Plugged In

Gadget hounds out there probably chalked up alarming credit card bills this year—and we don’t blame you. It has been a hell of a year: Mobile phones and portable media devices really upped the ante on each other, high-definition entertainment rose to the fore, and cool digital cameras have turned scores of ordinary people into enthusiastic shutterbugs. And then there was this little thing called the Xbox 360.
Taking a look back on the year’s best, we ploughed down the onslaught of drool-worthy gear, narrowed it down, and now present you with our definitive round up of the hottest tech trends and products of 2006.
Portable Music Players
While portable music players have been sitting pretty as one of the most popular gadgets for a couple of years now, this was the year when the portable music player reached an entirely new height.
Doubled Up
MP3 players have been going strong and practically every music fan sports one these days. While the “big two” of Apple and Creative Technologies dominate this market, this year saw the advent of other worthwhile contenders muscling in on their territory, most notably Samsung.
While Samsung has been steadily producing MP3 players for quite some time now, they really came into their own with the Samsung K5 (2GB, $338; 4GB, $438). The player’s snazzy looks alone made users sit up and pay attention because, finally, here was a player that didn’t try to be a Creative or an Apple, but had a distinct look all of its own. The fact that it has in-built speakers that allow it to double up as a social music player made it stand out even more. You can pick one up at Aik Leong Electrical Enterprise.
More than the Music
With the competition getting hotter, it only made sense for big players Creative and Apple to step up. Creative came out with Zen Vision W (30GB, $649; 60GB, $749) and Apple held its own with the latest mighty iPod (30GB for $428; 80GB for $598)—multimedia players that allow users to watch videos or check out pictures as well as listen to music. High-resolution displays for both make for unrivaled portable viewing, and each brand learnt not to repeat the mistakes of their earlier players. Take our word for it—walking down the street with your eyes glued to one of these bad boys is the new mark of coolness. Head down to the iShop for the iPod and to The Creative Store Plaza Singapura for the Zen Vision W.
Keep Walkin’ (I-S PICK!)
But if we’re talking about music players that can do more than just turn on the tunes, screen pictures and video footage (as if that wasn’t enough), we have to mention the Sony Ericsson 850i Walkman Phone ($698). Probably the most popular of its line, the sound quality of this phone is impressive by any portable player’s standards, let alone a mobile phone. Space-wise, the 850i can expand its capacity up to 4GB, so it’s not like it’s lagging behind standard players. The 850i even outshone the much hyped about repositioning of Sony’s own Walkman as an MP3 player. The buzz says it all—while the interest in the Walkman cooled off fairly quickly after its launch, the 850i is, till today, a much talked about asset among music fans. Because the 850i was the most popular player among Singaporeans, it is our MP3 player of choice. You can pick it up at the M1 Shop Paragon.
Mobile Phones
While the competition between mobile handset providers is intense, there are still obvious leaders in the market—Nokia, Motorola and, recently, Samsung.
Think Thin
Design did not lose out to functionality this year.
If you wanted proof of this, look no further
than Motorola’s RAZR V3x ($598) and Samsung’s Ultra SGH-X820 ($498)—two of the year’s most popular phones. Proving that size does count, these bad boys made it big…for being thin. When the RAZR V3x appeared on the market early this year, it was the phone to have. Measuring in at only 19.6mm in depth, it caught on quickly and before you knew it, it seemed like everyone had one. But as petit as the V3x was, it looked fat next to the even slimmer SGH-X820. At a mere 6.9mm and part of Samsung’s much-loved Ultra line, the SGH-X820 was the world’s slimmest phone when it was released and had the killer looks to get users talking.
The Ultra SGH-X820 can be picked up at CitiLink and the V3x at Hello! @ Orchard.
I’m Ready for My Close-Up (I-S PICK!)
Mobile phones’ video functions have generally played second fiddle to their still cameras. Nokia changed all that with the Nokia N93 ($1,388) from their popular Nseries. One of the most talked about phones of the year, the N93 featured Nokia’s usual plus points—like user-friendliness and trendy design—but also paved an entirely new path for mobile movie-making with an impressive 3.2 megapixel lens and DVD-quality video capture. Throw in the fact that the phone can easily hook up with a TV, and you have the hottest phone on the market. And, as cool as the slim trend was, nothing blew us away this year quite like the N93’s video capabilities. Pick it up at the Nokia Nseries Experience Studio.
You’re still using a desktop? How passé! Having a notebook is definitely the way to go—just look at how many people are using them in coffee houses and fast food joints everywhere.
Style Council
Of course, the fact that notebooks are now incredibly stylish definitely played a huge part in their increased popularity. The VAIO VGN-TX37GP ($3,599) from Sony has been seen everywhere, from offices to restaurants, with users showing it off like the latest designer wear—and with a slim 19.51mm shell and gorgeous colors (sapphire, black, platinum white, and the ever popular metallic copper), it’s easy to see why. The Fujitsu Lifebook P7120 ($3,988) and the Lenovo V1000 ($1,999) also deserve a mention for featuring fashionable designs. The Lifebook series, one of Fujitsu’s most popular lines of notebooks, prides itself on vibrant colors and slim looks, and the P7120 is no exception. The V1000, on the other hand is simple and says “stylish, but not overly flashy.”
Get the VAIO VGN-TX37GP at the Sony Gallery at Bugis, the Lifebook P7120 at Fenridge, and the V1000 at AddOn Systems.
Apple of Our Eye (I-S PICK!)
Take a look at Apple’s MacBook Pro (2.16Ghz, $3,488; 2.33Ghz, $4,288; 2.33Ghz, $4,788), easily one of the most popular notebooks out there right now. Its simple, yet chic, look has been such a hit that you’ll even find former PC advocates sporting one. And it’s a serious computer too—all the MacBook Pros come with an Intel Core 2 Duo Processor. Definitely our favorite notebook of the year. You can pick one up at the iShop.
Home Entertainment
After a few quiet years, the home entertainment market suddenly found its second wind in 2006, with the advent of the high definition (hi-def) lifestyle.
The Very Definition
LG has had prominent success in the hi-def TV market with the LG 42LB1R (42-inch LCD) ($3,999). With a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, the picture quality is to die for. Samsung, however, swiftly responded with the Samsung Sonoma S7 LCD TV (the 32-inch, $2,199; 40-inch, $3,999). Sporting the Digital Natural Image engine, the Sonoma wowed consumers with picture quality that accentuated even the most minor of details and has since become one of the hottest TV sets on the market. Get the Sonoma S7 at Best Denki, Plaza Singapura and the 42LB1R at Courts, Centrepoint.
Not Done Yet
There was talk that DVD was headed the way of the dinosaur, and that Blu-ray was primed to supersede. But, for now, that has turned out to be just talk. Sony cemented the reign of DVD when they released the Sony DAV-DZ720 ($749), probably one of the most popular hi-def DVD home theater systems of the year. Sporting a killer look, the system gives consumers an all-round cinematic experience and has multiple format playback options. Get the DAV-DZ720 at the Sony Gallery at Isetan, Wisma Atria.
Becoming X (I-S PICK!)
With all this talk about hi-def, it is inevitable that we talk about one of the biggest highlights of 2006—the Microsoft Xbox 360 ($660). Boasting the latest and coolest games like The Godfather, Project Gotham Racing 3 and the insanely popular Halo 2, the 360 was unrivaled this year. Things, however, will be getting interesting next year, with the release (hopefully!) of the Playstation 3. Pick the Xbox 360 up at Challenger Superstore Funan.
2006 saw even more cams become user-friendly so anyone who wants to snap a few pics can.
To the Max
Samsung’s Digimax S1000 ($499) is another worthwhile investment. And although its features aren’t totally drool-worthy, it’s easy to use and its design is attractive. The same can be said for the Canon 850 IS ($629). It’s stylish, reduces picture graininess at high-speed settings, and will fit in your pocket. You can get the Canon 850 IS at Alan Photo Trading, and the Digimax S1000 at Denstrade Co.
With The Greatest of Ease
Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FX01 (I-S PICK!) ($549) and Casio’s Exilim EX-S600 ($749) are the two cameras that have caught the most attention from users. Their simplicity and ease of use are hard to beat, and the sleek compact design adds to their appeal. The fact that their features aren’t lightweight—the DMC-FX01 boasts incredible image management and the EX-S600 has an impressive shutter speed—also lends them some credibility. This was a tough one, but in the end, we picked the Panasonic Lumix as our top camera, which is designed with the casual user in mind, right down to its looks. You can pick up the Lumix DMC-FX01 at Aik Seng Photo, and the Exilim EX-S600.
2006 has been a whopper of a year for tech lovers. While we were treated to lots of great stuff from the usual suspects like Nokia, Apple, Sony and Motorola, Samsung pleasantly surprised us by coming into its own and releasing a slew of various cool products.
But don’t think you (or your wallets) can take a breather just yet—this year may be winding down, but we’re already eagerly scoping out what’s to come in 2007.

Where to Get ‘Em
AddOn Systems, #04-33 Funan DigitaLife Mall, 109 North Bridge Rd., 6338-3779.
Aik Leong Electrical Enterprise, #01-16 Blk 121, Bukit Merah Lane 1, 6271-9365.
Aik Seng Photo, #01-29 Lucky Plaza, 304 Orchard Rd., 6235-2686.
Alan Photo Trading, #05-20 Funan DigitaLife Mall, 109 North Bridge Rd., 6883-0922.
Best Denki, #04-09/12 Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Rd., 6333-0110.
Challenger Superstore, #06-00 Funan DigitaLife Mall, 109 North Bridge Rd.,
CitiLink, #B1-38 United Square, 101 Thompson Rd., 6253-0618.
Courts, #03-03 Centrepoint Shopping Centre, 176 Orchard Rd., 6733-2131.
The Creative Store, #04-06 Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Rd., Customer Service Hotline 6895-4100.
Denstrade Co, #01-K1 High Street Centre, No.1 North Bridge Rd., 6334-3218.
Fenridge (Singapore), #16-313 The Plaza, 7500A Beach Rd., 6298-1043.
iShop, #03-04/05/06 Cathay Orchard Cineleisure, 8 Grange Rd., 6622-8988.
Hello! @ Orchard, #01-01 Crown Prince Shopping Centre, 270 Orchard Rd., Hotline 1610.
The M1 Shop, #B1-28/29 Paragon, 290 Orchard Rd., Hotline 1800-843-8383.
The Nokia Nseries Experience Studio, #01-10/11 Scotts Shopping Centre, 6 Scotts Rd., Customer Service Line 6822-8888.
The Sony Gallery, #01-58/59 Bugis Junction, 200 Victoria St., 6837-0646; #04-01 Wisma Atria, 435 Orchard Rd., 6733-1876.