As I look back on 2012, a number of products stand out as memorable. I figured I’d use my last column of the year to take a moment to recall each one and what made it special.
This is also the time I look back and pick my product of the year — the one product that I just can’t live without.
In no particular order:
The Chili Pad
For years I wondered why someone didn’t use the technology that was used to cool astronauts and race drivers in consumer clothing and beds.
This is important to me, because my wife likes it warm and I like it cool at night, which used to mean either I was sleeping in a pool of my own sweat or she was bundled up like Nanook of the North.
Well the Chili Pad was what I asked for.
It circulates water as warm as 118 or as cold as 45 degrees for each side of a king or queen sized bed to ensure both parties have the temperature they need and there is no fight for the thermostat.
The Kindle Fire HD
I don’t go anyplace without my Kindle Fire HD. This little tablet has been my constant companion when waiting for appointments and on long plane rides.
I read the Iron Druid Chronicles — at least the current five books — while I was traveling last week.
I can’t tell you how great it is to get hooked on a series on a plane and then, when I have a WiFi signal, to get the rest of the books and keep going.
It’s easy to use, and I even use it to shop on Amazon from time to time.
Nokia Lumia 920
I used a lot of phones throughout the year, but by far my favorite is the Nokia Lumia 920.
What really makes the difference for me is the quality of the camera — currently the best in market on a phone. This is because it uses both high quality lenses and has active image stabilization.
I rarely use any of my real cameras anymore, and I rarely had them with me in the first place. This ability to take great pictures on the fly has helped me capture a number of moments I’d otherwise have missed.
Given Windows Phone 8 is similar to Windows 8, it is easy to use — for me,anyway — and very fast (one button) from pouch to picture.
Based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon technology, this phone is big — but for me bigger has always been better, and it is also one of the most attractive phones I’ve ever used.
Lenovo ThinkPad X Series
Of all of the notebooks I used this year, the Lenovo ThinkPad X Series remains my favorite.
The reason is that it is well made, has the wonderful ThinkPad keyboard, wireless antennas that get signal when no one else is getting it, and a battery that will fast-charge to near 80 percent in 30 minutes.
Lenovo’s high quality and focus on the laptop market has allowed it to grow by double digits and increase share at a time when its peers seem to be losing share.
A great screen, no issues, nice design, and fast recharge battery made this my favorite notebook this year. It’s the best Intel-based mobile product I’ve used all year.
Microsoft Surface Tablet
Microsoft’s Surface tablet is amazing.
It does most of what a notebook does, it is paper light, and it has an amazing battery life that appears to exceed 10 hours.
I’ve carried this on long trips and left my notebook at home, and while I miss having Outlook or a TiVo client to play back my TV shows, that 10-hour battery life and low weight trump these problems by a significant margin.
Who knew Microsoft, of all companies, could build a product this good? Based on Nvidia Tegra 3 technology, this product truly knocked my socks off.
Current Motor Performance Super Scooter
The Performance Super Scooter from Current Motor really impressed me this year. Suddenly I found I could almost live on an electric.
I still think an electric scooter makes so much more sense than either an electric car or an electric motorcycle, largely because electrics work best over a short range — because of the charging time — and a scooter provides better weather protection. Still, motorcycle riders often give me stink-eye when they rumble past me.
The extra performance of the Super Scooter — which costs about 14 percent more — makes all the difference in the world. It allowed me to buzz up and down the freeway at around 70 and not have someone trying to drive over me in the slow lane.
This scooter blends tablet and cloud technology so you can manage your charge, plan your trip, and electronically check on the bike to make sure it is charging when you are at work. There is a tendency for charging stations to go down leaving you at the end of the day with no power to drive home.
Kenwood eXcelon DNX9990HD Car Radio
I bought the Kenwood eXcelon DNX9990HDhead unit to test out phone integration and installed it in my 2004 Jaguar XKR project car. It has worked almost flawlessly, and I’ve begun to use my phone as the wireless transfer vehicle for sound in the car.
Sound quality has been fantastic, screen and navigation near flawless, and fit and finish something I’ve been extremely pleased with for the last several months.
I researched this radio before I selected it, and it has proven to be better than I expected. It turned out to be a nice upgrade for the aging Alpine radio in the Jag.
Product of the Year: Nokia 920
At the end of the day, it really came down to three products that I couldn’t live without: the Kindle Fire HD, the Microsoft Surface Tablet, and the Nokia 920. I sat them all on a table and tried to figure out if I could only take one, which would it be?
First because I can read, watch movies, and shop on all three devices, the product that was only used for these things — the Kindle Fire — dropped off the list.
I actually thought I was going to end up with the Surface tablet — but it doesn’t do phone calls, and I make a ton of phone calls.
While doing much productivity on the Nokia is painful, I can do it, which means of the three devices, if I could only take one, it would be the Nokia 920 — so it is my product of the year.
It is actually the best-looking of the three. It is nearly as good a reader as the Kindle — I use it on the rare occasions I’ve accidentally left the Kindle behind — and it is still small enough to fit into a belt pouch.
Couple this with the amazing camera that it has, and the choice becomes all the more obvious. Nokia has built one heck of a phone.