Want to know what our experts thought of the past year’s products? Check out this comprehensive collection of summaries — which includes our Minifinders, the mouse rating of every product we reviewed between May 2003 and April 2004, as well as a review synopsis.
EDITORS’ CHOICE AWARDS
Best 3-D–Drawing Software
SketchUp 3.0 ($495), from @Last Software (www.sketchup.com): SketchUp is CAD software for the rest of us — we recommend it to anyone who has a desire to visualize in 3-D, whether you’re redecorating your living room or building a whole house ( October 2003 ).
Best Digital-Audio and MIDI Application
Digital Performer 4.1 ($795), from Mark of the Unicorn (www.motu.com): This music-production application’s comfortable interface, adherence to Apple’s OS X technologies, and new Audio Units support make for a great working environment ( January 2004 ).
MultiSync LCD2080UX ($1,699), from NEC (www.necmitsubishi.com): This highly flexible flat-panel LCD is tops when it comes to retaining consistent color from any angle. It offers great quality in a sleek, attractive package ( August 2003 ).
Best E-mail Client
Mailsmith 2.0 ($99), from Bare Bones Software (www.barebones.com): New and improved, this version of the widely respected e-mail client has even better mail-filtering and text-manipulation features. It’s a good program marred by a poor user interface that lacks some of the amenities to which Entourage users have grown accustomed ( November 2003 ).
Best Natural-Media Drawing Program
Painter 8 ($299), from Corel (www.corel.com): This newest version of the venerable natural-media painting software, with its many new brushes and tools, is well worth purchasing. The sweeping interface improvements make Painter so intuitive that you’ll be glad you switched ( August 2003 ).
Dungeon Siege ($50), from MacSoft (www.mac softgames.com): This almost perfect action-packed dungeon crawl will appeal to fans of Diablo and to real-time strategy gamers. It offers tons of action and a unique skill-development system for characters ( August 2003 ).
Best Organizational Software
OmniGraffle Professional 3.0 ($120), from The Omni Group (www.omni group.com): With design tools that rival those of many illustration programs — and some one-of-a-kind chart-making tools — this app is marching boldly into the future of diagramming in OS X ( September 2003 ).
Best Web-Design Tool
Contribute 2.0 ($99), from Macromedia (www .macromedia.com): This Web-page editor seamlessly facilitates the easy maintenance of Web content by novice users. Features SFTP transfer support, quick setup, and easy integration with Dreamweaver ( November 2003 ).
2.52TB Xserve RAID ($10,999), from Apple Computer (www.apple.com): For data-intensive work, the Xserve RAID truly delivers on performance, at an unheard-of price. It has awesome data-transfer rates, redundancy in most elements, and multiplatform support ( September 2003 ).
Best Video Editor
Final Cut Pro 4 ($999), from Apple Computer (www.apple.com): Though it’s flawed, Final Cut Pro 4 has hundreds of improvements, and the new bundled applications are amazing, even taken on their own. The interface is very customizable, and the real-time–effects features are great ( September 2003 ).
Best Motion-Graphics Application
After Effects 6.0 Professional ($999), from Adobe Systems (www.adobe.com): This animation, compositing, and postprocessing tool kit is a must-have for its new type-handling features alone. We recommend it to anyone who works with dynamic media ( December 2003 ).
Best Internet Client
Safari 1.0 (free), from Apple Computer (www.apple.com): The better browser from our friends at Apple has fast page loads, easy pop-up blocking, a clever bookmarking scheme, and streamlined tabbed browsing. Too bad some Web pages load inconsistently and some servers don’t recognize Safari. Currently, it’s the best browser for the Mac ( November 2003 ).
OUR FAVORITE DIGITAL CAMERAS
Best Point-and-Shoot Digital Cameras
PowerShot S400 Digital Elph ($599), from Canon (www.canon.com): This great 4-megapixel digital camera features a stunning all-metal body with a special scratch-resistant coating, quite good photo quality, and no red-eye problems ( July 2003 ).
Optio 555 ($550), from Pentax (see “ This Month in Digital Cameras;” May, 2004 issue).
Our Favorite Digital CamerasBest Digital Cameras with Manual Controls
Dimage A1 ($899), from Konica Minolta (see “This Month in Digital Cameras;” May, 2004 issue).
C-5060 Wide Zoom ($699), from Olympus (see “ This Month in Digital Cameras;” May, 2004 issue).
Best Ultra-Zoom Digital Cameras
C-740 Ultra Zoom ($499), from Olympus (www .olympusamerica.com): This camera has a 10¥ zoom, 3.2 megapixel resolution, and full manual controls ( October 2003 ).
Lumix DMC-FZ10 ($599), from Panasonic (see “ This Month in Digital Cameras;” May, 2004 issue).
Best Digital SLRs (D-SLRs)
Digital Rebel ($899), from Canon (www.canon.com): The Digital Rebel is an excellent camera if you’re ready to dive deeper into digital photography. It’s a particular bargain if you’ve got a collection of Canon lenses you want to keep using ( February 2004 ).
E-1 ($1,799) from Olympus (see “ This Month in Digital Cameras;” May, 2004 issue).
OUR FAVORITE PRINTERS
Best Monochrome Laser Printers
HL 5070N ($499), from Brother (www.brother.com/ usa/index.html): For people looking for an inexpensive laser printer, this monochrome networked laser’s excellent text printing and its Rendezvous capabilities make it a great choice ( June 2003 ).
LaserJet 4300n ($1,879), from Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com): The LaserJet 4300n workgroup printer is more expensive than the Xerox Phaser 4400N, another printer we looked at in the same roundup. But the 4300n ships with more RAM and has a higher duty cycle. Also, it’s Rendezvous-enabled ( June 2003 ).
Best 6-color (Photo) Ink-jet Printer
i960 ($200), from Canon (www.canon.com): The Canon i960’s speed, color fidelity, detail and price make it a fabulous ink-jet photo printer ( February 2004 ).
Best Multifunction, 4-color Ink-jet Printer
PSC 2175 ($200), from Hewlett-Packard (www.hp.com): This
Best Multifunction, 6-color (Photo) Ink-jet Printer
Epson Stylus Photo RX500 ($249), from Epson (see Reviews; May, 2004 issue).
Minifinders: 3-D Software, Audio Hardware & Software
Minifinders: CAD, Computers: Desktops, Laptops and Servers
Minifinders: Development and Scripting, Digital Cameras: Consumer, Professional
Minifinders: Displays: LCD, E-mail Software, Education Software, Personal Finance, Fonts and Typography
Minifinders: Graphics: Consumer & Professional, Illustration
Minifinders: Input Devices: Keyboards, Keyboard and Mouse Combinations, Pointing Devices; Mobile-Mac Accessories
Minifinders: Multimedia: Authoring, Software; Network: Hardware, Management Software; Organizational Software
Minifinders: Printers: Monochrome Laser, Multifunction, Photo, Wide Format; Publishing: Print, Web and Internet; Scanner: Consumer, Software and OCR
Minifinders: Science and Engineering, Storage, Upgrade Cards
Minifinders: Utilities: Backup, Communication, Productivity, Security, Speech Recognition, System Enhancement