So far I’m doing okay in the tech wars. I have a high definition television and receiver, a pretty solid if inexpensive surround sound system, an Xbox 360, a rapidly aging eMac, a cell phone that came free with 100 minutes at 7-11, and a handful of other gadgets. Bill Gates would laugh at me, but there’s only so much you can do with my kind of budget.
I did recently bite the bullet and buy a portable MP3 player. I was waiting for the right iPod, but with no sign of a model that has a built-in microphone or FM tuner — the two essential features I need for work — I finally broke down and purchased the Creative Zen player (www.creative.com). It was about $99 on sale at Future Shop for the model with 4 GB of storage (you can get up to 32 GB), but it’s easily expandable with a built-in memory card slot. You can also plays movies on its beautiful 2.5-inch screen, as well as pretty much any kind of music format using your own equalizer settings. There is also a photo archive feature which I probably won’t use much, although it’s not a bad way to preview photos from my digital camera or show off the latest shots of my daughter. A few extras, like the day planner, won’t get much use, as it won’t sync with my current iCal calendar. But no real loss there.
So while I’m definitely good for a while in the tech department, there are still a few things I want. Whether I really need them is another story, but Christmas is just 10-and-a-half months away.
Asus Eee PC (http://eeepc.asus.com/global) — Released to rave reviews and huge sales, the Asus EEE PC is the must-own gadget of 2008. It technically falls into the category of ultra mobile PC, but is far cheaper than most other UMPCs on the market at just $430 for the 4 GB model.
Basically it’s a mini laptop, about as wide as a sheet of office paper, with a flash hard drive, seven-inch screen, Linux operating system, and a variety of other features like a built-in webcam, card reader, microphone, and stereo speakers. It has the ability to pretty much do everything you might do on an ordinary laptop, albeit on a much smaller screen.
I would love to have a device that I can easily carry around the house, take to the library, or use while I’m on a bus or plane.
There are a few drawbacks, however. The keyboard is a little on the small size for people with big hands or large fingers, and navigation isn’t perfect. Memory is also limited, if you’re looking to load up with songs and movies. A few reviewers have also reported frustration with the small display. And while it comes with a variety of free software (including games, an email client and Skype), other programs like OpenOffice have been less well received.