I’m looking back at all of the products I’ve reviewed and used in 2010, and 10 favorites clearly stood out. Each has earned a place in my heart as particularly great. To get on this list, the product had to be something I use regularly and enjoy.
I picked the Kindle DX up to review thinking it was too big, and that it would end up on my shelf unused after a couple of days. Instead I fell in love with it, and it goes with me wherever I go. The larger screen allows me to put more text on the page, so I’m not flipping as often, and allows me to use larger text so I’m not straining my eyes and can work in low light. While I do miss a cover with a built-in book light like the regular Kindle, I can’t give up the extra size, and for me, the iPad just hasn’t been a real alternative. I have the latest model in black, and it did cost $379 but I really don’t know what I’d do without my Kindle. It is the one product I don’t go anyplace without.
This laptop has been a real champ this year, and I now have two of them with one as a backup. This laptop has been a dream. No problems, Nvidia graphics when I want to play games, embedded graphics when I need the battery life. It looks cool, and it is small enough to use in coach without sucking in my gut. The latest model switches between graphics chips automatically, and has an updated Intel processor, so it is even better now. Some folks carry what their company gives them, I carry what I want, and currently I want my Alienware M11X.
With a 1,000-watt motor and a frame that was based on a bike sold to the US military for paratroopers, this bike is my own personal dream come true. With substantial power for the hills, the ability to fold it up and put it in the back of my car, and stealth black finish, this has been a wonder to enjoy the California sun. It will go up most hills with only a little added work and can really put on the speed when you need that burst to get through a light. This is my second electric bicycle, and by far my favorite of the set. Electric cars may not yet make sense for most of us, but electric bikes have arrived and I love my M-750.
I have 5 Roombas in various states of repair, and not a damn one of them vacuums very well. They also wander around the floor like a blind, nose-less mouse. Basically they are stupid sweepers. The Neato uses a technology similar to what is being used in self-driving cars, and it is a real vacuum cleaner, so it actually vacuums up the dirt, it doesn’t just try to sweep it in. This means it looks around the room, figures out how to best cover the space, and then it executes a plan. Personally I think it is smarter than most politicians. If I could, I’d vote it into office.
This is the only purpose-built treadmill desk, and I should use it more than I do. Still, it allows me to exercise while I’m working and that is pretty much all the exercise I get in a day, so it is very important to my health. The treadmill is designed to work for extended periods quietly, at walking speeds, and you can adjust it electrically for height. It is very large as well, so you can spread your stuff around and pretty much live on it. When I bring folks into the house this is one of the things most seem to lust after, and it may yet save my life or at least extend it. Products that help you live better longer should be at the top of a list, and it is on the top of mine.
Speaking of staying alive, this product will probably kill me, but I’ll die with a smile on my face when I go. Once I got a mount for the bottom of my TV and didn’t have to adjust for the camera being off center, I retired my Wii and started moving around my living room like I was mad. I find I can get rather winded relatively fast, and that the pictures it takes of me in strange positions could likely be used as blackmail at some future date, but damned if I’m not having as much fun as I initially did with the Wii before it got old. This has been a huge treat at the end of the year, and I’m tickled to be having so much fun with it. Hey, and this week it was reported that Kinect is outselling the iPad two to one. It sold 2.5 million in 25 days, versus 2 million in two months for the iPad.
This is the most advanced integrated system from any of the major nationwide security vendors. It integrates home automation, with video surveillance, with traditional zone and perimeter security. On events, it will take pictures with the cameras and store these pictures in the cloud. While I’m traveling, I can view logs of when people entered the home and watch the cameras live, or check to see if the security system is set and the doors closed. I can even turn lights on and off remotely to check around the house all from the same console. I know companies that aren’t this secure, and while it isn’t cheap, it gives me piece of mind, which is kind of priceless.
It took me about two months to get this set up so that it would work right. It wasn’t a software problem, but finding the right mix of monitors so I had enough size, but wasn’t driven nuts by the gaps between them. But I finally found the right mount, and the right set of three monitors (two Dell 24” monitors on the sides and a Gateway 24” monitor in the middle) all in portrait mode (the Gateway is a taller monitor, more square, and better for the middle). The end result is a great gaming rig that isn’t spinning my power meter like a top.
This is just geeky cool. I picked up one of thee for a King-sized bed earlier this year, and it has brought near harmony to our bedroom. The problem is my wife tends to run cold, where I tend to run hot at night, so I’m either sweating or she is shivering, and the right mix is hard to find. The ChiliPad uses circulating heated and cooled water to regulate temperature just like what is used for spacesuits and for some types of racing. The end result is I can chill my side of the bed down as cold as I like it, while she can heat her side up, and both of us are relatively happy. The wireless remote controls could have better range, and you do have to refill the water every couple of weeks, but this thing has been a dream come true for us and one of the highlights of the year.
When it comes to moving music around the house there really is only one product that has consistently worked well, and that is the Sonos platform. I have one of these things in every room, they run off their mesh wireless networks, connect to Rhapsody and Napster, and will even work with an iPod Touch as a controller. It has a party mode, so you can have every station on the same song and the same note, something that simply doesn’t work with alternative players, and even my wife can figure out how to use it because it is so simple. This is one of the few products that could give Apple a run for the money on ease of use, and I just wish I could find something as good for video.
Wrapping up… and my favorite car
These were the products that stood out for me this year, and truly contributed to making my life better rather than complicating it. If I’d gotten this done on Thanksgiving week, these would be the products I’m thankful for. However there was one I left out: I bought new car this year. What I ended up with was an Audi S5, after asking my Twitter friends which one they thought I should get; and being told by them the S5 was the one. I can’t remember being happier. The car is fast, very attractive, I can keep up with my super car driving friends because they are so worried about breaking their expensive beasts, and it has a navigation and media head unit with Nvidia graphics. This car has been a dream, and the only thing I don’t like about it is my cat Gracie like to sleep on the roof which hasn’t done nice things to the trunk lid she uses as her launching point.
2010 has been a great year. These were the products that helped make it that way for me.