2013 promises to be a year of wondrous gadgets and gizmos, and with the imminent release of the Playstation 4, and the possibility of 4K TV breaking through, there promises to be a Number of exciting developments. From the outrageous and ostentatious to the practical and perfect, we’re going to look at 5 of the best gadgets of this last year.
1) LG 84LM960V 84 Inch Ultra HD LED LCD 3D TV
Comfortably taking the cake in the ostentatious (not to mention expensive) stakes, LGs stunning and mammoth 84 inch television boasts a 3840 x 2160 resolution (and can even upscale your poxy 1080p resolution stuff), making it ‘4K ready*.’ It’s also 3D ready and LED backlit, so the picture should be bright and Sharp. And so it should be, with a price tag of £22,499. The main problem facing it, other than the ‘sell your spare organs’ price-tag is the lack of content to actually display on it: broadcasters are not able/willing to broadcast 4K yet, and very few people are currently shooting content in it… Or film makers are shooting at very high resolutions, but are then often downscaling for the sake of making editing and post production quicker; saving their edit suites from labouring under the double whammy of Ultra HD resolution and high frame rates.
However, this content issue may prove to be short lived, Ultra HD video formats are being developed (including 12-bit colour video codecs, and vector graphic based codecs, amongst many other quality-boosting and data-saving ideas); an Ultra-HD satellite channel (only requiring 40Mbps of data!) has recently been launched, the maximum theoretical capacity of the Blu-Ray is being explored, and the Playstation 4 may yet have some provisions for Ultra HD displays when it is announced… All of which means LG’s Ultra HD TV may not look quite so silly in a year or so time, and I may have to explore the possibility of living with only one kidney so that I can buy one.
NB. Luxuria Lifestyle recently featured it in their ‘Gentleman’s Valentine’s Gifts of 2013’ article, aimed, I assume, at the fantastically wealthy… Or those born with a multitude of Kidneys. For the rest of us there is the considerably more affordable (yet still seriously impressive) LG 55" SMART 3D FULL HD 1080P LED TELEVISION - 55LM620T, which, while a little pricey at over £1000 from most retailers, will not cost you any vital organs.
*4K is thus far a bit of a misnomer – The display isn’t actually 4 thousand pixels across; the exact form the ‘Ultra HD’ specification will take is still being decided. Factors affecting the decision include the sheer volume of data that needs to be transmitted to cover this number of pixels, and the fact that lower frame rates are particularly unkind to such large images, so higher frame rates are required. Fortunately new video encoding technologies promise to keep data rates manageable even as the number of pixels and frame rates rise.
2) The Optoma Pico Projector
Have you ever been visiting friends, and found yourself with the need to show a crowded room of your friends and peers your latest challenging art-house film (that they are all dying to see) and lacked the means to do so? Or maybe you wanted to show your entire family that hilarious cat video (the one where the cat slides in the boxes) and the viewing angle on your laptop just wasn’t up to it? ‘What now!?’ I hear you cry.
Enter the Optoma Pico Projector. At barely over 20cm long, 10cm wide and 6cm deep, this little projector will fit in your pocket (at a push), and boasts an astonishing 70cm throw. It has 2GB of internal memory, and a microSD input, enabling up to 32GB of storage. It can natively display a range of file handy formats, including HTML and JPEG, and a number from the Office Suite, such as Microsoft PowerPoint (ppt, pptx), Word (doc, docx), Excel (xls, xlsx) and Adobe (pdf), as well as the usual range of popular video formats such as H.264, mjpeg, mpeg4, vc1, xvid, avi, wmv, mov, mp4 and 3gp, making this little projector potentially very useful for businessmen who need to make presentations in potentially ill-equipped environs, and indeed for anyone who wants a mobile cinema... Or perhaps for anyone who wishes to embark on a guerrilla campaign of battery powered inappropriate image projection. It also boasts stereo 0.5w speakers, a 1.5 hour battery life (which is a little bit of a restraint unfortunately), and it can of course, be connected to a PC or laptop for its source material. It can even come with its own little tripod for additional usability.
3) iBox Twist Bluetooth Speaker
I know that the speaker/dock market has become somewhat over-saturated: There are a plethora of decent iPod docks from a huge range of manufacturers, all vying for a share of the ripe speaker/dock market, but with Apple’s latest iPhone 5 connector differing from the older iPhone/iPod connector, there is still room for a new portable speaker system, and better still, one that gets around the limitations created by catering exclusively for Apple’s proprietary connectors, and will work with any modern phone. Yes, the ‘Bluetooth speaker’ may prove to be about the only useful application of Bluetooth technology outside of Bluetooth headsets, and ‘Bluetooth-ing strangers creepy messages in the pub.' The Ibox Twist not only makes great use of a technology that has struggled to find its niche, but also does it with more than a little style.
The iBox Twist features 2 1.5” speakers and a passive subwoofer within its stylish twisted design, producing 2 x 3W of power. It can receive music from a device up to 10 metres away, and its USB rechargeable battery has a life of around 5 hours. For this writer, the use of Bluetooth rather than a bespoke docking system makes this gadget far more universal in appeal than a traditional iPod dock, and the stylish design and ease of use make this a winner as an unobtrusive home speaker, or as a speaker for taking to the park and to festivals and so on.
As an end note, My father used to say: ‘you can tell if a company believes in their product based on the length of the warranty they are willing to offer.’ The iBox Twist comes with a 5 year warranty, so iBox must really believe in it.
4) Samsung Series 7 15.6" Notebook
I was wary of mentioning any Laptops at all due to the fact that a) there are so many, and b) most of them aren’t that cool. OK, I’ll concede, there are a load of great laptops; Lenovo’s Thinkpad retains much of the old IBM version’s cool (and hopefully it’s famed resilience too), and their Lenovo X1 Carbon is a stunning entry into the Ultrabook market. HP also make some good looking laptops these days, but they often seem to fall a bit short on spec (and have notorious overheating issues) and come in a bit heavy compared to comparable laptops from other manufacturers. Apple make great looking, great to use laptops, but the newest models are literally almost impossible to upgrade, and they could be deemed a little bit expensive, considering the specs available. So, what is relatively light and attractive, and packed with features and a high spec at a relatively reasonable price? The Samsung Series 7 15.6” Notebook.
It features an Intel i7 chipset, including 8GB of on-motherboard Flash memory (a miniature SSD for cache files and regularly used system files and programs) to boost boot and program launch times, an NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 640M Graphics with 1GB GDDR5 Graphic Memory, plus 8GB DDR3 RAM, and a number of attractive additional features such as integrated webcam, HDMI output, USB 3 Ports, Multi-card reader and backlit keyboard. It’s also quite pretty. Not as pretty as Samsung’s Series 5 Ultrabook or Series 9 Notebook (which is so pretty I may seea change of law in Lancashire so that I can marry it) nor as pretty as the Series 7 Chronos (due out in Feb 2013), but for what is intended as a business machine it is certainly not unattractive, and it packs quite a lot of specification into its £1000 price tag.
5) GoPro Hero3
Are there better cameras out there? Certainly. Are there better cameras for extreme sports, that are ruggedized for the rigours of vertigo inducing extreme sports or shark-baiting aquatic pursuits? Doubtful. There are any number of great value cameras around, ranging from in-car cameras, to the new, and often brilliant ‘bridge’ cameras, as well as a huge range of increasingly affordable DSLR cameras, but nothing has managed to attain quite the same status and cult following as the GoPro Hero3 has, due in no small part to its flexibility, and the brilliant 1080p 30fps footage and up to 12MP photographs it produces. It features WiFi connect-ability, and optional extras like a touchscreen LCD display and (with the Black Edition) a WiFi remote that can control up to 50 cameras. In short, it’s tough, it’s cool and it’s THE Camera to have if you enjoy throwing yourself off buildings, bear goading, being fired from a canon, or if you’re an adherent of any other ill-advised, limb-risking, stomach-turning hobby that you wish to document.
Interestingly, The Hero3 Black edition can also record footage at above High Definition; it can record 2.7K at 30fps, or even 4K at 15fps, which while a low frame rate, is impressive nonetheless. Perhaps you could combine it with the LG TV we mentioned earlier, so you can watch your recent base-jump-shark-fight off Blackpool tower in glorious Ultra HD?