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Top ten useless USB gadgets

Posted on 27 Dec 2009 at 00:00

There should always be room in your life for something pointless. Here's our list of the ten daftest things you can plug into a USB port.

Technology and mass production have given mankind a wonderful new ability to make endless piles of pointless things, and in recent years the humble USB port has given rise to a whole subgenre of superficially interesting stuff, whose novelty wears off quicker than the label on the Armani jeans you bought from that bloke in the pub.

So we’ve plundered the inventories of some of the gadget sites scattered across the web, as well as a discount emporium, to bring our top-ten list of completely daft, naff, cheap and stupid things that plug into a USB socket. All tested with typical PC Pro thoroughness, of course.

Read on for the countdown, in reverse order of pointlessness.

10. ADS Tech Instant Music Vinyl & Cassette Ripper

ADSTech Music Ripper
Price £40 inc VAT

This ugly white box is really just a USB soundcard with analogue RCA and digital S/PDIF inputs and outputs, along with a piece of software called Spin it Again, designed to filter pops and crackles from LPs and the hiss from cassettes. The idea being that you can rescue all those compilation tapes and vinyl albums you’ve not played for two decades, and convert them to MP3s or burn to a CD.

What it doesn’t have is a cartridge input for a record player – it will only accept a standard line-level analogue audio connection. In plain English that means you can’t connect a turntable to it directly; you’ll need to make sure you put it through a preamp first. Cassette decks don’t suffer from the problem so you can safely connect one directly and rip away.

All the requisite cables are included in the box. It works too, but the trouble is it’s very likely to be superfluous: there’s a good chance that your PC already has an analogue audio input built in. And for software to record audio, then clean it up afterwards and convert to MP3 format, look no further than the free-to-download and very capable Audacity.

Rating 3/6

9. Max Power USB battery charger

Max Power USB battery charger
Price 99p inc VAT
Supplier Discount shop, Burnt Oak, Edgware

If you’ve not been to a pound shop lately, you’re missing out on a fantastic winter wonderland of absolute rubbish; the majority of it falls to pieces before you’ve made it out of the door. But occasionally, in among the landfill, you can find something that amounts to a bargain.

This USB battery charger is one such gem. It’ll charge two AA or AAA batteries, and it even has a couple of high-tech red LEDs. Better still, it comes with a USB cable with a standard mini-USB connector – try buying one of those for 99p in your local branch of PC World. The tiny downside is that it’s a USB power cable only and lacks the connections for data, so you can’t use it as a spare cable for your digital camera. But hey ho.

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User comments

Last Xmas I was given a USB mini vac.
It is almost as good at removing fag ash from between the keys, as holding the keyboard upside down and tapping it !
Complete and utter rubbish !!

By laolitan on 27 Dec 2009

Coffer warmer?

I've been using a coffee warmer for years. I just sit the coffee cup on the power supply for my laptop.

By Jaydax on 27 Dec 2009

Oh dear?

"Stationary" shops? I suppose it's a literal description since shops don't move, but I can't help but feel you meant "Stationery" shops.

By Linux_User on 27 Dec 2009

Veho Microscope

I have that USB microscope in actual use in a physics lab - it's a very cheap (Amazon £40) way of getting pictures of small samples on a PC.

Unfortunately, the driver and software interface included leaves a lot to be desired, and as you say, getting things in focus takes a lot of patience.

By phantombudgie on 28 Dec 2009

USB Christmas Tree

Morgan Computers are doing a USB Christmas Tree for the princely sum of £0.99 including VAT:

By jbarnett on 29 Dec 2009

I'm glad you covered that microscope; I had been toying with the idea of getting one of those as a christmas or birthday present for someone one of these years.

My flatmate got me a USB-cup warmer from freecycle a while ago, unfortunately I think it was broken... or maybe it's function was just imperceptible (I seem to remember it did cause a little 'device has stopped working' bubble to appear on the computer, I think that was all it did).

Stereo camera could be fun with a little image processing... seem to remember a microsoft tech demo with gaming applications some time ago.

By ptodd1 on 7 Jan 2010

So many usb gadgets

More and more it's the gadgets of the moment, gadgets connected to a computer by USB. Some of them are very helpfull and should be used by everyone. I recomend this website for Usb gadgets

By AmazingGadegst on 26 Aug 2010

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