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The best gadgets of summer 2011

Schools out, but what new toys are there?

The summer isn’t always the best time to report on new tech: with many people either holidaying or having already bought their holiday gear, summer launches can often be overlooked. Not so some of the products that were unveiled or first went onsale this July. Here’s our round-up of the best gadgets of the month.

We started off with the much-hyped LG Optimus 3D Android super-phone. With a 4.3in touchscreen to rival that of the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Sensation – this year’s Android big-hitters – and the ability to record as well as play 3D, the Optimus 3D put itself firmly in contention. It brought Google onside by providing uploads to its YouTube 3D channel, but just to be sure the 5Mp, HDMI-touting smartphone was noticed, it also drafted in the stars from TOWIE to show just how idiot-proof and desirable it is (at least, that’s what we think they were getting at).

3D was also on the menu for Toshiba, which demonstrated its glasses-free 3D gaming laptop. The 3D webcam with follow-me face-tracking sounds rather Owellian, but Toshiba assured us the result is an effective – albeit personal – 3D viewing experience. The Toshiba Qosmio F750 3D costs from £1,300 and is onsale this month.

Some of our favourite new gadgets were far less bombastic. We were excited to learn that there’s to be a Mini version of Olympus’ retro-styled PEN digital camera. Better yet, you won’t need to know the ins and outs of manual focusing and focal lengths: the PEN E-PM1, as the Mini will officially be known, looks set to be aimed at novice photographers who want a stylish point and shoot camera.

We also stole an admiring glance at the new Cyber-shot cameras Sony slid out. The Cyber-shot TX55 will be the thinnest digital camera to offer full 1920x1080p video capture (at least it will when it launches; no doubt other camera makers will be working to shave off a few tenths of millimetres from their compact snappers as we speak). Whether they will also be able to claim simultaneous still photo capture at 12Mp remains to be seen. The 94g Cyber-shot TX55 even has a 3.3in touchscreen display and an optical zoom crammed in to its 12.2mm frame.


Acer also kept things compact, showing off its latest C110 pico projector. The 175g projector’s brightness rating has shot up to 50 Ansi lumens, while the canny use of a USB port on a laptop to draw power means there’s no need to tout a bulky power pack whenever you want to show off the slideshow of your latest business idea to a select group of business associates.

While they’re likely to be impressed with your new £199 business gadget, the real wow will be when you pull out the Griffin Helo TC helicopter and start controlling it from your iPhone or iPad. With multi-coloured flashing lights and control through four axes, it’s the executive toy to have and costs a mere £34.99. 

Gamers, meanwhile, will be more enthralled by the gadgets coming to a console near them. Microsoft did a fair job of persuading us that its Wireless Speed Wheel and Forza 4 or DIRT for the Xbox 360 will be where the thrills are at.

However, the new Sony Vita portable console got an early airing at the start of July, followed a few weeks later by the joyful news that it's set for launch (in Japan, at least) in October.

PC gamers were also in for a treat as Asus announced details of its new Republic of Gamers laptop, the 17.3in Asus G74Sx. With 8GB of DDR3 RAM, nVidia GeForce GTX 560M graphics, a Blu-ray drive, a quad-core 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM processor and up to 1.5TB of hard disk space, this beast could potentially even scare off a mighty Alienware machine. No surprise what that huge 1920x1080p  screen is for either: 3D comes as an optional extra for gamers with deep enough pockets not to mind adding to their existing £1,699 bill.

Finally, things were quiet on the tablet front in July. Though Samsung was about to unleash its Galaxy Tab 10.1in Android Honeycomb 3.1 tablet in the UK through DSGi,

The only new models from a big-name brand announced in July came from Lenovo. Its IdeaPad K1 is a “consumer-focused” Android 3.1 tablet with Wi-Fi but no 3G module onboard. Lenovo says the K1’s SocialTouch interface “will provide centralised ‘one-touch’ access to social networks”. UK customers will be able to tweet about the merits of Lenovo’s IdeaPad tablet from September. We’ve a review here to whet your appetite.

Finally, audio fans are in for a treat: in mid-July Sonos brought out its Play:3 network music streaming device. The modular music setup starts with a single £259 speaker, but can be built up to a connected audio system that streams music from almost any device to any other networked laptop, PC or speaker. Support for Android, iOS, iTunes and a range of online music streaming services including Napster, Last.fm and Spotify, plus hundreds of internet radio stations means the Sonos Play:3 may well offer more music options than any other single audio setup. 

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