Product review: tech and craft gadgets

We all need something that will make life just that little bit easier and more efficient…and/or save as time and money to boot.

We’re not promising all that with today’s tech and craft reviews, but there’s something for everyone – you, the children or someone else’s stocking filler.

Cricut Mini
Every parent with sociable children will spend a small fortune on cards – birthdays, Christmas, maybe even Easter to boot…not to mention thank you cards and cards for other occasions.

20130924-081106.jpgSometimes, that personal touch can speak volumes, and means so much more for friends and loved ones…and will probably have a longer life expectancy before it hits the trash!

We love the Cricut Mini and think it is a great craft tool to get children making things. From cards, to posters and just about anything paper, card or soft fabric based, you can really let your child explore their creative side.

With software you can install on a laptop or computer, there are thousands of project ideas and templates you can download from free to £9.99 and more. The limit really is your imagination with this – we’ve seen projects on the Cricut website ranging from finger puppets to wedding invitations and keepsakes.

It’s also very safe to use, and well made, so even little fingers would have a find job of getting stuck or caught by the cutting blade.

For an investment of £129.99, you can more than cover your child’s school life’s worth of cards – and then some!

The Kobo Mini
If you haven’t heard of e-readers, and thought they were just another wasted gadget to fill Christmas stocking with, you could be missing a trick.

We tried out the Kobo Mini, which retails at £59.99 from WH Smith’s and found it to be a great reading gadget for all the family.

20130923-141404.jpgSuitable for children aged seven years and older, the Kobo comes in white, silver and black, and keeps things simple by just having one button.

It’s small enough to fit into the daintiest handbag, and sites nicely in your palm, with it’s changeable back rubber cover.

We think it’s a great (and affordable) gadget that will encourage children to read. Plus, it’s simplicity (no browsing or apps to cause distractions), means that when you do give it to the kids to use, all they can do is read a book on it!

Surprising extras: Unless you’re a walking dictionary, there are times when you just wish you could find out the meaning of a word when reading a new book. With the Kobo Mini, you don’t have to search on your mobile, or carry a pocket dictionary – just highlight the word and check it on the preinstalled dictionary. Sheer genius, and great for encouraging children to build their mental dictionary.

Downsides: You probably won’t want to encourage your children to get into the bad habit of reading in the dark – and neither should you, if you care about your eyesight! What the Nook Mini is missing out on is a back-light for grown ups, but at such a cheap price, you can’t expect everything.

The extremely touch case
20130923-141116.jpgAnyone with kids knows how easy it is for them to crack screens with a slip of their growing fingers. While you don’t want to deprive them of the learning experience they can gain by having a play on your app, breaking your phone can be very costly.

Case-Mate’s We like Tough Xtreme case for the iPhone 5 because it’s built for just the very thing, and would probably do well on a construction site, too. It might not be the most attractive, if you’re into your pretty pink and flowery type phone cases, but for £24.99 from Amazon, you can save yourself the cost of repairing a broken phone.

A cable charger with a difference
Recent research found that women carry more than a £1000 worth of goods in their handbags – and is it any wonder with all the gadgets we can’t be without? That’s why we love the Powermax Dual Cable.
If you love your iPad but prefer an Android mobile phone, or vice versa you no longer have to carry separate chargers or usb cables for both. This has got to be one of the best gadgets we’ve seen this year – the only. thing we wish it could do is to charge two products at the same time.

This is a robust cable and won’t break on you, so it’s definitely worth the £29.99 investment. Find out more or buy yours at

The quirky little speaker
Does your mobile phone or laptop speaker need a little bit of boost? 8th a 2 ode range of colours the QDOS Q-BOPZ bluetooth speaker will suit every taste.

We love it because for a small speaker it packs a real punch. And it doubles up as a mobile phone stand if you stick it to the back of your phone.

You can use its suction cup to stick it to just about any smooth surface – windows, walls, fridges, you name it.

You can even use it in your car are a speaker for mobile phone calls or to listen to music. At just £29.99 it’s a bargain. Buy yours from

Kokuyo staple-free stapler
Whether it’s in your child’s pencil case, or at home, we think this staple-free stapler is a must-have.

20130924-081533.jpgThe logic is simple – the stapler bonds papers together by making a small perforation in the paper, and folding it back on itself then fastening it through the perforated strip of paper like a belt buckle…

This ingenious piece of stationary costs just £8.95 – it might sound pricey, but think of all the saving you’ll make by not having to buy staplers.

It also means you don’t have to worry about young children using it, or even younger toddlers picking up metal staplers and swallowing them. available now at

Portable voice recorder: the Olympus DP-311
20130923-141131.jpgWhether you’re recording a lecture, a presentation or a podcast, having the right equipment can make the world of difference. We reviewed the Olympus DP-311, rrp £69.99, and were impressed by its sound quality and how long the battery life lasts.

Requiring three AAA batteries, the manufacturer, Olympus claim that it can last for 81 hours on new quality batteries. We weren’t able to go quite as far as that (that’s a lot of recording) to verify it, but we managed a four recordings ranging from two to four hours and the full battery status was almost intact.

The Olympus DP-311 has a very simple design – you really don’t need to paw over the manual to get started with this – even if you are technology shy. The big play, stop and record buttons aren’t missable!

Good points: Not all recording are the same – and Olympus have clearly thought this through, because you have the option of recording conversations, loud sound or dictation. We also like that the format that recordings are saved in is mp3, so you don’t have to worry about converting it into a format that is compatible with your phone or laptop. We think the internal memory of 2GB is great, too, as dictation and voice recordings don’t take up a lot of memory.

This isn’t a huge one, but we wish there was a USB cable or some other connection that you could just plug into your laptop, for example, and do the transfer that way (or better still, over WIFI!), but you can use an SD/SDHC card(up to 32MB) to do this.

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