Tag Archives: gadgets

Review: Sonos Play:3, the Wireless Hi-Fi Stereo System

The term high fidelity (or hi-fi) can be traced back to the dawn of music recording, and in general defined a system that could reproduce music with the sharpest and most fulfilling audio quality.  And as the generations moved from turntables to boomboxes to walkmans to portable music players, so too did the continual desire to purchase high-end, hi-fi systems to blast the tunes.  Although today one can still get bulky hi-fi stereo systems with 400W of power, a CD tray, an iPod dock, and a remote control, it just doesn’t seem to be as trendy and up-to-date as it did in 1996.  Fortunately, that’s where Sonos comes in.

Sonos is taking back the term “hi-fi” and giving it some flair.  It is a compact, modular, wireless stereo system that can be set up in any (or every) room in the house with just two components:  A speaker and a local area network with internet connectivity.  And because it is wireless, it can stream just about everything you can think of.

The Sonos Hi-Fi Stereo System

For this article, two Play:3 network speakers (the smaller of the two speaker offerings at $299 each) and a Sonos network bridge ($49) were used.  The Bridge is the extra add-on that makes the Sonos system go wireless, and if one is going to deck their rooms with speakers it is a must.

Besides speakers and network hubs, a Sonos stereo system can also be paired with an amplifier ($499), an iPod docking station ($119), or a connection hub ($349) that converts an existing home stereo system for music streaming (all of which are available on the Sonos website or Amazon).  As one can deduce by the prices, though, these components can add up quickly so be mindful that one does not need absolutely everything to get a Sonos stereo system set up in their home.

Included in each box with the speakers/Bridge is a power cable, a network cable, an install CD, and a manual.  Once all the packaging has been set aside, it is time to set the system up.

Physical Setup

If the Bridge wireless gateway was purchased, that should be set up first.

The Bridge (which is the box that makes the whole system wireless) plugs directly into your router/wireless modem via Ethernet and automatically connects to your local network.  Because it is a wired connection, no passwords or other setup configurations are necessary.

Once the Bridge is in place, one can set the Play Speakers in any room of the house (within wireless distance) and supply them power.  If the Bridge was not purchased, then simply add an Ethernet cable to the Play speakers and connect them to your router to get them integrated into your network.

Controller Software Setup

The Sonos Controller Software (Personal Computer Edition)

The software comes included in the box as an install CD, but it also can be found here if needed. The controller software is available for Windows (XPSP3 and up), Mac OS X (10.6 or 10.7), Android (which is evaluated in the next section) and iPhone/iPad.  For this installation, a networked Windows 7 machine was used.  The first step is to run through the Sonos Controller installer on the machine and grant it firewall access.

Once installed, the “Sonos Setup Assistant” kicks in so that all the speakers can be networked and connected to the controller software.

When connecting, the software will ask you to physically push a few buttons on the Bridge or Play speaker to get it to sync with your local network.  If communication goes well, the software will give you a confirmation and ask if you want to connect other Sonos devices.  This is the time to add the speakers as well.

What the heck is a Foyer?

When the Play speakers are connected, the Assistant software prompts for a location so that if more than one exists on the network, they can be differentiated by the room they are in.  The drop down menu is filled with various homely (and unique) options to segregate which speakers are where and should be used appropriately if one wants the full Sonos experience in their house (which will be explained later).

Finally, after all the Sonos components have been linked the main Controller program opens and asks for you to register and update your new stereo system.

As long as the speakers and Bridge have been configured to the network properly, they will update automatically.

The Sonos Controller Software (Mobile Platform Edition)

If your networked computer is not portable enough, than maybe the mobile software is the right option instead.  As mentioned before, it is available for Android, iPhone, and iPad from their respective app marketplaces (or again at the Sonos website).  Note that the phone/pad/mobile device must be connected to the same wireless local area network or else the Bridge and Play:3 speakers will not be controllable.  For this article, a standard Android phone was used to demonstrate the mobile controller interface.

Mobile setup, mobile Bridge connect, mobile Play speakers

Like the Windows PC setup, the Android app asks for you to manually push the button on the Bridge wi-fi controller to connect to your sound system.  If the Play speakers have been set up already with the Bridge, no further connections are necessary and the mobile app is ready to be in control.

The Controller Interface

After all the installing, connecting, and updating has been successfully maneuvered, your Sonos system should look like the picture above.  On the left should be every Play speaker that has been connected (grouped by their room), on the far right is all the options Sonos has for streaming and music listening (and it is a lot of options).  For now, let’s focus on the right side and all the streaming options Sonos has to offer.

Playing Radio

If one is interested in listening to a radio station, all Sonos needs is a ZIP code or a major city and it automatically finds a plethora of channels for one to select and play.  As one can see, once a radio station is selected, the highlighted Play speaker on the left will automatically start playing and the “Now Playing” section in the middle will be updated to show artist/song title and radio show information.

Playing from a Streaming Site

If one wants to enable some tunes from their own personal online streaming account (or create a new one), Sonos is more than ready for the task.  As seen in the picture above, Sonos allows for numerous popular streaming options and services that can be accessed and played on the system.  Just log in or register, pick a playlist or song, and Sonos does the rest.

Playing from your Music Library

Besides channeling other sources and streams, Sonos also allows one to channel personal music libraries as well.  To get music onto Sonos, one must first allow the folder to be shared on the network (For Windows 7, this is done by right clicking on the folder and selecting “Share With” and then a “Homegroup” option).  If this step is not done, much confusion can arise as the music will not be available for Sonos to access.

Once the sharing is enabled, return to Sonos and go to “Manage” -> “Music Library Settings” -> “Add” to browse for the folder in question.  [Note: Besides adding media, this settings menu also serves to update the media library, add/remove speakers, manage the streaming accounts that were added, and mess with music equalizers for each speaker.]

The system will then add all the music in the library and display them on the right side.  From there one can create playlists, add songs to the queue in the middle, and push music to any speaker on the left

Again, it is important to note that for this music to be accessed, the location of the files needs to be active and on the network (i.e. the device in question storing the music files must be on and networked).

Playing from the Mobile App

Mobile main options, mobile radio, mobile playing radio
Mobile streaming, mobile media, mobile playing music library

Like the other sections mentioned above, the mobile controller also allows for streaming, radio, and access to your local media library as well.  As long as the bridge is connected to the same network as the mobile app, the devices will talk to each other and push changes in music selections.

Having Fun with your Play Speakers

Now that a majority of the streaming or listening options have been surveyed, let’s return to the far left of the Controller interface and display the full potential of the Sonos wireless hi-fi system.  Up until now, the music options presented have been shown playing on just one speaker.

But in reality, one can play something different on each speaker, hence why it was important to label the Play speakers based on where they are going to be situated.  So essentially, every room with a Sonos speaker in it could be playing something different, meaning that there should be no contention between siblings/roommates/significant others as to what the audio system should be set to.

Mobile grouping is just as easy

Furthermore, not only can one use the speakers individually for music but as a group as well.  Just click the “Group” button, select the speakers to group, and listen for the sound of acoustic harmony.  Now the beauty of Sonos has been revealed: because it is wireless and easy to manipulate in the Controller interface, it is completely and utterly configurable to suit any room, event, personality, or venue.  Just pick a tune, pick a speaker configuration, and let the jams flow.

Conclusion

Sonos is definitely not your stereotypical hi-fi stereo system.  It is modular, fully networked, completely configurable, and open enough to access just about every genre, single, album, or artist that exists out there to stream. After a solid month of usage, even the two Play:3 speaker with a wireless Bridge system used for this article proved its usefulness in every situation it was presented: house parties with a dozen conversations filling the air, quiet nights on the couch with a book, and even those underwear air guitar jam sessions at 3:00 in the morning.

To be honest, the main limiting factor to the full Sonos experience is the prices on the components themselves; the system is worth the cost, but if those prices were reduced a bit or tiered it is certain that Sonos would be in every household in no time at all.  For now, though, the system should have no problem satisfying audio enthusiasts and home theater experts alike.

The age-old glory of hi-fi stereo has returned, and Sonos is leading the charge.

The Emerging Trends of CES 2012

CES 2012 has ended – drawing to a close rather too quickly for those of us either in attendance or glued to the Web watching endless coverage of it. The 2012 Consumer Electronics Show was a triumph in terms of visitor numbers, with a record attendance. But many reported it being a trifle dull in terms of what was on display.

Craig Lloyd gave us great recaps of Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of CES 2012. There were some definite trends emerging, ones that will likely shape the technology landscape for the next 12 months and beyond.

Big(ger) Screen TVs

The majority of people have now upgraded from their old CRT television to a new, big, flat-screen TV. Or at least the majority of those I come into contact with. This means the TV manufacturers are having to find new ways of generating sales. The big trend of CES 2011 was 3D, and while that’s still being bet on in a big way, it’s now standard on most new TVs being sold.

This year saw the emergence of OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) technology, as seen on LG’s impressive new 55-inch television. But the 55-inch OLED is a little on the small side, with screen sizes stretching up to 84-inches. Smart TVs are also gaining a foothold, although it’s going to need one platform to rule them all before people really get interested. Google TV perhaps?

Ultrabooks

Ultrabooks are essentially the PC equivalent of the MacBook Air. They’re powerful laptops made thinner and lighter. Manufacturers including Acer, Dell, HP, Samsung, and Toshiba are all betting big on Ultrabooks, but the high cost of the product is somewhat prohibitive for mainstream consumers at this point in time. And those with cash to burn will likely go with the Apple product instead.

Tablets

Tablets are emerging as the next big thing in personal computing. The touchscreen is a natural user interface, and the ultimate portability of tablets means they’re biting into the laptop market strongly. Unfortunately only the Apple iPad has managed to live up to the hype so far.

However, the sheer number of tablets at CES 2012 suggests Apple may soon have something to worry about. We’ve already seen the Amazon Kindle Fire provide the template for an affordable Android tablet, and many more are likely to follow in its footsteps. Including the $100 OLPC XO-3 tablet.

Windows

Microsoft may have only been a small part of CES 2012, but Windows was everywhere.

Windows Phone has already been written off by many, as it’s assumed to be too far behind iOS and Android to ever catch up and make its mark. But Microsoft has managed to get several handset manufacturers on board, including Nokia. The Windows Phone platform is now considered a dark horse.

Windows 8 is on its way, probably by the end of this year. At CES 2012 it was present on several of the tablets and laptops being developed by Microsoft’s partners. Windows 8 is an incredible gamble due to its new Metro UI, but it could just pay off. And in a big way.

Celebrity Endorsements

By far the least edifying sight at CES 2012 was the number of celebrities on display. Most of whom were present to endorse a company or product.

Justin Timberlake was there as co-owner of MySpace, Will Smith popped by the Sony press conference, Will.i.am gave an embarrassing performance as Intel’s Director of Creative Innovation, Justin Bieber sold out to show off a Vietnamese dancing robot, and a whole host of Z-list celebs put their name to headphones.

Dr. Dre has a lot to answer for.

Conclusions

As if you couldn’t already tell from the above, CES 2012 was a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. And Justin Bieber. I suspect next year will be more of the same, with more visitors pouring in to see less and less genuinely-exciting products. And Justin Bieber. I cannot wait.

Image Credits: LGEPR, Ceo1017, and HighTechDad

CES 2012 Wrap-up: Things We Missed

Last week was absolutely jam-packed with new product announcements and unveilings. Since things have now calmed down and all of the keynotes are in the books, I figured I would take this time to catch up on products that were missed during CES 2012.

Gorilla Glass 2

Corning, maker of Gorilla Glass, unveiled the second generation of their scratch-resistant glass. It’s called Gorilla Glass 2 and it’s 20% thinner than before, but equally as tough. With the extra thinness, Corning says that the new glass will enable brighter images and greater touch sensitivity. Acer, Asus and several other PC manufacturers are already on board to bring Gorilla Glass 2 to their laptops and tablets.

Razer Fiona

Razer unveiled their newest project called Project Fiona. It’s a PC gaming tablet that has two physical controllers attached on the side. It looks a little weird at first, but this might be something that could catch on in the future. It runs on a third-gen Core i7 processor and will be packaged with Windows 8 when it releases. The display is a 10.1-inch 1280×800 screen. This is just a prototype, so many features still have yet to be decided upon.

iPad 3 Prototype at CES?

iLounge has reported that they saw the iPad 3 at CES. They said that the third-gen iPad is thicker by about 1mm and has an improved camera, but other than that, iLounge says that, cosmetically, you should expect an iPhone 4/4S type update. There are rumors, though, that the next iPad will have a higher-resolution display and come equipped with LTE.

You might have not known this, but Apple attended CES. Probably not in the form that all of the other companies attended, but Apple sent 250 of their employees to “scout” the competition at CES. So, while the company isn’t participating in such an event, they are very much into what’s going on.

Dell’s First Ultrabook

Dell announced their first ever ultrabook coming in at a price of $999. The XPS 13 will be released toward the end of next month. It’ll run a Core i5 processor (upgradable to i7), a 128GB SSD (upgradable to 256GB), 4GB of RAM and Intel HD 3000 graphics. The display will be protected by Gorilla Glass and the entire unit will measure just 0.24-inches thick at its thinnest point.

Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX

Motorola’s Droid RAZR is a really thin phone, but they had to make some sacrifices in order to make it that way. They had to resort to only a 1700mAh battery, which wasn’t quite enough to power all of the components for a decent amount of time. However, this is where the RAZR MAXX comes in. It’s got a 3300mAh battery and still manages to keep its thickness t0 only 8.9mm. This should be good enough for 8-hours of use, but one just has to think that the Droid RAZR is now an outdated phone after being on the market for not even two months.

CES 2012: Day 3 Recap – Qualcomm, Viewsonic, and Intel

Day number three of CES 2012 was definitely less hectic and more manageable, but today was the opening of the CES show floor where companies were unveiling and showing off all of their new toys at their respective booths. However, we did have some very notable companies stand up to deliver keynotes, including chip makers Intel and Qualcomm.

Qualcomm

Image Credit: Engadget

Qualcomm’s GameCommand gaming aggregator app was announced back in November, but the company is finally releasing it today. GameCommand puts all of Android Market’s games in one place (that way user don’t have to go searching around) and also offers some exclusive games that aren’t available in the Android Market, including titles that were built using Qualcomm’s GamePack optimizing program.

The company also rolled out a new Snapdragon processor built for smart TVs and set-top boxes. The Snapdragon S4 MPQ8064 is a quad-core processor that clocks in at 1.5GHz and it will available in Lenovo’s upcoming K91 smart TV. The CPU also has Adreno 320 graphics and WiFi connectivity. No word yet on when the CPU or the K91 will hit the market.

Viewsonic

Viewsonic has launched two new tablets, the ViewPad 10pi and ViewPad 10e. They both run Android 2.3, which is kind of a bummer, but the 10pi is able to dual-boot with Windows 7. The 10pi boasts an Intel Oak Trail z670 processor, 2GB of RAM, a 64GB SSD and a 10.1-inch 1280×800 IPS display. There’s also a microSD slot and a couple of USB ports. A 3 megapixel main camera graces the back, while a 1.3 megapixel webcam sits on the front. All of this is stuffed into a form factor that’s 18mm thick and weighing around 29 ounces.

The 10e is a little less powerful with a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB internal storage. Both models will be available in the U.S. and will sell for $399 on Amazon.

Intel

Image Credit: Phandroid

Intel is now officially getting into the smartphone market. The company has announced the Atom Z2460, which is a 32nm processor clocked at 1.6GHz. Lenovo and Motorola will be releasing phones with Intel’s new chip. Lenovo has already come up with theirs — the K800, which is still a mystery as far as details, but it does have a 4.5-inch 720p display and will only be available in China for the time being. As Motorola, they say that they’ll have Intel smartphones out by the second half of this year.

Intel is also working on putting their chips into Windows 8 tablets in the form of 32nm Clover Trail SoC (System on a Chip). Details on that are scarce so far.

Other Fun Stuff

– Razer unveiled a new version of the Naga mouse. It’s called the Naga Hex — only six thumb buttons in the shape of a hexagon.  It’ll cost you $80 and will begin shipping later this month.

– Adobe has given the green light to a free public beta of Lightroom 4.

– Mercedes Benz has announced in-car Facebook integration for those who crave Facebooking and driving.

Stay tuned to Techerator for more CES updates this week!

CES 2012: Day 2 Recap – LG, Samsung, Vizio, and Microsoft

The second day of CES-ness is now behind us and wow, was it a busy one! Numerous companies held their press events today, including Microsoft, which hosted the opening keynote for this year’s CES. To say the least, tons of stuff happened. Since I won’t cover everything (that would literally be like writing a book) and to save your sanity, I’m just going to go over the bigger highlights of the day that matter.

LG

Image Credit: VentureBeat

LG introduced its 2012 lineup of HDTVs and they don’t seem to disappoint. More than half of them are either 3D capable or Smart TVs. LG’s Cinema 3D Smart TVs range from 55-inches to a whopping 84-inches. The 84-inch model packs an “Ultra High Definition” (UHD) display that squeezes 8 million pixels with a 3840×2160 resolution. It’s only 28mm thick and has a tiny 1mm bezel.

LG also announced their new flagship phone, the Spectrum. It features a 1.5GHz dual-core processor covered up by a massive 4.5-inch 1280×720 IPS LCD screen, giving it a ppi of 329 — better than the iPhone’s Retina Display. It also has 1GB of memory and 4GB of internal storage. LG will be releasing the Spectrum exclusively on Verizon on January 19 for $200 on-contract.

Samsung

The Galaxy Note has officially been announced, even though we knew it was coming of course. It boasts a whopping 5.3-inch screen with a 1280×800 AMOLED display, making it a half-phone, half-tablet. It has AT&T’s 4G LTE built-in and rocks a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. AT&T hasn’t said when it will be available, but if color selection means anything to you, the Note will come in “carbon blue” and “ceramic white.”

Samsung also unveiled its Smart 3DTV lineup, and they’re nothing short of crazy. The TVs support voice control, motion control and face recognition. They also run on SoC (System on a Chip) kits that users can upgrade starting in 2013 when Samsung releases upgrade kits. Samsung says that this allows the user to upgrade their television without actually having to replace the entire unit.

Vizio

Vizio, long-time maker of HDTVs, has now entered into the PC and tablet market with an all-in-one machine, three laptops and a tablet. The all-in-one PC is still somewhat of an unknown as far as specs, but the company’s YouTube channel goes over the products a bit. As far as the laptops, they’ll come in three different sizes: 13-inch, 15-inch and “full-size.” Just like the all-in-one, specs are hard to come by at this point.

Vizio’s tablet is a 10.1-inch model that they’re calling the M-series. It’s also apparently powered by an unannounced processor, so they’re not able to talk details just yet, but all of these new products by Vizio are due out this Spring/Summer.

Microsoft

Microsoft actually didn’t have much to announce for the first time. CEO Steve Ballmer and company mostly discussed already talked-about subjects, including topics about the Xbox 360, Windows 8 and Windows Phone. However, there were a couple of new things.

Nokia and Microsoft announced the latest Nokia Windows Phone, the Lumia 900. It’s a 4G LTE phone with a 4.3-inch AMOLED display. It runs on a single-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm CPU and 512MB of RAM. It’ll be arriving within the next couple of months exclusive to AT&T. The Lumia 800 will also be coming to the U.S. unlocked within the next few months, Ballmer says.

Microsoft also unveiled the Windows Store, which is the equivalent to the Android Market or the iTunes App Store, but for Windows devices. It’ll be available on Windows 8, as well as Windows Phone in the future.

Lastly, Ballmer mentioned that Kinect is coming to Windows February 1st.

Bonus: Microsoft partnered with ZeptoLab to bring a HTML5 version of Cut the Rope directly to the browser. Anyone with a computer can play the game. If you’ve never played it before, do it now!

Other Fun Stuff

– Netflix has announced availability in the UK (£5.99/month) and Ireland (£6.99/month).

– microUSB 3.0 is coming to smartphones and tablets near you as early as late this year.

– The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is coming to Sprint.

– The HTC Titan II, the first LTE Windows Phone, will be hitting AT&T.

– Asus’s Transformer Prime tablet hybrid will be getting Ice Cream Sandwich.

Stay tuned to Techerator throughout the week to get more details from inside CES 2012!

CES 2012: Day 1 Recap – Acer, OLPC, and Lenovo

The first day of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 is under wraps. Overall, it was quieter than what it will likely be later today. Acer and Lenovo held the only press events, but there were certainly some bits and pieces that were revealed throughout the day that are worthy for a spot in today’s recap.

Acer

Acer announced what they claim is the “world’s thinnest ultrabook.” The 13.3-inch Aspire S5 is a mere 15mm at its thickest point and weighs just under three pounds. It comes packing with HDMI, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports. The S5 can also be woken up from a smartphone and can immediately log into email and social network accounts. Specs are still something of an unknown, although we do know that it will run an Intel Core processor and it’s coming in the second quarter of this year.

Acer also announced another ultrabook model dubbed the Aspire Timeline Ultra. These will measure in at 20mm thick and will come in 14- and 15-inch variants. This laptop will run some type of Intel Core i processor and sport HDMI and USB 3.0 ports. The Timeline Ultra will ship sometime during Q1 2012.

Acer is also getting into the cloud business with their new service called AcerCloud. It’s pretty much the same concept as Apple’s iCloud, as in it “securely connects all personal smart devices for anytime, anywhere access.” It’s almost too close to iCloud, in fact. The graphic explaining the service is almost identical to Apple’s. In any case, AcerCloud will be out Q2 2012.

Lastly, Acer finished up their presser with a teaser of their next-gen, quad-core Iconia Tab A700. It’ll have a native 1080p display and be powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip clocked at 1.3 GHz with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on board.

OLPC (One Laptop Per Child)

The makers behind the XO laptop for underprivileged children came out with their own tablet. Just like the laptop, it’s a cheap, educational tablet made for children who live in poor parts of the world. It has an 8-inch display and comes with both a USB port and micro USB port. On the inside of the tablet, there’s a Marvell Armada PXA618 SoC processor and a battery that will deliver between 8-10 hours of juice.

It’s obviously not going to outperform the iPad or any other mainstream tablet for that matter, but for a $100 target price that the company wants to meet, it’s certainly not a bad device. However, you won’t be able to buy one of these yourself. They’re only sold to specific countries in bulk.

Lenovo

Lenovo unveiled their own transforming tablet/laptop device to take on Asus’s Transformer. It’s called the IdeaTab S2 and is equipped with Android Ice Cream Sandwich. It runs on a Qualcomm 1.5GHz dual-core processor and has up to 64GB of storage. It weighs in at just under 1.3 pounds and is just 8.7mm thick. For now, the S2 will only be released in China, with a worldwide release coming later.

They also announced the K91 Smart TV that runs on Ice Cream Sandwich and has a 55-inch (or 42-inch) 3D-ready, LED-backlit, 240Hz display. A 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor powers the software and has a built-in 5 megapixel webcam for video calling. The K91 is also a China exclusive, but no word on a worldwide or U.S. release.

Lenovo is also stepping into the smartphone market, announcing the S2. It’s really nothing special (even Lenovo admits that), since it only runs on Android 2.3, but Lenovo says it’s great for enterprise use since it has a secure kernel. The phone is already being made available to China customers for $400. No word on a U.S. release.

Other Fun Stuff

– It’s confirmed that Samsung’s newest device, the Galaxy Note (which looks to be a mix between a phone and tablet), will be headed to AT&T. We’ll hear more about the device in Samsung’s presser later today.

– Parrot, makers of the A.R. Drone, unveiled the 2.0 version of their remote-controlled quadricopter. This time around, the learning curve is much easier and on top of the updated build quality, the A.R. Drone 2.0 now records 720p footage.

Keep your eye on Techerator for more CES 2012 coverage throughout the week!

Staff Picks: Top Gadgets and Tech of 2009

2009 brought some amazing advances in technology and gadgets, so the staff at Techerator has put together a list of their favorite tech of 2009.  Let us know about your favorite tech of 2009 in the comments at the bottom!

Evan Wondrasek

  1. Android-based Phones – I bought a Motorola Droid on launch day and have never been so happy with a gadget.  This phone has all the hardware necessary to utilize Android’s wonderful multitasking, and I’ve seen leaps and bounds with application development over the past few months.
  2. Netbooks – I’m away from my apartment more than ever this year, but I haven’t had to make any compromises because of my Asus 1005HA. (which I reviewed).  Modern netbooks offer plenty of processing power and batteries that can keep you going all day.  It can be a little difficult working on a tiny screen, but you can’t beat these devices for their stuff-in-your-backpack portability.
  3. Xbox 360 – I’m not a big gamer like some of my fellow contributors, but I’ve really enjoyed some of the great titles that have been released in 2009.  More than anything though, I use my Xbox as a media center to stream Netflix Instant Watch and video files from my PC.
  4. iPod Touch – Until I bought my Droid, this was my go-to device for mobile browsing and entertainment.  Despite the fact that I was limited to wifi access, I typically would reach for my Touch before my laptop.
  5. Growing 3G Mobile Networks – Everybody is arguing about “who has the best 3G network” – but have we forgotten how amazing this technology is in the first place?  The internet on my mobile phone is considerably faster than many DSL connections, so if you’re using a mobile phone on 3G right now, take a second to appreciate how awesome this technology is.

Dustin Patterson

  1. Netbooks – Netbooks are my favorite technology of 2009. I purchased my netbook this year and am really glad I did (I’m actually writing this article from it right now.) Ever since I purchased it, my netbook has gone with me almost everywhere I go. [Check out our 5 reasons why a netbook might be right for you]
  2. Atom Processors – Tied in with my number 1, this little guy has help to push the netbook market to where it is today. With their ultra-low voltage requirements and small form-factor, these small yet powerful processors are the core of today’s mobile computing technology and show that big things really do come in small packages.
  3. USB 3.0 Devices – Although none have been released yet, 2009 showed some major development of consumer USB 3.0 devices. I’m looking forward to 2010 when we will be able to transfer at 0.4 GByte/s (almost a full CD in a second).
  4. Solid State Drives – I took an interest in solid state drives this year when I purchased my netbook (which does contain an SSD). Although not quite mainstream, solid state drives are definitely the future of consumer storage with their faster speeds and higher reliability rates. I look forward to when I am able to purchase a larger SSD in the coming year.
  5. Android Smart Phones – This year was the year for the Android-based phone. With the highly anticipated release of the Motorola Droid on the Verizon network, many people are now able to get their hands on a powerful and customizable phone powered by Android. Although I do not have one for myself, I look forward to purchasing an Android-based phone in the coming year.

Reis Pritchard

  1. iPod Touch – I already have a mobile phone, and the Zune HD just doesn’t have the plethora of apps to choose from that the iTunes store has, making this my media player of choice this year.
  2. Samsung Alias 2 – This was the first phone with a QWERTY keyboard I’ve ever owned, and typing on it is very easy having biggish, physical buttons (I am not touch-typing friendly).  Also, the changing e-ink technology is great for quickly switching from letters to numbers to symbols.
  3. Bose QuietComfort 3 Headphones – Bose means quality, and if you have the extra money to spend on these, your ears will thank you.
  4. LG Blu-Ray Burner (Black) – Home video, now in HD!
  5. Razer DeathAdder Mouse – This was the first mouse I ever spent more than 10 bucks on, and it has made me a noticeably better gamer.

Kevin Schulte

  1. Playstation 3 – I finally picked up a PS3 this summer, and it quickly turned into my favorite console of the current generation.  Great exclusive games, a Blu-Ray player, and free online play make the PS3 hard to beat.  Plus you can install Linux on it.
  2. Motorola Droid – I don’t personally have one (yet), but it’s impossible to not acknowledge that there’s finally a killer phone for the Android platform.
  3. Creative Zen X-Fi – Of the iPod alternatives I looked at, the Zen X-Fi was the most attractive choice. It does everything I want at a very reasonable price. As a bonus, it comes with earphones that sell for around $50 if purchased separately.
  4. Hard Drives – Hard drives were in the spotlight for computer hardware this year. Solid state drives have continued to drop in price and rise in speed, and high capacity traditional drives dropped to dirt cheap levels.
  5. Logitech G500 Gaming Mouse – My old G5 bit the dust this year, and I picked up a G500 to replace it. It takes everything good about the G5 and perfects it, and takes every complaint I had about the G5 and fixes it.

Derek Dahlen

  1. XBMC Media Center – The open-source XBMC Media Center (formerly Xbox Media Center) software is my HTPC solution of choice. With a large development community creating new features and eliminating bugs, XBMC continues to be my go-to solution for media playback on my TV.
  2. Google Android Phones – I’ve been playing around with Android for quite a while now, and am thoroughly impressed with how the mobile OS is shaping up. With the lag time in updates from phone makers and providers, rooting your Android phone and performing updates to the latest and greatest versions is a must.
  3. Windows 7 – Windows 7 released in fall of ’09 with an incredible adoption rate. With Microsoft’s free beta program, they created quite a bit of hype from geeks across the globe. If you’re still on Windows, you should definitely be giving 7 a look.  [Check out all of our guides about Windows 7]
  4. Nvidia Ion Netbooks – Nvidia’s ION platform has given netbooks the ability to perform semi-intensive video activities that netbooks have desperately needed. (Watching YouTube in HD, 720p video playback) I think these netbooks are going to blow up in 2010.
  5. Intel Core i5 750 – With low prices and excellent overclocking ability, Intel’s Core i5 has finally given enthusiasts an affordable path to a 4 Ghz quad-core solution.

David Carman

  1. Large Hadron Collider – It’s awesome.  Still not convinced?Image courtesy Ethan Hein
  2. Smartphones – I don’t have one but they are a huge leap forward in terms of personal and portable computing.  Navigating NYC is so much easier with my brother’s iPhone than it would be without it, we are using it constantly.

Patrick Vinge

  1. Drobo – The best on-site back up solution of all time.  With the ability to add hard drives together to create a backup, you can’t have a safer set up.  Expandable up to 16 terabytes, Drobo can be a solution for commercial applications as well.
  2. Unibody Macbook Pro – The most solid laptop made today, with amazing performance from the hardware.  The only drawback?  Price.
  3. Solio Hybrid 1000 Solar Charger – This is a light weight USB solar charger for backpacking and camping.  It takes about 4 hours to fully charge an iPod, but when your hiking all day long and it can clip to your pack it is a great tool to keep your music playing.
  4. T-Mobile G1 – The original Android phone has continued to receive updates while many others have stolen the limelight. This phone works great and supports almost all new Android applications.
  5. Linksys WRT54GL – This is one of the older Linksys routers, but still can be the core of any good (and cheap) home network.  Easily has the greatest pool of third party firmware released, giving it the ability to compete with any major corporate level routers.

Michael Green

  1. Android Smart Phones –  I use my Motorola Droid A LOT. It is so nice to have a smartphone because I am always connected, and I frequently find myself using my phone to do random Google searches that I would otherwise have to go find a computer to perform. I also find that since I have gotten my phone I am using my desktop computer much less than I used to. As lazy as it sounds the most annoying part of using my computer is waiting for it to start up and with my smart phone I don’t have to wait for anything. I get up in the morning and check my email from my bed in a matter of seconds all I have to do is unlock my phone and open up the Gmail app.