The 12 gadgets of Christmas

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AccountingWEB's Executive Peripherals Editor, Nigel Harris, completes his top 12 of year's must-have executive toys. How many made your wish list? More importantly, how many can you justify buying for yourself as a business expense?!

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12. Sorry, but there was only ever going to be one winner. Yes, it's the Apple iPod. It now comes in three sizes:
- the new iPod Video (30 GB £219 and 60 GB £299), which offers up to 15,000 songs and 150 hours of video;
- the almost as gorgeous but somewhat slimmer iPod Nano (2 GB £139 and 4 GB £179); and
- the tiny iPod Shuffle (512 MB £69 and 1GB £89) - neat, but no display so all you can do is listen to a random stream of music. Having said that, the audio quality is fantastic for the price.

And don't forget the huge range of accessories now available for iPods, unlike the competition in the MP3 player market.

As if you need a serious business excuse to buy one - e.g. in order to get the VAT back? - take a look at MagneticTime, a simple and cheap application that will record Word documents and emails directly out of Microsoft Office as MP3 files and download them onto an iPod (or any MP3 player in fact), PDA or mobile phone. Look out for a full review in 2006 - if someone gives me an iPod for Christmas ...

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11. It was a close run thing, but the runner up had to be the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP). Small but beautifully formed, it's what hand-held gaming should be. the display is just stunning. Buy movies on the special UMD mini discs or record your own in MPEG4 format onto a Memory Stick. Even better, it has built-in WiFi wireless networking, so while the family is watching TV you can pretend to be playing Grand Theft Auto on your new PSP, while in fact you're quietly surfing the net and getting the latest news from HR Zone or AccountingWEB! How cool is that!

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10. You wanted an iPod for Christmas, but you actually need a new phone. Now you can have both! The new Motorola V3i is the updated Razer mobile phone with built-in iTunes music software. The camera has been upgraded from VGA to 1.23 MP with 8x zoom and there’s a Mini SD memory card slot to enable you to increase the music storage. The original ill-fated Rokr phone was hampered by a 100-song limit, the V3i is advertised as having a 50 song memory (128MB built in), so what a 512MB memory card would be for is a bit of a mystery. Great phone though.

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9. Wireless music systems to date seem to comprise small beige boxes from mainstream networking hardware companies. What we’ve been waiting for is Slim Devices Squeezebox, a seriously stylish piece of kit that won’t look daft next to your hi-fi or entertainment centre but doesn’t cost the earth. At £229.99 for the 802.11g wireless version (£179.99 if you prefer wires round your house/office) it’s good value, looks great and does everything you would want. MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, WAV, and Ogg Vorbis music files stored on your PC and Internet radio stations can be played on your normal music system via the Squeezebox.

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8. Apparently some readers have complained that they have to squint at the screen of the BeoVision 7-40. So being the season of goodwill to all - especially those with failing eyesight – may we recommend the Sharp Aquos 65 inch (yes 65 inch!) Titanium Widescreen LCD TV. At just under £10,000 it will save you decorating a whole wall in the lounge.

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7. Yes it’s another phone, but what a phone! For pure class you can’t beat Vertu. It's the ultimate gadget for the person who has everything. Models such as the limited edition Ascent White come at just £3,250, but for hand-stitched white leather and sapphire crystal glass what do you expect? Personally, I prefer the Signature Platinum model with solitaire diamond. Don't get too excited about the phone's technical features - that's not what it's all about.

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6. And you thought digital cameras had just about arrived. Think again. The latest models are becoming more and more like computer peripherals. Cameras such as the Nikon Coolpix P1 and P2 and Canon’s Ixus Wireless feature a massive 5 megapixel resolution plus WiFi wireless networking technology, enabling you to transfer pictures to your PC without fiddling about with a cable. Take better pictures? Maybe, but you’ll certainly save time. And time is money. So get one of these and make more money in 2006!

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5. Of course, to enjoy such digital video and TV services at their best you need a decent TV. Obvious place to look (emphasis on the ‘look’ here for most of us!) - Bang & Olufsen. The BeoVision 7-40 should do the trick, a 40-inch LCD on a motorised tilt and turn stand, built-in DVD player and powerful active loudspeaker system. I know it costs £7,870, but quality doesn’t come cheap (that’s what the Big Four accounting firms always say, so it must be right). Snag is, you’ll probably want to spend as much again, if not more, on a set of BeoLab speakers to match. A good alternative use for that December bonus you were going to put into a SIPP for residential property investment in April until Gordon Brown changed the rules.

Or get one for the board room to watch the Budget live.

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4. OK, here's apurely non-business gadget. Well, it's not really a gadget I suppose, but TV on Demand is my personal favourite of 2005. As a Telewest cable TV subscriber I now have a service called Teleport, which gives me:

  • Teleport movies - Around 300 movies, from classics to new releases, supplied by Filmflex at normal video rental prices or less
  • Teleport Replay - a library of the last seven days top programmes from the BBC, and
  • Teleport TV - which allows you to view the whole series of popular programmes, documentaries, etc in one go.

Teleport works like a video recorder, you can pause, rewind, fast forward (admittedly, not very fast), and movies are rented for 24 hours so you can watch them over again and again. And the Replay service means I never have to remember to record a programme or fiddle with video tapes.

NTL has a similar service, and if you're not in a cable TV area, take a look at HomeChoice which offers a similar service via a normal BT line!

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3. Mobile storage devices are fast replacing floppy disks and CDs, USB memory sticks are sometimes a bit small, so where next? What you need to carry vital office data around is a portable device with a mini hard drive. But why settle for a dumb disk drive when you can have a portable music player at the same time? The iPod may be the fashion leader, but audio fans reckon the iRiver H10 20GB Audio Jukebox Player is streets ahead for audio quality.

For around £200 you get 20GB of data (or music) storage and up to 600 hours of music playback before the battery needs recharging. And it looks good too. The vivid color display will allow you to view JPG or BMP images. Data transfer is via an ultra-fast USB 2.0 connection. It even sports an integrated FM tuner in case you can't get the hang of MP3s.

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2. Mobile phones are going to feature in this year's wish list. Loads of neat hybrid phones are appearing, featuring Pocket PC applications, satellite navigation, music and video players. But far be it from us to stray too far away from our professional requirements!

O2's latest XDA Mini looks like one of the coolest toys - sorry - most practical business tools in this category. At only 109 x 58 x 24mm (that's four inches by two and a half inches) and weighi8ng in at 160g (that's not very much!) it lives up to the "Mini" name. However, in this petite package you get a quad band mobile phone, 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless networking, Windows Mobile v5 operating system with all the usual Pocket PC applications - plus a great display and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

All this for just £99.99 on a monthly contract with O2. Unfortunately, the powerful business tool COULD also be used for - ahem - certian leisure activities! Did I mention MP3 ring tones, and a Mini SD card slot so you can play your own music from Windows Media Player? Or Java games? I'd better not.

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1. I always knew something like this would come along eventually. I mean, what’s the point of digital cameras if you have to print your photos on paper if you want to display them or show them to friends and family? Trust Philips to come up with a very stylish and practical answer.

The Philips Digital Photo Display is a seven inch (137 x 91 mm to be precise) colour LCD display with a built-in card reader to cater for most popular camera memory cards (SD/MMC, Memory stick, Memory Stick Pro and Compact Flash type I). Just pop the card in and your photos are displayed instantly. The built-in software will rotate the displayed photo automatically if you wish. If you don’t have a compatible memory card the device also has a USB port so you can download photos direct from your camera or PC into its 50 photo internal memory.

Just the job to show off your family photos on your desk at work. With one of these you can have a whole photo album on display in one seven inch unit, thus freeing up acres of desk space and making your work space so much more effective. You know it makes sense!

Widely available from online stores such as Dabs and Misco at £149.98. And I want one please, Santa.

These are Nigel's favourites but we'd like to hear about your gadget favourites. Simply post your comments in the box below.

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