The Best Gadgets

Posted on 03/12/2009 by


“What gadget should I get?” is a timeless question. To answer it, here’s some of the favorite gadgets, from smartphones, laptops and cameras to vacuums, rechargeable batteries and earphones.


• The Best Smartphones: We like the iPhone, the Motorola Droid because it runs Android 2.0 operating system, and the Palm Pre for people who have stuck with Sprint. We do not like anything Symbian or Windows Mobile 6.5, for the time being. (But are excited for Windows Mobile 7.)

• Cheapest Android Phones: Droid Eris and HTC Hero.

• The Best Smartphones, By Carrier: We sorted out theses answers on Nov 24th, but this category moves quickly so stay sharp when researching.

• Best Windows Mobile Phone We Wish Didn’t Run Windows Mobile 6.5: The HTC HD2

• Best BlackBerry: If you’re into phones with exceedingly reliable push email, the Bold 9700 is your phone. (We don’t like Blackberry’s touchscreen interfaces, so the Storms are no good.)

• Non-Smartphones: You mean dumbphones? no thx… 😛


• Netbook: If you must get one of these small, cheap and utterly slow machines, the HP Mini 311 with ion graphics is a good one.

• Netbook for Hackintoshing: Dell Mini 10v (and it must be the v) is the top choice. Here’s our guide to making it run OS X.

• Laptop: Our bias for OS X and Windows 7 becomes apparent in our choice of hardware that can run both without hacking. Macbook Pros. (Plus, we like unibody construction.)

• Best Non-Apple Laptops: Dell’s Adamo XPS may not be fast but it is “insane,” raising the bar on design and quality outside of Cupertino. We also like Thinkpads in general, like the X series and the new multitouch t400s. (It’s probably also worth noting that Asus and Toshiba recently came out on top in reliability.)

• Gaming Laptops and Desktops: Our friend Will Smith at Maximum PC likes these two laptops and two desktops. I personally like Xbox.

• All in One: We like the iMac, the HP Touchsmart and although we haven’t used it yet, the Sony Vaio L because it can double as a TV even when the PC is off. The PCs here have infrared touchscreens, so they do multitouch, but in a really shoddy way.

• MIDs: We hate MIDs. Always have, always will. Intel said they had the tech to make them; but the world never had the need. It either fits in a backpack and lets you do real work on a real screen and keyboard, or it fits in your pocket. There’s no real need for anything inbetween.

• Operating Systems: Windows 7 or Snow Leopard

• Network attached storage: We like the HP Mediasmart series with upnp, iTunes and Time Machine servers among other things. But the Iomega NAS is only a little less fancy and costs half the price.


• The Best receiver under $1000: We haven’t tested one in awhile, but we’re going to go out on a limb and say we like Onkyo, Denon, Yamaha and Pioneer gear. While some of our own testing is in progress, we’ll go with what our friends at Sound and Vision like: The Onkyo TX-SR706 7.1 receiver with 4HDMI ports and THX certification for $900.

• The Best High-End Portable Media Players: Zune HD and the iPod Touch. We Like the Zune pass system a lot, which allows you to keep 10 songs a month out of your unlimited downloads, even after you stop subscribing. But the iPod Touch‘s large app library makes it a powerful little computer.

• Best high-capacity media player: iPod classic is pretty much the only one left, since Zune has been discontinued and Archos is a mess.

• Flash Media Drives: We’ve always loved the screenless shuffle’s utility, but there are other drives to be had with more functionality for cheaper. Especially now that the buttonless iPod shuffle is sort of annoying to use. We like the Sandisk Sansa Clip+.

• Surround Soundbar: There’s only one series of soundbars that uses cold war submarine tech to bounce soundwaves off your walls for surround, and they’re made by Yamaha. I tested the YSP-4000.

• iPod Speaker Dock: JBL OnStage 400p (A winner from last year — I’m almost certain we should be retesting this category)


• Best HDTV under $1000: Panasonic’s X1 series plasmas, and four more here.

• Best HDTVs, period: Here.

• 1080p Projectors Under $1000: The Vivitek H1080FD is one we like, although we have not tested many.

• Best Monitors: If your’e a Mac user, the 24-inch Cinema Display has a built in magsafe adapter. The Asus 23-inch VH236H is good deal at about $230, but Samsung and Dell are our solid choices for monitor brands, as well.

• The Best Pocket Projectors: There is no such thing, friend. Wait a generation or 3.

• Blu-ray player: The LG BD390 with WiFi with Netflix and DivX playback is awesome, but we’ll never leave out the PS3!

• Media Streamers for People Who Hate iTunes or Love Piracy: The WDTV Live is a good one for people who like it easy, but hackers will probably choose Popcorn Hour, both which did well in our battlemodo. However, the current king is the Asus O!Play, which also wins an award for worst use of an exclamation point in a name.


• Best Entry-Level Video-Capable DSLR: Canon T1i

• Best Midrange DSLR: The Nikon D90 has the same sensor as the D300 at a better price.

• Best Prosumer DSLRs: The Canon 7D is great at shooting video and has great low light performance for an 18MP camera.

• Best Flash Camcorder: The Flip Ultra HD.

• Best Quality Point and Shoot: We like the Canon G11 (which is pretty big, but pretty wonderful.)

• A Camcorder We Like: We haven’t tested any in awhile, but we tend to like DSLRs that shoot video or cheap flash camcorders. If you must have a camcorder, our friends at CamcorderInfo liked the Panasonic HDC-TM300 for ~$1000.

• Best Point and Shoot: We like the Canon S90, even though we’re sure there are slimmer cameras. This uses the same sensor as the G11 and a faster lens, so it takes great shots for a slim.

• Best Rugged Cameras: The Pentax W80 is the best all around camera because of it’s depth and temperature ratings and size. The Lumix has the best picture quality but is a bit of a wimp with low thresholds for dives and temperatures. Canon‘s the best for water only because of its huge nose. And the outstandingly rugged Olympus has a fatal flaw, which is its terrible video.

• Best Helmet Camera: We love the GoPro Hero HD Wide because it mounts anywhere, is really waterproof and lives in a protected case. Plus, 1080p for $250 bucks.

• Best Slow Motion Pocket Camera: Casio EX FC100

Random Stuff

• The Best iPhone Apps: Here’s our monthly list of iPhone Apps, as well as our weekly roundups of the best new releases.

• The best GPS: It’s really hard to justify these when smartphones are doing so well with their turn by turn apps. But they still need car docks and some of their UIs are not great, so if you want a dedicated unit, bide your time with the cheapest Garmin Nuvi you can find. Usually about $125 at Amazon.

• The Best iPhone GPS Apps: Motion X GPS is our favorite value GPS app, but ALK’s CoPilot is another cheap champ. Navigon is still the classiest, but it costs a lot. (We’re hoping for free Google Maps with Navigation to come to iPhone.)

• The Best Android Apps: There aren’t as many Android apps out, but here are the ones we think are worth checking out.

• Ebook reader: Until we review a Nook, the Kindle 2 is still king.

• USB drive: The Patriot Xporter is fast, but if you have cash to spare, the Corsair Voyager GT is slightly faster and has 128GB of space.

• The Best Video Game Console: Xbox 360

• The Best Video Service: Anything, really, combined with Hulu and Netflix (for free old stuff).

• Best mid-tier office chairs: Herrman Miller Setu and Steelcase Cobi.

• Vacuums: We will always be loyal to Sir James Dyson because he tried to sell bagless vacuum tech to big vacuum corporations and they shut him down motivated by the profitability of bag sales. Then he started his own company. His machines are loud, but you can’t argue with their industrial design. Here’s his latest handheld and ball vacuum.

• Routers: D-Link Dir685. I know it has a digital picture frame built into it, but it also has a HDD and a bittorrent client. And Jason says it’s been more reliable than the top line Linksys he tested it against. I also like the Time Capsule, but haven’t yet tested the one with 2x the wireless performance.

• The Best Headphones: For in ear buds, we like the Shure SE110/SE115, Ultimate Ears and Etymotics hf5 won our tests. (The Last updated August 2008, so look for updates to winners.) We like the Klipsch Image S4i earbuds for people who want to use the iPhone’s voice control or iPod shuffle’s Voiceover function. For Bluetooth stereo headsets, we like the Motorola s305.

• Rechargeable Batteries: Duracell destroyed Energizer, and kept up with the legendary Sanyo Enerloops.

• Mice: For gaming, the Microsoft Sidewinder X8. The Logictech MX1100 for regular mousing. And the Magic Mouse is not amazing, but it’s pretty good if you have a Mac—the best mouse Apple has ever made.

• Keyboard: We like the Logitech DiNovo.

– – dgurl – –

Posted in: Tech Updates