NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Being a consumer technology writer isn't all fun and video games. Last year, I sat through more PowerPoint presentations than any mere mortal should be subjected to in order to offer my readers sage advice on how to spend their gadget budget -- the kind of things that really do make my job fun.
Here are my top picks from what I've seen in the past year. I selected them for different reasons: Some are products worth buying now, others will be. Some are driving technology in new directions, while others have the potential to do so. Here, without further ado, are my favorites.
Apple's Jaguar OS ($129) -- It would have been easy to pick the new 17-inch iMac. But I had to ask myself, "Would I like it as much without Jaguar?" And the answer was a resounding "No." Quite simply, Jaguar is Unix for the masses -- a consumer version of the most stable operating system on the planet. Business users will love its ability to detect a wireless connection no matter where they roam. Consumers will be blown away by its simplicity and stability, as well as applications like iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie and iChat. Jaguar takes the operating system to a new level: It just works.
Samsung DLP Projection TVs (50-inch for $3,000) -- Attention movie junkies and sports fanatics. You no longer need to spend a fortune to own or have a media room the size of the Taj Mahal to house a big-screen TV. Samsung worked with Texas Instruments -- the creator of digital light processing (DLP) technology -- to develop a second-generation chip that sells at a fraction of its original cost. The result: Samsung's new widescreen DLP televisions have a picture that rivals the best LCD or Liquid Plasma screens, and they do it at much lower price.
Sony Clie NX70V ($599) -- Every so often, a device comes along that pushes the envelope for all others in its category. That's the case with the Clie NX70V. With its brilliant 640 x 480-pixel screen, this is simply the most amazing handheld I've ever seen. It comes with a thumb keyboard, voice recorder and built-in digital camera that shoots stills and video. You can even watch video via its built-in Memory Stick slot. And it's only 5.5" x 2.78" x 0.68." Pop an 802.11b card into its wireless slot and you can view full web pages. The Clie NX70V is truly a portable entertainment device for the future.
Danger HipTop (aka T-Mobile Sidekick; $199) -- OK, so the service is far from perfect. But of all the handhelds I've tried in the past year, this one felt the most comfortable in my hands. Its keyboard is perfectly balanced with a smooth action, which isn't surprising considering that Danger is pushing it as an IM device for kids. Then there's the crisp, high-resolution black and white screen. If Danger inks a deal with AT&T, Verizon (as rumored) or some other large carrier with greater reach, kids all over the country could be using this thing.
Toshiba hard drive PC cards ($399 for 5GB PC card) -- In 2001 Toshiba introduced a 5GB PC card the size of two credit cards stacked on top of one another. As a result, laptop users with PC card slots could backup large chunks of their hard drives or carry around a nearly unlimited music library. For 2002 Toshiba introduced a 20GB embedded hard drive that's the same physical size. As devices become smaller and more portable, the demand for compact internal storage has increased exponentially. These little cards enable music lovers to get 20GB of tunes on the new iPod, or 40GB of music on the PhatNoise car audio system. And maybe even movies down the road. Amazing.