Christmas Gadget Roundup

With Christmas almost upon us it is time to look at some exciting executive gadgets and affordable computer accessories that will please any geek this festive season.

With the growth in HD-ready flat screens has come the growth in home media servers as a cheap and easy way of watchinh high definition downloaded video on your lounge TV.

Traxdata's MultiMediaDrive is among the better ones on the market, being easy to use, supporting a wide range of formats and not looking like a space ship that has crash landed into the side of your TV.

This anonymous black box contains a 500GB hard drive and is controlled with a slim, minimalist remote control. It plays a variety of file formats including DivX, .Vob, Xvid as well as the usual MPEG and Windows Media suspects.

The drive has Scart and HDMI ports as well as SPDIF audio and component video. It also has two USB 2.0 ports. The Traxdata drive can upscale to either 720p or 1,080i HD quality and can play media without first having to transfer content to a consumer player.

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Computing

MSI Wind Netbook - 329.99

The Wind has had a minor refresh since we first reviewed it, adding just enough to ensure it remains one of our favourite netbooks.

The 1.6GHz Atom processor remains, as does the 1GB of RAM, but the hard drive has been bumped from 80GB to an impressive 160GB.

Also included with most 160GB models is the larger six-cell battery which will happily deliver five hours of uninterrupted use in normal operation.

Measuring 260 x 180 x 37mm (WxDxH) it is indeed larger than either Acer's Aspire one, or any of Asus' Eees. And at 1.15kg it's heavier too, but not by much. A few hundred grams is a small penalty to pay for the fine build quality.

The 10in screen shares the same 1,024 x 600 pixels as its competitors, but the extra inch or so of screen size makes everything just a touch more legible. And thanks to the LED backlighting it provides impressive brightness.

Finally, it still has one of the best keyboards of all the netbooks currently on the market. If you type a lot, be it emails or a novel, this is the netbook for you.

3 INQ1 smartphone - 79.99

Last Christmas mobile network 3 surprised many of us with the launch of its first Skypephone, a very good and low-cost 3G phone with built-in Skype client.

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Well 3 is back again with the first of a new series of devices under the brand name INQ. The INQ1 is a slider phone that shares many of the same software attributes as the Skypephone, but with a different emphasis.

The INQ 1 focuses on Facebook, allowing for both offline and online browsing of Facebook contacts and content, syncing content in the background when signal is restored. The key applications such as Facebook, Windows Live Messenger, Skype and the phone address book are integrated, allowing for shared single inbox views of incoming messages and chats, along with shared contact details across applications and voice call alerts.

The INQ 1 supports 3.6Mb/sec HSDPA data transfer and can be used as a USB dongle.

Perhaps most surprising is the cost. Despite looking a lot like a mid-priced Nokia slider phone, it is just 79.99 on pay as you go.

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