6 December 2013

FEATURE: Christmas Stocking Fillers - Gadgets #2

Big kids rejoice!

On our continuing quest to find you, dear reader, the very best Christmas gifts that won't result in you having to sell a kidney, we return to our spiritual home: the world of gadgets and gadgetry.

Here we have four more flights of technological fancy for you to peruse, consider and then consume as you see fit. And the great news is that all four of these potential chrimbo presents will actually fit inside a stocking. Phew.

Hue Animation Studio

You can bet that at some point over Christmas the BBC will air a Wallace and Gromit film. Every time we see one of these, regardless of how old we currently are, we want to dash to the shops, buy up all the modelling clay they have, and start on our own Oscar-winning animation. But have you ever tried to film a stop-motion short on your phone? It’s nigh on impossible – which is why we were very glad to try out the Hue Animation Studio.

Contained within the box is everything you need to make the next blockbuster to rival Aardman. You get a bendy-necked camera, the Hue Animation software on disk, a load of differently coloured clay and a USB extender wire. For both Mac and Pc the software allows you (and, we suppose, kids) to set up and film something exciting.

Of course you’re not just limited to using the clay and we found that LEGO minifigures make pretty good actors too. The camera can also be used as a HD webcam and even film continuous video and record sound via the built-in microphone. The software is also extremely easy to master (God, we love things intended for kids – makes us feel dead clever ) and features a very helpful ‘onion-skin’ mode where the previously captured image is laid over the current, so you can see exactly how much you have moved your model being snapping the shot.

To be honest, this is worth it for the webcam alone and kids of all ages (especially those well into adulthood) will love it.


Visit www.hueanimation.com

Nude Move Bluetooth Speaker

If Bing Crosby’s White Christmas is the song of choice this month, to be played at high volume wherever you go, then perhaps you need a little acoustic assistance? Popping over to your Nan’s house is a festive must, and if you want to take the sounds of Christmas joy with you then beware – you won’t be able to plug your smartphone into her gramophone. A Bluetooth speaker then?

Yes please Santa, and a good one please – one small enough to fit in our stockings, yet powerful enough for our deaf Nan to hear Slade. Ah, the Nude Move Bluetooth Speaker it is then.

About the size of your wallet (crammed with dosh) this smooth, tactile and rounded speaker form Nude is the perfect musical accompaniment, fitting easily into even the smallest bag (and, being big burly boys, our pockets too).

Connecting to the Move via bluetooth is an easy affair and we found the quality of sound was extremely impressive despite the speaker’s minuscule dimensions. We especially love the wrist tie making it easy for carry around when blasting out the George Michael and the eight hour battery life was very welcome. There are various sizes in which the Moves comes; from the smaller wired version, to the large chunky mother – all of which are very welcome at a festive Test Pit Towers.

From £29.99 to £99.99

Visit www.nudeaudio.com


Without a daft bulky flip case it can be fairly difficult to use a tablet. Sure, you sit with it in one hand slowly jabbing at eBay with a limp finger, but what about watching films?

If you're sick of having your fingers in the way of Brad Pitt's chiselled jawline or just can't get comfortable propping up your iPad on the cat, we have the solution. Introducing the iFlypad.

Although this odd looking gadget comes straight out of Asia, one might think it fell from the International Space Station. A cluster of suction cups on one side of a ball joint and one large suction cup on the other. We could imagine this being used for yoga or maybe as part of some ancient Chinese medical examination.

But what it actually is (and you'll be glad to hear this, gadget fans) is a way of sticking your tablet, phablet or phone to any smooth surface - all thanks to science.

Simply push the back of your device to the multi-headed suction cup side and then, by why of a special flick catch operated cup, affix to any smooth surface. Hey presto: your phone/iPad/eReader is safety attached to the wall/table/bathroom mirror. The iFlypad can then be twisted, rotated and angled around the ball joint, giving you the optimum view.

This all works pretty well. We had a tablet suck vertically on a mirror half way up a wall for several hours and it did not budge at all. At first we were a little concerned that after going to all that effort with the large switch operated suction cup, the smaller ones used to attach direct to your device would be insufficient. But, so it seems, there's strength in numbers as we never had an issue at all throughout testing.

Handy also for those wanting to prop up their tablets on a desk to type on, the iFlypad is a surprising little gadget and a genuinely useful Christmas gift.


Visit www.iflypad.eu

Aquapac Messenger Bag

It's all well and good getting the cool Christmas gadgets above, but how the hell are you to keep it safe from the worst winter has to offer? With the new messenger bag from Aquapac, that's how.

This sturdy pack has some pretty well thought out design features, all of which strive to keep whatever is inside nice and dry. The waterproof outer shell fastens with a water-resistant zip (the kind that doesn't have teeth) and then you roll up the excess material and stick it down with velcro. Finally a storm-flap goes over the top complete with side-release buckle. Pretty thorough if you ask us.

Inside you can fit a laptop up to 15 inches and there are lots of handy pockets for all your other techie doodahs. On the back of the bag there are also two very welcome cushions to make carrying the bag nice and easy on your old spine.

We were fortunate (not sure that's the right word) to have a downpour during testing and can happily (and soggily) report that all was well. Everything we put into the bag was kept dry as a bone, even after getting puddle-splashed by some arsehole in an Audi.

If the rains persist into January, and if Jack Frost throws what he can at us, the Aquapac Messenger Bag will always be the first thing we grab before the slog to work each day.


Visit www.aquapac.net

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