Nestlé’s Nespresso U.
Nestlé’s Nespresso U.

Small cameras

A strong candidate for most ground breaking gadget of the year, the Lytro Light Field camera might be mistaken for a kids’ kaleidoscope toy but this square-barrelled wonder takes its effects from real life. The camera captures light from every angle, letting you focus on different areas of a picture after it is taken. But while the Lytro encourages experimentation, it has limited functionality, lacking the basic features — such as a flash and zoom — that are available on the cheapest point-and-shoot cameras. Availability is still limited to a handful of countries.

GoPro’s palm-sized Hero 3 point-of-view action cam is a great present for teenagers and fans of cycling, surfing, skiing and extreme sports. The GoPro can film a wide-angle, first-person, high-definition view of sporting feats. Built-in WiFi allows you to control the camera from an app on a smartphone. I was also impressed with Sony’s new WiFi-enabled action-cam entry, the HDR-AS15. It had better image stabilisation and low-light performance in my tests, although it lacked the Hero’s ruggedness and audio quality.

Small steps

High-octane stunts can also be monitored on the latest health gadgets. Jawbone has relaunched its stylish wristband, UP, in the US with a UK launch due early in the new year. The device has been redesigned after being withdrawn last year because water was seeping in and causing short-circuits. This has added $30 to the price. The UP records distances covered, calories burnt and how well you slept. These are presented in charts on a smartphone app, and meals can be captured with the phone’s camera.

Small boxes, big sounds

Jawbone’s Jambox wireless Bluetooth speaker was an ideal stocking-filler last year and has now been joined by a bulkier but beefier-sounding Big Jambox. I also really like Logitech’s UE Mobile Boombox, a Bluetooth speaker that is as easy to hold as a cricket ball and yet packs an impressive audio punch. It has 10-hour battery life and a microphone that allows it to double up as a speakerphone.

Small peripherals

If you have upgraded to Windows 8 but find the touch-optimised interface hard to operate, Logitech can help. Logitech’s Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650 smooths web surfing with its large, clickable glass surface. There is also the Touch Mouse T400, which I found remarkably responsive with a glass touch zone where you would normally find the scroll wheel on the mouse.

Small print

Another productivity aid is the LivescribeSky digital pen. This new version adds WiFi, so virtual versions of your notebook pages and their associated audio files are uploaded to the Evernote note-keeping service for cloud storage and sharing. It is a useful gift, particularly for students recording lectures and regular note-takers in meetings.

Small pick-me-ups

Strong coffee has always been an aid to my productivity and Nestlé’s diminutive Nespresso U has been fuelling me with rich, creamy espressos. This is the most automated and versatile base-level Nespresso capsule machine I have used. It makes a better espresso than Starbucks’s new Verismo machine in a smaller footprint.

Small people

Younger children will enjoy the Wonderbook: Book of Spells. The electronic book, which plugs into Sony’s PlayStation 3, has Harry Potter incantations, ideas from JK Rowling and makes magical use of augmented reality with Sony’s motion controllers.

The new Wii U console is also great for family entertainment. The GamePad controller’s touchscreen makes game-playing easier and allows unique touch, motion and second-screen game play. Small screens In terms of smaller computing devices, Apple’s iPhone 5 remains the best smartphone and the iPod Touch has had a major upgrade with a Retina screen, better camera, thinner body and faster processor.

In the 7-inch tablet category, the new iPad Mini and Google’s Nexus 7 function well. It is easy to hold them with one hand while reading from their excellent screens, making dedicated e-readers seem almost unnecessary.

Small prices

When it comes to laptops, I can recommend Samsung’s Google Chromebook. It is a fast and ultralight notebook at an economical price, finally justifying Google’s experiment with browser and cloud-based computing.

Small wonders

Windows 8 machines have yet to mature fully, but Sony’s Vaio Tap 20 could be a holiday season present that families fight over, as the battery-powered touchscreen home PC can be carried from room to room.


Apple iPad mini ($329, £269)

Kudos Five Stars, VFM Three Stars

Apple iPhone 5 ($199 with contract, £529 unlocked)

Kudos Five Stars, VFM Four Stars

Apple iPod Touch ($299, £249)

Kudos Three Stars, VFM Four Stars

Google Chromebook (Samsung) ($250, £229)

Kudos Three Stars, VFM Five Stars

Google Nexus 7 ($200, £200)

Kudos Three Stars, VFM Five Stars

GoPro Hero 3 ($200, £200)

Kudos Five Stars, VFM Four Stars

Jawbone Big Jambox ($300, £260)

Kudos Five Stars, VFM Three Stars

Jawbone Up ($130)

Kudos Five Stars, VFM Three Stars

Livescribe Sky Digital Pen ($170, £160)

Kudos Four Stars, VFM Four Stars

Logitech UE Mobile Boombox ($100, £80)

Kudos Three Stars, VFM Five Stars

Logitech Touchpad T650 ($80, £70)

Kudos Five Stars, VFM Four Stars

Logitech Touch Mouse T400 ($50, £40)

Kudos Three Stars, VFM Four Stars

Lytro Light Field Camera ($399)

Kudos 5 Five Stars, VFM One Star

Nespresso U ($199, £119)

Kudos Four Stars, VFM Five Stars

Nintendo Wii U ($300, £248)

Kudos Four Stars, VFM Four Stars

Sony HDR-AS15 ($270, £259)

Kudos Three Stars, VFM Four Stars

Sony Vaio Tap 20 ($879, £999)

Kudos Five Stars, VFM Three Stars

Sony Wonderbook ($40, £24.50)

Kudos Four Stars, VFM Four Stars

© 2012 The Financial Times Limited