Best of 2006

bestof2006.jpgWelcome to 2007! With the new year, comes a look back at some of the best products of 2006. Come with me and I’ll run down my Top Ten of the year. Some are no-brainers, while some may surprise you.

ipod.pngApple ?s iPod+iTunes
The best selling portable music player is still Apple ?s iPod, with the various upgrades (especially the new generation of iPod Nano), there is something for everyone who wants to listen to their music on the go.

The 5.5 Generation added a brighter screen and some modifications to the interface, but other than that, it was the video that made this one of the best products of the year.

There was a lot of drum thumping around Thanksgiving that people were abandoning iTunes in droves, which led to the speculation by a certain ?Goat of 2006 Award Winner ? that most iPod owners were pirating music instead of buying it legally. As I said in a recent Coolness Roundup podcast, the problem isn ?t that people are abandoning iTunes, as much as iPod was a hot holiday item and it wouldn ?t be until after Christmas that those receiving would begin making purchases.

Looks like I wasn ?t too far off the mark. According to Hitwise, iTunes sales skyrocketed 413% on Christmas day, out performing Zune.net 30 to 1. Ouch!

“For the third holiday season in a row, the iPod has been the must-have Christmas gift, ? said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research at Hitwise. ?Competitive offerings have not yet succeeded in capturing the attention of music listeners, and the surge in visits to the Apple Store shows that iPod owners are also engaged in filling and accessorizing their new devices. ?

tivo.jpgTiVo Series 3 PVR
Other PVRs pale in comparison to TiVo ?s slick interface and ease of use. The long awaited series 3 released earlier this year that not only supports HD, but has built in cable card support to boot! It ?s still a little expensive ($800), but it is well worth it. If you plan on retiring your Series 2, and purchased the Lifetime Service package, you can transfer that to your Series 3 for only $200 (only a short time remaining on that deal).

macbookpro.jpgMacBook Pro
This laptop has been one of the hottest (literally) computer products released this year. With its new Intel chip, the MacBook Pro is able to compete with other PCs with similar specs. Unfortunately, not all software for the Mac is Universal Binary (yet), which causes some applications, like Photoshop, to be significantly slower. For those considering making the switch, but don ?t want to abandon Windows forever, applications like Bootcamp and Parallels allow you to install and run Windows XP and PC software.

eos30d.jpgCanon EOS 30D
This successor to Canon ?s very popular EOS 20D, the EOS 30D has improvements in spot metering, continuous shooting speed, and 100,000 shutter cycle life. Unfortunately this 8.2 megapixel camera uses the same chip at the EOS 20D, but on the plus side, the 30D is much cheaper than the 20D. I love the low light capabilities of this camera, and I’m shooting new images, every single day.

Consumers have realized that point and shoot cameras are not all they are cracked up to be, and having the ability to swap out lenses, add more professional flash, and more is the way to go.

logitech.jpgLogitech FreePulse Wireless Headphones
It is the one thing I hate about my portable media players – headphones. More specifically the cables that continually get tangled up in everything that I do, and if I move more than 1 foot away from my desk, the iPod goes crashing to the floor. Even when I’m outside exercising, wires make it combersome to run or walk comforably with out the wire yanking the headphones from my head.

The solution is wireless headphones. Connect the Bluetooth transmitter to your iPod, slip the carbon spring-steel headband around your ears, and enjoy up to six hours of wireless music on the rechargeable batteries. Perfect for exercise, cleaning the house, or getting it on ?

garmin.jpgGarmin StreetPilot C-series
Whether it ?s the C550 or the C320, the Garmin StreetPilot GPS navigation systems are simply the best around. Perfect for those not accustomed to ?hi-tech ? gadgets, the StreetPilot is simple to use, with clear graphics and audio. GPS will get you where you need to go (and back again too).

This is one of those MUST HAVE products. Never again worry about getting lost, or taking a wrong turn that leads you to parts best left untraveled. Plus, many of these have a card reader that makes installing updates a snap.

slingboxpro.gifSlingbox Pro
If you are a busy jet setter, you don ?t have that much time to sit in front of your home theatre soaking up your favorite programs from you TiVo Series 3. The Slingbox Pro allows you to connect up to four devices in your home theatre and stream the content to any computer in the world. Even if you are stuck in the airport, you can watch last week ?s episode of Lost while you wait.

With a $50 HD dongle, you can even stream your HD content with the Slingbox Pro ($249). Don ?t waste your time with the other two versions in the new SlingMedia family, the Slingbox Pro is the way to go.

pioneermt01.jpgPioneer MT-01 Power Line Sound System
I like music wherever I am about the house. But walking around my own house with my iPod on is a little silly ? especially when my wife is asking me to take out the garbage. Instead, I would really like to be able to walk into a room and have my music follow me.

The Pioneer MT-01 Power Line Sound System allows you to do just that using up to six speakers and the power lines in your house. Connect your music device, USB drive, computer, or so on to the Sound Station, then plug the speakers throughout your house. When you walk into a room, motion sensors in the speakers kick on allowing you to listen to the Coolness Roundup podcast everywhere.

The downside is the speakers are sold separately from the standard bundle. The bundle includes the sound station, one large network speaker, and a small 5-watt network speaker along with a remote. Also, these speakers are only available in Europe as of this writing.

skyscout_210x162.jpgCelestron SkyScout
Equipped with GPS tracking and magnetic sensors to determine orientation, this palmcorder-sized device allows you to point at any object in the sky and with the press of a button you can read or listen to all the information about the celestial object. If you are not in a point-and-click mood, turn on the Tour function and listen as the SkyScout shows you important planets, constellations, and other stellar objects (6000 objects). For only $399, the SkyScout is equipped with a USB port to connect and download updates, and has a port to accept future add-on packs.

Whether you ?re hiking, camping, or just happen to be one of the lucky few living in the country and have access to the beautiful night sky, the SkyScout from Celestron will turn your backyard into a living planetarium. A must-have product for any budding astronomer, family wanting to get away from the television, school astronomy program and more.

batman.jpgLife Size Batman Statue
Okay, so this isn ?t an electronic gadget or gizmo, but what could be more impressive than having your own life-sized batman statue standing guard over your office, home theater or game room? This seven-foot fiberglass statue is impressive but not cheap — $1500, not including shipping.

Woot!
I could go on and on, but that gives you an idea of what I think made 2006 a great year for concumer tech. Did your favorite product make the list? Tell us what your favorite product of the year was by clicking on the comment button below.

And if you want to find out who made it on the list for the Goats and Gods of 2006, check out the Coolness Roundup podcast , where Charlie White and I run down the great, and not so great.

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