TOP  GADGETS  OF  2007
  
MANILA, DECEMBER 31, 2007 (STAR) By Manny de los Reyes - It’s the close of another year and we’ve got a new list of top gadgets that made their mark this past 12 months. Most make the list due to their impressive performance, some due to their phenomenal sales success, yet others due to a superb combination of both.

Some are specific models while others are part of a hot, new genre. Just don’t expect cell phones in this list as we published a two-part “Dream Phones of 2007” story in the Telecoms section of The STAR this month. Here now are the Top Gadgets of 2007 in alphabetical order:

Apple iPod touch, iPod nano

Cashing in on the runaway success of the iPhone, Steve Jobs and his minions stripped that device of its phone functions to produce the iPod touch. Users can now flip through their music with a touch of a finger, watch videos, and browse the Net on its expansive display with the innovative multi-touch interface.

Then there’s the newly redesigned iPod nano with video, which brings video-playing portability to new levels of affordability. All of which begs the question: What will Apple think of next?

Asus W5Fe

The Asus W5Fe is not the first notebook to be Windows Vista-ready. It is, however, the first notebook that took advantage of Windows Vista SideShow by integrating a second external LCD screen.

Vista’s Sideshow supports a secondary screen on your laptop by displaying information such as e-mails, multimedia playback or active Vista gadgets apps. And it does this whether the laptop is on, off or in sleep mode. On the Asus W5Fe, SideShow can be activated independently from the operating system on the secondary LCD monitor — without booting up the whole system.

Canon S5 IS

Here’s one digital camera that thinks it’s a full-bore SLR camera. Canon’s prosumer S5 IS boasts SLR-matching performance and marries this with user-friendliness, versatility and value for money that SLRs can only dream of.

With the S5 IS, you start with an impressive 8MP resolution and a powerful 12x optical zoom, to which you add Canon’s renowned DIGIC III for lightning-quick response, superb image quality and advanced noise reduction for cleaner images even at high ISO speeds; iSAPS technology to analyze each scene to optimize key camera settings even before a shot is taken; and an extremely effective Optical Image Stabilizer.

Throw in Canon’s advanced Face Detection technology, a trick Auto ISO Shift function to avoid image blur, QVGA recording at 60 fps (you can even take full-resolution stills while recording), a high-resolution variable-angle 2.5-inch LCD, a super-silent Ultrasonic Motor, a choice of 22 shooting modes, including a Manual mode and a 0-cm Super Macro mode for extreme close-ups, in-camera color effects for both images and movies, available lens hood and wide/tele/close-up converter lenses, and even a hotshoe for Canon Speedlite flashes — all for a price tag below 30 grand — and you’ve got one truly SLR-like digicam.

Face-detecting digicams

The face-detection technology in newer digicams may just eradicate the obsessive-compulsive urge to take a second shot for ‘“safety.” Also known as face recognition or face priority, it uses a special algorithm to scan the scene and compare it to the built-in library of features derived from images of real people.

The program searches for eyes, a nose, ears, and a mouth to recognize a face. Some cameras even qualify further by making sure that the face takes up at least 10 percent of the viewfinder height so it doesn’t focus on incidental faces in the background.

Kodak HD cameras

High-definition (HD) TV sets may not be exactly hopping onto our living rooms, but it’s always good to have equipment that’s ready for this new technology.

With the introduction of HD video-capability in some Kodak EasyShare digital cameras, users can now capture and display personal photos and videos with incredible image clarity and sharpness on their PCs, online, in digital picture frames or even on widescreen 16:9-format HDTVs and other HD devices. One can even capture HD-quality video and view it on high-def playback at 720p.

These HD Kodaks can even interface with Kodak’s own EasyShare HDTV Dock to maximize their HD capabilities. The HDTV Dock connects to HDTVs to process pictures from Kodak HD digital cameras, SD memory cards, card readers or USB drives. They also let you have your own HD-quality slideshow, edit individual images, transfer images to a USB drive or even print images to a connected printer.

Nikon D40x

How can you resist a Nikon SLR that comes with excellent kit lenses, proven color processing technology, handy packaging, and a stunning 10-megapixel resolution — all for a P30k ballpark figure? The Nikon D40x delivers all that, and then some. Starting a career in photography? Or simply a serious shutterbug? You can’t do much better than this.

Nintendo Wii

What everybody expected to be the bit player in the high-profile gaming console wars has become the giant-killer, whipping the PS3 and the XBOX 360 in their own game.

Nintendo doesn’t combat with powerful platforms or high-definition display-compatibility. It wages war armed with its trusty Wii-mote and handy Nanchuk.

Its inspired business plan was built on the millions of non-gamers it converted into Wii players.

Critics applaud how Wii got people off couches to throw pitches, swing golf clubs, hit tennis balls, shoot at zombies, etc. — all via the three-way motion detecting Wii-mote.

Samsung F9

The launch of the new F9 Series marks the debut of Samsung’s new LED Smart lighting technology, which uses multiple LED backlights. The TV automatically adjusts the brightness level by switching on and off the right number of the backlights to produce a stunning dynamic contrast ratio of 500,000:1.

The full HD 1080p clear LCD TV also features wide color enhancement technology that delivers richer blacks, brighter colors, and clearer images. Encased in a piano-black glossy cabinet, the F9 (available in 52- and 70-inch models) presents users with Trusurround XT stereo system with its two built-in subwoofers that deliver realistic audio with deeper bass and higher treble.

Samsung’s F9 TVs offers Wiselink USB slots for easy connectivity to digital cameras and MP3 players, and three HDMI slots for components such as Blu-ray players, game consoles, and HD camcorders.

Samsung YP-K5

If there’s an MP3 player that has potential to be an “iPod killer,” the Samsung YP-K5 would be it. It’s got an impressive slide-out speaker which transforms it from a personal music player to a tiny boombox; is equipped with Samsung’s DNSe surround sound for great volume, no distortion, and a more accurate and natural audio; and a luminous touch-screen OLED display that lets you navigate through songs with the slide of your finger. Other features include an FM radio, alarm clock, and photo slideshow.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2, T70 and T200

I included face-detection as one of the entries in this list but Sony’s new Cyber-shot T2, T70 and T200 go one better: smile-detection! That’s right, no need to set the timer and run to the front of the camera.

Just set the camera, walk calmly in front of it, compose your self-portrait, then smile. Click! Your camera just detected your smile and has hit the shutter button by itself. Cool, huh?

But it’s not just smile-detection technology that these new ultra-thin, eight-megapixel Cyber-shots have going for them. They’ve also got large touch-screen displays, Carl Zeiss lenses, high ISO settings (up to 3200), one-step on-cam image editing, and even HDTV connectivity. The T2 even boasts a whopping 4GB of internal memory, expandable, of course, by Memory Stick. Saying “Cheese!” has never been this fun.

Sony VAIO

It’s not so much any particular new model that made me include Sony’s stunningly good VAIO notebook in this list as the brand’s official entry into our local market. Sure you can always buy a VAIO when you travel abroad or order one online, but nothing beats walking into a local Sony store and ogling these drop-dead gorgeous beauties.

And what beauties: ultra-portability, cutting-edge style, state-of-the-art functionality — and even prestige and luxury. If MacBooks are the Corvettes of notebooks, then VAIOs are the Lancer Evos — racy, fast, expensive, and exclusive.

VAIOs also deliver high levels of performance, connectivity and versatility as they boast practical integration with Sony’s numerous A/V products, from Wega and Bravia TVs to Cyber-shot digital cameras and even to the famed Handycams.

Ultra-zoom digicams

While the focus (pardon the pun) has been on the ever-escalating megapixel resolution wars, the real battle — at least for practical photographers — is in the ultra-zoom capabilities of the new breed of digital cameras.

And I’m not talking about digital zoom, either. What separates the men from the boys is the good ole optical zoom. From 3x or 4x optical zoom just last year, we quickly saw 10x and 12x zooms appear early this year — impressive enough, but were nonetheless quickly supplanted by mega 15x and 18x optical zooms from Sony and Olympus, respectively — enough to make a stalker out of the most innocent digicam wielder.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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