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The best gadgets of June 2011

The launches and announcements that caught our eye this month

It's been no surprise to see plenty of outdoor and holiday gadgets filling our new products blog this month, but June also saw the unveiling of a number of decidedly cool and innovative tech products. Among them were both the BlackBerry and HP tablets we've been wanting to get our hands on for months, while Samsung and Sony both brought out intriguing ultraportable laptops. But if we're honest, our favourite gadget launch this month was a fantastically quirky camera.

Firebox Dalek

Sad news came at the start of June, as we learned that Doctor Who will no longer be fighting the good fight against archrival the daleks. As a nation of sci-fi fans mourned the passing of The Doctor’s most valiant foe (or at least the one that has done battle with him more than any other over the decades), gadget site Firebox sensed our loss and quickly proferred a replica Dalek – a snip at £3,000.

The BlackBerry Playbook finally went onsale in the UK, impressing us with its slick interface and moody graphics (even if recent sales figures for the smartphone company itself made for less than edifying reading). Still, having tested the Playbook ourselves in our recent tablets group test, we’re happy to attest to the 7in device’s likability and usability, especially when judged against some less than stellar competition.

Another disappointment came in the form of the Samsung Chromebook. It’s not a bad piece of hardware, but as our US compadres had suggested, the combination of an operating system that is “nothing but the web” and a £349 price tag - higher than the average netbook - don’t make for a compelling purchase. Until you can actually do something with your Chromebook when the web isn’t available, we’ll be skipping this cloud computer for now.

HP, on the other hand, seems to have put together a convincing – and funcitional – lightweight device in the form of the £349 TouchPad. It’s a tablet, but one that runs its own OS but doesn’t skimp on business connectivity or only allow you to do ‘fun things’ via endless downloaded apps. Apple should take note, perhaps.

Sony Vaio Z Series laptop

Sony announced a number of new Vaio laptops, including the first model to sport an Apple Thunderbolt connection. The 13.3in-screen Sony Vaio Z laptop is an ultraportable Windows 7 laptop that weighs just under 1.2kg and is 17mm thick. It has a 1,600x900-pixel screen and uses a 256GB SSD for storage, rather than a more traditional hard disk drive.  

A docking station that will be launched as an optional accessory for the Vaio Z adds a number of extra ports and includes its own graphics card.

Sony NEX-C3 camera

Being officially summer, there’s been a rash of new camera launches. Sony brought out another model in its NEX range of APS-C cameras. The NEX-C3 may have the most competition from its own camp as it’s very similar in design and features to the C5 model that scooped the PC Advisor Best camera award a few months ago.

Leica also has a new APS-C camera out. The £550 V-Lux 30 touts both GPS geotagging, saving you the arduous task of pinpointing your best shots on Google Maps, and satnav-style points of interest. The 14Mp compact camera is also one of a number of new models that can take 3D photos.

Not to be outdone, Olympus announced three new Micro FourThirds cameras. Set to go onsale in the UK from August, the 12.3Mp Olympus PEN E-P3 will be the flagship model and will retail for £799 with a 14-42mm lens kit. The PEN E-P3 has a 3in OLED screen on which images can be framed and reviewed and a  choice of capture settings too, from 30fps and 60fps to AVCHD rather than Mpeg4.

Olympus also unveiled both a PEN Lite, E-PL3, and a whole new Mini model that will go onsale towards the end of the year and that is designed to ease timid photographers into the realms of dSLR and manual photography.

Smartphones go 3D

Two 3D smartphones vied for attention. Vodafone announced it would begin carrying the HTC Evo 3D from the beginning of July, just as the LG Optimus 3D finally hit the shelves of Carphone Warehouse.

Gear4 Angry Bird iPod speakers

The next two items to catch our eye are anything but timid. Angry Birds mania shows no sign of abating – and officially debuted on Windows Phone 7 after a controversial unofficial showing last year. Sensing a bankable franchise, iPod accessory maker gear4 bought in to the Angry Birds phenomenon and now holds the distinction of being an official licensee of Angry Birds iPod and iPad cases. In June, gear4 showed off its first Angry Birds iPod and iPhone speakers.

Nintendo Wii U

Nintendo found itself basking in the limelight at the E3 games show when it showed off prototype versions off its Wii U handheld gaming pad. A companion to the Nintendo Wii, it appears to be part touchscreen tablet and part wireless games controller.

Polaroid Grey Label GL10 photo printer

Nor could we miss the Polaroid GL10 – not just any old instant photo printer but the one designed by Lady Gaga herself. UK sales seemed to commence around the same time Gaga herself was gracing festival stages over here. Neat.

But the gadget that truly caught our imagination this month was more retro and tongue in cheek than any other. The Lomo La Sardina sardine can camera just can’t be ignored, even if you’ll need to hunt through cyberspace to track down some old-school 35mm film in order to use it.


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