Entertain yourself with tools and toys you never knew you needed.
By Crispin Boyer
9 Series laptop
Samsung • Starting at $1,600
Apple’s MacBook Air no longer holds a monopoly on svelte and sexy. The 13-inch 9 Series is nearly the same weight (2.9 pounds) and wafer thinness, while its black “duralumin” alloy chassis looks like something a stealth fighter pilot would yank out of his cockpit. The 9 Series’ guts are glorious. Its second-generation Core i5 processor can turbo boost to 2.3 gigahertz, and the integrated graphics chip is punchy enough for high-end gaming and video-processing applications. The dazzling and sharp screen is easily viewable from any angle. Despite its muscle, the 9 Series lasts more than six hours on a single charge. That’s slightly less staying power than a MacBook Air, but it’ll still give you plenty of time to catch Apple fanatics coveting your Windows 7 powerhouse.
Sprint MiFi 3G/4G mobile hot spot
Novatel Wireless • $50 plus two-year Sprint contract
Switch on this credit-card-size Wi-Fi hot spot in the park or coffee shop, become a walking internet-service provider, and see how many laptop-toting cuties introduce themselves. Its simple one-touch, software-free interface lets you connect up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices—including Windows and Mac laptops, Kindles, and gaming systems—anywhere in Sprint’s coverage area. Download speeds top out at a zippy ten megabytes per second on the 4G network, and about a third that at 3G-data rates. The battery provides four hours of service per charge.
3-D Bloggie video camera
Sony • $250
Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian both have impressive bodies of work in the sextape genre, but imagine the eye-popping performances they could have captured with Sony’s 3-D Bloggie cam. The Bloggie, which is about the size of a pack of smokes, has dual lenses that record up to two hours of high-definition 3-D video (or 3-D snapshots), viewable on any 3-D-capable television. Better still, the built-in 2.4-inch touch screen displays 3-D footage without the need for special glasses. It’s able to record up to eight hours of 2-D high-def video, and packs features like face detection and a low-light mode, making it more than a 3-D novelty act.
Echo ZX backup drive
Lexar • $100
In a few years, we’ll look back at this thumbnail-size USB drive and giggle at its outlandish girth and mere 32 gigabytes of storage, but for now this itty-bitty backup solution delivers ample space, fast access speed, and a no-fuss interface. Just plug the little flash drive into your PC or Mac, specify which files and folders you want backed up, and quit worrying about losing data. The Echo drive continuously and automatically backs up your documents, so you’ll always have the latest version available in the event of a crash. The built-in encryption system means no one will discover your dirty secrets if you accidentally discard the drive with your pocket lint.
Atrix 4G smartphone
Motorola • $200 plus two-year AT&T contract
Motorola is billing it as the world’s most powerful smartphone—exactly the type of hype that buries the needle on our bullshit meter. But in this case, there’s truth in the advertising. This sleek phone that’s powered by a one-gigahertz dual-core processor with one gigabyte of RAM rivals a midrange laptop in power and performance. In fact, a $500 laptop dock turns the Atrix into a full-fledged notebook. But with a CPU built specifically to load Flash-based websites faster than other phones—plus enough horsepower to run console-worthy 3-D games—the Atrix doesn’t need any accoutrements to live up to its hype. Let’s just hope AT&T’s 4G network can live up to the phone’s potential.
Conserve Insight energy monitor
Belkin • $30
“Knowledge is power,” a wise man once said. The opposite is true with this. Just insert the pass-through plug into any outlet and connect it to anything from home-theater components to major appliances. The digital readout shows how many gigawatts your gadgets are gulping and their cost of operation broken down by month and year. See how much you really pay to play Modern Warfare 2. Tweak your fridge’s temperature settings to save serious lettuce. Learn what that empty phone charger on your desk is costing you. The money you save will pay for this gizmo in no time.
Rockus 3-D speaker system
Soundscience • $250
The Rockus delivers full-range sound and a hearty home-theater experience in a compact two-speaker (plus subwoofer) package that won’t invite retribution from the neighbors. It converts a stereo signal into a surprisingly convincing 3-D soundscape for movies and games. A dedicated music mode faithfully reproduces crisp highs, deep lows, and everything in between. If you do want to rattle the rafters, the aluminum enclosures can handle max volume without vibration-induced distortion. A variety of optical and analog inputs makes it easy to rock the Rockus with gaming systems, Blu-ray players, or PCs.