Gadgets

This issue, we try out the latest gadgets that aim to entertain and make your day-to-day life that bit easier.

1. Compass 885 USB modem

USB modems, also known as broadband dongles, free your laptop from the tyranny of needing Wi-Fi connectivity when out and about.

This offering from Sierra Wireless uses the O2 network and is appealing because it offers 7.2Mbit/s upload speeds rather than the more common 2.8Mbit/s. But, as any dongle user will tell you, bandwidth can vary depending on the time of day and location.

The Compass is compatible with Mac and Windows and has a microSD memory card slot for file storage. The software is contained within the device and set-up takes less than a minute.

Many dongles hang off your laptop via a stringy cable, but sensibly this just plugs in unobtrusively like a USB memory stick.

http://businessshop.02.co.uk - free on contract; www.devicewire.co.uk [new window],

£149.99 off contract

2. Skypephone S2

3 is the only mobile phone operator to offer a phone dedicated to making Skype calls. But there is a catch - you can only send and receive Skype-to-Skype calls. You also need to spend at least £10 a month on normal calls and texts to be able to make free calls using Skype.

That said, this is a great phone for anyone who regularly makes long calls to friends or contacts at home and, for the biggest savings, abroad.

The black Skypephone S2 is a sleeker version of the Skypephone (available in black or white) unveiled a year ago. It offers HSDPA data, a 3.2 megapixel camera and 50MB of memory expandable to 4GB using a microSD slot.

Perhaps best of all, it can also be used as a broadband dongle when plugged into your laptop.

www.three.co.uk [new window]

£69.99 or free on contract

3. Toshiba USB external hard drive

Portable hard-drives fit into the palm of your hand yet can hold libraries full of files, pictures and video. As long as you can connect one to a PC or laptop when you arrive, this is all you'll ever need when you travel.

There are plenty of vendors to choose from, but Toshiba hopes to grab the consumers' attention with its new range of stylish coloured versions based around a tiny 2.5in hard drive for Mac or PC.

The carbon grey (pictured) is a 320GB top-end drive capable of storing more than even the most data-hungry user will throw at it. There are also 160GB, 250GB and 400GB versions.

When you bear in mind that just 3GB is needed to store 1,000 novels, 17 hours of MP3 music, and 12 hours of video, 320GB will cover most needs. Internal shock protection stops the drive getting damaged in transit.

www.ebuyer.com [new window]

£75

4. Fellowes Powershred DS1

Can anyone feel safe without shredding even the most basic of documents these days? It's no surprise then that sub-£100 shredders are plentiful.

This stylish and chunky shredder has a useful safety feature that ensures it cuts out if your hand gets that little bit too close to the shredding action. It can handle up to 11 sheets at a time and up to 130 sheets a minute through its 22cm entry slot. It can cope with paper, credit cards and even staples and paper clips without jamming.

The wastebasket slips out easily when full and automatically switches off the shredder when removed. A reverse shred function is available to unblock jams or for sudden changes of heart.

www.amazon.co.uk [new window]

£79.99

5. Speedo Aquabeat MP3 player

What do you give the man or woman who has everything? A gadget that lets them hear their favourite tunes underwater, of course. That's the thinking behind this waterproof MP3 player and headphones made by iRiver. Looking rather like a flattened squashball, it fits onto an armband and happily copes with depths of up to 3m.

It can hold around five hours of music on its 1GB memory, so it should get you through even the most marathon of swimming sessions.

Aimed at the fashion-conscious it comes in bright green, pink, and black and weighs a tiny 35g.

Battery life is nine hours, so there should be enough for the bus ride home, too. Hours of fun at the local pool or simply while you're soaking in the bath.

www.amazon.co.uk [new window]

£59.99

6. Nokia 5220 Express Music with speakers

Most mobile phones are predictable rectangular blocks of some type or another. What makes the Nokia 5220 stand out in the crowd is its asymmetrical design - it's longer down one side than the other.

It's a stylish look that seems to work, and the phone also ticks most of the other must-have boxes - if only at a basic level for a basic price. There's a 2 megapixel camera, 240 × 320 pixel display, multimedia player, FM radio, Web browser and email client. On the downside, it sports a measly 30MB memory (but it can be upgraded).

At 10.5mm thick and weighing only 78g, it's nice and portable. With Nokia's all-you-can-eat 'Comes with Music' service in the pipeline, the 5220 promises cheap access to a huge database of music tracks.

For the mobile disco effect you also get a small portable speaker unit that plugs into the 3.5mm earphone socket.

www.virginmobile.com [new window]

£160 or free on contract

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