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Must-have gadgets
By Nick Burklow

I was given the task of creating a list of must-have gadgets for this month's column. Being the techno-nerd that I am, my first thought was, "I don't want to be without any of my gadgets."

Then reason settled in, and I began to think of the items I use on a daily basis. I also polled a few non-techie friends to see what items they use on a daily basis. My top five items follow. 

In fifth position, we have the mighty electric toothbrush. This made the list for two reasons. First, my dentist said they work better. I tend to trust her opinion, so I picked one up. After nearly a year of use, I have not been disappointed. Second, it's one of the few gadgets I use every single day, twice a day. My personal toothbrush is a Sonicare Flexcare toothbrush with sanitizer. It costs around $120 online. If that price causes you to cringe, don't worry. There are other models that start around $40.

Placing fourth on the list is a camera. From my last column, you know I'm a big fan of the new micro four-thirds cameras. However, the term "camera" is very broad. I use a Sony point-and-shoot that's about 4 years old, a Canon T1i Digital SLR and the camera on my iPhone. It doesn't matter what you carry, really. These days most cameras get the job done just fine.

Keeping a camera with me all the time is sort of like my security blanket. For most people, I would suggest keeping a compact point-and-shoot with you. Something like the Canon PowerShot SD1300IS ($125) or the Sony DSC-H55 ($179) would do the trick and not break the bank. Bonus: most digital cameras take decent video on the fly as well.

No. 3 on the list is headphones. I have a passion for audio gear, and headphones top that list. I don't expect everyone to run out and buy a $400 pair of Westone UM3X's or $1,500 Ultrasone Edition 8's. However, replacing the cheap earbuds that come with your iPod or cell phone is a must.

A good pair of headphones can really make a difference and can be had for as little as $20.

My recommendation would be the MEElectronic M6 (with or without the microphone, depending on your needs). You can find them on Amazon.com starting at $20. I use these on an almost daily basis, despite having that $400 pair of UM3X's. 

In the runner-up spot is a laptop. I remember my dad coming home from work with a borrowed computer when I was growing up. It was in a suitcase (a large one at that), and it had a tiny orange monochrome screen. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world at the time.

Back then, and until recently, desktop computers were where it was at if you wanted hardware for serious work.

For the past couple of years, the laptop has been outselling the desktop. Laptops come in many different forms, and there's one out there to meet your needs.

For that reason, I honestly don't have a recommendation in this category.

If you're in the market for a new computer, the laptop is definitely the way to go. Think about the type of computing you do (video games, office work, Internet browsing, etc.) and then research what type of laptop would be best suited for your needs.

My personal laptop is an Acer Aspire 4520, and it's about 3 years old. I have upgraded it to Windows 7 64 bit (highly recommended), and I added 4GB of RAM and a 320GB 7200RPM hard drive to it. 

In the top spot - my No. 1 gadget, above all others - is a smart phone. I use an iPhone 4 but have used a Google Nexus One with Android on it as well. Smart phones have turned into super phones over the past year. They do it all. 

My phone is my main camera, music player, mobile Internet browser, e-mail device, video player, WiFi hotspot, alarm clock, video game machine, personal organizer ... and oh yeah, it makes calls, too.

The iPhone and Android-based phones are the best place to start if you're in the market for a new phone. If e-mail is your main goal, don't rule out RIM's BlackBerry, either. Windows mobile is the new kid on the block, and I suggest giving it a year to get some good developers on board first. 

Remember, it's all about the apps these days. So, if you're thinking of switching to a different platform, make sure the phone you're looking at will run the applications you use most often.


Story published Friday, March 4, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 2 )

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