by Jim Louderback
It's the holiday season, time to pick up gifts for family and
friends. We bring you the best stuff year-round, but often quality is
in short supply this time of year. For you last-minute shoppers,
here's my annual list of the ten worst products of the year-as scored
and reviewed by PC Magazine Labs. These may all look shiny and sharp
on the shelves, but each one is fundamentally flawed. You've been
10. Oakley Thump: If you've overdone it with the eggnog, a $500 pair
of sunglasses with a built-in MP3 player might seem a divine
combination. It's not. The poorly fitting earbuds chafe, the glasses
feel flimsy, and the style is dated. And what happens if you want to
rock out at night? Unless you're buying for Bono, pick up an iPod
shuffle and a pair of Revos for half the price.
9. Voodoo Doll D210: If you give someone this zippy breadbox-sized PC,
they'll be sticking pins in your effigy all year-and you'll be out
more than 3,000 smackeroos, too. Voodoo crammed two CPUs and two hard
drives inside, but left out the keyboard, mouse, and monitor. If you
buy one anyway, get a pair of industrial-strength ear protectors too,
as it whines like a 747 taxiing for takeoff.
8. H2i SimplyTouch OpticalBar: Turn any monitor into a touch screen!
That's the promise; the reality is different. The OpticalBar sits atop
your monitor and tracks your finger as you touch special parts of the
screen. Alas, it works more slowly than the midnight shift at an
all-night diner, and often gets your order wrong, too. Opt for a
tablet notebook instead.
7. ROKR E1: The Oakley Thump of the mobile phone set; at least it's a
decent phone. The hype around "The First iTunes Phone" created
unfulfillable expectations. It's not as polished as an iPod, and its
oddly limited music storage makes a mediocre player even
worse. Glacially slow music-transfer speeds put the final nail in this
coffin. Sony Ericsson sells a much better MP3-phone combo, but I
suggest a shuffle and a RAZR phone: Cheaper-and better, too.
6. Cinego D-1000: It slices! It dices! It projects your DVDs onto the
wall! You might be tempted by this combination front-projector and
DVD player, but stay away. Marred by a minuscule remote, nasty
interface, and terrible video quality, it'll be quickly relegated to
the garage or eBay. For budget home theater, hold out for HP's ep9010
combo, or pick up a cheaper projector and a DVD player for less.
5. PQI mPack P800 Media Player: Looking for a portable music and video
player? The mPack looks attractive-you can record video and FM radio
directly, and it even includes a CompactFlash slot. But playback is a
problem. Even with the most recent flash update, fast-forward and
rewind simply do not work, despite the manual's direction. The screen
is terrible, the interface abysmal, and the physical buttons
erratic. Apple's video iPod, the Creative Zen Vision, and anything
from Archos deliver a better experience for less.
4. Dual XNAV3500P: Even alpha males can use a little GPS assistance
now and then. This hybrid car and portable mapping system seems
solid-until you start using it. Marred by an awful interface and a
poor data-entry keypad, it failed our tests. Pick up a TomTom GO, or
give an IOU for Garmin's amazing Nuvi, debuting here in January.
3. PepperPad: Following in the footsteps of the Audrey, Netpliance,
and NIC, this is an Internet bubble failure five years too late. More
expensive than a laptop, with a battery life measured in minutes, and
a tiny 8- by 6-inch touch screen, this home Internet tablet has few
redeeming features. Unless you're a fan of freaky keyboards, opt for a
cheap tablet PC instead.
2. Sony S2 Sports Network Walkman NW-S23: Pity poor Sony. It invented
the Walkman and then squabbled as Apple stole its lunch. This player
finally supports MP3 files, yet it lacks so much else that it's hardly
worth the price. With ergonomics straight from a Klingon warship,
balky software, and a poor display, this one deserves a place in the
remainder rack. Again, you're better off with a shuffle.
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for ... the worst product
of the year-and from a surprising source.
1. Samsung Digimax V700: Samsung can seemingly do no wrong these
days. The company has supplanted Sony as the top electronics brand,
exuding both quality and cool. We hope this terrible digital camera is
an aberration, not a sign of things to come. With slow performance,
lousy auto-exposure, and some shutter lag, this 7.1-megapixel camera
never should have been released. Compact cameras from Canon, Sony and
Nikon are far better-even if they do cost a bit more.
Copyright 2005 Ziff Davis Inc.
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new
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