The end of the year provides us with the perfect excuse to look back at some of the coolest gadgets that have come out of the consumer electronics giants of east Asia in the last year. As you might expect, the continuing convergence of all sorts of products into smaller and more functional devices was a big theme in 2007. Some of the gadgets also reminded us of the importance of services that often go hand-in-hand with hardware and are a big but often forgotten part of the "cool factor" we attach to such products.
Take for example Casio's Exilim EX-S880. Like many other digital still cameras on the market it does a good job of shooting video but Casio innovated by adding in a capture mode that records videos in the format preferred by YouTube. Combined with a desktop application to upload the videos, this means that movies can be online minutes after you've shot them and with nothing more than a couple of mouse clicks.
On the hardware side, there's been plenty of impressive gadgets and we've also witnessed the birth of a completely new product category: OLED (organic light emitting diode) televisions. Several companies have been promising these for years and in the end it was Sony that made it first to market. You've got to see this TV to fully appreciate its coolness! At just 3 millimeters thick, the TV was the star of October's Ceatec show in Japan and leads off our look back at the coolest gadgets of 2007.
Sony OLED TV
Without a doubt the coolest product of the year was Sony's OLED TV. First shown as a prototype at CES in January, the commercial version came along in October and didn't disappoint -- except perhaps on price. The set has an 11-inch OLED panel and is 3mm thick. OLEDs offer several advantages over LCD and PDP technology, including wider viewing angles, faster response time, and better contrast and colors. However, the technology is difficult to manufacture and the OLED material degrades over time. Sony said the XEL-1 has a viewing life of 30,000 hours, which allows a user to watch eight hours of television every day for 10 years. The television went on sale in Japan on Dec. 1 for ¥200,000 (US$1,750) and promptly sold out. It's not only a cool TV set but perhaps the first product for a few years from Sony that really makes you say "wow." After the turmoil of recent years could Sony finally have its mojo back?
Toshiba Dynabook SS RX1
It may not look very special at first glance, but pick up the Dynabook SS RX1 (called the Portege R500 in some markets) and you'll immediately realize why it was one of the coolest laptop PCs we saw all year. This 12.1-inch screen laptop weighs just 768 grams in its lightest configuration -- more than 100 grams lighter than Sony's impressive Vaio G laptop. At the computer's heart lies a 1.06GHz Intel Core2 Duo processor and on some models you'll also find 802.11n Wi-Fi. Toshiba has put a lot of work into smart design so that it's thin and light. The laptop has also shed a few grams thanks to the use of a 64G-byte solid-state disk (SSD) in place of a conventional hard-disk drive. It costs around US$2,000.
Casio YouTube digital still camera