Clever gadget hacks

If you own any gadgets or electronics, you’ll probably find that the item is never 100% to your liking or needs, or you find it’s sometimes cheaper to build something yourself. That’s when clever people with a little ingenuity and time on their hands figure out ways to make life simpler for the rest of us.

Here, we’ve chosen a few smart and very usable “hacks” to make your gadgets more user-friendly.

Removable headphone cables

The fine people over at instructables.com have come up with a great way to make your headphone cables removable for easier storage or for replacing when a cord starts to fray or lose sound quality. Rather than just chucking the whole headphones, you can now just switch out the cord. Smart!

Battery-less solar powered torch

This solar powered torch from makeprojects.com doesn’t use any batteries for energy storage. Instead, it relies on capacitors. It also uses household items like ice lolly sticks in its construction. This project is more for casual tinkerers, but we liked it anyway for it’s simplicity and cost-effective principles.

Make your own lightbox

If you have your own business, blog or you just like taking pictures of interesting things, you know that professional photo equipment can cost a pretty penny. That’s why we like this lightbox tutorial from neverhomemaker.com that utilises items commonly found at any DIY store. For just a few quid, you have a usable lightbox that can run circles over anything you could buy at a store, for less than half the price!

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Playstation 4 rumours and facts

If you’re a hardcore gamer, you’ve no doubt been anticipating the announcement of the Playstation 4 console. As with any new platform, rumours have been flying about the cost, will it play PS3 and used games? We’ve found answers to the top rumours so you can be well-informed about Sony’s next generation platform.

When will the Playstation 4 be out? This holiday season. Whilst no particular date for release has been set in stone, this usually means mid-November – just in time to drain your wallet for Christmas!

How much will it cost? No price has been officially stated yet. Here is where rumours and speculation abound. Some are guessing that based on the original PS3 cost (£425), production costs, inflation, competition and a host of other factors, the PS4 could range anywhere from £300-£500. We’d be surprised if it cost more.

Will the PS4 play PS3 games? Will it play used games? This is the answer we were most interested in. A few weeks ago, some key gaming news outlets ran stories stating that Sony was working on patent for installing a chip that would eliminate second-hand games from being played on the console, effectively putting a huge dent in the used games industry. It’d suffice to say that Playstation fans weren’t pleased.

This rumour has been quashed by Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony Worldwide Studios. In fact, you’ll even be able to play your games on your Vita in a feature called “remote play”.

And how about that backwards compatibility with PS3 games? Um, we hate to break it to you, but no. There is a glimmer of hope that eventually, you may be able to play any Playstation game on any Sony console.

What PS4 games will be released? Titles announced at Sony’s PS4 presentation last night included Knack, Killzone: Shadowfall, Driveclub and Infamous: Second Son. If Sony delivers on talk of delivering downloadable content immediately, you should see some older Playstation titles added so you still can get your Mario Kart fix if you need it.

Also, you can count on a newly designed controller with a share button so you can instantly take screen caps for posting on your Facebook or Twitter page. The PS4 DualShock 2 controller has all the features of the old controller plus a few extras: a built-in touchpad, the Start and Select buttons have been moved to the sides, plus a colour-changing light bar across the top.

There’s lots to look forward to with the PS4. We hope the games library opens up considerably for this come sales time as it could greatly hinder people’s ability to give up their PS3 titles for a barren PS4 roster. Considering that there are a good nine months before we see the PS4 hit shelves, a lot can happen in that time. We’re hopeful.

For the full official list of improvements, click here.

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The Edit: Valentine’s Day gifts for the nerd in your life!

Looking for a Valentine’s Day gift for that special nerd or geek in your life? Champagne, chocolate and flowers can’t tempt today’s discerning tech savvy consumers. Because of this, you might have to go above and beyond the traditional to find a gift that really impresses. That’s where we come in! We’ve provided a quick and dirty list of our top picks for him, her and them.

FOR HIM:


Chewbacca iPhone 5 Case
£18.95 at Amazon

Universal Remote Control Pillow
£16.50 from Amazon

Lasonic Ghetto Blaster in red
£206 from WAE

ION iCade gaming cabinet for iPad
£59.95 from Amazon

FOR HER:


Red stiletto heel speakers
£19.99 from Amazon

Nyan Cat hoodie
£33.95 from Amazon

Jelly Belly Scented iPhone Case
£12 from Amazon

Mini Macbook pocket mirror
£9.95 from Amazon

FOR THEM:


Thumbs Up App Magnets
£4.99 at Amazon

Tefal Toast N’ Egg Toaster
£29.97 from Amazon

Gear It Dancing Cat Speaker
£19.36 from Amazon

Spotify gift card
Available in various increments
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3D printers: How soon can I buy one?

The FORM 1 3D printer

If you keep up on the latest in technology, you might have heard some of the cacophonous buzz surrounding 3D printers and the amazing things people are making with them. So far, 3D printers have been far too expensive for home use leaving fans to send out for costly third party services.

Thanks to the popularity of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, cutting edge technology you thought would take years to hit store shelves is now becoming a reality sooner rather than later.

Formlabs is one company who has successfully developed and built the FORM 1 3D printer through the crowdfunding movement. The printer costs a hefty $3,299 (£2,085) and prints with a specially formulated resin purchased separately. Formlabs start shipping pre-orders in April with more coming in May.

To prove the popularity in 3D printing, at the moment there are 11 3D print projects on Kickstarter that are in the stages of raising funding or have gone above and beyond their initial target. Indiegogo has quite a few projects, also.

FORM 1 samples

With the power of creating models, jewellery, demos, toys and whatever else your imagination can conjure up, wouldn’t you like to have a play with a 3D printer for yourself? We know we would!

If you like what you see, why not find a 3D printer project to get behind and get the revolution rolling?

 

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CES 2013: What to watch for

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is in full swing in the gambling mecca of Las Vegas, Nevada. Every year, techie types and geeks around the world turn their eyes to the desert to see what new gadgets are on the horizon.

Whilst many of the newfangled electronics showcased at the convention never see mass production, the largest manufacturers use CES as a world stage to show off their latest wares to come in this year or the next.

Already, we’ve seen some exciting developments in the tech world that we can’t wait to see hit the shelves. Here, we focus on a few of the most unusual, innovative and downright cool things we’ve seen so far.

TethercellTethercell – Tethercell, developed by engineers from SpaceX, is sort of a Russian doll for batteries. The casing is the size of an AA battery. Inside goes an AAA battery and the guts to control the battery’s function via Bluetooth. You download an app for your phone or tablet which then allows you to control the battery wherever you have service or a Wi-Fi connection. It could certainly make turning off toys at bedtime interesting!

Steam Box: Codename “Piston” – Popular online game distributor Steam has thrown their hat into the games console ring with their brick-like Codename: Piston unit. We don’t know what the final name will be and, frankly, we don’t care. With 1TB of storage that fits in the palm of your hand, we’re excited to try it only after we see how much it’s going to retail for.

People People transparent speaker – We wrote about this transparent speaker a few months ago on the Kelkoo Knows Tech Facebook page as soon as we saw it pop up on a design blog. Fastforward to December and a successful funding campaign on Kickstarter, and People People is ready to start rolling out production. When will it be for sale online? That we don’t know yet. Until then, we sit and wait.

luggage locatorTrakdot – If you’re an avid traveller, you may have experienced losing your luggage at one point or another. It’s a huge inconvenience, costly and the airlines rarely compensate you for the full value of the contents. There’s finally a solution on the radar: Trakdot. Trakdot is a small device you pop in your bag before your trip. It keeps tabs on the location via cellular network coverage and knows when it’s in the air. Once you’ve landed, Trakdot sends you a text or email alerting you to its current location. Available in April 2013.

Brookstone pillow speaker – There have been many incarnations of methods to comfortably listen to music whilst in bed. Brookstone has improved upon their existing pillow speaker by completely hiding the speaker faces inside allowing for more cushiony comfort for your head. There’s also a small attached remote so that you don’t even have to fumble for the controls on your iPod or smartphone. Just plug in and you’re off to Snoozeland in no time!

Sony Waterproof Walkmen – Waterproof headphones and music players are nothing new. Previous models let you work up a sweat or ride out a rain storm without risk of damage, but you’d certainly never take your headphones into the pool whilst you swam laps. We always wondered what the sound would be like underwater and obviously, so did Sony. These one piece headphones cum music player give you 4GB of on-board music storage and should see you through a full workout at the gym, park AND pool – so cool!

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Cool! But would you buy it?

Unusual electronics usually elicit one reaction from consumers: “Brilliant!” or some variation thereof. And whilst the gadget at hand might certainly earn such an enthusiastic reaction, would you REALLY buy it?

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most weird and unusual gadgets you may or may not want to buy on a whim.

iPhone SLR Mount for Canon or Nikon lenses – $249 (£153)
$249 buys you an aluminium case that enables you to mount your Canon or Nikon lenses to your iPhone 4, 4S or 5. At first, we thought that price included the zoom lens in the product photo. For the equivalent of our hard-earned £153, we’d consider that a steal. Alas, we were wrong. It’s for the adapter/case/mount/whatever you want to call it you’re getting. Whilst we’d imagine this would take off with the trust fund, Instagram types who have cash to splash and places to go, we couldn’t think of anyone we knew who would actually buy this.
VERDICT: Considering the cost of buying an iPhone, the adapter and zoom lens, we’d rather buy the Nikon D800 and call it a day.

The Emperor 1510 computer work environment – $5950 (£3660)
Cash-rich fans of an ergonomic office should be very pleased with the Emperor 1510 work space. We think it resembles a video game chair, and we do suppose it could very well be used for that endeavour, but we’re not too sure that the Emperor 1510 is worth the price. You could buy a cheaper chair and desk from Staples and with all that money you saved, buy yourself some massage vouchers for that inevitable crick in your neck. But don’t feel too bad, we can’t afford it either. The 1510 has a trumped up version, the Emperor 200, that will set you back $49,150 (£30,240) and make you feel even more uncomfortable about your station in life. We hope the shipping is included with that, at the very least.
VERDICT: Because of the exorbitant price and our paltry wages, we must sadly decline. Next time?

Motörheadphönes Overkill earphones – £49
Novelty headphones are nothing new. We owned a pair of Paul Frank Skullcandy earbuds once. They were crap. I firmly believe in spending a bit more for function rather than form. Imagine our surprise when we found earphones that combined three important factors in headphone quality: great sound, decent price and the sheer badassery of Motörhead. The fact that they’re shaped like bullets is just a bonus. The Overkills come in three finishes – silver, brass, black – and include three sizes of soft, rubbery earbud tips (the ONLY soft thing about these headphones, natch). For those who want their headphones to rock harder than they do, these are “ace”.
VERDICT: On the Christmas list for 2013.

Quarkie headphones – £69
Quarkie takes the novelty headphones to a new level with earbud ends shaped like eyes (snake, chameleon, cat), gemstones, a rusty bolt or a viper head (our personal favourite). They’re definitely a conversation starter which, if you think about, is ironic since you’ll be forced to take your headphones out to engage in that conversation. If we ponder a bit more on that, we can also recognise that people who usually wear headphones don’t want to engage in conversation. “Don’t talk to me about my headphones even though I am wearing headphones that must be commented on!” Oh, so ironic. In fact, these are £69 of irony. How’s the sound? We’ve no idea. But they do look nice, don’t they?
VERDICT: If we were 16, we would have been all over these. Adults of a certain age may want to abstain. Otherwise, good teen gift idea.

iCrayon stylus – £7.00
If you have little kids who insist on using your touchscreen device, we can’t help but offer up this chubby little stylus in the shape of the familiar Crayon. Here, we’ve found red and pink iCrayons from Urban Outfitters, although we have seen other colours floating around the internet in green, blue and purple.
VERDICT: Very cute and functional. Great for tech-minded kids.

ION IT27 wall mounted turntable – about £90
In my house, vinyl is king. We have a wall of album covers instead of artistic prints. We even scored an old record cabinet from the 50s to house our collection. Proudly sitting on top of it is our turntable. We aren’t making a decorating statement. We actually use the thing on a regular basis. Had I known this wall-mounted turntable from ION existed, I would have snapped it up in a heartbeat. It could have sat smack dab in the centre of our epic record wall, saving space in the process.
VERDICT: Why didn’t we find out about this sooner? We’re lovin’ it.

Wireless Planter Speaker – price not available
Who buys this tat? Honestly, we want to know.
VERDICT: Absolutely not.

Giant desktop earbud speakers – £39.99
Another groan-worthy novelty gadget that will sit in a kid’s room until they realise that the speakers are horrible and will finally demand something better. Out in the rubbish they will go. Let us take the time now to discourage anyone from buying these and go for a better quality, longer lasting speaker like the JBL Spyro or Harman Kardon Soundsticks.
VERDICT: Crap design. Probably crap sound. Crap crap crap.

Boxx electric commuting scooter – $3995 (£2458)
If you lived in Legoland, this would be the scooter you would ride around on. It’s electric and goes almost 40 m.p.h. One full charge takes four hours and gets you about 40-60 miles before you have to recharge. You can upgrade to a better battery that will take you between 80-120 miles on one charge. The Boxx could change the way urban commuters get around. Only available in the U.S. for now, the Boxx would happily find a home in my household. Only one word to describe the whole thing: WANT.
VERDICT: Let me reiterate myself, WANT!

Smartphone Controlled Desk Pet Carbot – $29.99 (£18.45)
What’s not to like about the Carbot? It works with a wide range of devices such as iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android. It charges on a USB input and has four different game modes to master. We’d certainly like one of these in our office! Kids 8 and older can enjoy it, too. For that reason, we’re in.
VERDICT: Tech toys? Sign us up.

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Down to the wire: last minute tech gifts sure to please

Christmas is around the corner. If you still need some gift ideas and money isn’t really a consequence, you can choose these high tech products that will please anyone.

Apple iPad MiniApple iPad Minifrom £269
The iPad mini is great present for Apple fan! You get truly interesting features: retina display, dual cameras, a big screen. It’s perfect for those who like reading in bed, playing games on public transport or waiting for a friend in the pub. It’s small and very easy to carry.

Nexus Google 7 tabletfrom £199
The Nexus Google 7 is a great device! It allows you to have all great features of a tablet for under £200. With the cloud-based services from Google, it’s said to be the best Android device so far. You get a quad core processor, 16GB or 32GB of storage, an HD display and much more. It’s a device suitable for anyone, geek or not.

Wacom Bamboo StylusWacom Bamboo Duo Stylusfrom £27
The Wacom Bamboo Duo Stylus, in our humble opinion, is the best pen ever! It’s sleek, smooth, and serves as a traditional ball point ink pen on one end and a rubber tipped stylus on the other. It’s well adapted for the iPad, iPhone and any other touchscreen devices. It allows you to easily write, draw, type and navigate within your device. No more fumbling around for two instruments when all you really need is one.

Rocksmith Guitarfrom £50
The Rocksmith Guitar video game is awesome! It’s perfect for all level of guitar players as it helps you learn chords, notes, riffs and more. You can use Rocksmith to learn real songs, and all notes are available with truly accurate note recognition. You can also use it with a guitar you already own by plugging it with the Rocksmith Real Tone cable (included with the game). Rocksmith Guitar is available for Xbox, PS3 and PC.

Nike Fuel bandNike Fuel Bandfrom £120
The Nike Fuel Band is perfect for the health conscious person on your gift list. But make sure the person does not take it personal by thinking that she/he has to exercise more. It’s truly a great way to track your movements and gives you motivation when you exercise. Alright, it’s not going to replace your personal trainer or yoga classes, but it will help you to keep track of all your efforts.. That alone can give you a little extra push when you see the results of your hard work. It’s a great present for active people and those willing to be more active for the New Year.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus SmartphonePrice: Free on a £36 per month contract or around £300 for SIM free
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is a great smartphone option for this year. This phone is a mix of Samsung and Google, so it’s truly multipurpose. It’s one of the latest Android phones and very popular at the moment – nearly eclipsing the Apple iPhone 5 in popularity. The Galaxy Nexus operating system is customisable, so you can download apps according to your preferences. Also, the new features will please the most finicky of consumers: data control, Android beam, great design, 4.7 inch screen, 720 x 1280 resolution and much more.

Asus eee pad TransformerAsus Eee Pad Transformer tabletfrom £300
The Eee Pad Transformer tablet by Asus is a great tablet for those who want something different. It’s one of the main rivals to Ipad. This tablet has a sleek design, unique functionalities, so it can work for a range of users. The great thing about this tablet is the keyboard dock (sold separately) that transforms this tablet into a notebook – brilliant! The Eee Pad Transformer is equipped with Android 3.2, and you can get 32GB or 64GB of storage.

Sonos Play 3 Wireless HiFiSonos Wireless Hi-Fi systemfrom £230
We all love listing to music from different rooms. Sonos is great for streaming music from your computer, smartphone or other device. With a Wi-Fi connection, you can put the Sonos in any room in the house. There are two different Sonos Wireless HiFi systems: the Play 3 and the Play 5 with the Sonos Bridge acting as a router so you can carry the wireless connectivity farther throughout your home or office. To control the speakers from your PC, phone or tablet, you just need to download the corresponding app.

Bose SoundLinkfrom £250
Bose SoundLink is a great gadget for any person. It’s small, sleek and has very good sound quality. You can move it around the house, inside and out (it also can run on batteries), and plug it into your computer or smartphone. You can also synchronize it with iTunes. This gadget is impressive and the person receiving it will just love it!

Kindle Fire HDKindle Fire HDfrom £160
The Amazon Kindle Fire HD is a winner this year. Amazon has shown us its capabilities as an eBook reader and now it shows us it can also pull double duty as a tablet. Kindle Fire is the biggest competitor of the iPad mini and Google Nexus 7. The price is considerably cheaper than the aforementioned products  – it starts from £159, a great value for money. Even though it has a low price, you still get a quality product with sleek design and touchscreen capabilities. It’s an all-purpose tablet that allows you to directly access Amazon’s multitude of content – music, games, films, television shows, books, magazines and more! For the true connoisseur of e-tainment, the Kindle can’t be beat.

If you’re short on time, here are some helpful links on last orders shipping for Christmas.
Amazon
Apple
Curry’s
John Lewis
Marks & Spencer
PC World

-Lisiane Ndong

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Christmas gifts for under £10

If you’re racking your brain for the perfect stocking filler or Secret Santa gift for Christmas this year, we’ve put together a list of the best electronics gifts and gadgets a tenner can buy you. Read on…

Panasonic earbudsPanasonic RP-HJE100E-P Earbuds – Starting at £4.59 from Amazon Marketplace
The RP-HJE100E-P Earbuds from Panasonic are a simple pair of headphones that are perfect for your smartphone, iPod or any other device you have with a 3.5mm jack. Because they are cheap and come in a range of fashionable colours, these are a great choice for a teen or tween who can’t go long without their music.
Colours available: Blue, Orange, Black, Pink, White

Spoon scale
Whilst this list is mainly for our gadget-loving friends and family, we couldn’t leave out those that love to cook and bake. This handy little digital scale is perfect for accurately measuring small amounts of liquids, powders or granules so that recipes turn out right each and every time. Such a novel idea!

Octopus USB flash driveNovelty USB Drives
Novelty USB drives are a fun gift for the computer savvy person on your gift list this year. You can find USB sticks in a range of capacities and shapes. Popular themes are The Simpsons, Lego and Star Wars. Some brands that specialise in a variety of USB drives are EurogeMimibots and Yoousb.

USB cord bracelet
For the fashion conscious geek, there’s a solution for those times when you’ve forgotten that iPhone charger at home. USB bracelets are all the rage and are putting the “fun” in functional. For a smidge more than £10, you can get a Mohzy bracelet (about £11) which comes in a range of funky colours and cool designs sure to appeal to hipsters everywhere.

Cath Kidston London pouchAssorted Cath Kidston products
Cath Kidston is known for cutesy, kitschy homewares and knick knacks that are popular with shabby chic fans. Kidston offers something that not many main retailers do: practical phone and gadget cases in feminine prints with real appeal – perfect gifts for the technologically inclined yummy mummy on your list.

Nerf toys
For kid and kids of all ages, Nerf toys are the great equaliser. Anyone can pick up a Nerf gun and make anything or anyone a target. Add a few Nerf guns at once for the ultimate in office warfare. While Nerf toys aren’t techie, they have always found fans in nerds, geeks and gadget heads and we don’t see the popularity dying down soon.

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“Wanna race?” We review Forza Horizon

Fans of racing video games will be familiar with the Forza game franchise. Forza Horizon, developed by UK-based Playground Games and published by Microsoft, is the fifth installment in the Forza series. Because of the jump from track races to a purely street environment, Forza Horizon is considered more of a spin-off from the Motorsport titles from the past.

We know this game came out last month, and it’s possible you’ve already read the gaming reviews or watched the trailers. But with Christmas coming up, we’re here doing this review to help you decide whether to buy it for yourself or for someone you know who just likes racing games. We’re certainly not experts, just regular consumers like you.

We gave the game to three levels of players to test:
The expert – a fan of all Forza titles so far and owner of the Xbox system we played on
The enthusiast – plays mostly PC strategy games, owns a PS2
The beginner – likes the Wii, racing and sports games, rarely plays except at parties

Whilst the our testers’ backgrounds were diverse, there was a common thread between them: all were fans of racing games and were riveted by the previews for Forza Horizon. It’s safe to say we had an eager group to work with.

Action for Forza Horizon is focussed on a street racing festival (the Horizon Festival, natch) based in and around Colorado. From curvy mountain roads to meandering dirt trails, you’ll find a diverse range of surfaces to race your car on. The main aim of the game is to participate in the officially sanctioned races that take place periodically as you gain points, credits (money), popularity and upgraded vehicles.

In between the sanctioned races, you can drive around and challenge other drivers to some one-on-one action. If you don’t have an Xbox Live account, you’re limited to single player mode with challengers powered by the game. When in possession of a Live account, you can challenge whomever is on the server at the time. As we played un-networked, we felt that challenging the other drivers was a bit boring after awhile, but a quick adjustment in the game settings raises or lowers the difficulty based on your mood.

Unfortunately, if you’re hoping to play multiplayer mode on the same console, you’re out of luck! Waiting your turn is no fun regardless of your age and no one, including our testers, liked it.

Unlike other racing games such as Need for Speed, Forza Horizon is not a seek-and-destroy-everything-in-sight type of game. Body damage is easily repaired between races by what has to be the fastest mechanic we have ever met. If you flip your car, the game will right your car for you and you can continue the race right where you left off – very nice if you’re a beginner.

The thing we liked about the game was the ability to upgrade and modify your stable of cars as you earned more cash. There were also side quests of finding abandoned cars in barns to add to your stable, there are eight in total (we picked up a 1981 BMW M1 and 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe). In addition to that, you also get invited to participate in races as your popularity increases (a rank displayed on screen) as you hot dog, do donuts or take out fence posts and speed signs.

Currently, there are also a few expansion packs available (6 packs with 6 cars each) distributed monthly until April 2013 for 400 Xbox store credits or you can stump up for the Monthly Pass that will give you ALL of the expansion packs for 4000 store credits.

The bottom line is this game is stunning to view and fun to play. The realistic graphics really do add to the whole experience of just enjoying a racing game for what it is. Again, like we said before, this game is for those keen on cars and mods, not crashes. If you like racing with quests thrown in for good measure, this is the game for you.

Whilst Forza Horizon is currently rated T, we’re not sure why as the only cursing and violence that might be witnessed is between who gets to take the next turn at the controller.

Things to like
Expert: The graphics! Wow! 9/10
Intermediate: The mods were a great thing to get into, especially as you found or bought more cars. There’s only eight barns to ransack, more would have been better! 8/10
Beginner: The Assisted Driving setting for novices like me. Solid 8 or 8.5 out of 10.

Things to dislike
Expert: Hands down, the lack of console-based multiplayer mode. Do. Not. Like.
Intermediate: Multiplayer mode. Things could get dangerous in a single Xbox house. This game is perfect for loners.
Beginner: More quests would be nice. But then, that would probably make it less of a racing game and more of an adventure game, right?

To buy or not to buy?
BUY! The game is currently going for about £35 on Ebay. It’s a bit too early for secondhand copies to be hitting the market. But if you’re on a tight budget, scope out the used game marketplace after the holidays.

Want to play Forza Horizon for Xbox? We’re giving away our review copy (Ed: it’s been opened, lightly used but well looked after) to a lucky fan of our Kelkoo Knows Tech Facebook page.

In order to enter, you have to like our page. Then go to this link and enter your details. Contest ends Monday, 3 December 2012 at midnight. Winner chosen at random. See Terms and Conditions for details.

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Hottest techie toys for Christmas 2012

With only five and a half more weeks until Christmas, you might want to think about starting your holiday gift shopping if you haven’t done so already. There are a few must-have, hi-tech  items that seem to be at the top of almost every kid’s wish list.

We’ve listed our top techie toys for 2012 below:

Furby
Furbies aren’t new to the toy scene. Made by Hasbro, Furbies originally came out in 1998. These interactive robotic toys have metamorphosed over the years and today’s version of the Furby has successfully merged with the digital age. Modern Furbies have LCD eyes that change depending on its mood, they dance and respond to speech and touch. Furbies come in a range of ten colours (fuscia, dark blue, light blue, turquoise, white, black, yellow, red, purple and a mottled pinky-purple), so you’re sure to find one for the most finicky child.

Furbies also come with their own app that helps you decipher the Furbish language it speaks, yet you can also teach it to learn English. Nifty, huh? We’re not sure this has much in the way of educational value, but it seems children are wild for Furbies again like they were 14 years ago. The buzz on Furbies is positive so far, so we definitely see this item at the top of the list for Christmas this year. Furbies retail for around £60 and up.

To design your own, visit http://www.furby.com/en_GB/design

LeapFrog LeadPad 2 Explorer
We love this “tablet for kids” as it not only keeps children entertained, it also helps them read, learn maths and create videos, art and so much more! The LeapPad 2 retails for around £90 with game titles going for about £20 each. There are a few optional accessories for the LeapPad 2 Explorer like headphones (£13) or a pen (£6). If your child already has a LeapPad, we’re not entirely sure if upgrading to the Explorer is worth the money. The LeapPad 2 does have a front and back camera making it a nice addition, but not necessarily a must-have item.

Regardless, LeapPad 2 does have more recent titles to choose from such as a learning game based on Disney Pixar’s Brave, comes in green or pink and the recommended age range has dropped a year down to 3-9 years (the original LeapPad is for 4-9 years old). If you’re definitely sold on getting your child a LeapPad 2 Explorer this Christmas, definitely shop around as there are quite a few smaller toy retailers selling for cheaper than the advertised prices on the LeapFrog website.

Air Hogs RC Hover Assault
Every year, it seems that remote controlled toys get more and more sophisticated. This year is no different with Air Hogs one-RC-car-that-does-it-all. This thing flies, shoots missiles and drives. You can combine the flying and driving together which, in turn, causes the Air Hogs RC Hover Assault to hop over obstacles – very cool!

From the reviews we’ve watched so far, it seems that this toy isn’t particularly easy to master even for adults, something you should think about before purchasing. And, like all RC toys, it takes a lot of batteries to operate, so you might want to consider throwing in some rechargeable batteries with this gift. Recommended age for this toy is 10-12+ and it retails for approximately £40-£50.

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