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Mon 19 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Inspecting gadgets

ACN rounds up the latest and greatest executive gadgets, from touch screen handsets to the latest in secure mobile storage devices.

ACN rounds up the latest and greatest executive gadgets, from touch screen handsets to the latest in secure mobile storage devices.

Motorola Aura

The firm that gave the world the StarTAC and the RAZR isn't out for the count yet. Motorola has unveiled the Aura, a high-end competitor to devices such as Nokia's Carbon Arte - and it's one seriously well-built phone.

The stainless steel body is hand polished, while the front cover alone takes two weeks to complete. The aluminium keys are individually made, rather than being cut from a single sheet of aluminium like earlier Moto phones. Take note of the unusual circular display; it's a 480 pixel LCD that's protected by scratch-resistant sapphire crystal.

The actual design of the phone isn't new to Motorola, who pioneered the ‘rotator' design with the V70 six years ago. One thing is also for sure - you won't be buying the Aura for the feature set, which is woefully lacking. No GPS, Wi-Fi, autofocus - the list is depressing reading for any tech-head.

But gadgets are not why anyone would buy a handset like the Aura. It's for the sheer decadent appeal of buying something so hopelessly over-engineered for the task of making simple telephone calls, much like buying a Swiss watch or a German luxo-mobile. In that regard, Motorola's certainly back in the game. Nokia N97

No, we haven't re-run images of Sony Ericsson's Xperia X1 from last month's issue by accident. This is actually the all-new (allegedly) Nokia N97, the Finnish firm's response to - what else - the iPhone.

And here's the surprise: it's actually quite good. Essentially, it's Nokia recently-announced 5800 touch-sensitive phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and a five megapixel autofocus camera.

The N97 also comes with Assisted GPS, a digital compass and 32GB of internal memory which can be supplemented through using the MicroSD card slot. In terms of connectivity, the N97 supports al the usual suspects: 802.11b and g Wi-Fi, quad-band GSM and a TV-out port - although oddly, it has no TV tuner included.

In other words, it comes with everything up to and including the kitchen sink. It's a shame, however, that Nokia has chosen to hew so closely to the iPhone's physical design - surely the firm that came up with design classics like the 8210 and 6310i can come up with something that beats the Apple slab. Sony Vaio Z11

Gimmickry seems to be the theme of this month's Inspecting Gadgets. Even Sony - that icon of conservative engineering - seems to have jumped on the bandwagon with its new Vaio Z11 notebook which sports dual GPUs.

It's not as bizarre as it sounds. The idea is that you use one GPU, the integrated Intel GMA X4500 core for basic computing tasks, saving on power. The other, a discrete Nvidia Geforce 9300M GS with 256MB of memory can be switched on with the flick of a slider for more graphics-hungry chores.

The rest of the feature set is much as you'd expect - a selection of Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs ranging from 2.4GHz to 2.53GHz,  up to 4GB of DDR3 memory and a surprisingly adequate 250GB internal HDD.

Sony is targeting MacBook Pro users with the dual GPUs - but we actually believe the Z11 will convert potential buyers of the Macbook Air.

It's just 0.1kg heavier than Job's baby at 1.5kg and with its array of ports and built-in drive, far more convenient to use on a daily basis. Lenovo SecureHDD

This month's inevitable new USB hard drive comes to us from PC specialists Lenovo, which has launched the zippily-titled ThinkPad USB Portable Secure Hard Drive (or TP PS HDD). Available in either 160GB or 320GB capacities, the drive is less than an inch thick and slides comfortably into a shirt pocket; although how many execs would do the latter is a debatable fact.

Apart from its sleep-inducing corporate-issue looks, Lenovo's TP PS HDD has one fairly nifty trick up its sleeve. A ten-digit numeric keypad is built into the top of the device, allowing owners to prevent unauthorised access. The device stores up to ten separate number combinations, which are backed by 128-bit level encryption.

With its retractable USB cord, it's practical as well - but we can't help if the coolness of having an integrated keypad outweighs practicality. By their very nature, USB drives move about quite a bit - and having to punch in a code every time you wanted to use it would get old fairly quickly.

In any case, virtually every USB drive comes with software allowing owners to encrypt their contents - so Lenovo's keypad ‘innovation' looks fairly redundant to our eyes.

So what's left then to recommend for Lenovo's TP PS HDD? Not really that much - we'd recommend that you invest in a dollop of common sense instead.

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