The low down: Best Gadget 2009
Just days away from the Vodafone Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2009 and it's our last exclusive category. The Best Gadget nominees are, in there way, the purest of all the bits of kit that turn up throughout the year. They are the indescribable, contraptions that genuinely make our lives easier and essentially bits of kit that we just couldn't fit into any other group.
But before you head off to the voting page and put an X on your ballot, here's a little low down on exactly what the nominees are for 2009 and why they deserve both your support and the ultimate crown.
Dyson Air Multiplier
The Dyson Air Multiplier fan does what it purports to do very well. It blows air at you. The interesting part is that it does this without blades thanks to a very thin stream of air which the fan directs around the rim at 55mph. Without boring you with an extensive description of fluid dynamics, it works because of friction - if air is travelling in a jet, then air alongside it tends to get pulled along too.
It can therefore shoot out a relatively thin stream of air that will pull up to 15 times more air along with it. Pretty efficient compared to a traditional fan (though a similar principle does apply there, too). In terms of volume, the fan is about as noisy as a regular fan, if a smidge less. What this version gives you though is something much more attractive, slightly less dangerous and around 20 times more expensive. A wonder of design but seriously hard on the wallet.
For what seems like an age, we in the UK and Europe have had to cast envious glances across the Atlantic at the step up in photography connectivity that is the Eye-Fi card system. At £70, they may seem a little on the pricey side for a 4GB SD card, but the trick is that these little devils can send your snaps straight over a Wi-Fi network and to your computer, all while still inside the camera.
There are all sorts of levels of Eye-Fi cards to choose from but, at their best, they'll allow you to geo-tag snaps if near certain hotspots and upload both images and videos to all the good cloud storage and social networking sites.
Perhaps the only problem with the Eye-Fi is that without any real out and about 3G or external Wi-Fi zone support, their function is rather limited to those working in a studio, at home, or taking photos in the same place as your computer happens to be. If it were beyond that barrier, then you'd have to hand Eye-Fi the Best Gadget 2009 award now.
The Livescribe Pulse Smartpen is one of those gadgets that makes you realise that the future is closer than you thought. It's a digital pen which includes a tiny on-board camera and it comes with special, and rather expensive, A4 sized paper containing thousands of invisible dots for the camera to use to track the motion of the nib as you move it. Then, when you plug the pen into your computer - Mac or PC - you can download a digital file of your handwriting. So, no additional transcribing is necessary.
Better still, the pen also contains a microphone which records AAC files as you write. When you then go back to any place on your notepad and press the nib down, it plays back whatever was being said at the time. It's an excellent tool for anyone taking minutes or writing down notes at an interview to get an exact quote of what someone said. You can even slow playback down if it's hard to catch.
Perhaps the only real issue is that the Livescribe doesn't come with any handwriting recognition software to change your scrawl into typeface print. In many cases, this is rather the point of the exercise, as one of the ideas of transcribing notes is to decipher your doodles before you forget what they mean.
Logitech Wireless Guitar
With the Guitar Hero dynasty rockin' on stronger than ever, Logitech decided to add some class to the proceedings this year with the launch of the gorgeous but expensive premium wireless guitar controllers. Bright orange, and we mean bright, the weighty guitar (like the weight of a real Gibson) comes with a wood neck, a rosewood fingerboard and metal frets, letting you jam like the rock god you are.
You can get them for Xbox, PS3 and Wii, all at annoyingly different prices, but rest assured all will cost you in excess of £120. A rather specific contender for this year's award but it's hard to ignore stark beauty when it's staring you in the face.
Sony Reader Pocket Edition
The Sony PRS-300 Reader Pocket Edition is the Japanese company's take on a budget ebook reader. Despite the all singing and dancing abilities of the Touch Edition, announced at the same time, this one still offers the core functions with the same class but on a smaller screen and at a fraction of the price.
The 5-inch display offers an 800 x 600 pixel resolution and perhaps it would have been nice to expand on that given the 7.3-inch total size. At 220g, it's also a reasonable size to justify its "Pocket" title despite still being heavier than most mobile phones.
All the same though, it supports EPUB, PDF, TXT, RTF, DOC and BBeB files for reading. There's no music playback with this edition and there's only 512MB of non-expandable storage to play with, but it's still a pleasure to use and it still looks great. Now, it's actually affordable too.