TOP TECH TOYS OF 2005

MANILA, December 26, 2005
 (STAR) By Manny N. De Los Reyes - The year 2005 has been a most generous one for tech toy aficionados. From MP3 players to handheld game consoles to new-generation LCD TVs to hard disk-based camcorders to home DVD burners, the world of high-tech devices has been spinning at a dizzying rate. Check out all the goodies here and you’ll surely agree. No cellphones? That’s because there are so many of them, you’ll be seeing a separate article on Top Cellphones of 2005 in The STAR’s Telecoms section this Saturday. Watch for it!

 iPod Shuffle and Nano

Not content with dominating the hard disk-based digital audio player market, Apple released this year its flash-based iPods, the Shuffle and the Nano. The Shuffle is barely bigger than a pack of gum, comes in 512MB and 1GB capacities, weighs a feathery 0.8 ounce, and plays your music in random order, hence the name. The 1.5-oz. Nano, on the other hand, replaced the iPod Mini and offers a choice between 2GB and 4GB memory capacities. It has a color screen and click wheel not found in its minimalist smaller brother. These two audio players from Apple are viable options for people who want their iPods small, light, and affordable.

Apple Mac Mini and Mighty Mouse

The Mac Mini is a plug-and-play unit – get it out of the box, plug in your own monitor, mouse, and keyboard, and you’re ready to go. The Mac Mini runs on the Mac OS X Tiger, boasts 512MB of RAM and crams all these into a slender 6.5 x 6.5 x 2-inch package.

The Mighty Mouse, meanwhile, detects where you click to simulate that functionality of two buttons though they aren’t there physically. A scroll ball at the top scrolls up and down, pans left and right, and rolls – get this – diagonally. You can even squeeze it, and something will still happen. Mighty mouse, indeed!

LCD TVs

Used to be that plasma TVs were the showcase of one’s living room but 2005 saw a surge of LCD TVs that threatened to make plasma displays obsolete. The LCDs’ crystals suspended in liquid seem to be the clearer and crisper medium for documents, movies, and for surfing the Net. And unlike plasma displays which have limited lifespans, LCDs last virtually forever because once the lamp burns out, all you have to do is replace it, not the entire unit.

Sony PSP

The Sony PSP is the gaming world’s reply to the demand for all-in-one devices: it’s a portable gaming console, an audio and video player, picture viewer, and Internet browser. And it fits all these functions in a 6.7 x O.9 x 2.9-inch, 280-gram device. Sony emphasizes both handheld and gaming in the PSP. It’s ergonomically molded for the gamer’s perfect grip. Gaming takes center stage with the 16:9 widescreen TFT LCD. The display supports 16.77 million colors for the ultimate gaming spectacle.

Epson PictureMate 100

Epson’s PictureMate 100 is the answer to the shoot-anything shutterbug’s mobile printing woes. All you have to do is connect your PictBridge-compatible digicams (or USB-direct print) to the PictureMate 100 and you have a mobile photo printing service! This compact and transportable wonder also prints from a memory card and from a cellphone through the optional Bluetooth adapter. A 1.5" color LCD lets you preview the images and adjust the color, frames, and borders. There are even black and white or sepia options.

Apple iPod 5th Gen

The video-playing iPod is yet another improvement on the mobile music player standard. With the 5th Generation iPod’s slimmer size, video playback capability, and 30- and 60-GB hard drive capacities, serious audiophiles now have no other reason to choose another brand. Add to that a staggeringly wide range of aftermarket peripherals and the stage is set for Apple’s continued dominance in the mobile music player market.

8-megapixel compact cameras

Who would have thought that those simple-looking point-and-shoot compact digital cameras would soon approach SLR resolution by having 8-megapixel capabilities? Olympus has the Stylus 800, a stunning weather-resistant point-and-shooter, while Canon’s bet is the PowerShot S80. Nikon’s is its Wi-Fi-enabled Coolpix P1 and P2, while Sony recently unleashed its Cyber-shot DSC-N1. Fire away with these babies and the world might actually think you’re using a bad-ass digital SLR.

Acer Ferrari 4000

One glance at the Acer Ferrari 4000’s specs and you’ll see why it sports the legendary Ferrari Prancing Horse logo on its lid: AMD 64-bit technology with a 2.0GHz chip; a wicked 1GB of DDR memory that’ll put many desktop PCs to shame; super-fast 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon X700 graphics; a whopping 100GB of hard disk drive memory; 128MB DDR memory; DVD-super multi double-layer drive; super-high 1680 x 1050 screen resolution; Wi-Fi, FireWire, S-Video, Gigabit LAN, IR and Bluetooth connectivity; and a five-in-one card reader. Heck, it even has a Bluetooth-enabled mouse also in Ferrari Red!

DVD camcorders

If you want to skip the arduous task of hooking up your camcorder to your PC just so you can burn DVDs of your videos, then you should get a DVD camcorder. You can pick from those made by Hitachi, Sony, Panasonic, and Canon. Ultimate convenience is achieved with instant access to scenes and simple in-camera editing. This innovation allows you to record home movies directly to high-resolution DVD format and play them back instantly on your home DVD player. How’s that for convenience?

Home DVD recorders

Who wouldn’t go gaga over the prospect of burning one’s favorite shows and programs on high-resolution DVD format? The advent of home DVD recorders in 2005 has triggered many a movie fanatic to buy one, or at least entertain thoughts about getting one. (They’re still quite expensive.) With home DVD burners, it’s now possible to preserve precious memories such as weddings, vacations and school plays in clear, crisp DVD format. And memories, as they say, are priceless. Many thanks to companies like Samsung, LG, Hitachi, Panasonic, Sony, JVC, Philips, Pioneer, Sharp and Toshiba for showering us with this technology.

Oakley Thump

Oakley takes "wearable music" to the next (and literal) level by pairing the MP3 music craze with renowned Oakley optics. Yes, this snazzy-looking pair of lightweight shades is music to your ears, thanks to a built-in 128 or 256MB of flash memory. No more cords that coil around your body as you move about your outdoor activities. Go hiking, biking, and driving without having to worry about adjusting the lanyard or clipping your audio player to your belt.

Standout flash-based MP3 players

Apple’s iPod Shuffle and Nano notwithstanding, this year saw the influx of flash-based MP3 players in the personal audio player market. These players became fashion accessories that you wear around your neck, on your arm, or strapped to your waist. The models that came out were more than a handful, and among them a couple stood out: the Samsung YP-F1 and the Creative Zen Nano Plus.

The YP-F1 and the Zen Nano Plus challenged the iPod Shuffle by incorporating display screens and playlists. Color became an option for those willing to rebel against the omnipresent white. The alternative brands offered more value by adding FM tuners and voice recorders to their MP3-playing capabilities.

PalmOne LifeDrive

The 4GB hard drive of PalmOne’s LifeDrive allows you to carry thousands of documents, presentations, photos, music and videos, while its built-in 802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth allow you to connect wirelessly. The LifeDrive runs Palm OS 5, a.k.a. Garnet, and has a 416MHz Intel XScale processor. It’s a formidable showcase of features, suitable for those with a demanding corporate lifestyle who seek more out of a handheld.

Nintendo DS

Nintendo’s second-generation Game & Watch back in the 80s was a dual-screen handheld game console. That, however, is nothing compared to the twin LCD screens on 2005’s DS. Imagine, in a racing game, you see your own vehicle’s perspective on one screen and an overall track view on the other. Each 3" screen can reproduce a true 3D view, thanks to the DS’ 3D graphics accelerator. The lower screen even offers touch-screen capabilities so you no longer have to rely on buttons to move your character or shift perspectives. The DS also has Wi-Fi connectivity so you can play with other DS users wirelessly.

Hard disk-based camcorders

Just when MiniDV digital-tape camcorders are becoming fairly common, here comes another breed of video cameras that do away with tapes and discs altogether. Hard disk-based camcorders like JVC’s Everio series offer up to 30GB capacity, letting you record entire events like vacations without having to worry about running out of space. You also don’t have to spend extra on discs and tapes. Without having to load any media or worry about recording over something you wanted to keep, you can start shooting right away any time the moment arrives.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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