We are fast approaching the “decision” moment for the holiday purchases, and while you still have time, why not start wrapping your head around those cool gadgets, many of which came out just recently. While previous guides were specific to laptops or smartphones, this one is more generic and include cameras, tablets and audio accessories. We look at a lot of devices, and we’ve compiled a list with some of our favorites – we can’t put all of them in there, but at the end of the day, we all have choices to make :)
Google Nexus 7
Powered by Android 4.1, the Nexus 7 is the best $199 7-inch tablet out there and for good reasons: Google pushed the envelope on the entertainment front like there is not tomorrow, providing a great 1280×800 IPS display, good performance for gaming thanks to the Tegra 3 processor and great video playback with good audio, and all of this packaged in a very light and well balanced body (only 340 grams – 0.4” thin).
Additionally using the device in portrait mode is very comfortable, which is great for reading books from your favorite book apps including Kindle, Nook or Google Books or for typing email.
Sony Alpha NEX 5R
The Sony Alpha NEX is one of Sony’s fastest growing business. The Sony Alpha NEX 5R has been tuned with additional manual controls to satisfy users who want more than a point-and-shoot experience, without going into the details (and price) of high-end/semi-pro models like the Sony Alpha NEX 7.
The Alpha NEX 5R has a new sensor with dedicated hardware that senses depth information in order to shorten the focus time. The net result is faster overall focus, but this advantage is compounded in situations where continuous autofocus is required, like action still shooting, or video.
With its 16.1 Megapixel sensor, the NEX 5R can shoot in an ISO range of 100-25600, which comes in handy in low-light situations. Those who like video recording will appreciate the fact that this NEX can capture 1080p video at 60FPS. This is a huge advantage over 30FPS, especially if there is fast motion in the video.
Finally, what we like the most about the NEX series is that it is very simple to use and its automatic settings are very smart. While the camera will let you tweak settings, the “full-auto” mode handles itself extremely well, in fact much better than our Ubergizmo standard-issue Canon 50D cameras.
Microsoft Surface RT
The design challenge that it solves is the hardest that tablet manufacturers are trying to address: how to provide a very thin, light and elegant tablet that features long battery life, a good display, a keyboard, a stand, a full physical keyboard, a cover, a full usb port and a micro SD card slot for less than $600?
To our surprise, Microsoft solved this equation and launched one of the most elegant and powerful tablet out there. Additionally, the Surface RT offers a true version of MS Office (minus Outlook), a big deal for all business travellers that are looking to replace their laptop with a tablet and do not need a full version of Windows 8.
For people coming from other mobile OSes, check whether your favorite apps have a Windows 8 RT version in the Microsoft store, applications are rolling out fast but make sure you get what you need on this side, and we would recommend to music lovers to check how their iTunes library can be transferred to the device.
Microsoft Surface RT features a 1366×768 10.6-inch IPS display, a quad-core Tegra 3 processor, 9 hours to 10 hours of video playback on one full battery charge, a full USB connector and a micro SD card-slot (more connectors available, check the complete specifications). The Surface RT 32GB costs $499, the 32GB with the black Touch Cover that integrates a keyboard retails for $599 and you get the 64GB with black Touch Cover for $699.
Canon EOS M
The Canon EOS M is Canon’s first product aimed at the compact mirrorless segment which was created by Panasonic and Olympus already four years ago. It is clear that users truly want compact cameras with interchangeable lenses, and are willing to pay top dollars because the convenience in terms of volume and weight is simply too compelling to ignore.
In terms of hardware, the Canon EOS M is a cousin of the larger Canon EOS 650D (also called Rebel T4i). The EOS M has a 18 Megapixel APS-C sensor and can shoot within an ISO range of 100-12800 in auto-mode. For still action shooting, there is a 4.3FPS burst mode, and in terms of video recording, the EOS M can capture 1080p video at 30FPS. There is no optical viewfinder, but a high-resolution display in the back allows you to frame your shots.
But there is more: the Canon EOS M is compatible with all the EOS hot-shoe accessories like microphones and flashes. Although the EOS M is not directly compatible with the standard EF lenses, there is an Canon lens adapter that provides a compatibility bridge. Update: Canon has confirmed that the EOS-M does not support remote shooting.
Google Nexus 4
The Google Nexus 4 is Google’s latest “pure Android” smartphone. By “pure Android”, Google means that there are no customization of the software whatsoever. This is Android as Google originally envisioned it, without any other brand-specific apps or “bloatware”. Additionally, the Google Nexus 4 is the “hero device” for Android 4.2 (also called Jelly Bean), the latest version of the world’s most popular mobile operating system. Read our Android 4.2 preview for more details. Android 4.2 offers many new features, but we found the Photo Sphere 360 degree panorama to be amazing.
The Nexus 4 hardware, built in collaboration with LG, is top-notch: the design has glass in the front and on the back, and the device uses LG’s latest LCD IPS technology. Inside the phone, a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro provides the necessary computing and graphics muscles to run the most demanding applications. Read our full Review of the Google Nexus 4
Motorola RAZR Maxx HD
Since our last smartphone guide, the Motorola RAZR Maxx HD has arrived on the market. Available only on the Verizon 4G LTE network, the Motorola RAZR Maxx HD can boast having the largest capacity battery on the handset market (3300mAh!) along with the longest talk time in the industry, according to independent reviews.
In addition to its amazing battery capacity, the RAZR Maxx HD has a sturdy construction that uses Glass, Aluminum and Kevlar. This makes it very hard to scratch, and the kevlar provides much more “grip” than plastic or glass, which reduces the chances for an accidental drop.
The Motorola RAZR Maxx HD also has advanced scripting capabilities that give users even more options to control the phone: for example, one can turn off the LTE radio automatically when the phone connects to the home/office WiFi. At night, the Maxx HD can automatically turn off all sounds and notifications, until the morning. If you want to know more about this device, read our complete review of the Motorola RAZR Maxx HD.
In 2010, Jawbone launched the JAMBOX, its very popular portable bluetooth speaker that delivers a powerful sound in a highly compact body. The device is great for playing music from a tablet or a smartphone, or watching a video with other people on a tablet in a car or at home.
This year, Jawbone introduced the BIG JAMBOX, a larger version of the JAMBOX that provides an even more powerful sound for people who would like to through a small party on the beach playing music from their smartphones or tablets.
The BIG JAMBOX is still relatively compact in relation to the sound quality (and volume) that it provides. It weighs only 2.7 pounds and the large control buttons on the top allow to easily operate it in the dark. It comes in three flavors: red dot, white wave and graphite Hex (photo) and is available for $299.