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Teen dream machine

Tom Wyatt, 14, puts the new teenage handheld computer sensation through its paces

Cybiko, the "wireless handheld computer for teens", already a top seller in the US, has arrived in the UK. Developed in Russia, made in Taiwan and marketed from the US, Cybiko looks like a demented Gameboy, with its "funky" see-through case in day-glo green or purple. But the give-away is the walkie-talkie style aerial. In fact it is a mix between a mobile phone, a games console and a personal digital assistant.

The Cybiko does so much that it's difficult to know where to start. So I went straight to the games. More than 400 of them are now offered, some pre-loaded, all downloadable (free) from the Cybiko website at www.cybiko.com. The games I found were all quite simple, but also quite addicitve.

Cybiko's big selling point is wireless chat. Its high-frequency digital transmitter has a claimed range of about 100 yards outdoors and half that inside. The idea is that you "chat" using text messages with up to 100 other Cybiko owners in your area. The trouble is, as it's so new on the market, there arren't any others in my neighbourhood.

The email function is fine. Each Cybiko has its own email and can receive emails from both computers and other Cybikos. You connect it up to a PC's serial port with the connector provided.

Using the Internet via your Cybiko is not as easy as the other functions. There are a lot of commands you have to learn to be able to surf quickly. Still Net access is a brilliant plus.

The applications add a lot to the Cybiko. You can download a multi-lingual translator, a scientific calculator, a daily planner and a word processor, among others. One drawback is that it is not fully compatible with Macs.

Though extremely small, the full QWERTY keyboard is surprisingly easy to use. I hardly ever found myself accidentally pressing two buttons and you can actually type quite fast on it. For people with larger fingers there's a stylus hidden in the back of the unit.

It looks like a toy for a young child, but some of its functions could be appealing to someone much older. Most of the people I spoke to would prefer it if it looked like something for someone older. With Net access, email and easy texting the Cybiko is a handy thing to have with you. It won toy of the year in the US but will it catch on here?

Cybiko Price: pound;99Details of distributors from: www.cybiko.com

CYBIKO

Design ***

Suitability of purpose: ****

Ease of use ***

Features *****

Value for money **

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