x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Gift-wrapped gadgets

You may think you can live without these must-have gadgets, but why would you want to?

Smaller, lighter, and faster - the latest electronic goodies will fit most budgets.
Smaller, lighter, and faster - the latest electronic goodies will fit most budgets.

Netbooks Who: Young people and travellers. Why: Small, light, convenient and cheap. These make the ideal second laptop for a frequent flyer, or a first computer for schoolchildren. How much: Less than Dh2,000. Where: Most good electronics retailers. Tiny laptops that can be thrown in a backpack or slipped into a handbag have been around for a few years now and have always been appealing - and expensive.

But only recently have they become affordable - cheap even - in a way that makes them ideal for school kids, teenagers and the careless of all ages. At the current price point of below Dh2,000 (US$544), you can watch these fly out the door on the back of a BMX bike and not be too worried about your investment. The "netbook" concept - small, stripped-down computers that are designed primarily as web browsers - was kick-started by the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, which aimed to build a $100 laptop that could be distributed to children in the developing world.

As the project progressed, the PC industry realised that demand for such a machine was huge across developed and developing markets. While companies like Sony, Apple and Dell were stuffing their machines with more power and flashier accessories, what people really wanted was something simple and cheap that they could take to the park without worrying. Now, pretty much every major computer maker - with Apple a notable exception - has released a netbook. Most are priced under Dh2,000, with some at less than half that price.

Most will not have the power to run complex applications or serious games. Many will not even run Microsoft Windows. But have you looked at how young people use computers these days? Practically everything - e-mail, messaging, entertainment - is done within a web browser. And running a browser is what these things are made to do. Most good electronics stores will sell netbooks. The Asus Eee PC is the best known of the bunch, but keep your eyes out for the MSI Wind, another good option. Dell and HP have also entered the market, but their products are yet to be seen in the UAE.

JVC Kameleon Who: Anybody who spends a lot of time in the car. Why: A wonderful in-car entertainment system will help numb the pain of even the worst traffic, and this head unit is the first step. How much: About Dh1,800. Where: Find your nearest JVC dealer at jvc-me.com If you spend lots of time in the car, which the average UAE business type does, it makes sense to have the best in-car entertainment system possible.

The JVC Kameleon should sit at the centre of this set-up. With a beautiful touch-screen design and integration options that let it talk to almost any device imaginable, it marries form and function like few other products in its class. When switched off, it looks like a flat black panel - a nice way to avoid enticing potential thieves and keep the car interior looking clean and simple. Wave your hand in front of it and the proximity sensor activates the screen, which includes a virtual iPod-style wheel that controls volume, track selection and other important functions.

With a docking interface for iPods and iPhones, plus the usual range of standard connectors and a USB slot, you will be able to plug in almost any media player. The Bluetooth receiver means you can remotely play music and make phone calls from the device in your pocket or bag, which is a great feature. The 3.5-inch colour screen is not big enough to watch movies on, but it looks beautiful and displays the album art for songs from your iPod. It can be hooked up to a rear-view camera to give you the extra edge when parking your car in a tight space - a key UAE skill if ever there was one.

You will need other devices to make a truly brilliant in-car experience - big-screen media player, GPS receiver, speaker system - but the Kameleon sits at the centre of it all with more grace and style than anything else on the market. Flip Video Who: Creative types of all stripes. Why: Online is what video is made for these days, and this simple, stripped down video camera is perfect for the YouTube generation.

How Much: Dh700. Where: Online store at theflip.com No new video camera has had a fraction of the buzz, or the sales, of the Flip, which in less than a year has overtaken established competitors to become the best selling video camera in America. Rather than making a more expensive device that shoots higher quality or has more features and options, Flip has reduced things to the core: one big red button that starts and stops recording, and a pop-out USB connector that plugs directly into your laptop.

The Flip is a video camera made for the YouTube generation. It shoots low-quality footage, but it is more than good enough for uploading to the web. With no frills like optical zoom or image stabilisation, forget about shooting sporting events or sweeping panoramas. But for the kind of videos people love to watch online - rants delivered to camera or crazy scenes from everyday life - this is perfect. Its size means it fits in a purse or pocket, and its low cost means you needn't worry too much about taking it wherever you go.

For a dedicated creative type, this is not going to be the only video camera, but it makes a lot of sense as the everyday device you keep around to catch those magic moments. The new line of Flip video cameras also have a special customisation option. When ordering them online, you can provide your own image or pattern that will be printed directly onto the body of the camera - what better way to make your gift a memorable one?

Flip do not yet have a retail partner in the UAE, but ordering from their online store is quick and easy, and you get to customise the camera in ways you would not be able to in a regular store. tgara@thenational.ae