By far the world’s biggest e-tailer (the next biggest is Staples, curiously), Amazon continues to climb to ever greater heights. Over the past year, Amazon has proved it can ‘do’ digital delivery. The Kindle ebook store is wide-ranging, cheap and simple to use, all of which will transfer to music and movies once the new Amazon tablets arrive. In addition, physical products are delivered reliably, with a rock-solid refunds policy. The layout and intelligence of its website is also exemplary. In short, nobody else comes close. Not even Staples.
Public transport is hell. To help you pull through, you need a gadget that transports you to your happy place: the Kindle. Amazon, like Apple, knows that giving you access to what you already own is not enough. So, while the Kindle makes a brilliant job of rendering books on its ultra-crisp, six-inch, e-ink screen, it also lets you buy any new tome you can think of, immediately, thanks to integrated Wi-Fi and/or 3G and its superb virtual book store, replete with smart recommendations and only-occasionally insane user reviews. No wonder Amazon now sells more ebooks than paperbacks…
Steve Jobs once said of the Kindle, “Nobody reads books anymore.” Ah well, nobody’s perfect. Amazon’s ebook shop/ reader is now omnipresent, and it evolved to a higher plane with its fourth iteration. More compact than ever, yet keeping its six-inch screen, it eschewed the slightly half-arsed touchscreen implementation of its more expensive sibling to act solely as a super-cheap, elegantly-tooled portal to the behemoth that is the Amazon Store.
Apple responded to the likes of the Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire with its own smaller tablet – and in typical style succeeded in delivering a brilliantly made and highly desirable product that’s arguably handier than its bigger brother. Apple introduced the 7.9-inch iPad Mini as a way to compete in the increasingly popular area of “small” tablets. The screen is actually larger than that of rivals like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 and very impressive, even if its 1024 x 768 resolution disappoints a little in comparison to the third- and fourth-gen full-size iPad (we’re expecting a Retina display model to appear soon). In true Apple style, the Mini’s build quality and styling is superb, putting it comfortably ahead of its (admittedly cheaper) rivals in the design stakes. It’s a pretty thing with its gently chamfered edges, and weighty enough to feel sturdy – crucially without being too hefty for one-handed use. With swift performance and perfect dimensions for gaming, video watching and ebook reading, the iPad Mini has added yet another valuable member to the iOS family. Price: £269 Apple
While discussing the Air’s success in the Design Award earlier, we pointed out that it had substance as well as style. Here’s the proof: it’s also stolen this more “serious” prize. That’s because, where earlier incarnations of this sub-laptop were like supermodels in their blend of jaw-dropping looks and innate stupidity, this one is like a supermodel who has been abducted by aliens and fitted with “the brain tripler of Thunng”. Its dual-core processor and Intel HD graphics mean it can handle hi-def video and cutting-edge gaming, at least with the resolution turned down a tad, while it breezes insouciantly through everyday tasks.
Heavy on style, Audi has tearmed up with Bang & Olufsen to bring a powerful, refined speaker system to the A8 which will make drivers doubt their home hi-fi system. The luxury car for the audiophile. Why? A Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System is inside. When you start the car, two small tweeters emerge from the dashboard, designed to offer a balanced acoustic sound stage. The ‘acoustic lens’ tech is the same found in Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 5 speakers. In total, there’s 19 speakers inside the A8 which includes a sub woofer right at the back, bringing the total output power to a enormous 1,400 watts. Because the speakers are hidden, the temperature of the brutish amplifier is kept to a minimum. The traditional B&O can be seen in all the speakers - for slick, classical music at speed, the A8 does a great job of sounding better than your home hi-fi. Price: £53,690 Audi
Is it a compact? Is it what wise men know as “a bridge camera”? Whatever it is, bald statistics don’t do justice to the G12. It’s got a ten-meg sensor, 5x optical zoom and shoots 720p video – all very 2009. However, as its size, pro look and price tag attest, the lens, image processor and creative versatility of this camera are all a cut above the compact(-ish) norm. Producing stunning images for such a small thing, even in low light, this is a serious and superb piece of kit.
Like Batman with Robin or Noel Fielding with the other one out of The Mighty Boosh, gadgets can get by fine on their own, but can be greatly enhanced by the right sidekick. The Eye-Fi X2 memory card deserves to win this category because it’s got not one but two tricks up its sleeve, combining core functionality – saving data, as an SDHC card – with built-in N Wi-Fi that allows near-instant, wireless transfer of your camera’s pics, including RAW images. Given the price of many Wi-Fi enabled cameras, it’s also a nifty money saver. An essential accessory.
In one of the most audacious stunts we’ve seen, Felix Baumgartner braved a solo freefall from the Earth’s upper atmosphere, breaking the sound barrier in the process, resulting in one of the most nail-biting moments of television ever The world held its breath as Felix Baumgartner’s ‘space jump’ was beamed live around the globe. The Austrian skydiver and BASE jumper ascended to 128,200 feet in a tiny pod and then jumped out, plummeting back towards earth at jaw-dropping speed, resulting in some of the most breathtaking pictures ever broadcast live. Bankrolled by Red Bull, the mission saw a crack team of boffins working on a variety of gadgetry, such as the LifeMonitor to ensure that Baumgartner could compete his jump successfully without incident. The Austrian daredevil not only set a new world record for skydiving (from around, oh, 24 miles), he also became the first person to break the sound barrier without a vehicle to help him. And as if the nerve-wracking jump and nail-biting descent weren’t impressive enough, Baumgartner then calmly landed on his feet. Strong stuff. Red Bull Stratos
It's been years since Flipboard came out on the iPad and it's still the best aggregator of news, social networking, links, video, and images on the platform. Even the page swiping is impressively fast. In version 2, users can create and share personalized magazinesand recipients don't even need to have Flipboard installed to read them.Eric Griffith
The Big G’s success this year has been built on the twin pillars of Android and not being Apple. It kept on updating and honing the world’s favourite mobile OS, summoning more and more manufacturers to its banner, seeing off webOS and Symbian, passing iOS and BlackBerry and barely noticing Windows Phone 7 (though that may change). Elsewhere, its search engine remains the best and most popular there is, and Google+ at least seems like its trying to take on Facebook, unlike Buzz.
Google’s epochal specs are likely to kick-start a wearable tech revolution. They’ll shoot photos and videos and deliver important information to your eye-line. Are we all about to become Google Glass cyborgs? Google Glass is one of those tomorrow’s world innovations that make modern tech such an exhilarating industry to be part of. The wearable specs, which will become availableto the public late this or early next, feature a small eye-level screen for viewing prevalent information from maps, email, social networks, breaking news and much more. Users can literally shoot photos and videos from their viewpoint using the built in camera lens that sits in the frame, while everything is synced to an iOS or Android smartphone. The long-awaited AR specs have already arrived for developers who’ve set about creating a host of interesting apps and uses. Naturally, there are privacy concerns, which we’ll be hearing more and more about in the run up to launch, but for now we can simply appreciate the innovation that’s gone into this futuristic piece of consumer tech. Price: $1,500 Google
4K shooting skills from a camera the size of a matchbox with remote control and a dedicated app for directing multiple cameras. Spielberg would have killed for one of these in the seventies. GoPro is a company so laid back, it’s stoned to the mainframe of its Californian core. Set up by surfers selling shells from a shack to finance the very first wrist camera for surfers, the world of GoPro has now been adopted by professional broadcasters and every sport known to man. Hero 3 boasts 12 megapixel burst shots alongside a 4K shooting mode as well as 1080p HD at 60fps. The tough build is joined by an optional screen and an app which controls linked cameras for cinematic set ups and gives a live preview. Audio has been upgraded to capture speech and several different casings mean this is at home underwater, on a jacket or on the back of a dirt bike. In a world of smartphones and increasingly small cameras, GoPro is still the film fans device of choice and the rugged gadget that will launch the careers of many future directors. If in doubt, check out the home made rocket that took a GoPro to space or the shark footage, both on YouTube. Price: £359 GoPro
HTC needed to deliver a stunning phone to reverse its ailing fortunes – and the One might just be, er, the one. From the gloriously rich full HD screen to the seamless, precision-engineered aluminium body, it’s a marvel of design. The HTC One is a product designed to save a company in financial trouble – and it seems HTC’s design and engineering team work well with their backs against the wall. This Android phone the best product HTC has ever built, with a gorgeously thin, reassuringly rigid aluminium body bonded to the 4.7-inch screen by a technique that doesn’t leave a single gap. And speaking of the screen, it’s eyeball-piercingly sharp, with a 1080p full HD resolution and Retina display-spanking pixel density of 468ppi. It’s one of a handful of phones that can be mentioned in the same breath as the iPhone when it comes to looks and build quality. Performance is no less impressive, with the quad-core processor blazing through tasks with nary a trace of lag and the 4MP Ultrapixel camera serving up some of the finest snaps we’ve ever seen from a smartphone. Price: £519.99 HTC
In real terms, this is the coolest portable typewriter on the market. Built for browsing an email, Apple design mean this dinky laptop can do much more than you might think. The MacBook Air never ceases to impress, sparking a whole ‘ultrabook’ category from PC rivals, the modern MacBook Air is now even more powerful and affordable. The 11 inch model is £849 wih 64GB SSD memory and able to run Apple’s OSX system flawlessly and few apps cause it to sweat. Even video editing and big photo projects are possible thanks to the i5 1.7 Ghz processor and 4GB of memory, pushed to their limits with a streamlined OS that never falters. The 13 inch model boasts 128GB of SSD memory and is £999, now under the RRP of many rival PC laptops. The ultra slim design is what Apple are all about and for those that believe Apple products carry a price premium, the master class of design is the single Apple product that will now make them think twice. Price: £849 Apple
An ironic choice as nobody voting for Facebook’s enigmatic CEO can have the faintest idea what his personality is like. Sure, we’ve all seen The Social Network, but that paints him as a ruthless, spoiled misanthrope with no taste in clothes, so what could the appeal be? Obviously, it’s the single-minded determination that has made him a billionaire at the age of 28 and the fact that he’s the greatest facilitator of human interaction since Alexander Graham Bell. Where other social networks have floundered, Facebook continues to carry all before it, and Zuckerberg remains firmly seated at its helm.
This is it. The big one. Big like a supernova, a nuclear war, or Digby the Biggest Dog in the World. The Kinect is the fastest-selling consumer durable (not just gadget) of all time. It’s taken motion-controlled gaming and turbocharged it, putting you in the game like never before. With full-body tracking, facial and voice recognition, it’ll soon allow you to control everything in your digital world by waving, talking or gurning. In short, it’s not only an amazing piece of technology but could quite conceivably pave the way for new developments in human/computer interaction.
As Eminem counselled on Forgot About Dre, it is unwise to disrespect the erstwhile NWA producer and wordsmith. Certainly, he’s been doing all this dope producing, but now he’s expressing himself to the audio world via his premium range of headphones. Dre brings all his audio expertise and ear for detail to testing the headphones his company produces, including these range-toppers. His ineffable cool and the eye-catching, purchase-encouraging, iconic shape of the Beats ’phones do the rest. Result: you now see more of them on the high street than traffic wardens or tramps.
Netflix is an all-you-can-eat video streaming service that launched in the UK in 2012. For a small monthly fee, users can stream as much video as they via a range of hardware including computers, smartphones and games consoles. Netflix has been around since 1997 in the US, and since bringing its on-demand streaming service to the UK in January last year has emerged as the only genuine rival to Amazon’s Lovefilm Instant streaming platform. It reportedly has over a million subscribers in the UK and Ireland. Netflix works through a wide range of hardware: computers, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players and games consoles. Selected content is available in HD and with 5.1 surround sound – something Lovefilm’s service doesn’t offer. While Lovefilm arguably boasts a finer selection of movies, Netflix is the undisputed king of TV shows, offering a huge range of popular series both old and new. But Netflix goes even further than buying the rights to existing shows: it actually makes its own, funding the superb Kevin Spacey-fronted political drama House of Cards and reviving much-loved sitcom Arrested Development with 14 new episodes. Price: £5.99 per month Netflix
A sensor in your trainers links to your phone, letting you record all your workout info, helping you hone your regime until you’re a man of steel. Previous Nike+ apps have focussed on running, but this is for the gym bunnies. Nike+ Training involves a pair of Nike trainers that contain a sensor, and an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with the accompanying app. The sensor in your Nike+ Training shoes syncs with the app over Bluetooth, letting you record all your workout info, so you can see just how hard you pushed yourself on your last gym visit. As well as calories burned, the app logs every rep, step, and how intensely you were working. Then once you’ve recorded all your info, you can post it to your social networks for bragging rights. And if that’s not motivation, we don’t know what is. But it’s not just for the pros. You can set a four-week program based on your ability, and Nike personal trainers demo each drill, helping you get started. And with a range of stylish training shoes to go with the app, you’ll get fit without having to dress like Mr Motivator. Price: £Free (app), Various (trainers) Nike
With image quality that rivals capable D-SLRs and a body not much larger than a super-zoom camera, the 12.1-megapixel DMCGF1 is the most compact model in Panasonic's lineup of Micro Four Thirds cameras.
Described by its makers as “beyond reference” quality, this 60-inch beast is the pinnacle of Panasonic’s TV range. Everything has been poured into ensuring its picture is as perfect as possible – and at this price, you’d really hope it is. The Panasonic ZT65 is the top model in Panasonic’s plasma range – a model aimed at those seeking the very best in image quality and willing to part with almost £4,000 to get it. While the price may bring tears to the eyes, they’ll quickly be replaced by other tears (of joy) because the black levels are simply the best you’ll find on any screen out there. Add in incredibly accurate colour reproduction and the finest 3D performance available in the home and you have an incredible TV set – arguably the best picture quality since Pioneer stopped making its legendary Kuro plasmas four years ago. This isn’t all about the picture, though: the ZT65 is also heaving with features, including HD Freesat and Freeview tuners, a touchscreen remote with stylus, built-in Wi-Fi and an intuitive smart TV platform making it one of the TVs of the year. Price: £3,999 Panasonic
We all like to eat deep-fried things, especially if we’re Scottish. But scientists warn that eating things that have been soaked at length in hot fat may not be good for us. That’s where the Airfryer comes in. By rapidly moving hot air and using a grill element, it produces chips and other traditionally high-calorie treats with up to 80 per cent less fat content. As a result, you get all the great taste of frites, but with less of the heart disease and obesity. All thanks to technology.
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