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10 overrated gadgets, and their better alternatives

What's hype and what's been overlooked

When it comes to technology, there's plenty of gadgets and gizmos that have earned huge amounts of initial praise, but don't live up to the hype. And for every overrated product, there's an equivalent that is vastly underrated and doesn't get the respect it deserves. We've put together a list of 10 most-hyped tech products available and the most underrated rival.

4. Overrated: iTunes Downloads; Underrated: Slacker

After ripping through your stack of old CDs, you're grabbing songs from the iTunes Store. In other words, you are paying for the privilege of buying music that's locked down in DRM hell.

We'd rather start from scratch with a music streaming service such as Slacker. Enter the name of a band you like, and the site compiles sets of tunes you'll probably enjoy as well - many of them by artists you may not know. Love a song? Buy it online. Slacker also has a premium service with a $10 (£6) monthly fee that gives you more control of the music you get. And you can upload your playlists to the second-generation Slacker player.

5. Overrated: Facebook; Underrated: Multiply

Everyone seems to be on Facebook at this point. But to what end? Countless free applications of dubious value, plus scores of plug-ins and games that draw you deeper into the Facebook rabbit hole until you're spending hours a day befriending complete strangers with whom you have nothing in common beyond a shared love of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

Ready for a little quality control? Try Multiply.com, a social networking site that's less a landing page (à la Facebook) than a series of feeds. Share various aspects of yourself with people in different spheres of your life: Have a drinking-buddy list for happy-hour updates and a family group for Aunt Helen sightings.

6. Overrated: Apple iPod Touch; Underrated: Microsoft Zune (and other digital audio players)

The iPod has established itself as the Hoover or Biro of the MP3 category, but other players offer stronger features to the discerning few. Most annoyingly, Apple charges a premium for less. News flash: a built-in accelerometer on the latest models lets you shake your iPod like a maraca to change tunes. Yay!

Microsoft's Zune is better than the iPod Touch because it lets you sync your device wirelessly - no cradles or cables needed. Though the iPod Touch has Wi-Fi too, we want more than web browsing from our wireless connection. A recent Zune update allows users to tag music heard on the built-in FM tuner and order it when they next hook up on Wi-Fi. The Zune also lets you stream music to other Zune owners - if you can find 'em that is. Sadly it's currently only available in the US with no UK release date yet. But try any of the audio players we've reviewed from the likes of Creative, SanDisk and iRiver, and you'll appreciate the difference.

NEXT PAGE: Why we prefer OpenOffice to Google Apps

  1. We look at what's just hype and what's been overlooked in the world of tech
  2. Why iTunes is overrated
  3. Why we prefer OpenOffice to Google Apps

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