With every new tablet released (or even those announced and still untouched) pundits proclaim an “iPad Killer” is now in out midst. As with so many false predictions regarding the fate of the iPhone compared to its competitors, the fact is that the iPad has a big head start, and Apple and the huge community of developers will continue to make it better and able to do things we haven’t even thought of yet. There’s no such thing as an iPad killer—get used to it. (Wi-Fi–only: 16GB, $499; 32GB, $599; 64GB, $699. Wi-Fi and 3G: 16GB, $629; 32GB, $729; 64GB, $829)—JONATHAN SEFF
iPod touch (Fourth Generation, Late 2010)
If you judge an iPod touch by how close its feature-set comes to that of the latest iPhone, the fourth-generation (4G) iPod touch ( ) has to meet with your approval. Like the iPhone 4, the 4G iPod touch includes an A4 processor, front- and rear-facing camera, retina display, built-in microphone, FaceTime video-calling support, and iMovie for iPhone compatibility. And, of course, there are its existing features that resonate with those who can’t have or don’t need an iPhone—the App Store, iTunes Store, iBookstore, and the many helpful apps bundled with the device.
Though the 4G iPod touch’s rear-facing camera is of far lower resolution than the camera found on the iPhone 4 and its retina display not as crisp when viewed off-angle, we bestow this award not for the fine details but rather the “Big Picture.” And that Big Picture is that the 4G iPod touch, as a pint-sized media player/gaming device/Internet communicator/pocket-computer, has no peer except among those devices that require a two-year AT&T contract or, in the case of the iPad, the kind of jumbo pocket found only on safari couture. (8GB, $229; 32GB, $299; 64GB, $399)—CHRISTOPHER BREEN
The purpose of scrapbooking is to take a basic photograph or group of photos and transform them into a full-fledged, highly nuanced, contextual narrative. One scrapbook design package that stands out in the small crowd of dedicated Mac apps for its quality, originality, and shear abundance of design goodness is Chronos’s iScrapbook 3 ( ).
This release offers its artistic, conceptual audience depth and variety from the free smart templates and searchable iScrapKits that pull a book’s look together to the new font preview feature that lets you see how your text, headlines, and captions will look in different fonts, styles, and sizes. These elements are visually stunning, professionally designed, and implemented to hold together a presentation, whether it be a family album or a business proposal. Enhance even simple scrapbools with smart shapes, special effects, and complete integration with iPhoto. Whether you’re just getting started in the scrapbook realm, or you are an old hand in the genre, the smart, sophisticated iScrapbook 3 lets you infuse any memory with the emotion you feel. ($50; $90 family pack)—JACKIE DOVE
MacBook Air, 11-inch
Ever since the discontinuation of the 12-inch PowerBook years ago, Mac users have been yearning for an ultraportable laptop. The 13-inch MacBook Air, released in 2008, was light enough, but it was still too big. But with the new 11-inch MacBook Air ( ) the prayers of those tired of lugging around a standard-sized laptop were answered.
The 11-inch Air is only 11.8 inches wide, 7.56 inches deep, and a mere 2.3 pounds. Yet, this laptop makes very few compromises. It has a full sized keyboard, not a cramped modified keyboard your find on PC netbooks. The high-resolution (1366 by 768 pixels) display actually packs more pixels into its 11.6-inch diagonal screen than the screen of the13-inch white MacBook (1280 by 800). And in Macworld Lab’s battery tests (which involve video playback), the 11-inch Air lasted 3 hours and 40 minutes—you’ll get much longer results if all you’re doing is working in productivity programs or accessing the Internet.
The one major compromise is with processing power. The 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor in the 11-inch Air isn’t the latest and greatest Intel has to offer (nor is the 1.6GHz built-to-order option), but it’s powerful enough for general-purpose tasks. And the new Air handles heat much better than previous generations—which, along with the flash storage, contributes to the new Airs ability to perform much better than its predecessors.
In a year where the iPad got all the attention (and rightfully so), the 11-inch MacBook Air proved that, without a doubt, Apple is still dedicated to the Mac. ($999 and $1199)—ROMAN LOYOLA
While NEC’s latest professional display, the MultiSync PA271W ( ), might share the same resolution and diagonal screen size as Apple’s 27-inch LED Cinema Display, the two monitors are entirely different beasts. One is perfect companion to Apple’s consumer Macs and one is a serious tool for color pros that demand superior performance and require granular adjustment capabilities. Don’t believe us? Read on.
Whereas Apple’s display is glossy, the PA271W features a matte screen. Where Apple’s monitor offers little in terms of ergonomic adjustment, the PA271W offers height adjustment, tilt, rotation and even pivots into portrait orientation. Where Apple offers a single Mini DisplayPort connector (which may not be proprietary, but Apple is the only company using it) the PA271W has two DVI-D connectors as well as a standard DisplayPort connection. The Apple display can show up to millions of colors, the PA271W can display up to billions. And where Apple’s display has a one-year warranty, NEC offers four years.
In addition, the PA217W offers Picture-in-Picture and Picture-by-Picture modes, as well as support for virtual profiles. NEC includes some nifty new technologies to that help its CCFL backlighting get up to a stable operating state in seconds rather than minutes and to maintain consistent backlight performance over time.
For those who depend on accurate color, the MultiSync PA271W is a professional-grade display with the tools necessary to make your vision a reality. ($1399)—JAMES GALBRAITH
P5 Mobile Hi-Fi Headphones
An Eddy to a set of headphones? If you’re talking about Bowers & Wilkins’s P5 ( ), yes indeed. The P5 redefined portable headphones by offering full-size-headphone sound quality and comfort (the latter thanks a headband and earpads covered with supple leather) in a package that easily fits in your bag, throwing in outstanding passive noise isolation and beautiful design for kicks.
But you aren’t just paying for shiny metal surfaces. The P5’s construction is superb, and clever features such as swappable, no strain cables and magnetically attached, replaceable earpads add long-term value. Tipping the Eddy scales is the Apple-style, three-button inline remote/microphone module that works with iPhones, the iPad, and recent iPods, iMacs, and MacBooks to let you chat and control media playback. When it comes to outside-your-ear-canal headphones, the P5 is as well-rounded a portable audio product as we’ve seen, and it’s a symbol of the popularity of Apple’s products among fans of high-end audio. ($300)—DAN FRAKES
There are so many improvements in Adobe Photoshop CS5 ( ) that it’s hard to pinpoint where to begin. From its new 64-bit capability on the Mac to details like drag-and-drop file integration, the CS5 upgrade is the most significant and impressive since the Creative Suite started shipping in 2003.
This version of Photoshop focused a concerted effort on boosting technical advancement, usability, and performance. Despite the myriad improvements made to selection tools over the years, selecting challenging objects like hair is still enough to turn hair gray. Photoshop CS5’s Smart Radius technology enhances an already capable Refine Edge feature, making selections even less of a pain. There is something magical about the ability of the Content Aware Fill feature, which lets you easily remove unwanted parts of an image and replace it with whatever would have been there if the object or person or other eyesore were not. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but it works amazingly well amazingly often, and the idea that a software program can “see” underneath an object is remarkable.
While Photoshop is not a painting program, the CS5 version does have many new painterly features, including a completely rebuilt brush engine that lets you mix and blend colors on the screen in much the same way you’d do it on a painter’s palette. The Bristle Tips feature lets you define brush properties to define exactly the brush you need. The easy to use Puppet Warp feature lets you move objects, including human and animal limbs, in a natural way. Last but not least, HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Lens Correction features provide a host of professional tools to enhance photo exposure, focus, and special effects. ($699)—JACKIE DOVE
Increasingly, people want to share the stuff on their computers with others across the globe. You can accomplish this with Mac OS X’s sharing services or via online storage and sharing services such as MobileMe’s iDisk, Dropbox (an Eddy winner last year), or SugarSync. But setting up a sharing server is beyond the ken of many Mac users. And convenient though online sharing services are, you have to pay a premium for significant amounts of storage space.
The Pogoplug Pro from Cloud Engines is an alternative that lets you easily share the contents of attached USB storage devices (hard drives and USB key drives) over the Internet. This means that the amount of storage you can share is limited only by the size of the drives attached to the Pogoplug. Sharing the contents of those drives is as easy as creating an account on pogoplug.com, choosing folders to share, and sending invitations to those who you’d like to share those folders with. If you have a lot to share, Pogoplug is a simple and affordable way to do it. ($99)—CHRISTOPHER BREEN
A deceptively simple looking camera, the PowerShot S95 from Canon is a quality point-and-shoot with full advanced controls. The S95 is a slightly upgraded version of Canon’s popular S90 camera. The S95 keeps all the good parts of the S90, including impressive image quality and full manual settings. What it adds are few key features that were missing from the original: 728p HD video capabilities, improved image stabilization, and an HDR mode. Even without these improvements, the S90 was the best advanced point-and-shoot in its class. The S95 is all that and a little more. This is the camera that pro photographers will have on-hand as an alternative to their large DSLR rigs. ($400)—HEATHER KELLY
At its most basic, writing is about putting down one word after another. Scrivener 2.0 from Literature & Latte certainly lets you do that (and gets out of your way while you’re at it) but additionally, it takes care of all the other concerns present when constructing a longer project: organization; where to keep information about plot, characters, and setting; and the final export. As a writer, Scrivener is my weapon of choice because it handles all the business of writing from research to producing your finished manuscript.
Scrivener took home an Eddy award back in 2007, but its developers have hardly been resting on their laurels. The major 2.0 update brings not only a handful of new features (such as the ability to export projects as both iBooks-compatible ePub files and Kindle-compatible .MOBI files) but interface enhancements such as a freeform corkboard and the ability to create ad hoc collections of project elements. And best of all, writers who want to take their projects on the go can take advantage of the new support for syncing with DropBox or Web service Simplenote, because you never know when the creative spark might strike. ($45)—DAN MOREN
It used to be that keeping your Mac software up to date meant periodically (and manually) checking the Web for a new version, downloading it, quitting the current version, and then installing the update. And you had to do this for each program. Then Andy Matuschak introduce Sparkle, a bit of software-update code that developers can easily add to their own applications to get a built-in update-checking and -installing feature. And he provided that code to developers for free.
If you’ve used third-party Mac software over the past few years, chances are you’ve benefitted from Sparkle without even knowing it. It’s Sparkle that’s responsible for the window in your favorite program telling you, “A new version of applicationname is available,” displaying detailed release notes about the new version, and providing you with a convenient Install Update button that makes the software magically current.
Although Sparkle has been around for a few years, the past year has seen it go from a convenient feature present in a few of my favorite programs to being so pervasive that I’m disappointed when a program doesn’t use Sparkle. It’s now a part of hundreds of Mac programs, with more and more integrating it every week. The Mac App Store may bring easy app updating, but Sparkle has streamlined updates for millions of Mac users, and will continue to do so. Thanks, Andy. (Free)—DAN FRAKES
Spector Pro Mac 2010
It's a little creepy: Spector Pro Mac 2010 ( ) from SpectorSoft is a program made to monitor and record all of the activity you perform on a Mac. But it's necessary for many folks, and it’s full-featured and well designed. Spector Pro can take pictures of your computer screen at regular intervals, provide transcripts of iChat and other IM programs, detail sent and received e-mails, list visited Web sites (even with Safari’s private browsing turned on), and a lot more. And it can do all of this without the user even knowing that the activity is being recorded—a little creepy, sure. But if you own a business and suspect improper use of your computers, Spector Pro can help track down the malefactor. ($100)—ROMAN LOYOLA