Apple iPad 2, MacBook Air, Samsung 6000 TV: Best Tech of 2011 (part two)

Apple’s MacBook Air is our Phil Baker’s choice for best notebook of the year. Check out all his picks for the best tech in 2011.

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.

Photo Credit: Amazon/Samsung

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.

Photo Credit: Plantronics

Note: A version of this piece appeared in my regular column in the San Diego Daily Transcript, where I am a technology correspondent.

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