Up at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, the Gadget Show Live 2013 is in full flow. Prior to opening its doors to the public on 3 April, ITProPortal hopped on up to the Midlands to attend an exclusive press and professional preview day. There was an overwhelming array of contraptions on display at the NEC, with the audio and gaming sectors particularly well represented, and Windows 8-based products also much in evidence. We've duly rounded up our five top discoveries from the Gadget Show Live 2013 and, because we're largely "emergent service workers" down here in London Bridge according to the sociology gurus at the BBC, the overriding theme is value for money - a certain sports car not withstanding. Will you be splashing out on any of these top affordable tech toys in the near future?
Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Touch UltraBook
As eye-catching as Lenovo's 27in IdeaCentre Horizon multimode computer was, it was the Chinese firm's upgraded IdeaPad U310 Touch UltraBook that's more likely to nab our hard-earned dosh in the near future. Set to arrive in early-May and retail from £600 for a basic configuration featuring an Intel Core i3 processor, the U310 Touch improves on its 2012 non-touchscreen namesake by way of - no prizes for guessing here - a 10-point multitouch display and for a premium you can boost your hardware up to Core i7. Affordable touchscreen UltraBooks are a make-or-break product niche for the PC industry and Microsoft in particular, and based on our hands-on with the Lenovo IdeaPad U310 Touch, Windows 8 could well be on the brink of winning over the masses.
Toyota GT86-R Marangoni Eco Explorer sports car
One of the star attractions at the Gadget Show Live, the pedigree of the Toyota Marangoni is indicated by the fact that the eco-friendly sports car was originally unveiled in the international capital of bling, Geneva. The GT86-R features a Bigas International NH3 engine system utilising ammonia fuel cell technology and is being dubbed a "pure zero emissions" conversion vehicle, allegedly costing drivers just £5 per 100 miles to run. The vehicle's interior boasts plush racing seats and a carbon fibre trim, and with 19in Barracuda Karizzma alloy rims plus an output of 220hp, the Eco Explorer isn't just about going green - it's a high-performance sports car in its own right and was a real treat to view in the flesh.
Damson Oyster wireless speaker
You couldn't sneeze at the NEC without stumbling over a high-end audio manufacturer, with Sonos, KEF, and Bowers & Wilkins among the big names setting up shop at the Gadget Show Live 2013. But it was Yorkshire-based Damson Audio and its affordable Oyster wireless speaker that ultimately stuck in our mind. At £179.99, this isn't a like-for-like rival to serious enthusiast kit like the Sonos PlayBar, but rather an impressive entry-level wireless speaker that combines portability, sleek design, and big sound for a complete all-in-one audio solution. Student house parties just got a new best friend.
BubblePix BubbleScope 360 degree camera
Manufactured by British startup BubblePix, the BubbleScope is a passive optical handset accessory that immersively captures 360 degree images and videos in conjunction with an eponymous app. BubbleScope operates in a standard vertical positioning allowing for 360 degree horizontal capture with a 100 degree vertical field of view and comes in handset-specific models, with a special connector case to fit your device. It is currently available for the Apple iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 4, as well the Samsung Galaxy S3. Usually, mobile phone accessories are nothing more than a sideshow at technology exhibitions, but the £50 BubbleScope 360 degree camera add-on may just represent an exception to this rule.
Sumvision Cyclone Voyager 2 tablet
During our recent expeditions to tech showcases, we've noticed an increased presence from emerging manufacturers - and a significant improvement in the calibre of devices being outed by these up-and-coming firms. Last year, we took note of the Sumvision Cyclone Voyager as a burgeoning iPad 2 rival, so we were pleased to spot the Chinese manufacturer at the Gadget Show Live 2013 and even keener at the opportunity to get hands-on with its latest offering, the Cyclone Voyager 2. Upping the ante considerably on last year's offering, the 10.1in tablet is set to ship with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and comes with a quad-core chipset clocked at 1.6GHz. There's also a crisp-looking HD IPS display and a 5-megapixel rear camera - at £220, it really is as good a value package as we've seen in some time. Head to Ebuyer.com if it tickles your fancy.