Backed by critically acclaimed exclusives, strong third-party support and the most popular online multiplayer component available, the Xbox 360 undeniably won the current-gen console war. The system resonated most with casual and hardcore audiences because of Microsoft’s popular Xbox Live service. Gamers found themselves drawn into a virtual universe where they could download popular titles from an overly populated digital marketplace, stream multimedia services like Netflix and Hulu and interact with players across the globe. In Live’s do-it-all mentality, Microsoft discovered the central core for its next generation console: The Xbox One ($500).
Talk about shopping in advance
Oddly enough, the proliferation of electronic gadgetry, computer stuff and other digital goodies has made buying for the discerning sparkhead (we just coined that — please enjoy and proliferate at will) tougher. With this list, we aim to make the shopping a little simpler by covering suggestions for readers, photogs, movie buffs and gamers. Take a gander and start clicking; your techie giftee will thank you, probably with an email or holographic video message or something.
Apple and Microsoft dominate the laptop market with their respective Mac OS X and Windows systems, each exhibiting dynamic yet dissimilar user experiences. In considering the wide selection of convertibles and ultrabooks out at the moment, it only seemed fit to narrow down the top offerings from each computer platform. Here’s a look at the best laptops available now: The Acer Aspire S7 and the MacBook Air.
Three-dimensional printing, turning the ethereal into the tangible at the click of a mouse, is the future-tech wizardry of Roddenberry at his best. The Formlabs Form 1 3D Printer ($3,300), a former Kickstarter project that raised a whopping $2,945,885 (its initial goal: $100,000), is the latest and easily the greatest out there. Using stereolithography technology, the Form 1 could seamlessly render next year’s GP100 picks, now. If MakerBot is color television, Formlabs is 1080p.
PC gaming steps into the living room
This afternoon PC game service provider and developer Valve announced that Steam — their game platform for PC, Mac and Linux computers — surpassed 65 million accounts. What might be more impressive than a user base equivalent to the population of France is that Steam is still relatively unknown. Despite being significantly larger than Xbox Live and its 48 million subscribers (approximately Ukraine), Steam has never quite enjoyed the same limelight as other major consoles. Quietly though, Steam has become the go-to for PC gaming. 65 million users later, Steam is making a concerted push into the living room — and you can bet Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are watching with apprehension.
This one goes to 29
Smart folks in Cambridge, Massachusetts have estimated that the average American will spend a little under five and a half years driving during their lifetime. Meridian Audio and Land Rover have teamed up to make those years a bit more enjoyable. Drop 135,995 of your bucks on the Autobiography edition of the 2014 Range Rover and you’ll get the honor of experiencing the Meridian Signature Reference System: a 1700-watt, 29-speaker goliath of a system. And it’s even better than those numbers suggest. We break it down for you.
We've only just begun
There was a time when the only personality you could impart into your phone was through a polyphonic ringtone of the James Bond theme and a “Carbon fiber look” faceplate. Today things are a little bit different. Customization has been elevated to the next level by devices like the Motorola Moto X, which offers customized exteriors in materials like bamboo, wood and a ton of colored plastics. The HTC One Max (among others) has a fingerprint sensor to identify a user solely by his or her touch; the Moto X learns your voice; and LG’s G2 has an OS that can be customized in nearly every element. If you still think customization means a new background, you should head to Best Buy and get to know your new phone (and vice-versa). And it’s not just customization that’s gone off the mobile charts. We’ve rounded up five of the most exciting technologies that manufacturers are rolling into their phones today.
Masters in Mobile
We know what you’re thinking. Making three picks for the best smartphone of 2013 instead of crowning one ultimate winner is a total cop out. But our job here was clear: highlight innovations that benefit us all as users of smartphones. If there’s one defining comment to draw from our award winners below, it’s that a deliberate collaboration between hardware and software is critical to creating an excellent mobile device. Each of our Best Smartphone picks — the Nokia Lumia 1020, the Motorola Moto X and the iPhone 5s — pushes the boundaries of consumer technology and attempts to redefine the mobile experience in its own way.
Autofocus in Every Pixel
We know you feel tech savvy standing at your son’s baseball game with a digital SLR around your neck and a high-def camcorder over your shoulder. But with the latest technology from Canon, the digital SLR is finally capable of shooting high-def videos worth your time and effort. Ten years and seven iterations after releasing their game-changing 10D digital SLR, they’ve done it again with the 70D ($1199), a mid-range digital SLR for the photographic enthusiast who’s ready to shoot smooth videos right next to stunning stills.
As young men, we thought by the year 2000 we’d all be zipping around in Jetsons-style tubes from one place to the next. We don’t see any tubes, but Apple’s newest Mac Pro ($3000+) at least gives us hope that we may get there yet. This sneak peek into the future of the pro desktop has roused plenty of curiosity as the most powerful and smallest Mac Pro to date. With brains, beauty and brawn, this Mac might just be the best forward-thinking tech device around. Sorry, Rosie.
Thanks to 16MP smartphone cameras and the mirrorless revolution, the old point-and-shoot has been headed towards extinction. That’s not exactly the way Sony sees things. They stubbornly released the best damn pocket camera in the world, the RX100, last year. The mighty marvel’s massive one-inch sensor paired with a fast f/1.8 Zeiss lens effortlessly produced rich 20MP images, even in the novice hands of doting grandparents and hapless tourists. How did Sony respond to the positive reviews? They released the RX100 II ($748), which is even better.
Home Theater, Redifined
Buying a projector can be deceptive: the thrill of viewing on a much larger screen often blinds shoppers to the installation migraines ahead. The high starts to fall away at home when the need to run power and signal cables to the back of the living room becomes apparent. Where do you find HDMI cables longer than six feet in length? How do you discreetly get them to the projector? The BenQ W1500 ($1599) hopes to finally break the cycle. It’s the first projector to include a wireless HD transmission technology called WHDI, which broadcasts uncompressed, full HD video and audio signals (including 3D) over a 5GHz channel up to 65 feet away from the transmitter.
Lighter, Better, Faster, Stronger
The original iPad’s unveiling generated a buzz world-over, and for good reason: it looked like something out of the Jetsons, and brought to life Steve Jobs’ dream of a portable, easy-to-use device that allowed users to connect to the Internet, play games, and consume media. Although some didn’t see the value (as Tim Cook gleefully pointed out in yesterday’s Apple Keynote), it was undoubtedly a commercial success. Yesterday, we witnessed the newest members of the iPad family: the iPad Air and the iPad Mini. Follow along as we break them down.
Your new resource for all things Braun
Without the radio, there would be no Braun electric razor.
Sounds weird, right? But before Braun started producing cutting-edge electric razors — before they were even Braun — the precursor to the German company made components for radio sets. This was back in 1921, when Max Braun opened up a little shop in Frankfurt. Only eight years later, he began producing the sets himself. Under his vision and commitment to innovation, it wasn’t long before that little shop became Braun, one of Germany’s leading radio manufacturers.
Radios, you say? That’s right. And there’s a lot more about this storied brand, the most recognized name in electric shaving today, that you surely don’t know. In celebration of the new CoolTec razor, we’ve created an entire guide to Braun, including a complete history, a timeline of their most important innovations, a collection of kits for any traveling situation, and even a breakdown of the new CoolTec and its features. You seem to be growing long in the beard already — so click here to see it all.
Hope you don't have a fixed income
There was a time when photographers didn’t carry nine different lenses with their camera, a time when one wide-angle lens was enough to get an adroit photographer through the day because he realized that sometimes the best way to zoom in was to damn well walk closer to his subject. While most of us like having a versatile zoom lens, there’s something to be said for having only one focal length: when you shoot with a fixed focal length camera, you don’t take pictures, you take photographs. We’ve rounded up the top six “fixies” to get you started on your path towards being an artisan.
Orange is the New Black
Since 2010, San Francisco-based DSPTCH has designed rugged, functional camera straps that pair military-spec webbing and Paracord with high-quality hardware. They’re available in a variety of excellent, reserved hues, but we couldn’t help but wonder what a combination of blaze orange and matte black hardware might look like. Neither could DSPTCH — and so we’re pleased to introduce GP x DSPTCH straps in our signature color.
Hacking away gaming precedents
I watch from behind a dumpster as the man with the government employee wife saddles up to the gangster. It’s not a smart move. The gangster calls him a snitch, pulls out a bat. Warnings flash on my readout: crime probability 40%, now 55%, now simply “imminent” as the gangster cocks the bat and the man cowers. I step forward while whipping out my pistol and the gangster hoofs it, sprinting to a nearby vehicle and burning rubber through a red light. This is not real-life vigilante justice: it’s a hands-on sneak preview of Watch Dogs (and Assassin’s Creed IV).
Falling into the game
GTA V heralds a new era of gaming, one in which top studios will attract gamers by focusing on their interactions with the digital landscape — i.e., by creating more immersive worlds.
Protecting Your Interests and Theirs
In the face of what Apple has recently touted as a record-setting sales weekend, there’s one important feature of the iPhone 5S whose larger implications are flying under the radar of the smartphone-toting public: Touch ID. In case you’ve been too busy living to pore over Apple spec sheets, Touch ID refers to the new “fingerprint identity sensor” feature that allows iPhone 5s users to unlock their phones and even make purchases on iTunes using only their fingerprints. Just how secure is this tech? We examine.
Reflecting on the best
When in 2004 Epson released the R-D1, the world’s first mirrorless digital camera, photographers weren’t sure what to make of it. Ten years later every major camera company has thrown their proverbial hat into the mirrorless ring. In fact, with digital sensors equal to those found in DSLRs, interchangeable pro-quality lenses, and magnesium-alloy construction, mirrorless cameras are quickly becoming the choice of many professionals looking to downsize their gear. It’s safe to say 2014 will be the year of the mirrorless camera, and we’ve rounded up our favorites to help you prepare.
Coming soon to a galaxy near you
Pebble, Toq, Smartwatch 2,
Cupertino Wristbeauty — how did the explosion of the “smart watch” segment catch us so by surprise? While we were busy reeling, the Samsung Galaxy Gear ($299) for Galaxy Note 3 (and soon, the Galaxy S4 and SIII) has been declared potentially the best option yet. What exactly does that mean? We break it down.
Puzzling Over Professional Micro Four Thirds
Olympus’s new OM-D EM-1 ($1,400, body only) is way ahead of its time. Effectively an upgraded version of the already-capable E-M5, the E-M1 is an excellent shooter across the board, albeit one that can’t quite find its place in the market. We say: stay different, E-M1.
Taking photos... the long way
Handling incredibly dangerous chemicals and taking a single, earth-shattering shot — as much as it sounds like a recent happening in Breaking Bad, we’re actually talking about daguerreotype. Invented in the early 1800s, the labor-intensive process laid the groundwork for modern photography. Today, artists like Dan Carillo keep the tradition alive. This short film features incredible shots of Carillo’s daguerreotype process.
It's all in the wrist
The Pebble and the Samsung Galaxy Gear, along with the rumored coming of an Apple edition, have brought smartwatches to the forefront of gadget news. Each version so far has its particular pros and cons, but Qualcomm figures they have the market figured out with their newly released Toq. We break it down.
You’ve got the latest DSLR, a smattering of lenses and the best location in the world, but try as you might, things are still looking more Monet than Ansel Adams. Even with the best image stabilization technology and neurosurgeon hands, photos will loose their crispness around exposures longer than 1/20th of a second. Past that, you’re going to need something sturdy to rest on. Less is more, we say. Here are our three favorite monopods.
Bump the bass -- and finish that report
The majority of us have become extremely comfortable with the mediocre phonics that ooze through the speakers of our laptops and PCs or the less-than-stellar resonance produced from our headphones. This is sad, seeing as how providing a significant audio boost can transform your desk into the ultimate home entertainment console.
For those seeking a more potent and louder alternative to their built-in receivers or noise-canceling cans, we assembled this collection of awesome stereo monitors sure to have your ears ringing. No, they don’t have to break the bank (though they certainly can, if you’re the splurging type). From portable blasters to music studio amplifiers, each is Bona fide audio hardware powerful enough to enliven any Netflix, Spotify, or Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sessions at the computer counter. Now get jammin’.
You've never seen anything like this
Laser beams. Why aren’t laser beams everywhere? It’s 2013 — we’re supposed to be living in yesteryear’s science fiction by now, right? Leave it to the not-so-mad scientists at LG to second that notion. This 100-inch Smart TV (but one of many Smart TVs from LG) has a laser diode-based light source, which means more displayable colors with richer saturation, and since lasers are, well, lasers, the picture is fast enough to practically eliminate motion blur.
Just add water
While we love diving for its ability to transport us to an alien world, defy gravity and commune with nature, we also love it for the gear. Diving may be the most gear-intensive sport out there, with the possible exception of mountain climbing. Without your mask, you don’t see, without your tank and regulator, you don’t breathe, without your dive computer, you risk a nasty case of the bends. For our recent trip to the Bahamas, we packed along our favorite warm water diving kit, a collection of necessities, safety backups and just a little bit of style.
Yet again, Motorola has the chance to hijack the industry-wide road map for mobile development and design. Its latest creation, the Moto X, was destined by birthright alone to make headlines as the first smartphone fully conceived and nurtured under the wing of Motorola’s new parent, Google. Still, few expected the type of heir that was eventually unveiled
That’s because the Moto X refuses to compete in the specifications arms race currently occupying the rest of the Android market, (arguably sparked by another Motorola Device — the original Droid) and instead dares consumers and competing manufacturers alike with another question. Is a top-notch mobile user experience really still dependent on top-notch specs?
It’s a familiar concept for Apple devotees. But to somehow dismiss the X’s accomplishments as a simple grafting of Apple’s strategy onto the Android platform is a serious misjudgment. This phone blazes several important new trails, including taking the crown as the first smartphone to be made (or more accurately, assembled) right here in the U.S.A.
Luxury to Go
The recent rise in popularity of luxury headphones has created a large pocket of those who want high-quality audio, integration with their phone and portability but don’t want to look like they’re DJing a set at The Tunnel. The KEF M500 ($300) sits at the top of the heap for top-tier, portable headphones.