THE  TOP  GADGETS  OF  2009


[PHOTO AT LEFT - HP IQ816]

MANILA, JANUARY 5, 2009 (STAR) By Manny De Los Reyes  - It’s the end of another year and just like last year, we’ve assembled a list of the most notable gadgets of the year. They make the list because of their impressive performance, their sales success or their superb design. Here they are not in any particular order.

All-in-one desktop computers

Computer manufacturers such as Acer, Lenovo, Gateway, HP, and Sony are leading the trend and coming up with their own all-in-one desktops.

These computing devices combine the CPU and monitor in one sleek package and most of them have integrated speakers and webcams.

Some even feature full wireless connectivity for the keyboard and mouse so there are no more unsightly wires. Thanks to all-in-ones, the desktop computer is cool again.

Sony PS3 Slim

Keeping the best bits of the PS3 (cell-processor, Blu-ray, Wi-Fi) but deleting the more arcane features (Linux OS, card reader, shiny exterior) allowed Sony to slice down the size and more importantly, the price of the PS3 Slim, positioning it strongly against the Xbox 360 and the ever-popular Nintendo Wii.

Apple MacBook Pro

The 13-inch MacBook Pro literally brings pro features to the consumer market by offering FireWire 800, an SD card slot, 8GB RAM ceiling, and seven-hour battery life. The unibody construction of the MacBook Pro makes it the sturdiest notebook money can buy.

Now with a sealed battery, the MacBook Pro has fewer bits and pieces and feels more rigid than the previous version.

Made from recyclable aluminum and glass and with an energy-saving LED-backlit display, this notebook is Energy Star 5.0-compliant and boasts of an EPEAT Gold status, the highest standard for environmental performance in the electronics industry.

Add to that the fact that it can run not just Apple’s Snow Leopard OS but also even Microsoft’s Windows 7, and you’ve got one great notebook.

Samsung 2View digital cameras

Unless you’ve mastered the art of holding out your digicam at arm’s length and posing in front of it, it’s really hard to tell if you were able to fit your entire face in the frame. But with Samsung’s 2View cameras, that problem has been solved.

The ST500 and ST550 12-megapixel digital cameras make taking pictures that much easier with their dual LCDs. A 1.5-inch LCD screen is located on the front, allowing you to take accurate portrait shots whether you’re shooting yourself or a group shot with friends.

The touch-screen LCDs at the back of the cameras incorporate Smart Gesture User Interface technology, enabling users to tap and browse through features. Both cameras sport optically stabilized wide-angle 4.6x optical zoom lenses, HD movie recording, advanced face recognition technology, among others.

Solid state drives (SSDs) in notebooks

Solid state drives (SSD), while expensive, have excellent durability, thanks to zero moving parts. They also have quick boot-up time, faster reading speeds, and significantly lower power consumption compared to hard disk drives.

Spotting solid state drives in portable computers was once akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Today, however, SSDs are starting to inch their way into the mainstream market with big companies such as Sony, Lenovo, Toshiba, and Dell substituting or making SSDs an option.

Recent models such as the Sony VAIO X, Lenovo ThinkPad X300, Toshiba PORTÉGÉ R600, and Dell Latitude Z7600 all use SSDs with capacities varying between 64GB and 128GB.

For now, these capacities may seem insignificant but SSD makers have announced breakthroughs with the capacity of the drives — Toshiba announced the first 512GB SSD, while PureSilicon claimed to have created the first 1TB solid state drive (mainly to be used for servers).

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1

Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-G1 Micro Four Thirds camera has gone HD in the form of the GH1. The 12.1-MP camera’s Live MOS sensor can record up to 1080/24p or 720/60p high-def videos, with continuous AF and a built-in Dolby Digital Stereo Creator.

Supporting this further are Panasonic’s designed-for-video Lumix G Vario HD 14-140-mm lens and Venus Engine HD image processor. Both the Live View Finder and three-inch swivel LCD provide a 100-percent field of view — allowing you to accurately frame and compose a shot from any position.

The GH1 includes a new face recognition feature that remembers individual faces, and offers four different aspect ratios with the same angle of view. In addition, the camera incorporates the iA (Intelligent Auto) mode (also available in movie recording mode) that includes face recognition, a function that “remembers” faces once the faces are registered. There’s also the Lumix Creative Movie mode that lets you manually set the shutter speed and aperture.

DSLR cameras with HD video recording

Believe it or not, movie mode was introduced to Digital SLRs only last year. The Nikon D90 launched in late 2008 is the first DSLR with video recording function. Its D-Movie mode function allows for capturing high-def movie clips at 720p.

Today, DSLRs such as the Nikon D300S and D500, Canon EOS 7D and EOS 500D, and Panasonic DMC-GH1 have this feature built-in. While hardcore photographers may not be too concerned about video, general users — and tourists, especially — will definitely see this as a must-have feature that turns two expensive devices into one.

Sony VAIO P, W and X

Sony’s VAIO computers have always been known for their design and prestige. This year, however, saw Sony take the VAIO brand to a whole new level with the launch of three notebooks that redefine fashionable mobile computing.

The VAIO P Lifestyle PC is a diminutive one-pounder that’s as wide as a business envelope but packs an eight-inch LED-backlit screen, nearly full-size keyboard, built-in wireless WAN 3G Mobile Broadband, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technologies, GPS, and an integrated webcam.

The 10.1-inch VAIO W, on the other hand, is Sony’s first entry to the netbook segment. It’s equipped with an Intel Atom processor and the usual accoutrements expected of a netbook, including wireless connectivity and webcam.

The rail-thin carbon fiber-clad VAIO X, meanwhile, is an extremely light (76 grams!) ultra-portable that sports a solid state drive.

Apple iPod nano 5th-gen

The fifth-generation iPod nano is taking aim not just at the mobile entertainment player market but also at the growing flash video camera market. Apple boosted its most popular iPod by throwing in a built-in video camera, an FM radio with Live Pause, a pedometer, and a larger screen.

The video aspect of the nano isn’t high-def — in fact, it only shoots VGA-resolution clips. It does take decent Web-worthy videos and integrates some neat effects like thermal, mirror, X-ray, motion blur, sepia, and cyborg, which, while gimmicky, enhance the videos and make them ready for sharing via YouTube, Facebook, and MobileMe.

Asus’ ever-expanding Eee line

Asus has swarmed the market with a salvo of well-placed products bearing the Eee PC marque. It has developed the Eee PC netbook line so now it has 7-, 9-, 10-, and 10+ inch models that offer great features at affordable prices. Asus has been enterprising and aggressive and we expect to see more models and form factors coming from the Eee shop.

Samsung LED TVs

In the world of television, “LED” is the acronym du jour, a term just as emotive as “HDTV.” Samsung’s LED TVs deliver brighter, more vivid colors, deeper blacks, low power consumption, and eco-friendliness. Not to mention sport sexy and sleek looks — measuring just about an inch thin and being almost shockingly light.

Affordable mobile Internet

A recent report has revealed that two-thirds of people surveyed love being connected to technology all the time, while more than a third are more relaxed when connected and knowing they won’t miss an e-mail, text or the latest social networking update.

Just look at the demand for those USB 3G/HSDPA modems and you’ll know what we mean. Globe Tattoo, Smart Bro, and Sun Broadband Wireless have all slashed their prices and the surge in the number of subscribers have been overwhelming.

Connections and speeds can be more stable and faster, but in the meantime, we’re just happy to be online so we won’t have to miss that urgent e-mail, our favorite celebs’ tweet, and an old friend’s message on Facebook.

Acer Ferrari One FO200, Aspire 5738DG

In the true spirit of the Ferrari racing team, the Acer Ferrari One combines powerful performance and extreme portability with excellent design. It’s driven by the AMD Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor L310 featuring low-power CPU design and AMD HyperTransport 3.0 technology. ATiRadeon HD 3200 Graphics provides high-def visual pleasure.

There’s also 3GB RAM, Windows 7 Home Premium, 500GB HDD, 11.6-inch high-definition display, and the usual connectivity options you’d expect nowadays. The exclusive Ferrari-engraved touchpad offers multi-gesture functionality for ultra-fast navigation.

The Aspire 5738DG, on the other hand, features the unique TriDef 3D solution which includes a 3D screen, software, and glasses to enable lifelike 3D visuals. Not only does this notebook handle 3D content, it also takes 2D content and replicates it into a vivid 3D experience. Users can switch from standard viewing applications like spreadsheets, documents and e-mail to 3D enjoyment with a click of a mouse. TriDef 3D includes a simple and intuitive interface which allows users to view 3D multimedia without the need for a special graphics card.

HP Mini 110 by Studio Tord Boontje

After their successful collaboration with fashion leader Vivienne Tam, HP merges functionality with style yet again by joining forces with world-renowned Dutch industrial designer Tord Boontje.

The HP Mini by Studio Tord Boontje is the first in the industry to use three-dimensional PC surface technology — the HP Imprint 3D. This technology brings impact and depth to Boontje’s design of flora and endangered animals as the pattern unravels onto the palm rest and touchpad of the notebook.

Measuring just over an inch thick and weighing approximately one kilo, this eye-catching notebook features a 10.1-inch diagonal widescreen VGA or HD LED anti-glare display, a Broadcom Crystal HD Enhanced Video Accelerator, and a 92-percent full-size keyboard. Built-in tools include the Windows Live Writer for blogging as well as the Seesmic social networking desktop client for easy access to popular social networking sites.

In keeping with HP’s and Boontje’s shared environmental philosophies, the packaging, Quick Setup Poster and User Guide are all printed with soy- or water-based inks while the outer box and cushions are all made from 100-percent recycled material.

Lenovo ThinkPad T400s

Lenovo engineered the ThinkPad T400s to be super-slim at just 0.83 inches at its thinnest point and ultra-light with a weight of under-four pounds. The laptop achieves this, thanks to the 14.1-inch LED screen, solid state drive storage, and the second-gen Top Cover Roll Cage.

The roll cage’s carbon-fiber-reinforced (the same material used for Formula 1 cars) monocoque helps keep the laptop extremely light yet surprisingly sturdy.

The T400s comes with Intel 2.53GHz Core2Duo processors; SSD storage of either 128GB or 250GB; a 9.5-mm DVD burner or Blu-Ray player; Ethernet, Wi-Fi (with optional WiMAX3), WWAN 3, Bluetooth and ultra-wideband connectivity; 34-mm Express Card slot or five-in-one multimedia card reader; support for Lenovo’s ConstantConnect and Protect technology that allows users to maximize integration of their BlackBerry smartphone and ThinkPad laptop; close to six hours of battery life (with six-cell battery); support for up to two monitors via a Display Port and VGA connector; Energy Star 5.0 compliance; and built-in USB/eSATA ports.

For those who eat while working, Lenovo even tightened up the spaces between the keys to help avoid crumbs that would otherwise fall below the keyboard. The touchpad lies flush with the palm rest and has a new, textured feel that allows users to feel the touchpad’s location without looking down. And with multi-touch technology, users can easily scroll, pinch, and zoom through documents.

Lenovo optimized the T400s to make VoIP calls simple while improving the quality of the video, audio, and network connection. They equipped the notebook with a 2-MP camera, pumped up the speaker volume, and added a convenient toggle switch at the top of the keyboard to adjust volume.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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