Digital Life: What to leave under the tree? An Apple, a Dyson, a Mario Kart...
Only four shopping days left until Christmas. If you're still panicking about the perfect gift for your significant other / child / grandchild / favourite randomer, let Digital Life be your guide to the best in technology and games.
FOR THE MAN / WOMAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING
Apple iPhone 4S
(About €200 on a typical contract or about €500 pre-pay)
Despite an army of wannabes breathing down its neck, no one touches the effortless cool of Apple's moby. The iPhone 4S looks little different than its predecessor. But a little investigation reveals that the better camera, voice recognition assistant and faster speeds sell themselves.
Backed by the best app, music and video stores in the business, the 4S is still so hot two months after launch you'll be lucky to find one left in the shops.
FOR THE GUYS AND GALS WHO CAN'T STAND APPLE
Samsung Galaxy Nexus
(About €200 on a typical contract ---- not available on pre-pay)
Dozens of great Android phones hit the shops this year but this late entrant trumps them all. Designed in collaboration with Google, the Nexus brims with cutting-edge technology and can proudly boast it's the first (and for now only) phone to run the latest version of Android, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich.
This software update makes Android simpler, more attractive and yet somehow more powerful. Go figure.
FOR THE SHUTTERBUG WHO LOVES TINY BUT POTENT CAMERAS
Sony Cybershot HX9V
Most small cameras are little better than the half-cocked versions baked into your typical mobile. The Sony HX9V belies its diminutive stature with a boatload of features that just happen to be wedded to incredibly good picture quality.
The 16x zoom and GPS is only just the beginning, thanks to a raft of other crowdpleasers, including automatic panorama, high-definition video and 10 frames per second burst mode. Versatile and long-lasting, it might be the only camera you'd ever need.
FOR THE HOUSE-PROUD WHO DEMAND STYLE FROM THEIR GADGETS
Give most people five guesses and they wouldn't have a clue what the Dyson Hot actually does before you show them. But this latest invention from the man who brought us bagless vacuum cleaners turns the idea of home heating on its ear.
Never mind that it quickly heats any room with an unobtrusive stream of warm air, its distinctive style means it's as much a talking point as home appliance. If only it were half the price.
FOR THE JOKER WHO CAN'T RESIST A USELESS TOY
Mating the concept of a remote-controlled plane to a helium balloon, the Air Swimmer glides elegantly and silently around the room with a flick of a joystick. Available in two shapes -- creepy shark or friendly clown fish -- it serves absolutely no purpose except to scare or delight your family and friends by appearing inches from their face without warning.
FOR PEOPLE WHO THINK A PHONE SHOULD JUST MAKE CALLS
(€60 on pre-pay from O2 only)
Plenty of people get frustrated with the latest crop of smartphones, whose touchscreen interfaces can be fiddly and confusing.
But the choice of phones with keypads is dwindling by the day. Thankfully, you can still buy ultra-simple mobiles such as the Emporia Elegance.
Designed for the partially sighted, the Emporia nonetheless looks great with its sensibly sized keys and large numbers on screen. What it lacks in features it makes up in style.
FOR THE GAMER WHO RELISHES A CHALLENGE
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Part of the long-running Elder Scrolls role-playing series, Skyrim hands you the keys to an elaborate medieval fantasy world and sets you loose to do as you please. You can follow the main plot and slay dragons to beat the band. Or just wander from town to town, odd-jobbing, sightseeing and nicking booze.
Expansive, immersive and compelling, the Skyrim's the limit.
FOR THE VERY YOUNG (AND YOUNG AT HEART)
Once Upon A Monster
Few games target the under-sevens market without insulting their intelligence. Once Upon A Monster brings the world of Sesame Street to life with a clever storybook approach. Requiring the Kinect camera, it tracks your child's actions as they follow the amusing adventures of characters such as Elmo and Cookie Monster.
Whimsical and funny, you might just find yourself joining in the fun.
FOR THE PETROLHEAD IN YOUR LIFE
Forza Motorsport 4
Practically none of us will ever get in real life to drive supercars or hare around the world's great racetracks. But Forza 4 brings us as close as possible.
The driving can be as complicated or as simple as you prefer but at all times you feel the thrill of the tarmac.
With 500 cars and dozens of tracks, even Clarkson couldn't complain.
FOR THE PURIST WHO APPRECIATES A BIT OF ART
Ico / Shadow of the Colossus HD
No apologies for including this repackaged pair of ancient classics, these high-def remakes prove quality never goes out of the style. Both are artsy puzzle games with a moody storyline and mysterious characters, a welcome distraction from traditional videogame fodder.
Inventive and unique, everyone should play Ico and Shadow of the Colossus to see what they're missing.
FOR THOSE WONDERING WHY THEY BOUGHT A NINTENDO 3DS
Mario Kart 7
Nintendo did a poor job of lining up great games for its new 3D handheld.
But Mario Kart 7 could be the one to kickstart sales. Like the wildly popular Mario Kart DS, it serves up race after race of knockabout fun between familiar Ninty characters in tiny go-karts.
Subtle 3D adds a new dimension and with a bevy of new courses and customisation options, it's the best Mario Kart yet.