Christmas may be the season to be jolly but, for many of us, a technology splurge isn't an option right now. Fortunately, there's plenty of inexpensive but appealing gadgets and gizmos to be had.
Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: Photo gifts
Alternatively, you could pick some of their favourite snaps and have them printed in a photobook yourself. Blurb is one of our favourite services. You simply download the BookSmart software on to your PC, and this helps you import images, add text and personalise the layout of a number of different book designs. Then, when you're happy with your photobook, you can order it through the website. Books are priced from £2.95 to £34 and we love the flat rate of £3.99 for postage no matter what you order.
Keen photographers will also love a digital photo frame on which to display their favourite shots. Some frames let you transfer images wirelessly or you can insert a memory card full of pics and create slideshows.
A good budget choice is the £29 Shake a Pix frame, available from PrezzyBox. At 5mm thick, Shake a Pix is one of the slimmest digital photo frames we've seen. It has a 2.4in display and is ideal for carrying on the go. It also offers a unique feature that lets you shake the frame to change the picture displayed.
The 32MB internal flash memory can hold up to 170 320x240 images. The USB connector plugs into your PC to load up images and charge the device, and also doubles as a stand for the photo frame.
Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: Gaming gear
The £24 WolfKing Timberwolf Warrior USB gaming keyboard is a circular gaming keyboard available from Zoombits. A revision of a similar idea WolfKing came up with three years ago, the updated Timberwolf Warrior keyboard has 15 additional keys - making a total of 55 - that can be customised with different tasks, ensuring gamers have as much control as possible.
The Timberwolf Warrior comes in a funky shade of green and features an ergonomic design to ensure delicate gaming hands won't suffer from injury. WolfKing says the device, which requires no driver, can be used alongside a standard keyboard.
Retro gamers will be more than happy to unwrap a Nintendo Mini Classics keyring (£9.99 inc VAT from firebox.com). Another popular inclusion on gadget websites and in department stores, these classic games will re-awaken many an addiction to Donkey Kong and other well-loved characters.
The mini versions of the original Nintendo GameBoy consoles will win you the devotion of your favourite gaming enthusiast, reviving not only Donkey Kong Junior but also Super Mario Bros and Mario's Cement Factory.
See also: Nintendo DSi review
Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: Practical magic
One of the most in-demand items this Christmas is likely to be the Harry Potter-style Magic Wand Remote Control - a device that will appeal to youngsters in much the same way as a Star Wars light sabre.
The difference is that the wand has a practical use: the 355x20mm device has a processor and accelerometer that are programmed with 13 different gestures. Waving the device around lets you control an infrared device such as a TV, radio, iPod dock or Sky+ box. Recognised gestures are acknowledged with a vibration.
The AA-battery-powered device has an auto-sleep mode that kicks in 60 secs after the kids have become distracted by something else and comes with a leather case for storage when it's not in use.
The £49 wand is available from major department stores and games shops, as well as online at firebox.com.
Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: Protect tiny ears
If it's not so much your kids' hyperactivity as their delicate hearing and their love of cranking up the volume on their MP3 player that concerns you, the Griffin MyPhones are the perfect buy (£29 inc VAT from griffintechnology.com). The volume-limited headphones can go no louder than 85 decibels - precisely the maximum level that audiology experts recommend for children aged from three to 12 years old.
The MyPhones sit over the ear, rather than inside, like many other headphones, and have soft rubber ear cushions and an adjustable band. Three interchangeable shell caps are provided or you can create custom shell caps that slip in as inserts. A protective carry case is supplied.
Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: Save the world
While some technology gifts are whimsical, others have a decidedly ethical appeal.
For environmentally concerned tech lovers, the Eco Button (£15 inc VAT from iwoot.com and other gadget sites) is a must-have gift. The tiny green-and-blue button plugs into the USB port of a PC or laptop and, when tapped, puts the machine into ‘eco mode' by sending it into energy-saving slumber. Tapping the button again rouses the PC.
It's a mighty handy electricity bill saver, too - particularly if you take frequent tea breaks or have regular meetings to attend that call you away from your desk. You can even download software that helps you calculate how much money and how many carbon units you've saved by using the Eco Button.
Christmas 2009 buyers' guide: Easy as USB
Admit it: you've come to depend on those tiny memory sticks that conveniently save your photos and files and then slip unobtrusively into a jacket pocket. Keeping tabs on which USB memory stick you've stored a file on isn't quite so easy, though. That's why we reckon a USB drive that has a distinctive design will make a great stocking filler.
The LaCie iamaKey range of USB keys (from £19 inc VAT, lacie.com/uk) ingeniously shaped like keys is an obvious option. Three different designs are available in capacities ranging from 1GB to 8GB. Unsurprisingly, the USB drives are a great fit for your keyring, too.
Another cunning USB device we like is the Mix Tape - a USB drive that's shaped like a cassette tape. It's the sort of gift that's likely to go down a storm with any family member over the age of 30, while the younger generation will be intrigued by the retro style.
You simply slide the button at the top of the 105x70mm device, which is compatible with PC or Mac, to pop out the USB connector and plug it into your PC. A number of stickers are supplied with which to painstakingly label the contents, and there's even a cassette box. The £19 USB Mix Tape Flash Drive is available from amazon.co.uk.
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