The 2010 Eddys: Hardware
It was an exciting and eventful year for computer hardware. Apple released new iOS devices and updated its Mac lineup, and we saw lots of good stuff from third-party companies. We had a long list of hardware nominees, but after weeks of debate, we had our list of the top hardware products of 2010. (See our picks for the top software products.)
This small, fun, and powerful camera from Sony is a standout in a burgeoning class of interchangeable-lens cameras. Straddling the line between a point-and-shoot a DSLR, the Alpha NEX-5 has done an impressive job of packing advanced features into a slim and light body. It has a 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, HD video recording, a 25-point auto focus system, and a great 7 fps burst mode. Even though the body of the camera is small, it has a solid grip and an adjustable 3-inch LCD screen.
The NEX-5 is an impressive step forward for compact cameras with interchangeable lenses and DSLR-size sensors.
Amazon Kindle (third generation)
Although many of us use our iPads to read books and magazines, if you’re looking for a pure e-reader, it’s hard to beat the third generation Amazon Kindle.
The Kindle now has a 6-inch E-Ink Pearl display, one of whose benefits is 50 percent better contrast. Plus you can read it clearly even in bright light, something the iPad can’t do (and it’s about one-third the weight of the iPad to boot). It has almost double the battery life of the previous generation of Kindle, is faster when turning pages than before, and its redesigned case, buttons, and keys make it even more enjoyable to use than in the past.
Despite the flock of cases that appeared in the wake of the iPad’s release back in April, the handmade Dodocase has managed to alight on our list of best products for the year. Quite a feat for a flightless bird.
The case, which mimics the outer appearance of a hardcover moleskine notebook, holds the iPad in place with a simple bamboo frame and a set of small foam cushions, adding a mere 8 ounces to the total weight. But don’t mistake the relative simplicity of the case’s construction for delicacy: while we wouldn’t suggest letting it fly off a roof at 70 miles per hour, the fact remains that the Dodocase is expertly crafted.
Anyone who calls the iPad “a big iPod touch” is missing the point. The iPad could be called the first truly usable tablet device. It’s a great way to read books, magazines, comic books, and RSS feeds; solve crossword puzzles; watch TV shows and movies from the iTunes Store or using a variety of other apps; surf the Web with a full browser (sans Flash, yes); take notes and even write longer-form items (with or without an add-on keyboard); and a hundred other things. Businesses are using them to display wine lists, show off sketches to clients, and present balance sheets to board members. Apple and the huge community of developers will continue to make the iPad better and able to do things we haven’t even thought of yet. (Wi-Fi–only: 16GB, $499; 32GB, $599; 64GB, $699. Wi-Fi and 3G: 16GB, $629; 32GB, $729; 64GB, $829)
iPod Touch (fourth generation)
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.
MacBook Air, 11-inch
The 11-inch MacBook 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Increasingly, people want to share the stuff on their computers with others across the globe.
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.
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.