orange’s poor network. On Three, Vodafone or O2, however, it’s like holding the future in your hands.

For 2011, I genuinely hope that the Android-invasion finally usurps the smartphone crown.  Unfortunately, at the moment it’s just a bit too ugly, and not as user-friendly.

Kindle

Two months and two product samples later, the Kindle beat the Sony Reader. The lower price and always-on 3G – plus a unique design – made it my ideal eBook reader. The screen is phenomenal – the glare of an LCD monitor (or iPad) simply cannot compare.

Kindle-Roundup

Despite my admiration for the Kindle, every day I wish for the Sony Reader’s touchscreen and the better PDF support. If the Kindle didn’t exist, I’m certain the Sony Reader would have made this list.

OWL Wireless Electricity Monitor

It’s not glamorous, but it is indispensible. Putting a number – be it wattage, price, or tonnes of CO2 – on electricity consumption is a great way of visualising some laisse-faire electricity habits. It’s not for everyone, but it definitely proves the “don’t leave your TV on stand-by” message.

Kinect

I don’t own a Kinect – or even an Xbox. But that’s okay, because it hasn’t made the list for its gaming prowess. The Kinect has been hacked by so many people, doing so many cool things, that eventually 3D camera chat, Minority Report-style interfaces and camera-based product recognition should all be household staples.

Air2Air DraganFlyer X6

At £21,585, maybe this is out of everyone’s price-range (at least if they’re in a reasonable frame of mind). Peeping toms and News of the World reporters can rejoice, however, as it floats high into the air and carries a 12.1 megapixel camera – perfect for sleezing. There’s also an infra-red option for night-time reconnaissance. Nefarious uses aside, it’s pretty awesome.

Top five boy’s toys for Christmas

Christmas is coming, and the man in your life is getting fat, and whether you like it or not this man is going to spend too much time eating, drinking and using the Lords birthday as an excuse to meet up and make merry with every person he’s ever had a passing acquaintance with.  A direct result of this is said gentlemen will also spend extended periods of time sitting in a state of inertia, moaning and trying to sweat out the previous days pleasure.  This being the case you want to keep him amused, his hands busy and away from the eggnog for as long as possible.  This being the case, please find latestgadgets top 5 (in no particular order) Big Boys Toys this Christmas, to keep him happy for December and beyond…

Playstation Move/ Microsoft Kinect

Move-vs-Kinect

The Playstation Move is aimed at the hardcore gamer market and a fiddle to start with, but if he’s a died-in-the-wool Call Of Duty type then this might be your best bet.  The Kinect is more of a Wii extension with games intended to be fun and social.  There’s considerable fun to be had in its novelty value too- there isn’t actually a controller and the Kinect sensor just recognises your movements on games like Dance Central, Fighters Uncaged and more.

Move- £41.99 starter pack, £17.99 each additional controller.
Kinect- £129.99

Flip Mino HD and Flie Ultra HD Video Cameras

Flip-Video

Reception has been universally positive since these were released.  And what’s not to like?  Quality HD recording, the ability to plug directly into your HD TV for instant Christmas Lunch playbacks and only, in the case of the Mino, 10cm long.   Technical specs between the two are more or less the same-1280p x 720p , Transflective screen.  The main difference is the size of memory- the Mino has 4GB of memory, the Ultra 8GB.

Mino- from £99
Ultra- From £114.99

Amazon Kindle

Kindle

Despite a certain amount of scepticism, the Kindle is starting to worm it a way into the wider consciousness and, if the makers will have us believe, is going to drastically alter the way we read books. A dedicated book buyer such as yours truly might not be too enamoured with it but for the man who likes to read but doesn’t want the luggage, this is perfect.  Enough space for 3500 books, a month long battery life and a reasonable price clinch the deal.

Price- £109

Nikon P7000 Digital Camera

For the person that wants to take pretty good pictures, but doesn’t want the faff of an SLR.  Small (360g), compact yet with enough bells and whistles to satisfy him with time on his hand it is ideal as a portable.   With its 10.1MP sensor and wide 7.1x optical zoom lens, and a 720p HD filming capabilities its got enough behind it to justify its somewhat steep price.

Price- £489

Boogie Board Paperless Writing Tablet

Bit more of a gimmick this one, but for those of us that remember Etch-a-Sketch it’ll bring back some fond memories…and make us realise that they pail in comparison to this.  Essentially a little black board that you can scribble over and immediately wipe or send the pictures to somewhere else via USB, Bluetooth of WiFi it can double as child entertainment device, shopping list or portable easel.

Price- £39.99

Your Shape: Changing the shape of gaming, and your waist-line

Your Shape is part of a new generation of gaming – the Xbox Kinect generation. The aim is to free you from the shackles of traditional control pads by using the movement of your entire body as the controller. But does it work? Is an updated version of the Sony EyeToy worth a £150 outlay? We got our hands – well, our bodies – involved in the new game to work up a sweat, as well as work out the answer.

YourShape

The amazing thing about Your Shape, and the Xbox Kinect, is how intuitive the control system really is. As soon as you step in front of the camera, you instantly feel in absolutely control. And with the camera sensing 24 different joints of your body – joints that you use every day – you can understand why it feels so natural.

Thanks to the Kinect, all of the Your Shape mini-games are extremely easy to use. Our favourite, the balance-objects-on-a-board game, is both the simplest and most fiendishly addictive. Hold an imaginary board level to stack falling objects, and then drop them into the open pit at either side to score points. The more blocks you stack, the more they are worth. While the game is fun, the most amazing feature is how easily non-gamers could pick it up – most took mere seconds.

While games like board-balancing fire up the testosterone, other games deliberately aim in the opposite direction. In fact, the game recommends you end with one of these relaxation sessions – like Tai Chi Tutor – to warm-down.

When practicing your Tai Chi, the camera provides you with visible feedback on your positioning. You’ll instantly know whether you are a Tai Chi master, or a poor imitation whose body is not quite in the right position. The visible feedback lets you instantly improve your technique – it is as if a real teacher was watching and analysing any mistakes. It will be a disservice to compare this to any other game, because it feels so much more like a real training experience.

There are plenty of more fitness orientated exercises for you to enjoy (or endure), but the key to development is the ever-evolving exercise programmes. The better you get, the more intense the work-outs become.

Your-Shape-Punch

Your success at getting fit isn’t just at the mercy of the console either, as Your Shape also lets you check out your exercise achievements online. Head to YourShapeUp.com and you can see your progress on various exercise, as well as the calories you’ve burnt over a period of time. It’s like an achievement record for your gym-skills. Being able to keep track of your successes really adds to the lifespan of the game – you can make sure that you’re keeping yourself going and continuing to improve without guesswork or time-consuming record taking.

Aside from burning calories, some of the games are actually quite fun. The aforementioned board-balancing game is a bit like Tetris for the twenty-first century. The basics are simple, but there are plenty of strategies and techniques to make you a first-class player. For example, hold your arms higher to raise the board in the air, making the objects drop slowed. Drop your arms to your waist, and the games speeds up its block dropping. It’s then up to you to work out when to tip the blocks into the catchment areas.

Your Shape is a great example of gaming for a new market. The party-play may not be there (although board balancing can get quite competitive, especially when you are pitched against the insurmountable Super Chick), but never before has such an interactive exercising game existed. It should be the pin-up of the current crop of Kinect games – an interesting game that literally couldn’t exist without the Kinect technology.

A bona fide experience! – Five of the best interactive gadgets

I am still recovering from a “Wii” party I went to this weekend, where a dozen or so tipsy women battled it out on the virtual ‘hula hoop’, becoming more and more determined to win after each glass of wine. It was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed.

Interactive gaming, whether it be playing golf virtually or pretending to shoot flying ducks, has really exploded in recent years, supplanting traditional joy sticks and steering wheels with greater realism, depth and interaction. Latestgadgets takes a look at five diverse interactive gaming gadgets…

Interactive-Gaming

SlouchPod Interactive Gaming Chair
Resembling an up-market synthetic leather bean bag, but at a closer inspection, the speakers, control panel, headphone jacks, sockets, and digital display panel, enables you to justifiably conclude that this chair is designed for more than just sitting on. And the SlouchPod certainly is a ‘multi-media chair’, hooking you up to your favourite gadgets, including DVD players, iPods, MP3s and CD players. But where the SlouchPod really triumphs, is when it is appended to a games console. As it is then that the chair really jumps into life, providing surround sound so amplified, it can fill you with a sense of paranoia. The SlouchPod Interactive Gaming Chair really does blur the boundaries between fantasy and reality.

The Interactive Duck Hunter Game
Duck Hunt is one of those fondly remembered gaming classics and fortunately for Duck Hunt enthusiasts, a more interactive version of the classic has been invented. Coming equipped with a toy duck, which, with state of the art micro flight technology flies around flapping its wings, and an infrared shooter, you can throw, toss and sling the poor bird anywhere, then aim and shoot. And by incorporating realistic loading and shooting sound effects, the Interactive Duck Hunter Game truly brings hunting indoors.

Skeet Shooter
Interactive Toy Concepts Ltd must have been particularly proud of their Skeet Shooter toy; designed to enable the game to be played indoors, as it was displayed at CES 2010. The device launches three plastic discs, which players then have to hit with an infrared gun. The discs, when hit, split apart but can be rebuilt for endless rounds of skeet shooting.

Kinect for XBOX 360
Kinect for XBOX 360, with its ability to detect full body motion via its 3D movement capability and voice recognition ability, designed to immerse players into video gaming, could possibly de described as the ultimate interactive gaming experience. Many users insist that Kinect has supremacy over Wii in the interactive gaming field.

Phillips amBX Advanced Interactive Gaming Lighting System
Using some 16 million colours and amBX peripherals, this advanced lighting system takes video games beyond the screen and intensifies the whole gaming experience. But the Phillips amBX Advanced Interactive Gaming Lighting System goes beyond games, as it responds to music and if plugged into a music system, cascades a spectacular display of light into the room – distorting the fringes between sound and vision.

Movement wars: the future of gaming

With the dust settling on last months E3 we thought we would look into our magic ball, and answer the main underlying question. Who will win the “movement wars.” The big three are looking to the casual market and are staking their future on new-fangled movement controls.

Motion-Gaming

We’re going to wade through the PR rhetoric to give you a real taste of what to expect in the coming months.

All three console giants had a impressive E3 with major announcements on new hardware and games that will be ready in time for Christmas (hopefully) and we’ve dubbed it the “movement wars”.

Microsoft splashed the cash, with their Cirque De Soleil show, which tried to capture the imagination of the gaming fraternity, with a fancy stage show to show off the magic of Kinect. Sadly it left a sour taste in our mouth.

The Pre-E3 event came across more than a little bit stage-managed. After all if Kinect is a natural, visceral and fun experience, why would it be necessary to have actors on stage – trying to interpret how fun it is? If it’s that good, the stage show wasn’t necessary to convey this. Normal people having fun would have captured this so much better.

Many of the sceptics were still left with many unanswered questions, is there lag? How much will all this movement fun cost? Is it just for my Mum & Dad? And sadly we still can’t answer these.

We’ve trawled all four corners of the Internet to try determine the press reaction and we’ve read some interesting thoughts. One this is for sure, Microsoft can’t just aim at the causal market and forget about the people who actually own the Xbox at the moment, who in general are the hardcore variety.

Microsoft has certainly taken the biggest risk with their controller-free ethos. I for one am totally convinced. And really keen to try it out and hope it lives up to the massive hype. And If Microsoft sticks to Kinect Arcade games, that won’t cost the world, they could be onto a winner. And they’re best at micro transactions. After announcing that we spend over a billion dollars over Xbox Live content every year.

Nintendo were the first console to target the casual gamers and have had movement controls for a while now. So they left their big E3 announcement to the new 3DS – quite clearly the most technologically advanced handheld that they have ever created and it stole the show.

After all 3D images without glasses, is a man on the moon moment for Nintendo. Especially in light of their shunning of HD gaming with the Wii. I have no doubt that the new 3DS will be the must have gadget this Christmas, if it is out by them. Nintendo have cornered the casual market and that’s a given.

But the question to ask is the casual market worth more than the hardcore one? Obviously Microsoft think it is and have staked a big bet that they can corner both markets – even if they’re poles apart.

Sony made fun of both Nintendo and Microsoft event with cheap shots at their future plans – Sony feel that realism through Move and 3D is the future. But with their Move controller they have cynically copied the Wii remote and this is obvious to any gamer, casual or hardcore.

At least Microsoft and Nintendo are trying to push the boundaries of technology and hardware. Sony have just re-hashed the wand and 3D – marketing as the future of gaming, but it’s common knowledge that 3D is just the same as what we were getting in the early 90?s. 80?s styled glasses in all.

One thing to take from E3 is are the game companies really giving us what we want? Nintendo certainly are – they have stuck to the fun casual market since day 1 and they must be applauded for this. But Sony and Microsoft have been scrapping over the hardcore market for the last 3 years with neither able to call a victory.

So it would seem that they are both looking to steal Nintendo’s monopoly of the casual gamers. However it just looks a little late and cynical.

We will know more in the next 6 months, but the lines have been draw in the sand and the “movement wars” are going to be the most exciting time to be a gamers and that can’t be a bad thing. Who do you think will come out tops? Leave us your thoughts below…