Happy New Year! It was a notable year: I emerged from cell phone hibernation earlier in 2011 and started using a Windows Phone 7 device after 5+ years living without a cell. 2011 was also the year I jumped onto the blazing fast solid state drive bandwagon, cut our landline completely, got rid of cable TV, and made our home Airplay enabled in every room.
And what does 2012 have in store for me in the tech department? I'm finally upgrading from a 1st generation 720p HDTV to a beautifully razor thin 1080p model, hopefully switching to whatever Apple has in store for us with their upcoming MacBook Pro refresh (Retina display, Air-form factor?), and just maybe adding a few more camera lenses to my collection if budget allows...
Samsung UN55D7000 55" LED Smart TV:
It was love at first sight back at CES 2010 when I initially saw the 7000 series on display, a Samsung HDTV set which includes nearly every bell and whistle in a nearly "not there" form factor. Even before I turned on the display, my design+decor side was already smitten with the ultra-slim, clear bezel which minimizes the set's presence both while on and off, while the all-metal, 4-leg base reminds of a classic midcentury furniture piece.
And then you turn it on...whether enjoying PS3 gaming, Apple TV, watching the Lakers, Netflix streaming, or a Blu-ray, this LED backlit display made it very clear HDTV technology has made leaps and bounds progress compared to my current 720p set (another Samsung, mind you). Deep blacks, a super smooth 240Hz refresh rate, a plethora of online connect apps (most notably Netflix and Hulu integration), and even the option for 3D if you're aching for the addition of a dimension, it's almost too many options. Between the quality of the picture and top-notch industrial design, the 7000 series is my favorite piece of tech for 2012...so much so, I'm purchasing this very set upon returning our review unit!
I'm the Notorious B.I.G of cables: mo' cables, mo' problems. For every electronic device I bring into the apartment, it seems like an additional 2-3 cables and/or cords also make way into my desk drawer, and it's an ongoing challenge to keep the clutter from overtaking the limited space available. I keep a few packs of these Bluelounge CableClips handy for the home office and also ready for travel use when the last thing I want while reaching into my laptop bag is a snake's den of tangled USB. Sure, you can use a rubber band, but these looks way better, are easier to use, and last forever.
Kikkerland Sound Activated Alarm Clock Wood Cube:
Remember those "Clap on...clap off...clap on, clap off...THE CLAPPER!" commercials? Well this little minimalist block of wood is basically the same technology, except it's a sound activated LED digital clock. Clap, cough, or make any audible noise [snicker] and the blank cube reveals a red LED clock display. I love it because when it's not on, it's not adding any annoying ambient light and is easy enough to turn on while sticky-eyed in the morning.
Energizer Rechargeable Batteries:
The charger is a few generations old, but it still works like a charm with every new series of Energizer Recharge batteries I purchase to keep my Apple Magic Mouse and wireless keyboard powered up without having to waste money on disposable batteries (these are good for 150+ charges). It's certainly not sexy technology, but I rely on a few rotating sets of AA and AAA batteries throughout the home office, with one set always charging and ready to replace drained batteries.
Geneva Sound System Model M:
My favorite technologies are ones where their presence isn't made known until you turn it on and need to use it. The Geneva Model M embodies this ideal, a Clark Kent exterior with a Superman audio capabilities hidden underneath it's unassuming front. The cabinet design wouldn't look out of place in Don Draper's office, with a sound which can only be described as "honeyed". We listen to the Model M almost every evening over dinner (KUSC) and partnered up with an Airport Express, it's become part of my Airplay system, bringing music and radio into the dining room and kitchen. The cabinet design is one that I predict will stand the test of time, outliving design trends and proving to be a classic.
Mr Beams Home Power Outage Lighting System:
We've done a few posts about being prepared for emergencies, so practicing what we preach proved smart recently when unusually high winds blew out power in Los Angeles for several days and we had to rely upon backup lighting options. I had installed the Mr Beams Home Power Outage Lighting System throughout our apartment, and thanks to the LED wireless system, we didn't have to stumble in the dark or completely rely upon candles (especially useful for bathroom visits at night).
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
I blame my 20-sided die, RPG nerd childhood for stoking the waning embers of my nerdy past, but I just knew I had to pick up a copy of this epic RPG as soon as it was available. The amount of detail in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is mind-boggling, and I've spent far too much time simply wandering around gathering ingredients to cook recipes, peeking around every corner throughout towns and villages, with the occasional romp with giants and their mammoth cattle while wandering the immersive world. Now if I could only get over the motion illness...
OWC Mercury EXTREME 3G Pro SSD:
I had every intention of upgrading my late 2008 laptop this year. Every RAW file in Photoshop was taking ages to process, the card catalog of open tabs in the Rockmelt browser was slowing down basic tasks, and overall the machine wasn't keeping up to speed with my everyday workflow. But then I pulled out the optical drive and dropped in one of these solid state drives, installed my system and app files onto the 120GB drive, and suddenly my computer seemed reborn. The performance difference can only be described as day and night, though drive reliability can still be "iffy" (I had to have my 1st drive replaced after it crashed and became unmountable). Even so, I'm now a big proponent of SSD drives, especially now prices are dropping within the realm of reason.
HTC Titan Windows Phone:
I was torn between including this model or the phone I've been using the last several months, the HTC Radar, a very capable smartphone in itself. I'm in the process of changing from the smaller, mid-tier Radar to this expansive model because the Titan is arguably the best WP7 phone out on the market (I'm in that tiny minority who uses and loves their WP7 device). Yes, the 4.7" screen is huge, but it's also impressively bright, clear, and the phone itself is slim enough to fit into every pant or coat pocket I've dropped it into. And as someone who always found typing on touch screen mobile devices challenging at best, the Titan's screen has proven to be a godsend for sausage-fingers typing. Besides the size, it's a totally unassuming device...until you turn it on, and everyone asks, "whoa, what is that?" (and thus begins my spiel/defense of WP7 amongst my iPhone devoted friends).
Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX:
As the fastest ultra-wide lens for smaller format cameras, the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 was my big lens purchase of the year, often brought along during hiking trips, and always attached to my Nikon while shooting house or tech tours. I purchased the Tokina after reading numerous reviews describing it equivalent/superior to Nikon's own pricier comparable model, and it didn't disappoint, providing up to a 104 degree field of view and an impressively fast maximum aperture of f/2.8. The wide-eyed 11-16mm lens is undeniably big and a little unwieldy, but also constructed like a tank. Alongside my Nikkor Micro (macro) lens, this is the most fun lens to just have fun experimenting with.