Innovative Products, Numbers 11 through 15
11. Toshiba Portege R500
Innovation: First ultraportable laptop to squeeze in an optical drive.
Benefit: You don't have to give up much at all to go truly lightweight.
Thin takes on new meaning with the lightweight Portege R500 ($2000 for the R500-S5002). But you don't have to sacrifice function for form with this laptop, which is equipped with an ultralow-voltage Intel processor. The stylish 2.4-pound ultraportable manages to include both a rewritable-DVD drive and a 12.1-inch LED-backlit display in its svelte, 0.77-inch-thick chassis. Enough said.
12. Data Robotics Drobo
Innovation: High-end, redundant storage for the masses.
Benefit: USB 2.0 storage appliance delivers RAID 5 benefits without mind-numbing complexity.
"Redundant array storage" and "sexy" don't normally go hand-in-hand. But Data Robotics' unique Drobo ($500) offers high-end storage features in a sleek design with software that doesn't require a master's degree in IT to figure out. Drobo uses storage virtualization algorithms to provide many of the benefits of RAID 5, but is relatively easy to set up: Just place the drives into the case, plug in the USB cable, install the software, and you're off.
13. Hybrid Hard Drives
Innovation: First hard drives with a built-in NAND flash memory cache.
Benefit: Power savings and performance boost for laptops.
Samsung and Seagate each have shipped new hard drives that combine traditional hard-disk media with a flash cache to improve both reliability and performance. Our tests of the Samsung Spinpoint MH80 and the Seagate Momentus 5400 PSD ($250 and $190, respectively) showed that the 256MB NAND flash cache provides some clear benefits--particularly in power saving and read speed.
14. Eye-Fi Card
Innovation: Allows digital cameras to upload wirelessly to photo-sharing sites or your PC.
Benefit: Wi-Fi-enabled SD Card bridges digital photography's wireless divide.
The Eye-Fi Card ($100) does what few digital cameras have done, and what no digital camera has done well: enable wireless uploading to a photo-sharing site. Pop the 2GB SD Card into your camera and fire off a few shots, and the Wi-Fi-enabled card transmits the images to your preferred site--and, if you like, to your PC. The setup is simple, the device imposes no limitations on the image size, and the uploads happen.
15. Panasonic TH-42PZ700U
Innovation: Packs full 1080p high-definition resolution into today's most popular size for flat-screen televisions, 42 inches.
Benefit: Stellar image quality.
Though 1080p LCD sets quickly became commonplace in 2007, showing 1080 vertical lines on a plasma TV this small remained technically difficult. Panasonic's efforts paid off: In our tests the TH-42Z700U ($1800) earned stellar image-quality marks. With high-definition content from Blu-Ray and HD DVD sources, the picture is phenomenal; and because it's a plasma, even standard-definition programs look pretty good.