Gear up for winter and beyond with these electronic tools and toys.
By Crispin Boyer
XVT 3D 580CM Cinemawide 3-D HDTV
Vizio • $2,200
Even the most titanic HDTVs fail to capture the broad “CinemaScope” screen ratio of Hollywood films without slapping distracting black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. Vizio’s new 58-inch Cinemawide LCD goes the extra distance, delivering a 21:9 aspect ratio (compared to the typical 16:9) that reproduces silver-screen dimensions. The Wi-Fi-enabled TV also comes with a suite of Vizio Internet Apps (OnLive gaming, Netflix, etc.), plus the ability to interact with Vizio’s new Android phone and tablet. If that’s not enough bang for your big-screen buck, the Cinemawide also delivers bright, flicker-free 3-D TV using passive glasses that are much cheaper than the active-shutter goggles needed for other 3-D televisions.
Q digital camera
Pentax • $800
Typically, any camera tiny enough to serve double duty as a key chain is not going to meet the needs of a serious photographer. Pentax’s Q, however, packs the features of a much beefier DSLR camera into a lightweight package that’s smaller than any other interchangeable-lens model on Earth. The 12.4-megapixel CMOS image sensor is surprisingly sensitive for its size. It’s also bolstered by a host of helpful auto-features that give amateurs the power to snap artistic pics. The camera’s real draw among hobbyist photographers, however, is its array of after-market lenses and other adds-ons, which allow the itty-bitty Q to grow with your abilities.
Warpia • $160
Set-top boxes like the Apple TV are making it easier to give cable companies the middle finger, but no media streamer can match your laptop when it comes to entertainment options. The StreamHD is a simple solution for broadcasting your computer’s high-def video and 5.1 surround sound to your hometheater system, without having to worry about buying long HDMI and digital-audio cables. Just plug the USB transmitter into your PC or laptop, then connect the receiver to your TV. The StreamHD has a line-of-sight range of 30 feet, so you can kick back on your couch and watch Netflix movies or whatever illicit media you’ve stored on your machine, as well as access such free TV services as Hulu that aren’t available on set-top boxes.
Aspire AS8951G laptop
Acer • $1,600
No laptop lets you take the show on the road like this multimedia monster. Its massive 18.4-inch screen offers full 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, ideal for watching high-def flicks via the Blu-ray drive. Five built-in speakers and a subwoofer will rattle windows when used on the go, and an HDMI output and digital-audio connections link to your HDTV and receiver at home. With its Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia two-gigabyte graphics chip, it’s mighty enough to serve as your all-in-one gaming and home-theater solution. It even comes with a remote: The touchpad detaches from the backlit keyboard to adjust functions from up to ten feet away.
LaCie • $200
Anal-retentive data hogs will sweat less with the CloudBox on the job. This 100-gigabyte web-connected hard drive provides two stages of ironclad backup for your PC or Mac. First up is the box itself, which copies your files for fast local recovery. The CloudBox then automatically uploads its encrypted contents to LaCie’s servers once a day. This redundant online storage protects your files even if your dog eats the CloudBox or a meteorite slams into your home office. You can also sift through ten previous versions of your backups to recover impor tant files you might have accidentally deleted in the recent past.
HP • $500 for 16-gigabyte model; $600 for 32-gigabyte model
It’s the same size and price as Apple’s iPad 2, larger than BlackBerry’s PlayBook, and cheaper than Motorola’s Xoom, nailing the sweet spot between price and performance. While not as zippy as the PlayBook and Xoom—especially on Flash-based websites—the TouchPad’s intuitive multitasking operating system will win over most users. Related apps stack atop one another to reduce screen clutter, and a contextsensi tive interface suggests functions (email, Twitter, etc.) the instant you open the virtual keyboard. Neat freaks will grimace at the glossy casing’s uncanny ability to collect fingerprints; everyone else will be too busy watching flicks, reading e-books, or playing games on the sharp 9.7-inch screen to care.
Three-speaker boom box
TDK • $500
Created as an ode to the boom boxes of old, this monolithic and very modern-looking AM/FM blaster bristles with speakers and inputs for every conceivable audio source— from iPhones to electric guitars. Two six-inch speakers with tweeters flank a subwoofer built into the durable acrylic face, which is framed with an aluminum handle and cushioned by a leather shoulder rest on the under side. The whole thing feels very heavy duty—with an emphasis on “heavy.” Yes, you can load the blaster with 12 D batteries and heft it on your shoulder, but you might want to make sure your health insurance covers chiropractic care first.