The final chapter of 2006 is almost ending, but reflecting back, it has been an exciting year for consumers with new hardware platforms penetrating all segments of electronics.
Computing this year was highly focused on processors as dual-core went mainstream, Intel's Core processor architecture reached new heights and even quad-core was made available to enthusiasts and workstations needing high compute power. And this year more than any other, saw the rise in adoption of Mac products as Apple switched to the Intel platform. This had an interesting ripple effect for the OS and software development space in addition to the raw performance boost. Our appetite for screens has all gone widescreen and so has our storage requirements on all fronts.
In the gaming front, the most riveting entries were none other than the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. Both boasting unique characteristics that are so enticing, we won't be surprised if you even get both of them in addition to your existing Xbox 360! Don't forget that handheld gaming too got an upgrade with the Nintendo DS Lite early this year, further fueling the popularity of the series.
Over on the consumer electronics space, we predicted 2006 would be the year of High Definition (HD), and true enough, the consumer electronics arena was swamped with them! HD televisions, HD camcorders, HD projectors, HD gaming consoles, you name it - all promised to upgrade your personal entertainment experience to the next stratum. Truly, this is definitely the HD year.
To identify and merit the hardware products and technologies that have made the most impact in their respective categories of this year and set the baseline expectations for the following year, the editors and writers at Hardware Zone have compiled a list of the top hundred products that we believe have made the grade. In no particular order of merit, we present you the products that took top honors with Hardware Zone's Best of 2006 award:-
|The Intel Core 2 Duo processor is a milestone in microprocessor innovation and there is no doubt that with this line of products in 2006, Intel has AMD whipped in both performance and power consumption. Delivering the new Core microarchitecture across the desktop, mobile and server spaces, Intel plans to retake the lead in the CPU race. Bluntly put, The Intel Core 2 Duo is the world's best dual-core desktop processor. There, we've said it.|
|With only a few months apart after the launch of the Core 2 Duo, Intel unleashes the world's first quad-core desktop CPU into the world based on the same Core microarchitecture and technology as the Core 2 Duo. Whether you look at it as a preemptive strike against AMD's much hyped 4x4 system or just to show that they can, the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 CPU increases Intel's lead over its competition even further.|
|The Apple iMacs have always been touted as the best all-in-one computer for Apple fans and wannabes alike. Great looks, great branding, who doesn't love a Mac? But now, the new iMacs armed with Intel Core 2 Duo processors can truly be considered the best all-in-one PC. Yes, they're PCs too, they can run Windows.|
|One of the best new mobile business platforms to hit the market, the ASUS P525 already has quite a following. While it may not be the most fully featured, this Windows Mobile 5.0 PDA phone has well rounded features with push e-mail, a great design, comfortable build and strong battery life. We actually like the keypad/touchscreen hybrid combination too.|
|The PQI U510 Pro is the world's thinnest flash drive that is the size of a credit card and is a mere 3mm thick. However, it packs an amazing storage capacity up to 16GB. The Pro version is actually an update to the original sexy U510, now sporting a blazing 170x transfer speed up to 25MB/Sec.|
|The Samsung YP-K5 is no ordinary portable MP3 player, it is a venerable boombox in your palm. This diminutive device has an impeccable design and oozes class. Slide out its set of speakers from the back and you can start picking up dropped jaws from the ground. The audio quality, crispness and loudness from its tiny 1.5W drivers are something you have to listen to to believe. This is what you call a real media player.|
|We honored the Barracuda 7200.9 in our last year's list and this year, its successor makes the grade as well. The tenth generation Seagate Barracuda drive isn't just another new drive with a bigger buffer and internal transfer rate, it is the world's first desktop HDD to use perpendicular writing technology and is also the first drive to hit a whopping 750GB.|
|Although Dell and Apple widescreen displays have been a hot product for digital entertainment buffs, the ViewSonic WX2025WM is probably the monitor that brought widescreen gaming to a more affordable level. But it's not just about the price. 20-inch widescreen is the sweet spot at the moment for PC LCDs and the WX2025WM has one of the best gaming performance.|
|There are many qualities about the 24-inch widescreen BenQ FP241W we love to warrant a spot on our Top 100 but the single most important one is its HDCP compliant HDMI port - a world's first and at Full HD resolutions (1080p). This means it's ready for Blu-ray or HD-DVD content as and when you decide it's time to hop onboard the HD bandwagon, be it with your computer or your other C.E devices. It is the real High-Definition (HD) deal but if these technical acronyms don't impress you, we bet its pin sharp maximum resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels will.|
|The ASUS PW201 is an interesting and feature-packed entertainment LCD monitor with great display quality and is a winner of an iF design award in 2006. Its slick exterior houses a 20-inch widescreen panel, 1.3MP webcam, stereo speakers, USB hub and an abundance of input connectors including DVI, S-Video and Component. To top it off, the PW201 even has Picture-in-Picture (PIP) capabilities.|