Steve Place runs the rule over this month's selection of mouthwatering goodies
Rock by name, rock by nature. The T-200 laptoptablet is solidly and handsomely built for only pound;799 plus vat. But it's also quite heavy (2.5kg), especially if you need to carry disk drives as extra baggage - imagine carrying a large bag of potatoes home from Sainsburys.
Nevertheless the robustness of the metallic design could be useful in a school environment. Before reading the instructions, I tried to detach the screen with some force from the keyboard to convert it into a tablet. But the Rock took this Neanderthal treatment in its stride.
The well-defined 14-1-inch touch-screen should, of course, be swivelled backwards over the keyboard to be used in "tablet" mode. This is where the Rock excels because the stylus can be used on the screen to operate in any Windows program (be aware though that it is a hybrid - it does not run Windows XP Tablet Edition and so does not fully conform to the Microsoft definition of a tablet PC). With the ritePen software, which came installed, it's possible to handwrite directly into a Word document on screen.
For those who prefer handwriting to typing the Rock offers a more flexible approach to the grind of turning ideas into print, for note-taking in meetings for example. Naturally the tablet function is also useful for drawing and photo retouching. This is not to say that the laptop side has been neglected: the keyboard and mousepad are more comfortable than on many other laptops.
With all this, plus wireless connectivity and a built-in video camera this Rock could make your old laptop look prehistoric, as long as you are comfortable with the "tablet" compromise.
Fuji Fine Pix F410
The availability of ever more sophisticated computer-linked gadgets is amazing. Take the Fuji FinePix F410 for example. It is only 8cms x 7cms - ideal for a child's hands - with a 3.1megapixel resolution, but can deliver JPGs of up to 6Mb (it's supplied with a 16Mb Fuji card). It has a macro and zoom function and takes short videos - with sound. Focusing is automatic but controlling the light input and the flash can be auto or manual. The F410 also gives you a choice of film speed - of 800, 400, or 200 ASA.
Downloading on to the PC couldn't be easier, the camera is simply placed in the cradle, and the pictures or video automatically become available to view or edit.
This Finepix F410 came with an underwater housing for use in depths of up to 40m (great for bad weather use too). Designed for home and work use.
it's not difficult to see the F410's advantages for educational use. The camera weighs under 200g so can be carried easily in the pocket (shirt even), and is quick on the draw, perfect for reportage. It would also make a good recorder of experiments, as it is possible to attach verbal "captions" to each still image.
At pound;250 - Dixons has it for about pound;100 less - you can take full advantage of global competition.
Canon PowerShot A75
Only marginally bigger than the Fuji, the Canon PowerShot A75 (3.2 megapixels) nevertheless manages to feel more like a camera - the bulge of the battery chamber forming a natural grip. (The four AA batteries contribute most of the weight.) Whereas the Fuji would slide into a shirt pocket; the Canon (available at less than pound;200) would squeeze.
Canon is aiming the A75 at schools, replacing the popular A70, and it's easy to see why. With 13 shooting modes offered by the simple dial on top, it offers tremendous starter facilities. But this belies the fact that it can also give full, sophisticated exposure control through shutter and aperture priority. It also has a 3x zoom, you can record movies with sound and print directly from the camera without the need for a PC. Excellent value for money.