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Gadgets

 
Science Museum SM1974 alarm clock 

Science Museum SM1974I had a long quest to find a non-ticking alarm clock. My old alarm clock used to tick, and I was fine with that, but having then not used an alarm clock in the bedroom for some time and needing to go back to using one when I started a new job, I found it intensely irritating. We bought a "non-ticking" Acctim one at Argos, but that went straight back when we found that instead it whirred, and it also whined when the light was operated. We thought we'd found a quietly-ticking one at a jeweller, but it got louder and louder over the course of the night, so that went back too. I swapped it for this one, badged by the Science Museum but manufactured by Zeon. I eventually realised that to attain silence I was going to have to bury my principle and get a digital one, but this handily also sets itself against the atomic clock signal transmitted from Anthorn in Cumbria since 2007. The display is LCD, with a backlight button, but pretty clear, and (once I'd responsibly dumped the supplied batteries) it's proving unproblematic. It even managed to pick up the atomic signal from Belgium, and honoured the different time zone I had previously set - though it may have been picking up the similar CET signal from Germany I guess. The alarm is not a crescendo one, but is piercing and effective. There's a bit of a quirk with the snooze that means it sometimes pauses for ten minutes rather than five, but it's never mattered so far. It would also be nice if the light/snooze button wasn't on the back, if it would fold up in a way that protected all the buttons (light/snooze included) and the rather scratch-prone gloss-black front panel, and if the stand was a little firmer. Otherwise, it does the job, simply and stylishly.

Rating: 4/5

Website: www.sciencemuseumstore.com

 
Aigo A208 2GB mp3 player 

Aigo A208We were looking for a budget but fairly capacious mp3 player, and we shortlisted the 2GB Aigo A208 and a 1GB Idisgo. We initially went for the Idisgo but it went straight back, and it was worth the extra few quid to upgrade to the Aigo. It looks even nicer than pictures do it justice, the build quality is good, the display (unlike the Idisgo's) is very informative, and the navigation is usable if a bit clunky as others have commented. Sound quality is perfectly adequate, and the supplied headphones aren't the worst I've used by any means. Battery life is not class-leading, but reasonable especially listening at lower volume levels. The A208 is not fully compatible with all Windows Media files, specifically excluding pay-monthly DRM, but such crippled files really aren't likely to be used on a player of this capacity. It's perfectly happy with VBR mp3 files, and that's the main thing! The USB key-drive functionality is a bit slow but otherwise excellent, and works entirely on PC power, so a) you won't drain the AAA battery doing a marathon rip/upload session and b) if you flatten the battery listening to music on the way to that vital meeting you won't be left high and dry with no access to your business data! It's a little bit too chunky to fit into a USB socket next to anything else or on highly moulded PC cases, but the (short) supplied extension cable overcomes any issues in that regard. It's hardly the best mp3 player out there, but for Argos's £25 asking price it's hard to go too far wrong.

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