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Christmas Gift Guide
MP3 Players

The 12 Days of iPod Christmas: part one

Short of a last-minute gift for your iPod-loving lover? Here are six suggestions, with six more to come later in the week

On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me
a Proporta Steel Sleeve for my 2nd-gen iPod Shuffle

More info: Proporta
Price: £4.95

We aren't feeling the true love, and there's clearly something bonkers about protecting your aluminium MP3 player with a steel sleeve. However... the dull grey finish of the new Shuffle is uninspiring, given its tech jewellery pretensions. Proporta's metal sleeves come in ten colours, including gloss black, chrome and metallic red. At £4.95 each or £9.90 for three, they cost hardly any more than the traditional orange, and they'll be a lot more appealing in the bottom of a stocking. Proporta also has silicon and hard plastic Shuffle cases in a variety of colours.

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On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me
a SwitchEasy RunAway AnyShoe Adaptor for my Nike + iPod Sport Kit

More info: SwitchEasy
Available from: iWorld
Price: £5.99

Time for some tough love? Encourage your beloved to work off the Christmas calories with SwitchEasy's RunAway AnyShoe Adaptor, which lets you use the Nike + iPod Sports Kit without forking out for a pair of the special Nike trainers. The RunAway attaches to your shoelaces, holding the Sports Kit sensor securely in place and making it easy to remove, swap to another pair of shoes, or deactivate.

The RunAway also makes the throwaway design of the sensor, with its non-replaceable battery, slightly easier to stomach -- at least you aren't buying an extra pair of trainers as well.

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On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me
a three-pack of iSkins for my iPod nano (2nd generation)

More info: iSkin
Available from: iWorld
Price: £19.99

The second-gen iPod nano isn't nearly as scratch-prone as its predecessor, but you still might want to keep it in a case -- to protect the screen, to make it easier to carry or to customise it. Annoyingly, the second-gen nano is not only a different shape, but also slightly taller, so most of the cases for the original version won't fit.

Of the second-gen cases, our favourite so far is the new iSkin, which combines a thin layer of coloured silicon with a clear plastic face plate and a removable belt clip. The silicon layer protects the ClickWheel and makes your nano easier to grip, while the face plate protects the screen. It also makes it harder to accidentally brush the ClickWheel, by recessing it slightly. Your £19.99 gets you three silicon skins -- one frosted and two coloured -- plus a face plate and a rotating belt clip.

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On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love promised me
a Marware Slyder for my iPod nano (2nd generation)

More info: Marware
Price: TBA

It isn't on sale yet, but we couldn't resist tucking an IOU into the stocking. Marware's Slyder case takes the classic hard plastic case and adds a sliding front. Slide it down to use the ClickWheel, then slide it up again to seal your pristine nano into its crystal shell. Given the popularity of slider phones and the show-me-off colours of the new nano, this looks like a winner.

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On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me
a pair of Sennheiser CX 300 earbuds for all my iPods

More info: Sennheiser
Available from: Amazon
Price: £20.99

Although the updated earbuds supplied with the second-gen nano and 5.5-gen iPod are better than the original Apple earbuds, they're still pretty awful. Climbing on the bus with Apple's signature white wires trailing down your front tells fellow commuters that you a) don't care how your music sounds and b) don't care whether you get mugged. Upgrading to Sennheiser's decent but reasonably priced CX 300 earbuds solves both problems, improving the sound and making it less obvious that you're toting an iPod. Sony's MDR-EX71SL earbuds in black or (sigh) white are another good alternative.

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On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me
an iKaraoke from Griffin Technology

More info: Griffin Technology
Available from: Griffin's EuroStore
Price: €40.34 (£27)

If music be the food of love, sing on. Of course, if you can't carry a tune, music may be the polonium-210 of love, but that's the risk you take with karaoke. Griffin's iKaraoke connects to any iPod with a dock connector (a nano or a full-size iPod, basically) and fades out the lead vocal so you can sing along. The built-in FM transmitter sends the whole lot to your hi-fi, enabling you to entertain everyone. Or not.

Come back later in the week for the remaining six days of iPod Christmas. -ML