My tech colleagues at Discovery News and I are celebrating one year of fun gadget coverage. But since we’re sprawled across the country, there will be no cake, streamers or balloons. Instead, we have a slideshow highlighting our favorite gadgets. This includes headphones, smartphones and even a rotary phone. It was hard to describe my favorites in 200 words or less, so here’s the fuller version.
By far, my most prized gadget is the Canon 5D Mark II, a camera I’ve always admired from afar and feel fortunate to have had for the better part of the last year.
This camera is the result of a mutual splurge between my boyfriend and me. When we saw a within-reach price tag on Slickdeals around Christmas time, we pulled the trigger and decided we’d use our end-of-year bonuses to buy each other a camera we’d share.
I know photography isn’t just about the equipment, that the eye behind the lens is much more important. But after feeling stymied on a crop-sensor camera for several years, I found a world of new, dramatic and beautiful images had opened up for the first time. It amazes me sometimes to hear photographers choosing other cameras because they wanted something with more dynamic range, more pixels, more speed or more of something else. But to me, the 5D is a trusty companion that’s just right.
I love, hate, love to hate, and hate that I love numbers. A result of my imagined neurosis, I find myself often tracking, plotting and charting. And when it comes to keeping tabs on one’s own life, I look to Stephen Wolfram — yes, of computational engine Wolfram Alpha — for inspiration.
This man has so much data that he can tell you his keystroke count on some random day in 2003. (What was I doing in 2003? Probably solving for x.) I’d only drive myself insane if I tried to log and capture so much minutia in my life, but I more than welcome gadgets that’ll take care of the heavy lifting. Displaying it beautifully on the Web is just icing.
Though I have to sheepishly admit the Fitbit pedometer enthusiastically overcounts my steps, I feel the tracker is effective keeping me active. Its slim profile also makes it less cumbersome than some of its direct competitors. I’m still not quite over the review unit I lost while hiking the treacherous Kalalau Trail in Hawaii (RIP Fitbit). Worst of all, I never got credit for the 20,000 steps, each way, because I didn’t get a chance to sync it first — a design challenge it needs to overcome (see Withings).
One of the first fitness gadgets I’ve ever reviewed, I believe the Withings set a ridiculously high standard for everything else to come. I can’t say I’ve had a more seamless gadget experience. After connecting it to the wireless Internet, the scale requires no further effort. Just step on, and it’ll tell you your weight, body fat percentage and BMI, and send all that information to the Web. The dashboard I especially dig because this data is charted over time, giving great insight into weight fluctuations (eg. wow, I put on a few pounds over Thanksgiving weekend).
Ever since stepping on the Withings scale the first time all those months ago, I expected all tracking gadgets to work like it. But all have fallen short to its user experience. Even Fitbit’s answer to the wireless scale, the Fitbit Aria, failed to meet expectations despite it obviously drawing much of its v1 product design from the competitor. Developers, take note. Withings should be pushing you to constantly ask: How can I make this a more seamless experience?