10. Optimus Maximus Keyboard â€” From Vaporware to Reality
We’ve lurched from voluble praise of its beauty to bitter sarcasm aimed at its price, but there’s one thing you can say for sure about the Maximus: It actually exists and you may order one. Hey, it’s more than can be said about other things in the vaporware stakes. This $1,536 beast of a ‘board isn’t the most expensive thing in our Top 10, but it’s not far off.
9. HP Blackbird 002
Who would have thought it? Hewlett Packard â€” peddler of bland office-bound boxes that remain spiritually beige even if color schemes have moved on â€” paired up with Voodoo and turned out the year’s most-distinctive desktop gaming tower. And good Lord, what a box! Even if similar specs are offered by a dozen other boutique outfits, none can match that sexy etched case.
8. Zune 2
OK, we’re batting for the other team. Defiantly decent on first look, Microsoft’s second outing kills the iPod Classic up close, and we’re not afraid to say it. Sure, Apple’s moved on with the iPod Touch, but with only 16 GB of flash storage, it’s more of a minor leaguer compared to other players. This year, the devil rules our roost.
7. Amazon Kindle
Given the choice of Sony style or the ugly, poke-your-eye-out lines of Amazon’s new e-reader, the one with free internet wins. Though its primary functionality is designed to funnel you into spending money at the Kindle store and is hampered by nickel-and-dime fees, skip to the web browser, and the unit shines. The e-ink display is, as ever, fabulous.
6. Asus Eee PC
The little laptop that could, the Asus Eee PC grew from summertime whisper to a whirling dervish of hype by fall’s end. Now the reviews are in, and the damn thing rules. Stuck in a thick pack of cheap ultraportables to appear at Christmas, including the Zonbu Mini, the OLPC and the Nanobook, it’s the one we like best.
5. Nokia N810 Tablet PC
Nokia’s N810 internet tablet is the pocket-sized computer an entire generation of geeks has dreamed of owning. So what if it isn’t a phone? Phones suck. This is the wired life given to you wirelessly. And because the operating system is built on Debian Linux, you can hack it any way you like.
4. Olevia 747i
Cheap, utilitarian and good, Olevia’s entire range of high-def TV sets puts more-expensive brands to shame. Its 747i is the king, a 47-inch beast packed with inputs, features and a picture that smokes sets that cost twice as much.
3. Archos 705 Wi-Fi
The just-released successor to the summer’s best portable media player, the Archos 705 Wi-Fi remains our undefeated favorite, even after the Cowon Q5W fell flat. Solid, powerful and pricey, it is to everyday MP3 players as Porsches are to Pintos.
2. Olympus E510
Nokia’s D40 kicked open the door to affordable DSLRs, but the Olympus E510 closes the book on them, thanks to aggressive discounts that bring this formerly sub-$1,000 model into the sub-$500 bracket. Sharp pics, top-notch image stabilization and 10 fashionably unfashionable megapixels make it the camera to have.
1. Jailbroken iPhone
Out of the box, Apple’s iPhone is horrifically crippled. With a mid-triple-digit price tag and ample power purring within, Cupertino’s flummoxing user restrictions did nothing but motivate the haxz0r community. Broken wide open by these ninja tinkerers, the Jesus phone comes to life with third-party homebrew software ranging from retro-gaming emulators to serious PIM apps. Why wait until February for carefully curated (and controlled) outside development, when you can have it now, and feel a little dirty while you’re at it?