The first hardware from the UK home computing industry to send shockwaves through the world since the ZX Spectrum, the Raspberry Pi is the little computer that can. Full of Heath Robinson charm, it looks like a fistful of electronics and a couple of output ports nailed to a credit card and is priced at 26 quid; just add control devices, a TV and power supply and you’re away. The Pi puts coding and device building within the reach of anyone; its impact could be nothing less than revolutionary.
The killer tech in this incredible, ultra-portable, gaming “concept PC” – you can’t actually buy it yet – is an infinitely customisable keyboard, where each key can change its purpose and even appearance to suit the game being played. The tech has made its way into the just-unleashed Razer Blade laptop, and if Razer decides to licence its technology further afield, who knows where we’ll see it appearing next. Smartphones? Tablets? Spaceships? A mouth-watering prospect.
Interestingly, while this walked it in the Work category, BlackBerrys are now arguably seen not so much as the tool of choice for fastidious businesspersons as the rabble-rousing organ of rioting underclass folk. That doesn’t diminish the excellence of the Bold, which remains THE gadget for communicating securely, accurately and, like, bare nang innit blud? Sorry, where were we? Ah yes: lushly tactile QWERTY, large-enough screen, easy pocketability despite its comfortable proportions, long battery life, tungstenlike security and a luxe feel. Yours for 20 notes. It’s not nicked mate, honest.
Despite the messy patent dispute with Apple, Samsung continues to go head-to-head in the smartphone and tablet domain with the Cupertino company announcing the Samsung Galaxy S4, more S-Pen-packing Note tablets, Smart TVs and new camera innovations The Samsung smartphone division of the business saw a 41.5% rise in profits thanks to the success of the Galaxy smartphone range as more handsets fell off the production line in another productive year for the Korean company. From the flagship Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the more advanced, accurate S Pen has also made it to bigger devices like the Note 10.1 and Note 8.0 tablets as the company aims to offer a mobile device with every display size covered. But it’s not just been about mobile devices this year as Samsung showed how to make a Chromebook desirable, introduced the Samsung Galaxy Camera and also unveiled its 85-inch 4K TV with its Smart TV range still continuing to add more content than any other platform. Samsung
Samsung introduced web-connected, widget-laden smart TVs to a grateful world and they continue to lead the way. The 8000 Series packs more high-end tech than is strictly decent into an enviably skinny frame. There’s LED backlighting, active 3D, wireless content sharing with your Samsung mobile devices, and internet@TV, which gives you instant access to BBC iPlayer, Lovefilm, YouTube and all the other top-drawer online video flingers. All that would be for nought if image quality wasn’t jaw-dropping, but as serendipity would have it, it is. Score.
Arguably second in importance only to Gadget of the Year, the nation’s handset of choice is, for the first time in three years, from neither Apple nor HTC. Little wonder, Samsung smashed it into the roof of the net with its top-of-the-range Android blower. A gorgeous looking phone with slick operation, the S II also features the best camera on any smartphone to date, great integration with Samsung’s TVs and other kit and a screen that matches the iPhone 4’s, without aping it, thanks to the unfathomable power of Super AMOLED.
Ball shaped in-ear headphones designed to rock out at extreme levels and offer easy control with the biggest inline remote we’ve ever seen… The ball design of the Sennheiser CX890i grabs attention as soon as these are out of the box. The design ensures there’s enough space for the tech inside but also means these in ears sit in the ear well and are rugged to boot, feeling every inch like glass marble. A good selections of buds helps the fitting processing and aids the decent level of bass which these in-ears can provide against rivals, which means they’re ideal for rock and hefty hip hop. Play Milkshake by Kelis and it’s an instant house party in your head. There’s few in-ear headphones that rock this hard and with a ‘not too ridiculous’ price tag, we can see the tough build appealing to many who wreck their headphones after a few months of tough love. There’s a solid carry case too, which seals the deal. Price: £119 Sennheiser
Like a premium version of iPlayer – there can be little higher praise than that – this app lets Sky subbers (or one-offers) watch its channels on iOS, Android, Mac or PC anywhere there’s broadband or 3G. That includes the Movie and Sport channels plus the excellent Sky Atlantic and the arguably-not-so-excellent-but-who-arewe- to-judge Sky One. With an easy-to-use EPG and quality streaming, Sky Go has, in the year since its release, become an essential part of a lot of Sky lovers’ lives.
Sky’s top-of-the-range recorder, this Amstrad-built box features a 2TB hard disk drive with room for 350 hours of HD Sky+ recordings, two tuners and, of course, access to Sky’s huge range of channels and on-demand video. The Sky+HD 2TB box is an optional upgrade for Sky+HD subscribers that supercharges the Sky+ experience by essentially removing any need for you to think about how much space your recordings are taking up. It can store 350 hours of HD content, or 1,180 hours of SD video. In fact, only 1.5TB of space is available for your recordings, with the remaining 500GB cordoned off for use by Sky’s Anytime on-demand service. Content is king, of course, and this box wouldn’t be the phenomenon it is without Sky’s amazing satellite and IPTV service, which features more HD than any other broadcaster (65 plus channels!) plus 3D and lots of on-demand content. For our money, between that and the design this makes the Sky+HD 2TB box the best TV recorder around. Price: £149 for new subscribers, £49 for existing subscribers Sky
Even as the nation’s showrooms fill up with handsome tellies, the HX853 stands out as especially dashing. Rakishly leaning on its flat stand, it serves up brilliantly vivid HD/3D pictures, while the X-Reality Pro processing engine also works miracles on material streamed wirelessly from the web. Speaking of which, Sony’s online arsenal is second to none, with its own Entertainment Network supplementing YouTube, iPlayer, Netflix et al. Bravo!
Sony continue to invade the compact system camera with this mid range compact which sits behind their standard setting 24 megapixel NEX 7. The body of the Sony NEX-6 offers a firm grip for your hand and build quality is substantial even if the camera looks unnervingly small when joined by a large lens. Wi-fi enabled from the start, you can choose from a large range of lens and even Sony options like a flashgun. The touchscreen tech and APS-C sized sensor blend usability with DSLR technology to startling effect. The electronic viewfinder is a rarity among compact system cameras and commands a premium price although it’s a price worth paying - in use, this camera really behaves like a full size DSLR. There’s good aperture controls and menus for pros while simple panorama sweeping means it’s fun for beginners too. Price: £829 inc 16-50mm lens Sony
Will we see its like again? As smartphones’ power grows exponentially, this and the Nintendo 3DS might be the last ever dedicated handheld consoles. If so, what a way to go out: everything learned to date about taking gaming on the road, distilled into one dreamy device. From the core controls to the motion sensors and rear touchpad, it plays like a dream, while the superb screen and almost PS3-matching innards mean it can handle anything devs can throw at it. Gaming perfection.
…And speaking of riots, meet the other media villain of the piece. Twitter has had an incredible year, taken a lot of flak and facilitated a lot of great things – and some terrible ones, granted. At its heart lies, as ever, the purity of truncated expression. Composing a great Tweet is like writing a haiku or sonnet; economy and attention to language and nuance are everything. For keeping you up to date with the lives of others, nothing beats it, but as the Arab Spring proved, it’s also a communications tool that dictators genuinely fear.
A free companion app for the Xbox 360, SmartGlass allows you to use a Windows, iOS or Android device as an interactive second screen or controller when gaming or watching media content. Xbox SmartGlass makes it easier than ever to interact with the Xbox 360, especially while playing games or watching a video. It’s a companion app that adds a second screen to the proceedings – think the Wii U controller but on a smartphone or tablet instead. And free. Watch a film or TV programme and SmartGlass will give you extra details about it. Put on a downloaded episode of, say, Game of Thrones and you can view a pictorial timeline on your tablet or read background information on the characters. Play Forza Horizon and your smartphone becomes a GPS-style map screen showing you exactly where you are. Microsoft sees this kind of extra interaction as an important part of Xbox’s growth, particularly as a non-gaming entertainment device – and it’s tough to argue. We can’t wait to see what happens when it hits the next Xbox. Price: Free Xbox
You like watching telly. You like reading up about what you’ve watched on telly. You like talking about telly. Now, you can do all three at once. Recognising that modern TV viewers are also hooked into social networks as they watch, the multiplatform Zeebox puts up contextual information about what you’re watching, lets you share your “You HAVE to see this” moments with friends and, soon, will let you buy the butler from Downton Abbey’s waistcoat. The future of TV is here.
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