TechRadar has something of a love-hate relationship with the summer. While most of the rest of the world seems to think that lying on a beach while slowly baking in the sun is the pinnacle of their year, a few of us would rather be cooped up inside playing videogames and tinkering with gadgets.
After all, in the words of the late, great Bill Hicks, "What's the big deal about the beach? It's where the dirt meets the water."
But never fear, being outside in the sunshine is now a geek-friendly pastime. The rampant miniaturisation of tech means that there are now plenty of hardy little computers, games consoles, smartphones and must-have peripherals to keep the most hardcore gadget freak happy while they put in their annual two weeks time in on the beach and/or sipping cocktails poolside.
If you have already booked your summer hols, read on for TechRadar's essential top five bits of summer holiday kit.
Absolute no-brainer. The new Nintendo DSi – the latest refresh of the world's most popular handheld gaming console – is a hand luggage essential.
Since it arrived in the UK back in April, we generally don't tend to leave the house without it. Indeed, it is impossible to consider the idea of a whole two weeks without the joys of Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Wario and – more recently – Rhythm Paradise and Professor Layton and co for quick fixes of gaming on the go.
And if you want to mess around with the new in-built digi-cameras to stretch and 'Mario-ify' your holiday snaps of your family and friends, then you can even do that too.
Add to this the regular DSi store downloads of games and fun utilities; the new slightly brighter screen (which means that this is one of the best gaming consoles ever designed that you can properly play in bright sunlight); the matte finish and the extra slim design (due to the removal of the unwieldy old GBA slot in favour of SD card support) and you have the sexiest DS to date.
For more check out TechRadar's fully-detailed Nintendo DSi review.
MSI Wind U115
The problem with netbooks is, as everybody knows, their annoyingly limited battery lives. Oh. Hang on. The new MSI Wind U115 Hybrid has just successfully proven that to be a complete fallacy, boasting a ten-hour plus battery life perfect for computing on the go.
The new Wind packs in everything that was good about MSI's original mini computer – the well-designed form factor, the solid, nicely-sized keyboard, the decent screen and so on – but throws in Intel's new GMA 500 graphics chip, for improved HD video decoding and an Intel Atom Z530 CPU.
The U115's real killer USP is the fact that it has not one, but two storage drives - an 8GB SSD which stores the XP OS and basic program files, as well as a 160GB HDD to pop all your data on. What this means is that the power-sapping HDD is used far less frequently than on standard netbooks, hence the far-extended battery life.
We've made sure to test the MSI U115 thoroughly on hols recently, with the machine easily powering all the way through long, hot days and balmy evenings with plenty of battery-life to spare come nightfall. The only minor gripe we had was the the tiddy little trackpad could be a tad bigger. Otherwise, you're looking at the ideal netbook for travellers.
In terms of the best bargain to be had out there right now, you can pick an MSI U115 hybrid netbook up now for a shade over £460 from Oyyy.co.uk
Speedo 2GB Aquabeat MP3 player
Okay, so you're going to take the iPod on holiday with you. That's a given. But what happens when you are lying on the airbed in the pool and you need some tunes? The new Speedo 2GB Aquabeat waterproof MP3 player is what happens.
If the idea of an underwater MP3 player sounds a bit scary – after all, electricity and water have never really got on that well, after all! – then don't be worried, because the Speedo Aquabeat really does make swimming, snorkelling and messing around in water a completely different and altogether better experience than ever before. You merely clip the small player to your goggles or face-mask and you're good to go.
And even if you are not planning on doing much swimming or diving on your holiday, the Speedo Aquabeat is still worth considering if you are in the market for a solid, waterproof and almost-unbreakable MP3 player to throw in your beach bag. The waterproof headphones are submersible to three metres (10ft) and the thing even floats, so you couldn't lose it in the pool if you tried!
Gamepark GP2X Wiz
If you fancy a bit of retro-gaming action on your hols and happen to be a fan of arcade emulators such as the mighty MAME, then Gamepark's new GP2X Wiz is pretty much your dream console.
Admittedly, this Linux-powered handheld is really only going to appeal to tinkerers and hobbyists. Which is exactly what we are, so we love it!
You want specs? The GP2X Wiz boasts a 533MHz ARM CPU (up from 200MHz on the original), 1GB of flash (up from 64MB) and two cross-shaped control pads on either side of the brightly lit OLED touchscreen.
The screen is perhaps one of the most impressive features here, as it can be easily viewed in the brightest direct sunlight, which makes the GP2X Wiz the ideal console for the beach. Particularly when your better half has commandeered your DSi!
Check the full GP2X hands on review on TechRadar.
Slingplayer for iPhone
If you haven't got an iPhone yet, then the fact that you can now watch your home TV anywhere in the world (well, anywhere you're on a Wi-Fi connection) via Apple's magic tablet might well be the killer app that makes you finally kow-tow and invest in one.
Okay, you are going to need to invest in a Slingbox Solo box for home first (as well as the £18 Slingplayer for iPhone App) and fiddle around for around half an hour or more to get set up, but once you do you won't look back.
The picture on your iPhone Slingplayer is remarkably good, to say that it is the result of a lot of live video compression going on in the background. Plus, it rarely drops out (providing you have a good Wi-Fi signal) and we never tire of the fact that we can change channels on our home TV from anywhere in the world (although our partners at home seemed to tire of this quite quickly!). The only real downside is that the app only works with Wi-Fi and not with a 3G connection.
So if you have an iPhone and travel a lot or take lots of holidays and cannot bear to miss Eastenders or Coronations Street or Newsnight - or whatever your daily telly-fix is – then Slingplayer for iPhone is £18 very well spent.
Check out our fully detailed Slingplayer for iPhone review on TechRadar