Top tech 'toys' of 2012

by Peter Griffin / 20 December, 2012
Our columnist picks this year’s best gadgets in four key categories.
Samsung Galaxy S3
Samsung Galaxy S3

Thinner, faster, smarter – if 2012 wasn’t a revolutionary year for computing, it certainly served up a range of devices that make your computing interaction that much more satisfying.

A stylish workhorse
It’s been a shocking year for HP, but the 14-inch HP Envy Spectre shows that the Silicon Valley giant still has what it takes to deliver a great computer. Innovative use of toughened Gorilla Glass means the Spectre boasts a smooth, scratch-resistance cover that feels and looks great. It has a fast solid-state drive and an Intel Core i7 processor, and HP has made much of its Beats Audio tie-up to make the Spectre ideal for streaming songs from Spotify and iTunes. Despite all that, it falls into the lightweight ultrabook category, which makes it highly portable.
Price: from $2899
Honourable mention: 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro.

All-in on the desktop
Amid the hype surrounding the launch of the iPad Mini, Apple’s pint-sized new tablet, the wafer-thin body of the iMac – just 5mm thick at its edges – was lost in the noise. It is a beautiful-looking machine – and powerful. The new iMac has an Intel Core i7 processor and comes with 8GB of memory. Early adopters of the 21.5-inch iMac have discovered it is nigh-on impossible to expand the memory, which is disappointing, but this fits Apple’s grand plan of selling you a new device every few years. The svelte design, which thins out towards the edges, comes with a sacrifice – there’s no CD/DVD drive. But Apple has included plenty of additional connection ports to compensate. A noticeable improvement is the dynamism of the screen, the result of a new design that moves the display panel closer to the glass covering it.
Price: from $1999 (27-inch version available late December).
Honourable mention: HP TouchSmart 520.

In a different galaxy
Smartphones are catching on fast, which means a bigger phone in the pocket. Whereas previous iPhones had a 3.5-inch screen, Apple upped the iPhone 5 screen to four inches. Samsung has gone even further, building a 4.8-inch retina-display into the Galaxy S3, its flagship smartphone. At first sight, it is ridiculously large, but it weighs just 133g and offers an unbeatable experience for surfing the web and watching videos, so you soon grow to appreciate the extra screen real estate. In terms of functionality, the S3 is ahead of the iPhone 5, and well-served by the Android operating system, which lets you dip into a wide range of apps. It sports an impressive eight-megapixel camera and some smart photo-snapping software. More S3s than iPhone 5s have sold this year and for good reason. This is the best phone the Android gang has produced so far.
Price: from $849 (mobile only).
Honourable mention: Apple iPhone5.

Ipad still unbeatable
As with the iPhone 5, Apple made just incremental changes when it released the third-generation iPad at the start of the year – slimming it down slightly and adding a retina display – and then again with the much faster fourth-generation iPad released last month. This is the ultimate tablet, despite the gains Samsung and other tablet-makers have made and the arrival of a slew of Windows 8-based devices. What makes it so good? The simplicity of the design, which forces you to make some sacrifices but means it is a real pleasure to use.

The iOS software is intuitive, and Apple’s iCloud service lets you back up everything automatically. If you lose the iPad, all your apps and data can be recovered and you can even track the iPad’s location. Apple’s App Store is still the biggest in the game, and with the addition of a lightweight keyboard, you’ll find yourself taking it with you instead of a laptop and appreciating the lighter load. The one downside is that the iPad doesn’t come with Microsoft Office – you’ll have to fiddle about with Apple’s less than equal substitutes, which will frustrate business users. The iPad Mini is a nice device, but the full-size tablet is the only option for me.
Price: from $729.
Honourable mention: Samsung Galaxy Note 10-inch.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


Richard Prebble: Jacinda Ardern will face the tyranny of events
86009 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Politics

Richard Prebble: Jacinda Ardern will face the tyra…

by Richard Prebble

I predicted Bill English would lose the election and the winner would be Winston Peters. But no forecaster, including the PM, predicted her pregnancy.

Read more
Aokigahara: More than just the ‘suicide forest’
85966 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z World

Aokigahara: More than just the ‘suicide forest’

by Justin Bennett

It's known as a 'suicide forest', but Justin Bennett found Aokigahara's quiet beauty outweighed its infamous reputation.

Read more
Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance of Len Lye
85816 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Arts

Truth and Lye: New perspectives on the brilliance …

by Sally Blundell

New essays on New Zealand-born US artist Len Lye elevate him to the status of Australasia’s most notable 20th-century artist.

Read more
Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infertile couples
86046 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Health

Brain activity may hold the secret to helping infe…

by Nicky Pellegrino

For about a third of infertility cases in New Zealand, there is no obvious reason why seemingly fertile couples struggle to conceive.

Read more
Farewells on the Auckland wharves, captured by photographer John Rykenberg
85964 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Farewells on the Auckland wharves, captured by pho…

by Frances Walsh

More than one million images from Rykenberg Photography, taken around Auckland, are now in the Auckland Libraries Collection. But who are the people?

Read more
'Termite hell' for Golden Bay man after he woke covered in insects
86027 2018-01-18 11:59:55Z Environment

'Termite hell' for Golden Bay man after he woke co…

by Hamish Cardwell

A Golden Bay man spending his first night in his new house says he woke to find his bed, walls and floor covered in hundreds of creepy crawlies.

Read more
Ten ‘stealth microplastics’ to avoid if you want to save the oceans
86015 2018-01-18 11:18:49Z Environment

Ten ‘stealth microplastics’ to avoid if you want t…

by Sharon George and Deirdre McKay

There's a growing movement to stop the amount of wasteful plastic that goes into our oceans, but what about the tiny bits we can hardly see?

Read more
It's time to chlorinate New Zealand's drinking water
86001 2018-01-18 09:41:15Z Social issues

It's time to chlorinate New Zealand's drinking wat…

by The Listener

The inconvenience to chlorine refuseniks is tiny compared with the risk of more suffering and tragedy from another Havelock North-style contamination.

Read more