Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]
By Charlie White, Mashable, 14 April 2012.
By Charlie White, Mashable, 14 April 2012.
Putting our reviewers’ hats on this week, we got our hands on four exaggerated examples of state-of-the-art tech, including a laughably enormous television, a monster camera, a whole-house digital video recorder and a world-class workstation shoehorned inside a 27-inch monitor.
But even that wasn’t enough. As is our wont, we peered into the future at a lovely flower-shaped solar satellite, thought we were in the future when we saw an HD broadcast system that you can carry anywhere, discovered a hard drive whose astonishing speed gives us a peek at what all computers will soon be able to do and lusted after a unique timepiece that was the darling of the tech industry this week.
Enjoy those future-forward objects and a lot more on Top 10 Tech This Week - the most concentrated, efficient and exciting tech coverage on (and off) this planet.
1. Flower-Shaped Solar Satellite
This elegantly shaped satellite has controllable mirrors that gather sunlight around the clock, turning that sunlight into energy and then sending it back to Earth with an on-board microwave transmitter. Sound far-fetched? Not to NASA, which is funding this spectacular idea.
The basic design of the unit is underway, and miniature prototypes to test the concept are in the offering. But there's no word on when such a satellite will be ready to begin generating power from space.
2. New Video of Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse
Behold, the world's fastest roadster: the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse, first rolled out in February and now depicted in a new video that shows the 1,200hp projectile in the wild.
How fast is it? How does a 0-to-62 mph time of 2.6 seconds and a top speed of 255mph grab you? But good luck getting insurance on this US$2.64 million vehicle.
3. Nikon D4
The awesome Nikon D4 just shipped to eagerly awaiting professionals, bringing even more spectacular low light performance than its predecessor, along with new-found video-shooting prowess. Mashable's Pete Pachal got his hands on this beast and was astonished at its ability to shoot usable pics in near-darkness.
It's absolutely great in low light, and you can crank up its sensitivity to a native maximum of 12,800 ISO. For those who understand such things as ISO numbers, that's a spec that will make jaws drop. Even though Pete called it "crazy big and heavy" and wished it had an articulating LCD, he felt like the paparazzi strutting around with this thing.
Beyond its pro specs, it's surprisingly easy to use, with multiple redundant buttons to adjust things quickly rather than diving into menus on its LCD screen. Another surprising capability is its 10-frames-per-second rapid-fire shooting. The pros will gladly plunk down their US$6,000 for this highly capable piece of digital photographic hardware.
4. Dish Hopper Whole-Home DVR
Dish rolled out its Hopper Whole-Home DVR over the past few weeks, and we got a chance to extensively test it in real-world conditions. We found the system to be super-powerful and good enough to give TiVo a run for its money.
Dish's main Hopper 2000 DVR connects to smaller units it calls Joeys, which stream their video via Ethernet or coaxial cable from the main Hopper unit. Then, you can watch any of the recordings (or three different TV programs live) from up to four locations in your house. A standout feature is its Prime Time Anytime capability, constantly recording all three hours of prime time, seven days a week on the four major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox).
Joey Streaming Unit
The streaming unit for additional locations, called a Joey just like a baby kangaroo, can be stood up on a stand like you see here and hidden behind the TV. Enabling that trick is its radio-frequency (RF) remote that doesn't need to be pointed directly at the Joey (or Hopper). I also appreciate its clever Remote Control Locator, making the remote sound a beep when you press a button on the set-top box.
Hopper and Joey Inputs and Outputs
There's an alphabet soup of of inputs and outputs in the back of both units, including HDMI, USB, eSATA, component, optical audio and coax.
The Hopper's user interface takes a little getting used to, but once you've learned the intricacies of its complicated remote and almost-intuitive user interface, it works well.
The highly compressed picture quality isn't as good as HD over-the-air broadcasts or even the compressed video from most cable systems, but it's acceptable if you're not using an 80-inch HDTV. And the Hopper can hold 250 hours of programming on its 2TB hard drive.
This whole-home DVR doesn't come cheap, though, costing you US$10 per month for the system and US$7 more for each Joey - and that's in addition to whichever satellite subscription package you choose. If Dish could raise the video quality by a couple of notches, this could be a great system.
5. Livestream Broadcaster
It's never been easier to broadcast a live stream of video from remote locations, especially since Livestream Broadcaster burst on the scene this week. It's a complete US$495 system that revolves around a box that you attach to a camcorder, letting you stream HD video live to the web via Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G.
Looks like a quick and easy way to get live professional-quality 720p video online. No small feat, considering that other live broadcasting kits could run you more than US$5,000 - and even that is surprisingly cheap, doing something that would have been considered a miracle 10 years ago.
6. First In-Vehicle Wireless Charging System
If you've tried wireless charging, you know how wonderful it is to free yourself from plugging in that pesky cable. Now Chrysler's Mopar division has introduced that surprisingly handy convenience to your car, with the industry's first in-vehicle wireless charging system.
Just like my favourite Energizer Inductive Charging system, you must first place your iPhone, BlackBerry, Android smartphone or MP3 player into a special sleeve, and then when you place the device in this little compartment underneath the car radio, it begins charging as soon as you start your car.
Available in the second quarter of this year (and also built into the 2013 Dodge Dart), the system costs US$200 plus installation. But what I'd like to see is this wireless charging capability built in to all smartphones, eliminating the need for that slightly bulky sleeve and making it even easier to charge without plugging.
7. Sharp 80-Inch HDTV
Sure, you've been able to get gigantic HDTVs before, but now Sharp has made such pleasures significantly more affordable with its 80-inch LC80LE632U HDTV, available for a few months now. I've been waiting for a TV this size for years, and as soon as I saw the price dipping below US$4000, I bought one of these for myself.
How do I like it? It's simply magnificent. Play a Blu-ray disk or any 1080p video, and its quality and super size matches that of any movie theatre. Compared with my previous 55-inch HDTV, this 80-inch behemoth effectively doubles the screen area, and crosses that line between watching a TV and being in an immersive theatre environment.
The downside? This enormous screen size brings out the worst in lower-quality content, showing off every image artefact, making some HDTV content look lame and rendering any standard-definition content unwatchable. It's also difficult to get it perfectly set up, but once you find that sweet spot, it's well worth the price of admission.
Note: Prices are relatively low on this model, probably because there's a new 3D model soon to be released. Because I loathe 3D, that didn't make any difference to me.
8. Spectacularly Fast Hard Drive on a Card
What's this? A circuit board? Yes, but what you're looking at is the future. Spinning hard drives will go the way of the dodo bird, and soon all storage will be plugged directly into your motherboard, giving you blazing speed when storing and retrieving your beloved data.
Sure, this technology is possible now, but it's still way too expensive for mere mortals. Case in point: This 400GB Intel PCI-Express 910 SSD costs US$1929, and the 800GB version costs US$3859. They'll be available mid-year, but wait a couple of years, and I predict these drives will cost about a 10th of what they do now, bringing their mind-blowing speed to the rest of us.
9. Pebble Smartwatch
The Pebble smartwatch was the darling of the tech industry this week. Minutes after it was offered on crowd-sourced funding site Kickstarter, its popularity exploded, garnering US$100,000 in the first two hours of availability on Wednesday. By Saturday, it's basking in the glow of more than US$2.48 million worth of funding after just three days.
Why such instant popularity? It'll probably be the first smartwatch to link up to iPhones via Bluetooth, notifying you of incoming emails, messages and calls, tracking runs and bike rides and telling you the time, all on its e-paper display. And oh yeah, it also works on Android phones.
Could this be the beginning of a resurgence in the wearing of watches? You sure can't beat the ability to tell the time and check your messages with both hands free. Pledge US$115, and you'll have one in your hands of the time it's released around September of this year.
10. HP Z1 All-In-One Workstation
When I first showed you press photos of the HP Z1 all-in-one workstation a couple of months ago, it was intriguing enough. But now that I've been testing one for the past week, I'm even more impressed.
HP Z1 Back
Highlights: Its extraordinary power is a power user's dream, its 27-inch 1-million-colour display is the best I've ever seen, and it's so quiet, even when under intense video rendering loads, you can barely hear it unless you put an ear right next to it.
Inside the HP Z1
This is not just a garden-variety computer - it's a monster. Its high-end workstation-class NVIDIA Q4000M graphics card crunches through gigantic graphics, takes on huge animation projects and edits video as if it's cutting through butter.
HP Z1 Service Mode: Leaning Back
This one we tested is loaded to the hilt with an Intel Xeon E3-1280 quad-core processor, high-end graphics and two 300GB solid-state drives, tipping the scales at US$5673. The good news? You can get the base model with that gorgeous display for a mere US$1899. Highly recommended.
[Source: Mashable. Edited. Top image added.]