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Gadgets are great - they keep you in contact when you're away from the computer and they can provide you with entertainment - music, movies and games - when you're travelling. But they do have their downsides. They can be greedy for your attention and, when you're using them, you tend to cut yourself off from the outside world, stay insular and ignore the people around you. They're not the last word in social enablement.
Imagine plugging in your headphones on the train when you're off on a night on the town with your mates, or breaking conversation to answer a text message at a party. No matter how boring the conversation is, or how much you want to be somewhere else, doing either is going to make you look a little rude.
But not all gizmos are hewn from the same, antisocial cloth. Some can help smooth the gears of the social machine - and Gear4's latest portable speaker, the BlackBox Mini is just such a device. I know that's a bit of a hefty intro for such a small device - it's just a humble portable speaker, after all - but I think it's worth the build up.
Why? The first reason is that it's well-designed. There are a lot of portable speakers on the market, but not many are as neatly and cleverly put together as this. The first thing to point out is its size; it's absolutely tiny. In height, width and depth the Mini is roughly the size of a can of Red Bull - albeit square in profile rather than cylindrical - and this makes it, if not pocketable, certainly something you can chuck into a bag pretty easily. It even comes with a padded case to protect it from the day-to-day knocks and scrapes it's inevitably likely to suffer.