Bluffer’s Guide to Gadgets
Gadget know-how doesn’t have to be the result of years of careful
research, poring over manuals instead of being poured pints in your local
We’ve condensed all the most important bits so you don’t have to - a
doctorate in blagging your way through technology is within your grasp.
This guide will tell you the stuff you need to know, for conversations with
mates, colleagues or with your missus' ex-boyfriend.
We'll also throw in some predictions of what's going to be hot in the world
of technology, allowing you to set yourself up as something of a local
futurologist. Just buy us a pint in return.
Bookmark the Bluffer's Gadget Guide:
Gadget speak to get you by in the pub
TV and home cinema
All the knowledge to get you by when discussing the goggle box.
1080p: The best of the best in high def terms, also called ‘Full High
Definition’. The number refers to the number of lines of vertical pixels on the
screen (the more, the better) and the ‘p’ refers to the progressive scanning of
the image, which creates a better picture.
720p: High def, but not full high def since it has fewer rows of pixels. Still, it’s
a lot better than an aerial made of a coat hanger.
Blu-ray: If you want your films to come with enough detail to pop your
eyeballs, buy Blu-ray discs. It’s the victor in the bloody format war, backed by
the likes of Sony and Apple. The extra storage capacity on the disc not only
means better picture quality, but all sorts of extra features.
HDMI: The connection used between high definition devices, like your Blu-ray
player and your television.
LCD: Stands for Liquid Crystal Display, and is one of the options when you’re
buying a new television. They are energy efficient, lightweight and have an
excellent life expectancy.
Piano black: Paint job du jour. A few years ago, Apple popularised iPod
White. Now? You’re no one if your kit doesn’t have a piano black paint job,
complete with cloth to banish fingerprints.
Plasma: Plasma screens use gas to display the picture and are ideal for
larger screen sizes. This makes them great for home cinema set ups.
Know your 3G from your GPRS with confidence and style.
HSPA: High speed packet access. But don't worry, you don't need to
remember that. All you need to remember is it's currently the fastest way of
connecting to the internet when you're not in a wireless hotspot in the UK.
Most mobile networks offer HSPA modems, as it’s their networks that are
used to provide the connection. Increasingly, laptops are coming with HSPA
built in, which means you can use a mobile phone network to connect to the
internet wherever you are. Specifically, HSDPA refers to the data you
download to your phone, such as when you watch a YouTube video, whilst
HSUPA is you uploading data, i.e. when you upload a video to YouTube via
3G: 3G will get you a fairly decent connection to the internet on your mobile
when you’re out and about. It’s not as good as HSPA (which has been
dubbed 3.5G) so it’s not much good for watching YouTube videos or
streaming a radio station. However, it’ll certainly get you on Streetmap.
Bluetooth: It’s a wireless data transport method. Since the new driving laws
have been put in place a Bluetooth headset is essential car wear, making
Bluetooth a necessity, not a luxury. Not only can it be used with headsets, it
means in some cases you can pair it with your sat nav and use that as the
microphone and speakers for your phone. It even allows you to stream music
between your phone and your Bluetooth-enabled speakers.
EDGE: Somewhere between your basic GPRS phone service and 3G lies
EDGE. It has only recently gained awareness in the UK, thanks to the fact
that the last generation Apple iPhone works over EDGE. It’s a fast data
connection, but not very.
GPRS: Stands for General Packet Radio Service. It’s a way of transferring
data to and from your phone. It’s the most basic, and therefore the slowest
type and won’t let you do much more than send and receive a few emails.
Haptics: Mobiles with touchscreens are increasingly being designed to give a
shudder of feedback every time you touch the screen. Haptics are designed
to make the touchscreen interface that much easier to use.
VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol. Or, free calls over the internet. Providers
like Skype use your internet bandwidth for your voice calls, which are close to
if not completely free, providing you’re calling another VoIP user.
Whether you’re watching video or listening to music when you’re out and
about, make sure you know your stuff.
DAB: Digital radio, which means a clearer signal, more information and a
better service. Features on the radios vary, but some radios will tell you
which song is playing, allow you to pause, record and rewind radio shows,
and all will give you access to niche stations you never knew you needed.
Flash memory: Also called solid state memory, it’s used a lot in MP3
players. It’s got no working parts, so it’s more reliable i.e. when you drop it, it
shouldn’t be the end of the world. Sadly it’s more expensive, and so far, can’t
reach the lofty capacity that hard drives can boast.
MP3: The shorthand for music files. An MP3 player will play audio, albeit
often with a slight loss in quality so that more songs can be fitted in.
MP4: If MP3 equals music MP4 equals video. It’s just one of the possible file
formats of video, but it’s the accepted shorthand for players that play video.
Computers & Gaming
They’re getting more powerful all the time, but whether you’re fighting
baddies or formatting spreadsheets, revise the following!
Leopard: The latest operating system from Apple. Any current Apple Mac
computer purchased will come with this version.
PS3: The PlayStation 3, from Sony. It’s got graphics to die for and plays Blu-
ray discs, giving you high def on the side.
Streaming: Streaming media from the internet has become a popular choice
for watching TV. It means that the latest episode of Lost will be sent to you as
you view it, rather than you buying it and storing it somewhere. BBC
programmes can be streamed using the iPlayer, which can be accessed from
any PC-based web browser, whilst Channel 4 have the 4OD service, which
works in a similar way.
UMPC: Ultra mobile personal computer. These computers are tiny, and whilst
they might have less processing power than larger laptops, they do mean you
can easily carry them about with you.
Vista: The latest Windows operating system. Most PCs purchased now will
come with Vista included, although it’s worth checking which version, since
there are several different ones which vary in features.
Wii: The games console for people that don’t like games consoles, as well as
those who do. Rather than a joypad, the Wii is controlled by waving the
controller about, making pretending to be Tiger Woods that more believable.
WiFi: Wireless internet. You need to be in a hotspot, either at home, at work,
or a public one. Of the latter, there are free hotspots, such as those at
McDonalds restaurants, but the majority you have to pay for. You also need
a device that supports WiFi, such as your laptop, PDA or media player i.e. an
Xbox 360: The alternative to the PS3. Awesome graphics, the possibility to
become worldwide champion of Halo 3, but no Blu-ray player currently, unlike
This just brushes the surface of the World of the Geek, but learn these basics
and at least you won’t be caught unawares.
Fanboy: Well reasoned opinions hold no weight with this lot. Obsessively in
love with one company, format or technology, there’s no point reasoning with
them. They’re the ones queuing up for the midnight sale of the latest game.
L33t: Pronounced ‘leet’ this is a language particular to those who occupy the
online world. It often involves substituting letters for numbers, such as n00b,
or acronyms such as ROFL (rolling on floor laughing) or LOL (laugh out loud).
N00b: A noob is a newbie, or someone new to the online world. To be called
a noob is to be insulted for your lack of experience. Watch out!
Web 2.0: If you’re adding something to the internet, you’re probably Web 2.0
without even knowing it. Facebook, Flickr, MySpace – it’s all about you
adding your own stamp on the web.
Key factors to consider
If you’re going to start blagging, it’s always a good idea to get a measure of
how much the other person knows. Maybe probe them on their opinions
about the following to get some idea…
Memory – The more memory your device has, the more data it can store.
That means being able to fit dozens of films on your media player, hours and
hours of music on your phone and every photo you’ve ever taken on your
Size - big is sometimes better (think tellys) and sometimes to be avoided
(think the MP3 players that look like they're from Back to the Future). Don't
get them confused. To make matters easier, thin is always better. Sony make
a TV screen which is just 3mm thick, so expect more of that.
Speed - the faster the better. It doesn't matter what it is - mobile, mp3 player,
computer. The faster it is, the quicker you'll be able to do 'stuff'. Even if that
'stuff' consists of killing zombies and rescuing princesses.
Weight - Gadget blagging should not be confused with weightlifting. For the
most part, you're looking for lightweight tech. If nothing else, it means that it's
quicker to pack up and move when you get kicked out of your flat for
spending your whole life on the PS3.
Wires - One day wires will be displayed in glass cabinets in museums, for
children to gaze on in wonderment. Sadly, at the moment, they're more likely
to be found running along your walls. However, the end is nigh. Speakers
are increasingly streaming music wirelessly, and there are now loads of ways
of wirelessly getting the stuff on your computer onto your TV.
Picture quality: High definition is the future, and can be so sharp that it may
make your eyes bleed. But that’s a good thing, because it means you can
see everything from sport to movies in pin-sharp detail.
Hot topics and looking to the future
You don’t need to wait for someone to pull out their new mobile to start a
techy conversation. Take a look at these trends for an idea of subjects you
can chat over.
Connectivity: Not a terribly sexy one, but think of all the things you can do
browsing the internet on your mobile. Up until now, neither the browsers nor
the connection speeds have been good enough.
User Interface: Last year saw the user interface of gadgets increasingly
being controlled by touch and motion. Whether it’s an MP3 player you control
by movement or a computer game that simulates a real tennis game, it all
indicates the keyboard might be on its way out.
Location based services: If your gadget knows where in the world you are,
it suddenly becomes a whole lot more practical. Cameras that ‘geotag’ where
in the world the picture was taken, maps that show you where the local pizza
place is – there’s a whole host of reasons to be connected to that satellite.
Digital television: In 2012 the Government will have turned off all analogue
TV transmitters, so anyone without digital or satellite TV will be left without
their daily helping of ‘Enders or Corrie. If you’re investing in new telly
equipment this year, you’d be wise to look for a built-in digital receiver.
Otherwise, invest in a digital set top box.
On-demand: TV schedules are for losers. Since it’s now possible to get your
favourite programmes at a time convenient to you, thanks to services like Sky
Anytime, being a slave to television programmers is less appealing. Your TV
provider will have a library of programmes and films, which you can buy and
watch at your convenience. Alternatively, you could use the hard disc of your
set top box to record your favourites, so matter how late you get in, you never
miss the beginning of Match of the Day.
Logitech MX Air mouse
Who says computer peripherals are dull? As well as working as your average
computer mouse, this swanky looking thing uses motion sensing technology
to allow you to control your media by waving it through the air. It’s perfect for
people who have all their music or photos on their computer, as it allows
them to control it all from across the room.
Second Generation iPod Touch
This second version of the hugely covetable iPod Touch keeps the
superbright screen, the fingerprintalicious touchscreen but shaves a few
millimeters off the silhouette. Apple has also added external volume controls
and a passable speaker, making it even more of a rocking package than
Sony DSC-T77 Black
More touchscreen delights, this time from Sony - they’ve done away with the
buttons in favour of a massive 3-inch touchscreen. It’s one of the slimmest
cameras around, and yet it still manages to cram in 10 megapixels and 4x
Horrible name, awesome product. It will provide you not only with fantastic
surround sound, but will play almost any video format you care to mention.
There’s Blu-ray, for full-on high definition viewing, Div-X, for stuff downloaded
from the internet, and it will even increase the picture quality of your existing
DVD collection. Magic.
Sony Giga Juke NAS-SC55PKE
The only DJ you’ll ever need; the Giga Juke can store up to 40,000 songs
and wirelessly stream them up to five ‘zones’ around your house. Ooh, fancy!
It also automatically creates playlists for you, recognises and files the track
data, and of course, comes with the ubiquitous iPod dock.
Samsung 780 series LCD TV
Offering a massive 40-inches of screen, this television offers Full HD 1080p
picture resolution. It’s also packed with cutting edge technology, including
LED backlighting, which will render your blacks blacker than black. There’s
also an in-built digital TV tuner and four HDMI ports.
So, you’ve taken a crash course in tech know-how, and hopefully, now feel
confident in chatting pixels over a pint, and discussing the merits of l33t at
your local. Never again be lost for words when someone asks for an opinion
on their new mobile – you can now not only join them, but chances are you
can probably beat them!