Christmas gift guide: technology and gadgets

Check out some of the hottest tech this Christmas

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Amazon Kindle e-book reader

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It carries 1,400 books, it weighs less than most paperback books, it has a battery life of up to a month and now it’s under £100 – there’s never been a better time to join the e-book revolution.

The WiFi Kindle can download your favourite book, magazine or newspaper in just a few seconds and that’s it – no computer or software downloads required – you’re ready to read.

With a rapidly growing library of over 750,000 titles to buy, and more than a million free books to download, there’s something to suit every taste in Amazon’s Kindle-store.

Using E Ink, the Kindle reads as close to paper as you’ll get on a screen – you can even read it in bright sunlight – and because it’s now smaller than ever, you can get your fix of literature or news with ease, even on the busiest commuter train.

It only takes a few minutes to become accustomed to Kindle’s intuitive operating system – the pages turn quickly, you can change the font size easily and there’s lots of neat tools like a built-in dictionary to help you plough through the more heavyweight literature in your collection.  

Everything you download to Kindle is backed up in the cloud via your Amazon account – so you never need worry about losing your purchases. And what’s more, once you’ve bought an e-book through Amazon, you can transfer it to another device (like an iPad or a smartphone) and enjoy it with one of Amazon’s free reading apps. 

Price £89.99 – Buy now

Motorola Xoom 2 tablet

Whether you’re an armchair internet surfer, movie fan on the go or entrepreneur who wants their office everywhere they go – tablet computing is the answer. 

Introducing the faster, thinner and more powerful big brother of the popular Motorola tablet – the Xoom 2 has landed. 

With a 10.1″ high-definition display this tablet always makes your media content sing – and with a powerful 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor the Xoom 2 allows you to multi-task effortlessly without fear of crashes or go slows.   The tablet even has a splash proof screen, which, if you’re using it on a coffee table, is very useful indeed. 

Transferring data to and from your tablet is a breeze with Motocast – a programme that you can download directly to your PC or Mac.  The tool allows you to then stream and download content from your existing media library across your WiFi network – there’s no need for wires, just switch on and sync from anywhere in the home or office.  Video, music, pictures – done.  And with 16Gb built-in memory and a further 32Gb expandable memory via SD card, there’s plenty of room on the Xoom 2 for a serious amount of content.  

Running on the Android Honeycomb (3.2) operating system, this tablet allows tap-of-the-screen access to millions of apps in the Android store, which will quickly help you personalise your tablet with both useful and entertaining programmes to suit every need.  

The built in 5.1 megapixel camera and LCD flash allow for pretty decent photography with the tablet, and the second screen-facing camera allows for easy video conferencing and webchats.  Xoom 2 even has a built-in video camera mode – so you can shoot, edit and produce your home movies all on one device.  

And all this with up to 10 hours’ battery life – now that’s a tablet worth considering this Christmas…

Price £399 – buy now

Kinect (for Xbox 360)

The nature of games consoles is changing – and although it might sound strange, the truth is they’re no longer just for gamers.  

One of the breakout stars of the past 12 months is Xbox Kinect sensor add-on, which with its smart sensor technology, in-built cameras and voice recognition software is rapidly changing the way we interact with our technology hardware.  

With Kinect, you become the controller.  Whether you want to navigate your Xbox menus, play games, search your system (and the net) for content or watch TV – the combined camera and voice activation technology allows you to do so without ever troubling your controller. 

On the media front, Microsoft are rapidly expanding their partnerships to bring a world of free hands-free entertainment to your TV via Kinect.  Sky TV customers can already watch live TV and a huge archive of catch-up content – and now terrestrial broadcasters are joining the party with 4oD and Demand Five available before Christmas, and BBC iPlayer slated for inclusion in 2012. 

On top of that, Microsoft’s Zune service allows for the hands-free streaming and download of films, TV shows and music, and LoveFilm subscribers are able to browse, play, pause and rewind their favourite movies via Xbox and Kinect. 

You require an Xbox to use Kinect and a Gold Membership to Xbox live to enjoy the majority of the interactive content.

The Kinect is available as a standalone purchase for existing Xbox owners, or as part of a package for newcomers to the gaming revolution.  

Price £89.99 – Kinect unit only – (includes Kinect Adventures game) – buy it now

Price £269.99 – Xbox 360 250Gb console with Kinect sensor (includes Kinect Adventures game) – buy it now

Apple iPhone 4s

Pick up your phone in the morning and tell it “Remind me to ring Dave when I get to work”. During the day, talk to your phone, check your calendar, add meetings, send text messages. On your way out, ask it for Italian restaurants nearby. And when you go to bed, just say to your iPhone 4s what time you want it to wake you up in the morning.

Apple’s latest version of its iPhone is faster than before and contains much improved cameras but the stand-out feature is Siri, its voice-recognition software. It doesn’t just work, it works so scarily well that you will use it: you’ll find it faster to talk to Siri than to browse the web on the phone yourself. You’ll even get into conversations: if it’s just told you the best Italian restaurants nearby, tell it you’d prefer Chinese and it looks those up instead.

Siri is limited in the UK: for the moment it works best in the US and Apple calls it a beta release rather than a finished feature. But what it already does, it does very well. Couple that to a phone that has a Retina Display – a screen so fine that your eyes cannot distinguish between it and print – and the fact you can add apps to just about anything, the iPhone 4s is a superb phone.

If only the battery life was as good.

Prices vary depending on whether you buy the iPhone 4s in a contract with a mobile service operator or not. Without subsidy, prices start at £499.

Philips Fidelio Docking Speaker DS8550

Tired of dumping your iPad, iPhone, or iPod on your desk next to that pile of dog-eared Radio Times issues? Give it pride of place on this smooth, chic docking speaker. Its sleek design is not just aesthetic. It’s specially shaped to eliminate distortion, meaning it’ll give the sound of your music, gaming and video experience a significant boost in both volume and quality. And if you’re gaming, you can even connect to it via Bluetooth to hear all your sound effects with added punch. And it’s reasonably priced, too, making it the ideal companion to your iThings.

Price £189.99 – buy it now

Pure Sensia Digital Radio
This sleek-looking gadget for your bedside table is as futuristic as it looks (if you imagine the future will look like cheap 70s sci-fi). It delivers radio from all over the world from three sources – FM, DAB and the internet – and with a Wi-Fi connection it also offers apps and services that make it much more than just a radio. Its creators like to call it “radio for the Facebook generation” and its touchscreen and app capabilities let you poke, like and tweet to your heart’s content. At under £200, it brings a lot of bang for your buck. It’s a feature-packed desk radio, but it’s not for mega-audiophiles.

Price £179.99 – buy it now

Optoma HD600X-LV widescreen HD/3D home entertainment projector

The combination of price, features and picture quality make this a top buy for those looking for an indoor cinema experience, big-screen TV and gaming or 3D versions of any of the above. Just connect your set-top box, DVD/Blu-ray player, games console or laptop via the HDMi socket and aim it at the nearest – or furthest away – wall (the Optoma HD600X-LV projects an image of up to nine metres in diagonal width). On top of that, it supports 3D inputs (although you’ll need a pair of 3D glasses – sold separately – to watch them) and the giant, single, unblinking “eye” makes it look a bit like HAL out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Altogether, not bad for a box measuring less than 29 x 20 x 9cm. 

Price £379.95 – buy it now

TomTom GO LIVE 1005 Europe Satellite Navigation System

What could ease a car journey along better than a celebrity pal by your side to guide you on your way? With the TomTom Go Live 1005 you can take an easy ride with Dennis Hopper, or enjoy the bombast of Brian Blessed for a relaxing cruise up the motorway.

Gimmicks aside, this TomTom has the slickest extra function a sat nav really needs, with its Live updates and HD traffic system using mobile phone signals to deliver the latest travel updates for your route and pick your lanes while also warning you about upcoming speed cameras. 

Couple this with the new detail of its richer maps technology and you’ve got driving made easy at your fingertips, with magnetic docking for your convenience. The super intuitive touchscreen lets you zoom and scroll with ease, and at 268g it’s one of the slinkier TomToms on the market. It’s the smartest sat nav around, in every sense of the word.

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Price £229.99 – buy it now