TOP  TECH  TOYS  OF  2004

MANILA, January 2, 2005 (STAR) By Manny de los Reyes  -  As every year of the early 21st century turns, we find an increasing number of devices and technologies to whet our techie appetites. 2004 is no exception as you’ll soon see from this list. Not surprisingly, much of the innovations come from devices that are closest to us: cellphones and computers. Still, a fair number hail from audio and video as well as photography and even down-to-earth home appliances. Check them out and see which among them might already be in your pocket or living room.

• Sony Ericsson P900/P910i/K700i/K500i/S700i

The tremendously full-featured P900/P910i smartphones have redefined the meaning of mobile data and communications for the 21st century executive. The K700i and K500i handsets won many converts for their stunning blend of design elegance, user-friendliness and heavy-hitting features and applications. And the new S700i breaks new ground not just with its sharp-shooting 1.3-megapixel camera, but with its radical swiveling design and its stunningly large screen.

• Camera phones below P7,000

Thanks mostly to the mobile phone networks, you can now place a Motorola C651 with 4x digital zoom and video playback or a Sony Ericsson T230 with a detachable camera or the sleek Siemens MC60 in your pocket for less than P7,000. (Or for about P1,500 more, you can opt for the Nokia 3200 if you’re a Finnish loyalist.)

• Nokia’s fashion phones

Form definitely leads function with this trio of whimsical Finnish delights. The textile-wrapped clamshell 7270 is guaranteed to match your wardrobe. The 7260, meanwhile, is an Art Deco-meets-Industrial design beauty, while the barely-larger-than-a-lipstick 7280 foregoes the traditional keypad for a radical thumb-wheel scroller – while squeezing in a camera and a mirror (which also acts as the display)!

• Apple iPod Mini/4th-gen iPod/iPod Photo/iMac G5

This year is definitely Apple’s year. It started with a slimmer, simpler 4th-gen iPod. Then, there were the adorable pastel-hued 4GB iPod Minis. Entry to the world of convergent iPod technology came in the form of the iPod Photo, which not only plays digital music, but also full-color photos and videos. Finally, the new iMac G5 which cleverly packaged the whole computer inside a two-inch-thick monitor.

• ‘Prosumer’ cameras

Advanced amateur photographers had a difficult time picking a camera this year ever since Kodak, Sony, Canon, Nikon and Olympus churned out a host of semi-pro shooters with price tags significantly less than that for entry-level SLRs. With full manual controls, sophisticated AF features and intelligent processors, the "prosumer" camera opened a whole new world for discriminating shutterbugs on a budget.

• Nokia N-Gage QD

Who would have thought that the world needed a marriage between a serious communications tool (a mobile phone) and a seemingly frivolous one (a portable gaming console)? Nokia thought exactly that and gave us this year the N-Gage QD, the highly improved version of last year’s ground-breaking N-Gage gaming phone. Nothing less than an amalgamation of a smartphone (the QD runs on the Series 60 version of the Symbian 6.0 platform and has lots of business applications) and a Game Boy Advance SP (albeit with a smaller screen but with lots of wireless gaming apps), the QD will definitely be doing much more than just connecting people.

• Siemens 65-series handsets

This year, Siemens’ 65-series handsets have not just been setting new trends in design and features (like ultra-large LCD screens), they are also proving to be a revelation in terms of user-friendliness, especially compared to previous Siemens models. The camera-equipped C65 and CX65 first opened our eyes to Siemens’ new-found user-friendliness. The sporty M65 followed suit and added an appealing shock- and water-resistance to the mix. Now we have the S65 which adds a 1.3-megapixel camera and even more applications for business and recreational users – and the delectable SL65 siding phone. The pricing for these handsets are not bad too.

• Motorola C380/C651/E398/V3/MPx

From being the pager icon of the 1980s to plunging to the depths of near-obscurity in the 1990s, Motorola seems to have zoomed back out of nowhere. From its entry-level C380 to the C651 camphone to the feature-rich E398 to the razor-thin V3 clamshell to the super-smart MPx, you’ve got a range of stylish and high-quality mobile phones guaranteed to meet just about every conceivable consumer need. And, yes, these Motos are much easier to use than their forebears.

• Epson Stylus CX1500

Not too long ago, you had to shell out more than P10,000 for an all-in-one printer. But the new Epson Stylus CX1500 breaks this price point. For P5,995, you get to print, scan and copy as effectively as with its higher-priced counterparts. Printing speed and quality are not sacrificed either.

• MP3, MP3 and more MP3s!

What started out as a small niche market for techie audiophiles went into the mainstream with players from the entry-level to the top-of-the-line. Thanks to miniaturization, MP3 files could be stored in ways that the CD or MD never could, like in watches, cellphones, digicams and even sunglasses (watch out for Oakley’s upcoming "Thump" model).

• 1MP+ camera phones

True, these cameras can’t replace your trusty 3MP+ digital camera anytime soon, but during moments when access to one isn’t possible, at least the ubiquitous cellphone you take calls and send messages with can take more-than-mediocre images. Motorola, Nokia, Siemens and Sony Ericsson all have models with 1MP+ resolution with a host of other cellphone makers soon to follow.

• New-generation smartphones

This year saw the launch of a new generation of smartphones that boast of better interface, OS and multimedia features. O2 released the successor of the popular XDA, the XDA II. BlackBerry launched its 7290 and the 7100 series with SureType technology. Of course, who could have missed the stylish, ground-breaking Sony Ericsson P900 and P910i and the recently launched Nokia 9500 Communicator? Then there’s the Motorola MPx, a dual-hinge device that opens both lengthways as a clamshell phone and in landscape mode as an e-mail device with a wide screen and full Qwerty keyboard.

• Samsung SGH-E800

Eschewing gimmickry for all-around usability, Samsung’s prestige phone has GPRS and WAP connectivity, a 65k-color screen, polyphonic ringtones and a camera with built-in flash – which actually works as advertised. Despite its diminutive design, the E800 has one of the best audio qualities in the market, thanks to its speakerphone, Voice Clarity and Noise Cancellation technologies for loud and clear conversations anywhere. With a silky smooth slider movement, you’ll find yourself opening and closing the phone just to relish the movement.

• Down-priced Plasma TVs

Sales of microwave popcorn took off as a wave of relatively affordable Plasma TVs hit town. Panasonic’s Viera and Philips’ Pixel Plus 2 offer exceptional visuals and gorgeous exteriors for roughly P350,000 – not cheap but substantially lower than the roughly half-a-million they cost just two years ago. Kolin’s Syntax line sets the trend with sub-P200k sticker prices. With such attractive price tags, building the ultimate home theater is now easier on the pocket.

• Intel P4 Extreme Edition

Addicted to speed? Then your PC should be equipped with no less than Intel’s Pentium 4 Extreme Edition with hyper-threading (HT) technology. Launched early this year, the processor boasts of a 512kb Level 2 cache, a 2MB Level 3 cache and a super-fast 800MHz system bus speed. And since it works together with HT technology, graphics- and power-hungry games are fabulously rendered.

• Acer Ferrari

If you’re as much for processing speed as for road speed, then the Acer Ferrari 3200 is for you. Of course, it’s a fast computer (64-bit Athlon!). Of course, it’s got all the high-powered features you’d expect a top-of-the-line notebook to have. But since it’s also a Ferrari, it gleams in Italian racing red and carbon fiber to impress even the most ignorant, non-F1 fanatics at the local Wi-Fi hot spot.

• Portable media players

This is the future of mobile entertainment. Watch movies on the fly. Pick songs to listen to from your vast music library. View your digital photos from your recent trip to Kabul. If you have one of these portable media players – like Creative’s Zen Portable Media Center, Samsung’s Yepp YH-999 or Sony’s HMP-A1 – you can experience the power and convenience of enjoying all your digital entertainment on one device – anytime, anywhere.

• Doom 3 and Half Life 2

Lock and load! The long-awaited sequels to two of the most popular first-person shooters hit the scene with guns blazing. With a storyline revolving around a) monsters/mutants/aliens/scary people and b) the need to blast them into bits to save mankind, avid gamers blissfully re-entered the virtual world of death and destruction with these two gems and their lovingly detailed graphics and 3D engines.

• MMORPG

It all began with Ragnarok. Now, the name of the game is MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game). Ranging in flavors from the fantasmic (World of Warcraft) to the cartoony (Ragnarok) to the Old World (Khan), there’s enough to satisfy everyone. What makes the genre compelling is the ability to level up one’s character by fighting varieties of critters and purchasing different abilities and power-ups. This single aspect of most MMORPG games is so engrossing; it’s not surprising that this has extended beyond the virtual world, as trading of characters for actual cash has become common.

• Firefox

Internet Explorer, while available in most Windows computers by default, is plagued with security holes, spyware intrusions and pop-ups, and is just plain difficult to manage. Enter Mozilla’s Firefox. It’s built with security in mind, avoids spyware like a plague, has an aggressive integrated pop-up blocker, a search bar, is a zip to download and uses tabs to organize windows. The integrated RSS reader is an even cooler feature which helps saves a lot of surfing time. Plus it just looks way cooler than IE.

• Silver Nano and Bio-silver technologies

Silver Nano and Bio-silver technologies are among the applications of nanotechnology being used today by electronics giants such as Samsung and LG. Simply put, Silver Nano (Samsung) and Bio-silver (LG) provide breakthrough benefits such as antibacterial and deodorization features in air-conditioners, refrigerators and washing machines so we get cleaner air, fresher food and germ-free clothes.

• Wider Wi-Fi deployment

Considering the fact that coffee shops, airport lounges, cybercafés, restaurants, schools, malls and even beach resorts are becoming Wi-Fi-capable – and coupled with the wireless capability of a growing number of notebooks and other devices – there’s no more excuse not to be able to connect sans wires.

• Big-spaced free e-mail

Thank Google for providing free e-mail service that probably would never require spending quality time deleting mail to free up storage space. Since everyone started talking about the much-coveted, by-invitation-only GMail account and the whopping gigabyte of space that it offers, other free e-mail businesses started increasing the amount of e-mail space they provide users. Walla, Gawab, Spymac, Yahoo! Mail, directBox and Graffiti now offer free e-mail upwards of 100MB, and sending attachments as high as 10MB is possible.

• Mobile phone cash services

Notwithstanding the risks of having a mobile phone snatched in the Philippines, mobile telecom giants Smart and Globe both launched their respective cellphone-based cash services this year. Smart Padala is your international remittance system, while Globe’s G-Cash allows subscribers to pay for purchases using their mobile phones, essentially making one’s SIM a mobile wallet.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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