Handheld vacs, wireless music systems and full-frame cameras all get stylish, while the iPhone 5 and tablet e-readers duke it out.
Vorwerk Kobold VC100
Simply put, this has got to be the best-looking handheld vacuum cleaner ever. Little wonder it won a Red Dot Design Award 2012 for Household Product Design. Of course, as well as looking great, the Kobold features a host of smart design touches - most notably its 750g light weight is designed to be distributed towards the centre of the of the handle to ensure it’s easy to use. Add in Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, optimized airflow for larger crumbs and LED charge display and you’ve got a serious sucker with plenty of vacuuming style to boot.
Amazon Kindle Fire/Fire HD
Amazon finally gets round to releasing its Kindle Fire, alongside the more recently-released to the US Fire HD. The British line-up of eReader/tablet hybrids still inexplicably excludes the Fire HD 8.9” version. But what you do get is 7” screened colour, touchscreen tablets running a custom version of Android OS and designed not just for reading Kindle ebooks, but also playing games, watching films and surfing the web etc. But Google’s Nexus 7 tablet costs the same as the Fire HD, features a quad-core chip (although admittedly less storage) and can run the Kindle app. Plus there’s a host of other rivals launching.
Bowers & Wilkins A5/A7
Rounding out the Zeppelin Air iPhone dock are these new “Wireless Music Systems”. The A5 and A7 ditch the physical dock connector (not a bad move now that Apple have redesigned it for the iPhone 5), and instead concentrate solely on wireless AirPlay streaming. Both feature Bowers & Wilkins unwavering signature seriousness about audio quality, but the £700 A7, with space inside for a 6” bass driver, is the audiophile star of the show - it’s hard to imagine a better-sounding iPhone streaming dock. And, of course, wireless streaming means you can keep using your devices while you listen.
Apple iPhone 5
It’s thinner, it’s lighter, it’s got a bigger screen. The iPhone 5 is here - and in the hand feels absolutely wonderful. But spend time with it and it quickly emerges that what’s going on under the surface is far from the leap forward Apple fans might expect. Now Apple’s chasing Samsung, HTC and even Nokia in usability and specs stakes (even, arguably, Motorola). The 4” 1136x640 display is great, and processor speed is excellent - but iOS is lagging behind Android on features, the new connector is annoying, and as has already been well-documented, the non-Google Maps app is currently woeful.
Barnes & Noble Nook HD/HD+
It’s not just Amazon... Barnes & Noble are launching the eReader/tablet range in the UK before Christmas also (and their standard eReaders also). The HD/HD+ are custom-skinned Android touchscreen tablets. The Nook HD is about as similar to the Kindle Fire HD as it’s possible to get without slapping “Amazon” on it. The HD+ is a 9” 1920 x 1080 “Full HD” version. As Amazon are neglecting to bring their 8.9” Fire HD version to the UK, that means the Nook HD+ is ideal if you want a bigger display, but not at an iPad price (of course, there’ll be more Android tablets along any minute, though).
The “world’s smallest full-frame camera” is an absolutely flash idea - at an insanely flashy price. Yes, the combination of 24.3MP sensor, F2.0 fixed focal length Carl Zeiss lens and manual controls in a tiny camera is very appealing. But for significantly less money, you can get a APS-C sensored compact and a brighter F1.4 lens - the end result may well be broadly as good pictures. That said, the lens/sensor/camera system in the RX1 looks particularly well-integrated at coping with particular demands - close-up macro shots, low-light images and more. Either way, pricey, but potentially superb small sharp shooter.