Top ten useless USB gadgets

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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