As you can imagine, members of the gadget-deluged PC Advisor team sets a high bar on the hardware, software and websites they choose to use in their work and personal lives. So we compiled this list of the top 25 products that we don't just like but that we absolutely, positively love. 25 gadgets, gizmos, sites and services we can't live without.

Not all of them are examples of the most innovative, high-end technology. Some of our picks are slightly quirky. But all of them represent technology that we, the users, absolutely love.

Digital TV

And not just any digital TV. We're talking Sky+. Hard-disk based personal video recorders, remote recording, the lot.

Because of this technology, we could never go back to the regular way of watching TV. We can skip all the commercials and watch a 1-hour show in 45 minutes. If we want to record all programs and movies in a series, we can do it automatically. We can keep up with series such as "Heroes", "24" or "Lost" and still be able to leave the house and, you know, function.

But it's the simplest features, such as pausing a show when you need to get up and do something, that are the most important.

The analogue switch off will be painful for some, and a hassle for most. But the future is bright for telly addicts.


Belkin N1 Vision

Yup, the Belkin N1 Vision is one of the fastest, most reliable wireless routers we've ever used, with gigabit ethernet ports and three antennae juicing a draft-n Wi-Fi radio.

But the real fun comes when you start reading the LCD status screen on the front of the router. Dials, gauges and graphs show you how fast your downloads are running, exactly what's connected to your network, and how much data each computer is sucking down.

For geeks, it's a guilty pleasure akin to pushing a performance car past the redline - all without having to get up from your chair. For additional information, read our review of the Belkin N1 Vision, which found the N1 Vision less than perfect due to its lack of an 802.11n-only mode at the time.



The ability of Skype to make cheap and free calls over the internet is a gift that keeps on giving, shaving thousands of pounds off our phone bills over the past five years.

As journalists, we make phone calls to various countries almost every day to connect with sources for stories. Skype provides prices (and in some cases, voice quality) that conventional phones cannot. Though the service suffers from some stability and lag-time issues, the cost savings it offers makes it critical, especially in our line of work.


Microsoft FolderShare

Though Microsoft acquired FolderShare in 2005, this Windows Live service is still listed as a beta. Some of the PC Advisor crew use it to keep folders synched on multiple PCs. That sounds simple to do without help, but in our experience it really is not.

Since a lot of technology journalists work at home a lot of the time, we find ourselves constantly moving documents from home PCs to work laptops and back.

With FolderShare, we set up a designated folder on both computers where we want the documents automatically synched. As long as both machines have an internet connection, synchronisation is nearly instantaneous. And almost genius.

MS FolderShare

Mark/Space's The Missing Sync

Imagine this, not too far-fetched scenario: your laptop is an Apple MacBook; your mobile phone runs Windows Mobile 6.0. In theory, that's a problem, since Microsoft's synchronisation software is for Windows only.

But Macs actually work with Windows Mobile better than Windows Vista machines do, thanks to Mark/Space's The Missing Sync for Windows Mobile.

You can use this £20 utility to shuttle calendar and contact information between Pocket Outlook and OS X's iCal and Address Book apps. We're most smitten, though, with The Missing Sync's iTunes integration, which makes getting playlists of podcasts and unprotected music on to a Windows Mobile device as painless as it is with an iPod.

Mark Space Missing Sync

Ultraportable PCs

Ever since we began seeing full-featured ultraportable laptops about two or three years ago, we knew we'd found something we couldn't live without. Now you can do everything you want to do - play DVDs, take notes, edit high-resolution photos, copy files from SD Card and CompactFlash media (without an external card reader) - all on a notebook that weighs about 1.2kg or 1.3kg. Light weight laptops make going through airport security a breeze, and we've yet to see the back of an economy-class airplane seat that will crunch into an ultraportable's display.

Click here for reviews of the latest portable PCs

Intuit Quicken Premier 2008

Intuit's Quicken Premier 2008 personal finance software, even though its straight-out-of-1998 interface frustrates the heck out of us, gives us comfort that we won't be living in a box five years after we retire.

We love that it can download transactions automatically; we hate that it can't download transactions from many organisations or for many types of accounts (for example, 403b plans and 529 plans). But once we've entered all those tiny transactions, we really know how much we've got - and how far we still have to go.

For more, read our review of Quicken Home & Business 2008, which is similar to the Premier version but also adds business tracking tools.

Intuit Quicken Premier 2008

Siber Systems RoboForm

Hands down, Siber Systems' RoboForm is the best tool for storing usernames, passwords and other contact data for websites. Here's why: you provide RoboForm with all the vitals you might need to complete a site's form - name, address, phone numbers and even credit card numbers.

When you click the Fill Forms button, the program does just that. Click a website from the RoboForm Passcard screen, and RoboForm transports your web browser to the site, logging you in if necessary. Need an industrial-strength password? RoboForm will generate one for you. And don't worry about security: RoboForm is itself password-protected.



We did say some of these were quirky, right? OKBridge, an online bridge community, has been around for a long, long time. It has progressed from a free text-based Unix game to a sophisticated, graphical Java application that runs in a Windows or Mac browser.

You have to pay $100 a year to play with or kibitz the likes of Warren Buffett and bridge pros from around the world, participate in online tournaments, and read articles by well-known bridge columnists.

You can play bridge elsewhere on the web, but OKBridge remains the best implementation with the best community. And that, dear reader, is a perfect example of what the web, and Web 2.0 specifically, can do for us all.


If you're a compulsive tech-bargain hunter, and one of the best ways to find red-hot specials and the absolute latest in price drops is to use deal-scanning sites such as It sifts through other bargain and coupon listing services, including Ben's Bargains, FatWallet, SlickDeals, DealCatcher, DealNews, TechBargains, and more, to spot great deals with one simple search. Now that's one-stop shopping!


Microsoft Word 2003

Microsoft's Word has been the centre of our professional lives for many years now, primarily because we've yet to find another word processor that handles outlines so well. The outline view is based on hierarchical text styles, so turning an outline into an article or reorganising an article as if it were an outline is easy.

We haven't always been pleased with Word's updates, however. Some of us still miss Word 95 with its fantastic Word Basic macro programming language. Nor are we all happy with the user interface changes in Word 2007. So Word 2003 seems like a workable compromise.

MS Word 2003

Apple iPod

Anyone who takes public transport will agree that an iPod is a must. Take an 80GB Apple iPod with video. It helps drown out crying babies, overexcited shoppers, rowdy teenagers, and unrepentant mobile-phone abusers on buses and trains. Between the 10,000-plus songs, scattered videos and podcasts, you're assured of a ride home listening to your own personal soundtrack.

The shuffle setting saves you from having to make mix CDs, and since the iPod is ubiquitous, you'll never have a problem finding a docking station for impromptu dance parties or for playing songs in the presence of other audiophiles.

Apple iPod

Microsoft Virtual PC 2007

There's no safer way to surf or to try out new software (including operating systems) than from within a virtual machine - that is, a PC emulator running inside a window. Download Microsoft's free emulation product, Virtual PC 2007, or VMware Server, which is also free.

Install your VM host, configure your virtual machine (easy), and then install an operating system. (VMware Server calls the virtual machine a Virtual Appliance, by the way.) With a VM running, my main operating system is safe. If malware attacks or if we don't like the software we installed in the VM, we simply close the VM without saving its state, and the unwanted software will be gone next time we start up.

MS Virtual PC

Lexmark Z1420

"Can you print that up for me?" That question is the bane of any wireless laptop users life. It means tethering an otherwise free-spirited portable to a USB printer. Our saviour, a Wi-Fi-based printer. In this case, the Lexmark Z1420 printer.

The Z1420 is almost a bottom-of-the-line model, but who cares - we can use it with all of our Wi-Fi-equipped computers. Now, when we need to print out driving directions, we can feel the full effect of wireless freedom.

Lexmark Printer

Logitech Harmony 670 Advanced Universal Remote

Between the DVR, the DVD player, the TV set, the CD changer, the Xbox 360, the PC and the receiver connected to them, your coffee table may be drowning in remotes. Enter, the Logitech Harmony 670 Advanced Universal Remote.

Logitech's universal remotes don't just replace the controllers that come with your A/V components, they go far beyond them.

Press the Harmony's Watch Movie activity button, and the appropriate devices turn on, switch to the right inputs, and begin playing. It takes some configuration (you'll have to install an app on your PC and tell the remote which components you have and how they're connected), but once the Harmony is dialed in, you'll never need your old controllers again. This is the way all remotes should work.

Logitech Harmony

M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96. Oh, and Audacity

Okay, this is two products, but they go together. The M-Audio MicroTrack is a portable digital recorder that captures excellent audio and saves your recordings in .wav or MP3 format. You can use it to create podcasts, and it's ideal for recording phone interviews, meetings, and such. You can then play back recordings on the M-Audio or on an iPod. Audacity is free audio software that allows even audio novices to edit their recordings easily.


My Yahoo, iGoogle, NetVibes...

Some of us use My Yahoo to keep up on blogs and news sites, preview Yahoo Mail, learn about DVD movie releases, drool over the latest Epicurious recipes, and envy backpackers who post photos on Flickr. These are all content modules that you can drag and drop around the page over a pretty background of my choosing. Other people may prefer rival services as iGoogle or NetVibes.


Palm Centro

Yes, the Palm OS is long in the tooth, but if you've been a user for ages, you look past the cobwebs and the 20th-century look-and-feel and know you're home. No one has ever constructed a PDA interface half as user-friendly and as tap-minimizing as the Palm OS calendar/contacts/memos/to-do suite.

Mashing up that OS with a phone - the Palm Centro smartphone - that has a decent web browser, an email client, and an open development environment makes for a killer combination. Third-party apps are legion; we use an SSH (Secure Shell) client to connect to home PCs all the time, and a freeware music player for Ogg Vorbis and MP3 files. You can even listen to internet radio.

And unlike the Treo 600 and 700p for years, the Centro is lean - happy in your pocket - which makes us hope that Palm is headed for a renaissance when its promised new OS comes out, rather for than the dustbin of tech history.

Palm Centro

OpenOffice 2.3

It's hard not to love an office suite that does everything you need and costs you exactly £0. It's not merely that we're tight (we are) or that we hate Microsoft (we don't). The suite simply works.

It handles Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files with ease and seamless integration. When you're in Writer, you can open a spreadsheet or presentation file with a couple of clicks - without sucking up half your system memory or crashing your PC.

OpenOffice is not perfect, of course. To send files to non-OpenOffice users, you must convert the documents to something more Microsoft-friendly. The suite has few bells and whistles, too. But if you want bells and whistles, buy yourself a trainset.


SATA HDD Stage Rack (3.5in)

This obscure little gadget - the SATA HDD Stage Rack - is an external USB desktop docking station that accepts ordinary 3.5in SATA hard drives. It helps migrate data to new PCs, and it turns unused drives into quick-and-dirty backup cartridges - Veritable 100GB floppies. This device has breathed new life into old drives, which were just collecting dust in a closet. Unfortunately, it's so obscure, you might struggle to find one on sale in the UK.



When we use an unfamiliar PC and get search-engine results that lack the colored safety icons of SiteAdvisor, we feel like we're stumbling blind into questionable territory.

The terrific free safety tool from McAfee for Firefox and Internet Explorer adds a small coloured icon next to results from Google, Yahoo or MSN to indicate whether a site is hunky-dory, might send you spammy email, or could even try to attack your PC with malware.

What's more, it gives full details on why a site received a particular rating. Of course, it doesn't offer absolutely impenetrable protection, but we'd hate to live without it.

McAfee SiteAdvisor

The mobile internet

We could live without the mobile internet... if we worked from home. But since we have to leave the house, the ability to use the web at speeds that are still fast enough for us to deal with email, do web research, and keep up with the news, helps us forget about the commute. And not being at home.

Apple iPhone

Sad, but true: we can't even begin to remember everything we need to remember. But the Apple iPhone has changed that. We now have all the essentials of digital life - email, calendar, contacts, text messages, web bookmarks, latest YouTube obsessions, and music - at our fingertips in a single sleek device. The iPhone makes us more connected, more accessible, and more productive. It fits a crazy, busy, on-the-go lifestyle perfectly. And it's, like, really cool.

Apple iPhone

Google Earth's Google Sky

Google Earth grew a whole lot more powerful - and engrossing - when it added the Google Sky feature last August. As if being able to visit your childhood home, your first school, and the site of your first wedgie without leaving your desk weren't enough, Google Sky lets you fly around the galaxy and search for monoliths.

This is one application that can actually bring generations together. It's probably the only piece of software that fascinates our grandmothers. And it costs nothing, which is much cheaper than a flight to Europe. Or a flight to Venus.

Google Sky

Kinesis Advantage USB Keyboard (QD Model)

You fingers will fall perfectly on the contours of the Kinesis Advantage USB/QD Keyboard for Macs and PCs. This funny-looking but friendly device, which comes in white and black, puts the space and backspace buttons directly under your thumbs. When you type in the ergonomic Dvorak layout, you barely have to move your fingers beyond the home row.

Your typing speeds will become faster, and long hours at the keyboard are much more comfortable than when you use a flat qwerty keyboard. The QD model has a hardware switch for alternating between the unusual Dvorak and the ubiquitous qwerty layouts, so we can change it to a standard keyboard for visitors who need to use the latter.