THE  TOP  TECH  TOYS  OF  2006

MANILA
, JANUARY 2, 2007
  (STAR) By Manny De Los Reyes - Top tech toys of 2006:

• Affordable digital SLR cameras

From Canon to Nikon to Olympus, entry-level dSLRs were out in force this year with ever-lower prices. The bodies might be plasticky and the standard lenses are nothing to e-mail home about, but at least you can advance your photographic skills (and results) and still have enough money for your kid’s tuition.

• Asus S6 and VX1

With notebook specs fast becoming common within every price category, manufacturers are turning their attention to the exteriors. Asus made headlines this year with the launch of its Leather (S6) and Lamborghini (VX1) notebooks. The S6 stands out, thanks to its hand-embossed leather, a jeweled hinge, and a polished keyboard. The 15-inch VX1, on the other hand, follows the tracks of the pioneering Acer Ferrari notebook. Its black or yellow cover was inspired by the lines of the Lamborghini Gallardo.

• Bose QuietComfort3

Bose’s new QuietComfort3 delivers amazing sound through cutting-edge noise-cancellation technologies. Its TriPort acoustic headphone structure features small ports in each earcup to produce rich audio. Plus, it electronically tunes its frequency response to outside noise to enable outstanding audio performance. Fitted out with proprietary soft cushions that rest on your ear, no audio is let in, thanks to a critical acoustic seal between the headphones and your ears.

• Fossil-Sony Ericsson

Fossil and Sony Ericsson hooked up to produce the MBW-100 wristwatch. The stainless steel Bluetooth-enabled MBW-100 lets you keep track of your calls via a small OLED display beneath the analog watch’s face. Users can even view details of their calls, control music playback, and alert them of text messages.

• White boxes raise the bar

Generic computers were once derided as the lowest in the IT pecking order – unbranded, poor specs, and no support. Not anymore. This year saw white boxes become a legitimate commodity worthy of consideration from serious buyers. The specs of the cheaper white box computers have climbed up the technology ladder and are now at par, if not better, than those of branded PCs. That’s value for money for you!

• Oakley O ROKR

This Bluetooth-enabled eyewear from Oakley and Motorola lets you stay connected to calls and music while doing virtually any activity where cords and wires would get in the way. These shades allow you to stream music from your Bluetooth-enabled phone or music player straight to your ears. Cool!

• Gmask

Launched last May in several malls in the country, Gmask is the salon for your laptops, mobile phones, iPods and whatever gadget you care to bling up. Gmask is a unique crease-free protective film that can be personalized depending on your personality or mood. The wrap covers the entire surface to protect from scratches and spills. Check out most celebrities’ phones and chances are they’ve been Gmasked.

• Intel Core Duo and Quad Core architecture

Intel’s new Core microarchitecture is a multi-core processor architecture that includes new, innovative features like Intel Wide Dynamic Execution, Intelligent Power Capability, Advanced Smart Cache, Smart Memory Access, and Advanced Digital Media Boost. Bottomline: the architecture is designed to deal with two related pains in computing – excessive power consumption and heat.

• Intel-cored Apples

An Apple with two cores. Intel cores, that is. In 2006, we saw an unholy alliance. With the new "Mactel," Intel-based Mac Books and Mac Book Pros are boasting better heat management, faster dual-core CPUs, fabulous specs, unbeatable software bundle, eye-candy design. Plus you can run Windows on it!

• iPod Hi-Fi

With the introduction of these speakers, Apple hopes that the millions of iPod owners would steer clear of the non-Apple-branded speakers in the market. They are expressly made for all dockable iPods and deliver true room-filling, audiophile-quality sound from a portable source.

• iPod Shuffle

The downsized version of Apple’s popular music player was eagerly anticipated by hordes of music-loving techies. Mere hours after it was announced, advance orders for the "world’s smallest digital audio player" flooded in. The demand for the aluminum clip-type iPod Shuffle was hardly met by Apple; many had to wait in agony for over a month for these babies to be delivered.

• Kodak dual-lens cameras

What Kodak’s line of dual-lens/dual-CCD cameras achieves is the tricky task of marrying an ultra-wide angle (23mm) lens with an optical zoom (39-117mm) lens in one compact camera body – without resorting to an extending lens. But that’s not all. They also offer 10x optical zoom, precision Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon lenses, big and brilliant high-resolution LCDs, Kodak’s superb Color Science imaging chip, on-camera editing, Bluetooth connectivity for wireless printing of pictures, plus a host of other useful high-tech features too many to mention.

• Microsoft Zune

With iPods being the de rigueur personal digital music player nowadays, Microsoft is banking that the buying public would "think different" and resist conformity. The "anti-iPod" 30GB Microsoft Zune boasts of extra features iPod owners can only dream of: a bigger, brighter 3-inch LCD that you can view in landscape mode, an FM tuner, and the ability to share music, pictures, and videos wirelessly with another Zune.

• Nike+ iPod

Thanks to a collaborative effort between Nike and Apple, Nike+ shoes can be outfitted with a Sport kit that puts a sensor in your shoe, wirelessly transmitting signals to your iPod Nano. Start running, music groovin’, and your Nano will tell you time, distance, and calories burned through the earbuds. Nice!

• UMPCs

It’s smaller than a notebook PC but bigger than a PDA. It doesn’t have a real keyboard; what it does have, though, is a familiar operating system in the form of Windows. It’s the ultra-mobile personal computer or UMPC. Originally pushed by Microsoft as Project Origami, UMPC is a specification for a small tablet PC jointly developed by Intel and Samsung. Current UMPCs feature the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition OS and Intel Pentium M chips or C7-M processors from VIA with clock speeds ranging from 700Mhz to 1GHz.

• Xbox 360

Debuting much earlier than chief rivals Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii, the Microsoft Xbox 360 was no doubt the king of home video game machines in 2006. This console has a 3.2GHz tri-core Motorola PowerPC CPU and a 500 MHz graphics processing unit (GPU) developed by ATI. Its Xbox Live service allows gamers to compete online and download games and additional content with high-definition power.

• Nintendo Wii

Nintendo first gave a glimpse of its next-gen gaming console codenamed Revolution (later renamed Wii) in 2004 without revealing the type of controller it would use. Only after Sony and Microsoft revealed their wireless controllers to complement their next-gen gaming devices did Nintendo divulge its own Wii wireless controller. The heart of the new system, the Wii Remote, may be used as a handheld pointing device and can detect motion and rotation in 3D so the movements in your hand can be translated onscreen. You play video tennis by swinging your arms in an actual tennis stroke. Hello, virtual tomorrow!

• Olympus E-330

Before the Olympus E-330, digital SLRs let you review shots on their LCDs only after you click the shutter. This 7.5-megapixel Olympus dSLR, however, is the first to allow you to compose shots on its 2.5-inch display before hitting the shutter button. This shooter even lets you frame your shots from awkward positions, thanks to its display that swivels much like those in camcorders.

• Sony alpha ¶100

Aptly named "alpha," the Sony DSLR-¶100 is the company’s first digital SLR model. This lightweight, 10.2-megapixel, magnesium-bodied camera is powered by Sony’s Bionz high-speed image-processing engine, which allows you to capture pictures at lightning speed. It’s also got image stabilization, high light sensitivity, anti-dust feature, and support for RAW file format. Sony even included a lineup of 21 ¶ Mount Lenses consisting of Carl Zeiss, Sony G, and Sony lenses.

• Sony PlayStation 3

The PS3 is Sony’s attempt to take over your living room and turn it into a one-stop shop for games, movies, music, pictures and Web surfing. Packing as much as a 60GB drive, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, Memory Stick/SD Card/CompactFlash media slots, the Blu-ray-disc-format PS3 is powered by a super-fast 3.2GHz Cell processor and comes with a graphic processing unit based on the NVIDIA G70 architecture, which will make use of 256MB GDDR3 VRAM clocked at 550 MHz – which leads to Sony’s claimed 1080p resolution – a figure that many high-def TVs are still struggling to reach.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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