My 10 Favourite Gadgets Of 2009

2009 has been a pretty amazing year for the discerning gadget lover. From Microsoft finally fixing the disaster that was Vista with Windows 7, to the surge of Android handsets, DSLRs that shoot HD video and the arrival of some pretty decent video on demand services, 2009 has had plenty to keep a gadget writer busy. Here are my favourite gadget moments over the past 12 months:

1. Palm Pre

Also put this one down as one of the biggest disappointments for 2009. Not because it’s a shit phone (although it didn’t review fantastically), but because Palm still haven’t gotten around to launching a GSM version for Australia. Hey Palm – it’s been almost 12 months. How long do you need?

But when it was first shown off at CES, the excitement was palpable for phone nerds around the world. WebOS was the first real mobile operating system that looked like it could challenge the iPhone for both ease of use and style. Of course, so far it’s been extremely limited in offering the same level of versatility as the iPhone, but then again it took Apple 12 months to get the iPhone right…

2. Windows 7

I’m a Mac user, but that didn’t stop me from getting all excited by Microsoft launching Windows 7. Mostly because it means that the review PCs I get sent will no longer be running that hideously annoying Vista operating system, but also because it’s actually pretty good. Not good enough to tempt me away from OS X, but enough to make me install it on my MacBook with VMWare.

I guess I should mention Snow Leopard here as well, although it lacked the same level of glitz and glamour as its Microsoft counterpart. It also borked my mobile internet key, which made me a sad panda.

3. Canon 7D

To be honest, this could go to any digital SLR that happens to incorporate HD video into its spec sheet. But I’m a Canon man, and the 5D MkII was technically released in 2008.

Despite the fact I own two DSLRs, I really, really want to upgrade to the 7D (or the 5D Mk II). Being able to shoot HD video from the same device as gorgeous photographs – not to mention the fun you could have with different lenses – is really enticing.

Also, honourable mentions should go out to the Micro Four-Thirds cameras that hit shelves this year. I like them a lot, but for the money, I’d probably stick with a proper DSLR…

4. Flip Mino HD

Sure, it’s been out in the US for years, but the Flip got an Australian launch this year. And it supports my mantra that “close enough is good enough”. The recorded video quality doesn’t compare to a proper video camera, (or even a DSLR that shoots video), but for most purposes, the compact size and convenience is all you need. It’s especially great for videoing babies, I can tell you from first hand experience, and is cheap enough that anyone can buy one.

5. Video on Demand

ABC launched iView last year, and it was awesome, but this year has seen a few developments that have taken VOD to the next level in Australia. Microsoft’s Zune video marketplace on the Xbox is great for HD movie streaming – provided you’ve got the data in your broadband plan to support it. Sony has partnered with the ABC to launch iView on the PS3, and although the quality could be improved, the convenience is brilliant and TiVo’s new Caspa service has the potential to completely change the way people view TV.

On top of that, there was Foxtel’s Download service, which despite its limits shows us that the networks (and PayTV operators) are starting to take video on demand seriously. Next year will be even bigger for VOD I’m sure, but we’ll have to remember that it really started to take off this year.

6. HTC Hero

Despite taking way too long to actually hit shelves in Australia, this is a shining beacon for the Android platform (unless you’re on Optus, who are blocking paid apps on the Android Market). While the US would argue that the Motorola Droid is a superior handset, there’s still no word on the Droid seeing an Aussie release, so I’m going to stick by the Hero.

Having said that though, it’s not good enough to sway me from my iPhone. But who knows what next year will bring…

7. Amazon Kindle

I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this one, but I love my Kindle. Here’s a little anecdote for you – about six months before the Kindle launched, I had a bookshelf custom made to fit my study. It’s 2.1m tall and 1.8m wide. And it’s overflowing with real books. My point is that the Kindle hasn’t replaced books, but supplements them. The fact that you can download a book pretty much anywhere and be reading it within a minute is amazing. We just need to get the Aussie publishers to stop being asshats and stopping big named authors’ books being published on the platform…

8. PlayStation 3 Slim

They dropped the price to less than 500 bucks. That’s the magic price point. If I didn’t already have one, I’d have jumped on the newer version of the PS3 – $500 for a Blu-ray player, an HD gaming rig and a DLNA media streamer? Yes please. PlayTV and iView compatability are the icing on the cake here, as are the fantastic exclusive games like Uncharted 2 and Infamous.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love my 360. But the PS3 has a bit more to offer this year. The PSP Go! on the other hand…

9. The Third-Gen Toyota Prius

Not because of its green credentials. Not because they use less fuel. Not because of the solar panels or the fact that they’re so full of cool gadgets you almost need a degree it gadgetry to drive one. No, the reason the Prius makes the list is because of the HUD on the windscreen that tells you your speed, how economically you’re driving and – if you have the satnav installed and operating – which way to turn as you’re driving. It’s like driving in every futuristic car game I’ve ever played, and it’s awesome. Hopefully we’ll see the HUD become standard for all cars.

10. The NBN

Technically it isn’t available yet, but the NBN still has to make the top 10 gadgets of the year. The idea of 100Mbps broadband speeds for everyone is a huge investment in the digital future of Australia, and one of the most exciting things any government has attempted for years.

Of course, then K-Rudd and his buddy Conroy went and fucked up that announcement by pressing ahead with their mandatory filtering policy, which will probably kill off any speed and data limit benefit the NBN gives Australian customers.

Disagree with my top 10? Why not let me know what I got wrong, or simply share your top 10 Gadgets of 2009 in the comments section below.

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