The best new business technology

Blackberry or iPhone? Netbook or HTC? Stuff's Nick Renshaw's guide to the best biz gadgets on the market.

by Nick Renshaw
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

BLACKBERRY BOLD

Price: £0-£500 (depending on contract)

www.blackberry.com

Forget the hype surrounding the touchscreen-toting Storm - the Bold remains the most user-friendly and feature-laden of the BlackBerry line-up. It's also the swankiest device RIM has ever made, thanks to a tactile leatherette backing (ooh-er), stylish interface and top-notch 2.6in screen. It has also got one of the most spacious qwerty keyboards you'll ever thumb, and is perfect for lengthy e-mail drafting. The Bold is one of the best phones we've used for viewing and editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, to boot. The downside to all this is size - the Bold is wide and calls for a generous-size pocket. But setting up the BlackBerry Connect push e-mail service is a breeze - type in your address and password and off you go. With HSDPA and wi-fi, web pages load swiftly, but whereas BlackBerry's proprietary browser is fine, navigating around the page using the trackball is faffy.

Pros: Easy to set up and use e-mail; spacious keyboard; great display

Cons: Broad in the beam; fiddly web browsing

Verdict: If mobile messaging is your priority, the Bold is for you HTC MAGIC

Price: £0-£500 (depending on contract)

www.vodafone.co.uk

This is the second phone to be powered by Google's new Android operating system, and it's exclusive to Vodafone. The HTC Magic builds on the potential of this new OS, as well as eschewing a qwerty keyboard in favour of a touch-screen for a sleeker design. It all makes for an incredibly user-friendly device, responsive and ideal for one-handed operation. It's also highly customisable - the sliding three-panel homescreen allows you to furnish it with widgets and shortcuts for bookmarks, folders and specific web accounts. E-mail setup is simple, as - like all the phones on test - it supports Microsoft Exchange server and easy Outlook synchronisation. Typing out messages using the touchscreen takes a bit of getting used to but is not as bad as it sounds. Camera and music performance is only average, but web browsing is slick. Best of all are Android Market - where apps can be downloaded a la iPhone - and the fantastic Google Maps live street-view navigation.

Pros: Stylish; customisable homescreen; peerless navigation app

Cons: Only average multimedia performance and battery life

Verdict: The Google connection lends it genuine geek appeal

APPLE IPHONE 3G

Price: £0-£650 (depending on contract)

www.02.co.uk

The epitome of geek chic, the iPhone remains one of the most sought-after gadgets on the planet. But can such a playful device really cut it in the boardroom? Well, yes - with one or two provisos. Its intuitive interface and fluid touchscreen remain unrivalled. And the Safari-based web browser is the best in the mobile business, thanks to details like its screen-stroke-based zoom control. Navigation software is also top-notch. E-mail courtesy of Microsoft Exchange Server is straightforward to set up and use, and synchronises with Outlook via the iTunes desktop software. Typing? Well, it takes a bit of getting used to but is do-able. Lovers of long e-mails might prefer a real keyboard, though. Office power users can visit the Apps store for software that lets them edit favourite Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

Pros: Awesome touchscreen and web performance

Cons: Business users will need to download a few apps to get the most out of it

Verdict: Still coolest kid on the block

NOKIA E75

Price: £0-£379 (depending on contract)

www.nokia.co.uk

The E75 leads a handy double life - capable business smartphone by day, funky multimedia platform by night. It even has dual homescreens, so you can switch between worktime and downtime modes. Why? On the work front, the E75 is the first of the E-series to arrive with the new BlackBerry-baiting Nokia Messaging push e-mail service. It's more straightforward to set up and seamless to use. And although it adds to the E75's girth and weight, the sliding qwerty keyboard is a boon. The flat keys are large and easy to use, and although not as responsive and immediate as the BlackBerry Bold, are still great for typing e-mails. Elsewhere, the efficient Opera Mini browser makes web-surfing effortless on the smallish 2.4in display. It also has a decent satnav, which uses Assisted GPS for a super-quick satellite fix.

Pros: Slick and simple e-mail service; thumb-friendly keyboard

Cons: Pointless dual homescreen mode; a bit hefty

Verdict: Great all-rounder, handling workdays and weekends equally well SAMSUNG NC20 NETBOOK

Price: £330

www.samsung.co.uk

The 12.1in-screen NC20 is the bigger brother of the NC10, one of the most popular netbooks. But it's still highly portable, and has great build quality and a clean design. Its bright 1,280x800 pixel display feels spacious, while the extra keypad space is an aid to typing and wrist support. The NC20 eschews the standard 1.6Ghz Intel Atom processor in favour of the energy-efficient 1.33Ghz VIA Nano chip, yet it gets Windows XP running smoothly. High-end by netbook standards, the NC20 ships with 1Gb RAM, 160Gb hard disk, wi-fi, Bluetooth, 3x USB ports and a memory-card reader. No CD/DVD drive, though.

Pros: Spacious keyboard; sharp, bright screen; good battery life

Cons: Doesn't do heavy lifting - video editors should shop elsewhere

Verdict: 80% of notebook performance at 30% of price

HTC TOUCH DIAMOND 2

Price: From £390 (SIM-free)

www.cleverkit.com

HTC has made the clunky Windows Mobile OS more approachable with its TouchFlo 3G user interface. Fingertip operation means you no longer need a stylus - even the start menu is now icon-based. Its WVGA display is razor-sharp: great for viewing web pages via the slick Opera Mobile 9.5 browser. It has the usual wi-fi and HSPDA connectivity, and e-mail set-up is easy. The Touch Diamond 2 is a bit bigger than its precursor but sports a classier design. New features include a touch-sensitive zoom bar for viewing web pages and pix, and a conversation set-up to sort text and voice mail by contact.

Pros: Sharp screen; handy contact-based message-sorting

Cons: Touch-screen could be better

Verdict: Best Windows Mobile phone; less usable than rivals

SONY VAIO P SERIES

Price: £850-£1,368

www.sony.co.uk

The Vaio P series may be super-compact but Sony would hate you to confuse it with a downmarket netbook. Hence the whopping price tag, we presume. This ultra-portable PC is stylish and superbly built, and has the cachet of rarity. But Sony's attempt to squeeze a full-performance laptop into the smallest possible space doesn't quite come off. With no wrist support, typing is uncomfortable and the nipple-style trackpoint is erratic to use. Its extra-wide 8in, 1,600x768 pixel display is crisp but has you squinting to read the titchy text. And despite a pretty high spec for such a small machine - 1.66Ghz Intel Atom Z-series processor and 2Gb RAM on the top model - it struggles to run Windows Vista. The less resource-heavy XP would have been a better choice of operating system. But the P Series packs a lot in, all the same, with built-in 3G connectivity, a whopping 128Gb solid-state drive, GPS, wi-fi, Bluetooth and decent battery life of just under four hours.

Pros: Style, spec and build quality

Cons: Expensive; awkward to type on; stodgy performance

Verdict: Incredibly compact but flawed

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