The PC World 100: Best Products of 2009
The PC World 100: #61-#70
61. RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630 (smartphone, $200 with two-year contract from Verizon) This smartphone melds the best features of RIM's Bold and its Curve 8900 into one slick package. The Tour has a superslim design, a gorgeous display, and one of the best keyboards we've ever seen on a BlackBerry. Unfortunately, like the BlackBerry Storm (also on Verizon), the Tour lacks Wi-Fi, a disappointing omission for a business-focused device.
62. Google Books (online service, free) Ten million books, from libraries and collections all over the world, all of them scanned, digitized, and searchable--and in the case of those in the public domain, made available for anyone to download and read. That is Google Books now, and whatever you may think of the controversy involving lawsuits filed by copyright holders, the goal of preserving printed volumes in digital form for future generations of readers and researchers is commendable--and the technology that makes it happen is impressive. [Note: Google announced on October 16 that it will launch an e-book store called Google Editions with a "don't be evil" twist. Unlike Google's biggest competitors, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which rely heavily on restrictive DRM, Google's store will not be device-specific--allowing for e-books purchased through Google Editions to be read on the far greater number of e-book readers that will flood the market in 2010.
63. UStream.com (service, free; also iPhone app, free) Use UStream if you or your business wants an easy way to broadcast an event live to an Internet audience. The UStream player is well designed and intuitive for first-time users. The only other things you need to start a live broadcast are a camera and a broadband connection. Typically broadcasts include performances, political speeches, and sports events. UStream also streams live events, such as presidential inaugurations. Live video streams, whether run by professional media organizations or by nonspecialists, tend to stall, freeze, black out, or jitter, depending on the number of people trying to tune in and on broadband network congestion; but UStream has the server power to pump out the video in a steady flow.
64. Sendmehome.com (identification service, free) With Sendmehome, you may get your lost gear back. Print out stickers with unique ID numbers and instructions for returning your gadgets to you. If someone honest finds your smartphone, you could get it back in a day or two. The service isn't restricted to tech objects, either: You can create an ID for anything you own.
65. Digsby.com (message service, free) This handy program lets you communicate with people using many different IM clients, including AIM, Facebook Chat, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo. It integrates with social networking sites such as Facebook, too. You can send SMS messages to mobile phones, and you can log your conversation history. If you want to see the current status of any of your contacts, just highlight them and you'll get details.
66. Motorola T305 (Bluetooth car speakerphone kit, $70) An easy-to-use speakerphone, the T305 mounts on your sun visor, and delivers above-average call quality for a good price. It tops our current car-kit chart as the best overall. In our tests, incoming voices sounded crisp, and audio quality at the other end was brighter than with competing units.
67. Sony PlayStation 3 (game console, $300) The 120GB PS3 bundles the earlier PS3's top-notch features into a smarter, sleeker, less-expensive package. You can now have a first-class, BD-Live-capable Blu-ray player with 1080p HDMI output, integrated Bluetooth and 802.11g, an upgradable 120GB hard drive, gigabit ethernet, 7.1-channel Dolby Digital audio support, and Sony's monstrously powerful custom multiprocessing CPUs. Oh, and it plays PlayStation 3 games, too.
68. Dropbox (online storage service, getdropbox.com, basic service free; also iPhone app, free) Dropbox makes online storage, including file syncing and sharing, as easy as saving to a local drive. Just save or drag files--up to 2GB for free, or up to 100GB for a fee--to a folder on your Windows, Mac, or Linux system, where Dropbox software will promptly transfer them to the service's secure online servers. If you aren't currently using Dropbox, you should be.
69. Evernote.com (software, basic service free; also iPhone app, free) If your problem is information overload, Evernote may be the solution. This versatile site gathers e-mail messages, business documents, Web clips, memos, and images in a smart, sortable format that lets you find everything fast. It even reads text in your pictures, so you can take a snapshot of a whiteboard after each meeting and later search it by keyword to find what you need.
70. Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 (photo editing software; $90 separately, $150 bundled with Photoshop Elements 8) Elements delivers Photoshop's imaging power to consumers and hobbyist photographers in an accessible, tabbed interface. Version 8's most compelling improvements are in digital asset management. The program's Organizer tab has several new tools to make adding keywords to your photos much easier. As soon as you start importing image files, the new Auto Analyzer gets to work, assessing the content of your pictures and applying special keywords, called Smart Tags. Smart Tags identify images by predefined quality, focus, level of contrast, exposure, number of faces and/or objects, and so forth. Auto Analyzer also initiates automatic face recognition. The more you identify photos as containing specific people, the better the program gets at recognizing them, even at different ages, with other hairstyles, and with or without dark glasses.