Here’s part two of my best tech of 2011 collection. Part one included the best smartphones and cameras, among other top tech toys of 2011. Now we’re talking tablets — the Apple iPad is my choice — and the thin Samsung TV and Apple MacBook Air, among other top notch products of 2011.
Best tablet — No one, not even Amazon, comes close to matching the experience Apple provides with its iPad 2. General-purpose Android tablets have failed to catch on, with a possible exception being the Amazon Kindle, which Amazon claims has sold 4 million units since its launch a month ago. For now, I still say the iPad 2 is the best tablet. The next iPad versions — two models are rumored to come out this spring in a slimmer format and with dramatically increased resolution on retina displays — will likely be even better.
Photo Credit: SpecPhone
Best notebook computer — Apple’s MacBook Air has sold like hotcakes and is nearly as thin as one. Starting at $1,000, the form factor will be used throughout its line when it introduces new notebooks early next year. PC makers are fighting back with their own Ultrabooks, a name coined by Intel. The Lenovo IdeaPad U300s is a great offering at about $1,000 with a 13-inch display.
Photo Credit: ConceivablyTech
Best budget flat-screen HDTV — The Samsung edge-lit 6000 series TV is one of the thinnest LCD HDTVs around — and it delivers crisp, colorful images. The 55-inch size is available for about $1,500. But you do sacrifice image contrast if you view it from more than 60 degrees off-axis, a compromise I often find comes along with less expensive models.
Best AM/FM radio — Radioheads know C. Crane as a company that provides an array of radios, antennas and other electronics. It tests and supports them all. I visited the company in Fortuna, Calif., and checked out the Sangean PR-D8 AM/FM Radio-MP3 Player/Recorder. It’s a powerful radio with a built-in digital recorder that records radio broadcasts, meetings or pretty much anything else on its SD card. The little white radio, priced around $170 but available now post Christmas for considerably less online, is light enough to travel with and it doubles as a bedside clock radio.
Photo Courtesy: C.Crane
Best stereo headphones — It’s a tie. Bowers & Wilkins’ P5 on-ear stereo headphones get you excellent sound in a stunning design — it’s made of aluminum and leather. I wish it had active noise-cancellation. For active noise-canceling headphones but slightly less acoustic results, the Bose QuietComfort 15 is among the best in class. Both products cost approximately $300.
Photo Credit: Bowers & Wilkins
Best Bluetooth cellphone headset — The Plantronics Voyager Pro HD headset brings you the best combo of voice quality, battery life and comfort. Starting at $99, this is my top pick. This latest model will even pick up your ringing phone when you put it on your ear.
Note: A version of this piece appeared in my regular column in the San Diego Daily Transcript, where I am a technology correspondent.