Belfast Telegraph

The 50 Best Computers and Gadgets

<b>Apple MacBook Air</b><br/> The most desirable, most portable, best-designed laptop on the market. It's exceptionally thin, 19mm at its thickest point. It's pleasingly light (1.3kg) and has a large, bright screen. It's not cheap and the processor could be faster, but it's tremendous, thanks to a comfortable keyboard and large trackpad to guide the cursor. Plus, like all Apple Macs now, it includes Boot Camp software so you can Instal Windows on this machine, too, if you must. The Mac operating system, though, is more intuitive and accessible. Comes with a regular 120GB hard drive, though a pricier option with a 128GB flash drive is also available.<br/> <b>Where</b> Apple (0800 783 4846; www.apple.com/uk)<br/> <b>How much</b> from £1,271
Apple MacBook Air
The most desirable, most portable, best-designed laptop on the market. It's exceptionally thin, 19mm at its thickest point. It's pleasingly light (1.3kg) and has a large, bright screen. It's not cheap and the processor could be faster, but it's tremendous, thanks to a comfortable keyboard and large trackpad to guide the cursor. Plus, like all Apple Macs now, it includes Boot Camp software so you can Instal Windows on this machine, too, if you must. The Mac operating system, though, is more intuitive and accessible. Comes with a regular 120GB hard drive, though a pricier option with a 128GB flash drive is also available.
Where Apple (0800 783 4846; www.apple.com/uk)
How much from £1,271
Sony VAIO VGCLV1S Desktop PC
Sony bills this as the ultimate all-in- one PC, and its 24in screen is big enough to double as a decent television, too. And since it has a TV tuner you can use it to record TV as well as watch it. The huge 500GB hard drive means that you can save quite a few episodes of Mad Men, too. Similarly, the Blu-ray drive means you can play high-definition movie discs. Like the iMac, this is a desktop PC that will turn heads with its design.
Where Comet (08705 425425; www.comet.co.uk)
How much £1,272.33
Dell Mini 9
The 8.9in screen on the Dell Inspiron is not the largest you'll find, but thanks to its integrated mobile broadband you can get connected wherever you can find a mobile phone signal. This also means that if you sign up for a monthly broadband package the laptop costs £199 or free on pricier tariffs. A minimum of 1GB of data traffic is included each month. It's a speedy, easy-to-use machine that weighs under 1kg, not least because the storage is on flash memory, though there's only 8GB of this. It's smart looking, too.
Where Vodafone (0808 036 5366; www.vodafone.co.uk)
How much from free with contract
Sony VAIO P-Series
Laptops don't come any smarter or any more pocketable than this. By dispensing with the usual trackpad, Sony was able to create a much narrower machine. Its high-resolution display is a super-widescreen 8in model but it can fit into a pocket or bag - navigation is by means of a button in the middle of the keys. The specs are much higher than on a regular netbook and there's compatibility with a 3G data card for the best connectivity. Expensive but gorgeous.
Where Sony (08705 111999; www.sony.co.uk)
How much from £849
Toshiba Portege M750 Tablet PC
A Tablet PC has a touch-responsive screen as well as a regular keyboard. So you can use a stylus to scribble notes onscreen to annotate a document and tap the screen to activate menus and so on. This proficient Tablet from Toshiba has a compact 12in screen and usable keyboard. Some Tablets have screens that are entirely removable, making them more versatile still, but that's not the case here. None the less, this is a neat and impressive laptop. Hard-drive capacities start at 120GB and the processor is speedy, too.
Where Toshiba (0870 444 8944; www.computers.toshiba.co.uk)
How much £977
Dell Studio Hybrid
The move to make computer components smaller so they'll keep bulk and weight down on laptops has benefits for desktop users, too. You don't need to crack your shin against a large tower of computing power sitting under your desk. In fact, the Studio Hybrid line is good looking enough to keep on your desk - it even comes in a bamboo finish. Note that the price includes keyboard and mouse but no monitor, though of course you can opt for one if you like.
Where PC World (0844 561 0000; www.pcworld.co.uk)
How much from £399
Acer Aspire One A150
Like nearly all netbooks, the trackpad on the Acer that responds to your touch to move the cursor around is not great. It's small and although it's responsive, you're much better off investing money in a notebook mouse such as the Logitech V450 Nano. That's the Acer's only Achilles heel though. It features Windows XP and has a reasonable-capacity 120GB hard drive and 1GB of memory. The screen, at 8.9in, helps keep the size of the machine down and you can choose from several bright colours for the case, to make your own statement.
Where Comet (08705 425425; www.comet.co.uk)
How much £239.99
Vodafone USB Modem Stick Pro
This modem allows you to go online wherever you can get a mobile-phone signal, so you're not limited to being in a wireless hotspot or connecting by cable. It's a small and simple-to-use USB device that installs its own software as it's inserted. It also has a microSD card slot so you can attach a memory card to transfer data, too. The Modem Stick Pro has download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps, though it's more usual to find speeds of around 2Mbps.
Where Vodafone (08080 365366; www.vodafone.co.uk)
How much from free to £47.96 on monthly contract of £15-£25
Sony FP95 Photo Printer
The small Sony printer delivers vivid, colourful prints sized 6x4in. It has a useful carry handle and a relatively huge adjustable LCD screen (3.6in). Instead of inkjet it uses a technology called dye-sublimation that transfers dye to glossy paper in three separate coloured layers. This kind of printer is ideal for super-sharp photo prints. Cute extras include the facility to add speech bubbles, for instance, to photos.
Where Sony (08705 111999; www.sony.co.uk)
How much £139
Sony VAIO FW35V
This is a great entertainment laptop that along with a large widescreen display (16.4- in) has dedicated multimedia buttons and an integrated webcam. The high-resolution screen means you can watch DVDs or, with the pricier 35X version, Blu-ray discs. There's plenty of memory, 4GB, and you can choose a 128GB flash storage drive instead of the standard 400GB hard drive, although there's a £240 surcharge for this. As with all Sony laptops, it's stylishly designed and has strong battery life and great usability.
Where Sony (08705 111999; www.sony.co.uk)
How much from £799
Apple iMac
Just announced last month, the new iMac comes in two screen sizes, 20in and 24in, both glossy and gorgeous. The design hasn't changed from last year's models but the specifications have been improved and the processing speeds increased. The iMac comes with iLife 09, the latest version of the leisure software suite including iPhoto, which now uses face detection and even face recognition to label who's in your photos for you. Garage- Band, from the same suite, can even help teach you how to play musical instruments.
Where (08705 425425; www.comet.co.uk)
How much from £949
Toshiba NB100
Toshiba's NB100 has a 9in screen, so not as large as some, but the keyboard is still highly usable. It comes in cute silver and gold options and is light and portable as netbooks should be. As with other machines, the trackpad is the least effective part of the package but Toshiba's is no worse than its rivals. It's available from Carphone Warehouse with a mobile broadband contract of £30-£35 a month, which waives the £300 purchase price.
Where Carphone Warehouse (0800 925925; www.carphonewarehouse.com)
How much free with an 18-month or two-year mobile broadband contract.
John Lewis Buffalo Mouse Mat
It's worth investing in a decent mouse mat. Cheaper mats deteriorate quickly and novelty models are hilarious for a time and then irritating. This leather mat from John Lewis iswell-made and has a padded wrist rest at the side. This is part of a range of buffalo-leather stationery products exclusive to the store so you can match it with a paper knife and pen pot for your analogue desk needs.
Where John Lewis (08456 049049; www.johnlewis.com)
How much £17.50
Vodafone HTC Magic
This is the second smartphone to use Android, The Google operating system. It's a slim, sexy phone with a hugely responsive touchscreen and virtual keyboard that appears for entering text or dialling numbers. Hundreds of free programs and games are easily downloadable, so the Magic can work as a portable computer in lots of different ways. Internet browsing is good and this phone's version of Google Maps is exceptional - assisted by built-in GPS.
Where Vodafone (08080 365366; www.vodafone.co.uk)
How much from free with monthly phone contract
HP Elitebook 6930p
This business laptop is ideal for corporate road warriors. The magnesium alloy chassis makes it ideal to take on tour, as it's strong and light and even has a finish designed to look newer longer. An embedded 3G data card means you can connect to the internet wherever there's a mobile phone signal and other features include a fingerprint recognition sensor and webcam, which will scan business cards. Best of all is the battery life, which will last up to 24 hours.
Where PCWorld Business (0844 871 0505; www.pcwb.com)
How much £920
Asus Eee Top 1602
An affordable desktop PC from the people who created the netbook, the Eee Top 1602 has a 15.5in touchscreen display with handwriting recognition capability. It also has a keyboard, of course, which tucks away behind the screen when not in use. The specifications (1GB of memory, 160GB hard drive and the lack of an optical drive) reveal that this is a netbook in a new format to fit on a desk better. Neat and available in black and white.
Where Comet (08705 425425; www.comet.co.uk)
How much £399.99
Advent 4213
Thanks to its built-in 3G data card, the Advent has great connectivity. Simply insert a sim card and you can connect to the internet anywhere you can get a mobile phone signal. Unlike the Toshiba NB100 (no13), which comes with a particular network's card, the Advent is unlocked and will work with any sim. The hard drive is large (160GB) and there's the standard 1GB of memory built in. The screen is a decent 10.1in but even so, the keyboard is small and hard to use. Battery life is around four hours.
Where PC World (0844 561 0000; www.pcworld.co.uk)
How much £279.99
Apple Time Capsule
If your laptop is swiped or your hard drive crashes, all those invaluable photos will be lost, along with documents, music and more. Help is at hand in the beautiful shape of the Time Capsule, which will save copies of everything. It comes in two capacities, 500GB and 1TB (1,000GB). If you have a Mac running the latest version of its operating system, it will automatically make back-ups every hour and you don't have to do a thing. It's wireless so you can even store it a safe distance from the computer.
Where Comet (08705 425425; www.comet.co.uk)
How much 500GB £195.73
Kodak ESP9 Printer and Scanner
Kodak's printers all have a central thread - they were designed with the aim of producing high quality at low price. But this machine also offers great versatility. Like the LexmarkX765 (no 30), this machine works as a printer, scanner and copier as many all-in-one machines do, but also as a fax. Wireless connectivity is built in as well to add further usefulness. The 3in LCD screen is big enough for viewing photographs easily when you insert a memory card into the reader.
Where Comet (08705 425425; www.comet.co.uk)
How much £299.99
Panasonic Toughbook CF-52
The Toughbook series of laptops are semi-ruggedised - the case is toughened so if you drop it you shouldn't lose all your data. The 13.3in screen has a magnesium alloy chassis, which also protects the hard drive. The keyboard is protected so if you tip a cup of coffee over it the electronics will survive. The laptop's specifications are decent ? 2GB of memory, a 160GB hard drive and a battery that lasts up to eight hours.
Where Panasonic (0844 844 3852; www.panasonic.co.uk)
How much from £1,851
Acer Aspire Predator G7200 (Ranger) Gaming PC
Funny, isn't it? Dress up a computer case with a cool hinged door and suddenly you've got a sexy system that is begging to be snapped up. Gaming PCs are the most advanced, costing more because of their high-quality graphics and video cards, not to mention fast central processing units. So this complicated-looking machine has lots of memory, a fast hard drive and liquid CPU cooling so that however hot things get for your onscreen character, your computer stays temperate. Display extra.
Where PC World (0844 561 0000; www.pcworld.co.uk)
How much £1,299.99
Asus EeePC S101
Asus was the company that created the netbook. Keeping the company at the cutting edge is this stylish machine, which is slim and attractive, weighing 1kg and measuring less than 2cm thick. Instead of a traditional hard drive, the S101 has 16GB of flash memory. Asus also includes 30GB of online storage space - handy to make sure all your data is safely backed up elsewhere. A widely spaced keyboard and cute colour options round out a great, though not cheap, netbook.
Where Asus (01908 518000;www.asus.com)
How much £449
Logitech diNovo keyboard
Logitech's range of keyboards and mice is extensive and impressive. The diNovo series offer great looks and exceptional comfort. The diNovo keys are quiet and travel further than a laptop's keys, say an extra millimetre, which makes a surprising amount of difference. Power management is efficient enough to meanthat you should only have to change the battery in this cordless keyboard every three years. Available in versions for PC and Mac.
Where Logitech (01753 870900; www.logitech.co.uk)
How much £79.99
Palm Tungsten TX
The Palm Pre is an amazing smartphone due later in the year. The TX isn't a phone but its wi-fi connection is great for browsing the internet in a wireless hotspot. There are thousands of programs downloadable from the internet to suit the most obscure of needs - Palm had its own applications store long before Apple. This stylish gizmo is perfect for synchronising email, addresses, calendar and notes with a computer, thus keeping your data current.
Where Palm (0118-974 2700; www.palm.com/uk)
How much £207
Sony VAIO AW11
If you want a laptop that's big and solid enough to be a desktop replacement, the AW series with its 18.4in display is great for watching movies as well as managing spreadsheets. And since the AW11 has a Blu-ray drive, movies look as good as possible and there's an HDMI socket that carries high definition audio-visual signals so you can watch the movies on an HDMI-equipped TV, too. This laptop is also very keenly priced for a machine with Blu-ray, a 320GB hard drive and 4Gb of memory.
Where Sony (08705 111999; www.sony.co.uk)
How much from £899
Sony VXTP3E
Sony's VXTP3E is an all-rounder in every way. There's no monitor because the idea is you'll want to connect it to your TV. A huge hard drive (500GB) means you can record plenty of TV using the digital and analogue hybrid TV tuner and it's designed so you can record and play back TV programmes easily. The keyboard is wireless so you can plonk it on your lap on the sofa and it has a remote control, not a mouse, though a touchpad pointing device is built into the keyboard. Cool.
Where Sony (08705 111999; www.sony.co.uk)
How much £509
HP Mini Note 2140
The aluminium finish to the casing and metallic keys make this an attractive proposition. It's extremely well made and enjoyable to use, especially since the keyboard is large, springy and comfortable - well spaced, not least because of the 10.1in screen. The screen is particularly bright and colourful with the usual VGA webcam built in. Not cheap, but worth it.
Where HP(08705 474747; www.hp.com/uk)
How much from £422
Western Digital Portable Hard Drive Real Red
Backing up data is essential, of course, and The My Passport Essential 250GB USB models does the job well. However, it's also portable enough to slip into a pocket and light enough to be easily carried. Like most external hard drives, it's compatible both with Macs and PCs. It's also hard to lose because of its bright red casing, though a more demure black model is also available, for around £12 less.
Where Amazon (0800 279 6620; www.amazon.co.uk)
How much £69.83
Lexmark X7675
The black-and-silver casing will suit a home office or business desk alike. There's a decent scanner, impressive and speedy printer, good copier and even a fax. It's wireless so you can print to it remotely using your home wireless network, like the HP Photosmart C6380 (no 40). Above all, this machine is now a real bargain, having dropped from just under £200 to half that.
Where PC World (0844 561 0000; www.pcworld.co.uk)
How much £97.86
Apple MacBook Pro
The newly revamped MacBook Pro range includes a massive 17in model with exceptional battery life (up to eight hours) so you should never run out of juice. All Mac laptops now have bright LED screens and the Pro range uses large, cool glass trackpads that respond to multiple touches, making navigation easier. MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops are hewn from a single block of aluminium that helps to keep the weight down and the stylishness up.
Where Apple (0800 783 4846; www.apple.com/uk)
How much £1,320.30
Dell XPS One 24
This all-in-one desktop PC is beautifully designed and has a great high-resolution 24in screen. It's big enough to work as a regular TV for DVD playback, say, and comes with a remote control. Along with the wi-fi you'd expect to find in a computer there's a TV tuner, lots of memory and 320GB hard-drive storage. Or, for an extra £350, you can opt for a model with a Blu-ray drive and huge 500GB storage.
Where Dell (0844 444 5818; www.dell.co.uk)
How much from £1,349
MSI Wind U100
The 10in screen uses a power-saving LED backlight to elongate battery life and the MSI Wind, available in several colours, is well constructed and good to use while the keyboard is among the most comfortable on any netbook - well spaced and nicely sprung. Though the screen resolution is not especially high this means that text in documents appears large and readable. There's also a function where, by tapping a key, you can switch from better battery life to stronger performance.
Where PC World Business (0844 871 0505; www.pcwb.com)
How much £269
O2 Joggler
The Joggler is a touch-sensitive terminal that sits in the kitchen, living room or wherever you fancy and works as a calendar for the whole family. You can display photos on it aswell. You can add events to the calendar on the Joggler's 7in screen or at a computer where the calendar resides online. If your mobile is on O2 it even sends text message reminders of calendar events. More functions are available, including weather forecasts, traffic alerts, news headlines and games. Out next month.
Where O2 (0800 224477; www.o2.co.uk)
How much £149.99
Apple iPhone
The iPhone's touchscreen is slickly responsive, the 8GB storage is enough for over 1,000 songs (it's an iPod, as well) and it has excellent portable internet browsing. It also has the App Store, a collection of 15,000 small programs, many free, which can be downloaded to the phone so that you can chart your weight, convert from lbs to kgs, check theweather globally and more.
Where Carphone Warehouse (0800 925925; www.carphonewarehouse. com)
How much from free with contract, from £343 pay-as-you-go
Dell Adamo
Determined to have a light, slim laptop, Dell has just announced the Adamo with striking good looks, etched aluminium casing and backlit keyboard. Unlike the MacBook Air, whose thunder this is clearly trying to steal, the Adamo squeezes in two USB sockets. Due out soon, this is Dell's attempt to devise a supermodel of a style unit, and it looks like it's succeeded.
Where Dell (0844 444 5818; www.dell.co.uk)
How much £1,649
HP Compaq dx2400 Microtower
If your budget is limited you can still reach for a big-name company like HP. This basic system offers HP's reliability and build quality and reasonable specs if you're just starting out: 1GB of memory, 250GB hard drive and DVD rewritable drive. It's not super-powered and its looks will make you hide it under the desk, but it's a good budget system. Monitor not included.
Where PC World Business (0844 871 0505; www.pcwb.com)
How much £358.99
Samsung NC10
The netbook is a category of laptop with a small screen (7-to-10in) and no optical drive for DVDs. It's small, light and cheap and always offers wireless connectivity. Some favour the leaner Linux operating system but most have Windows XP, ie not the latest version Of Windows. This netbook is one of the best you'll find: it has a decent-sized hard drive (160GB), neat styling and exceptional battery life and should keep going for up to seven hours. Outstanding.
Where Amazon (0800 279 6620; www.amazon.co.uk)
How much £307.95
BT Home Hub
BT's new version of the modem and router is powerful - its signal easily stretching between floors and rooms, and it's also easy to configure. BT Total Broadband subscribers with the Home Hub also get a free BT Vision box, an impressive personal video recorder with on-demand programmes and Freeview. There's also a matching phone for internet phone calls.
Where BT (0845 606 3300; www.bt.com)
How much from free plus monthly rental from £15.65
HP Photosmart C6380
It's big but not unattractive: this is a printer, scanner and copier in one. There's a slot for memory cards that fits most major camera formats and the LCD screen means you can print direct without the need for a computer. It has wi-fi built in so you can print to the Photosmart even if your PC is in another room, say, providing it's on the same wireless network. Good value, too.
Where HP (08705 474747; www.hp.com/uk)
How much £183.88
Toshiba Qosmio X300
Toshiba's Qosmio range consists of smart, powerful multimedia machines, which are good for watching movies and playing games. This model has 4GB of memory and a 320GB hard drive, though top-of-the-range versions have 640GB of storage space. The 17in screen is bright and colourful, the sound from the built-in Harman Kardon speakers is beefy and the snazzy red casing is cool.
Where Toshiba (0870 444 8944; www.computers.toshiba.co.uk)
How much from £1,173
Lenovo ThinkCentre A57e
Another desktop PC designed with cost-efficiency in mind. If you don't need the fastest processor or biggest memory, and if your computing needs stretch no further than documents, a bit of accounting, email and surfing the internet, then there's money to be saved here. Specs are unexceptional (2GB memory, 250GB storage) but the price is keen. Monitor extra.
Where Lenovo (0844 800 0550; www.lenovo.com)
How much £415
Lenovo Ideapad S10
Styled to match Lenovo full-sized Thinkpad laptops, the Ideapad comes with similar specs to the MSIWind and Samsung NC10. It has 512MB of memory, though the most you can upgrade it to is 1.5GB, unlike the MSI Wind that can hold up to 2GB. It also has an Express card slot that you can use to expand the machine with add-on USB ports, for instance. The textured trackpad is better than some of the netbooks here, but it's still not remarkable.
Where Lenovo (0844 800 0550; www.lenovo.com)
How much from £249
San Disk Cruzer USB Micro Flash Drive
There's no more easily portable memory than a USB drive. This model from SanDisk, whose knowledge of computer memory is hard to beat, has a USB connector that retracts inside the main unit for protection. None the less, it has a massive 16GB of storage - the equivalent storage of more than 4,000 floppy discs. It also uses U3 technology, which stores software as well as documents and other data.
Where Amazon (0800 279 6620; www.amazon.co.uk)
How much £15.49
Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook T1010
Adecent all-rounder, the T1010 is easily portable and has good battery life and Tablet functionality. The laptop is a decent performer with strong business assets, but it's not so good when it comes to gaming. Similarly, the sound is not really up to movie playback. The touchscreen responds to the stylus and to fingers but if you're using it in more traditional ways, the keyboard is springy and easy to use.
Where Fujitsu Siemens (0800 004003; www.fujitsu-siemens.co.uk)
How much £1,200
Where Apple (0800 783 4846; www.apple.com/uk)
How much from £499">
Mac Mini
If you've got already got a computer screen, keyboard and mouse you can reuse them and treat yourself to the "Headless Mac". It's a compact and neat computer that now claims to be the most energy-efficient you'll find. Memory isn't huge (1GB) and the hard drive is just 120GB, though you can upgrade both for an extra £150. This is a cost effective way to enjoy the Mac operating system.
Where Apple (0800 783 4846; www.apple.com/uk)
How much from £499
Acer Aspire L3600
If space on your desk is limited, this small PC packs a lot of power into a small space. It's also well priced, though it manages to include a 19in monitor and a huge hard drive (650GB). Memory is a decent 2GB, a graphics accelerator means the screen looks good and there's a wireless keyboard and optical mouse. There's also a memory card slot that will read five kinds of memory card, to upload digital camera shots easily.
Where John Lewis (08456 049 049; www.johnlewis.com)
How much £535
LG X110
You can choose from black, white and pink finishes on this, the first netbook from Korean electronics company LG. It has a built-in 3G data card slot so it's well connected and an above-average webcam - 1.3 megapixels instead of the usual 0.3 megapixel version. Its battery life is not as strong as some netbooks here, but this is a handsome and well-designed machine.
Where LG (0870 607 5544; www.lge.co.uk)
How much £310
ManilaMac AirMail
Storage for a MacBook Air that is both practical and witty. When Steve Jobs launched the Air he revealed it, emphasising its slimness, by sliding it out of a manila envelope. This computer sleeve has a soft fluffy fleece lining and manila-coloured vinyl outer with a red cord and two buttons that hold it shut just like the internal postage envelope it mimics. It's very satisfying to use and necessary.
Where Manila Mac (www.manilamac.com)
How much $34 (£24)
Epson Stylus SX200
Epson printers are strong performers, and where some printers offer low-purchase prices but make their money back from expensive inks so the running costs are high, the SX200 manages to make both affordable. Inks are sometimes expensive because all the colours come in one cartridge, so when one colour ink runs out, it's all unusable but Epson has four separate colour cartridges. It scans copies, too.
Where Play.com (0845 800 1020; www.play.com)
How much £74.99

From the daddy of desktops to a netbook that’ll nestle in your handbag, David Phelan selects the season’s hottest hardware

>> Click the image to the right to launch the 50 best computers

Leave your comments and suggestions below

Sign In

Belfast Telegraph

Popular