INNOVATION
11:15 am
Tue February 5, 2013

Ben Saren: New Year, New Gadgets

Still have a holiday shopping hangover? We’ve got just the thing to revive you — our tech guru Ben Saren shared his list of great gear for the New Year. Expect your shopping urge to be revived by the end of the list.

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The fitbit, a pedometer that relays your exercise information to the web.
Credit fitbit

fitbit, $99.95

The fitbit is a jazzed-up pedometer the size of a USB flash drive that you can slip in your pocket or clip on your clothes. What’s fun about a pedometer? Well, logging on to your fitbit account lets you see not only how many steps or miles you’ve traveled, but also lets you set daily goals for yourself and compete for the title of “most active” among your friends and family. The fitbit website also lets you log activities like tennis or swimming and track what you’ve eaten to keep you informed and motivated.

Light sleeper? Your fitbit can track sleep patterns and hopefully identify the source of your insomnia.

Biggest Pro: “There’s a flower on the fitbit that shows you how far you are against your goal, so if it’s more than halfway through the day but I’ve only walked 1,000 steps, shame on me — that flower’s not going to have grown on the screen at all,” Saren said.

Biggest Con: “Here’s a little confession for you — this is my fourth [fitbit]. There are three that I’ve scattered throughout the world,” Saren admitted. “The problem with clipping it onto your clothes is that if you pull something out of your pocket, it pops off…I do recommend that people keep it in their pocket as opposed to on the exterior of their clothing.”

The Kindle Paperwhite may have the dimensions of a book from the front — but it's a whole lot thinner.
Credit Amazon

Kindle Paperwhite, $119

What’s so new about a Kindle? We’re glad you asked — Amazon’s newest model features a web browser and a backlight that allows you to read at night. If you’re used to reading in bed at night on your iPad or a tablet, you may have had difficulty falling asleep. That’s due to the blue light that illuminates tablets — blue light suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps your brain active.

The Kindle Paperwhite doesn’t use blue light, and it shines a softer light downwards, so that it hits the screen and not your eyes. The change could mean a better night’s sleep.

Be sure to decide the Kindle experience you want before buying — the $119 dollar purchase comes with advertisements that will display when you're not reading your book. If you want an advertisement-free version, you’ll pay $139.

Biggest Pro: “I bought one for my wife over the holidays...[and] in the last two weeks, she’s read three more books than she had in the whole second half of last year, simply because of that light,” Saren said. “It’s that much more pleasant than the other Kindle lights out there.”

Biggest Con: “I don’t think [there is one],” Saren said. “For me, just like all the other Kindles, this is indisposable. I couldn’t imagine just simply going back to just regular paperback books.” But, he acknowledges, “This is not meant for browsing the web, for playing games, for using apps — it’s meant for reading books.”

The Canon EOS M — a touchscreen camera with a lens that packs a punch.
Credit Canon

Canon EOS M, $799.99

Ever heard of “iPhonography”? It’s the surge in picture taking that has occurred alongside the rise of the smartphone — we can now document every aspect of our life and share our memories on Facebook, Flickr, or Instagram instantly. But if you all ready have the capacity to take high quality photos, why splurge on an expensive camera?

It’s all about perspective — in some ways, the EOS M is a save rather than a splurge. It has the same technology that Canon uses in its professional, DSLR cameras with the convenience of a point-and-shoot body. This camera will focus and format automatically, while delivering photos that could have been taken with a much more expensive camera. It also sports a touch screen that allows you to edit photos with your fingertips and upload them to the web instantly.

If you already have a DSLR camera, you can attach the lens to the EOS M for a more portable, but just as professional, photography experience.

Biggest Pro: “I think that people want higher quality photographs despite the iPhone…so the question is, when you want to upgrade, what are you going to upgrade to?” Saren asked. “A high end big bulky camera? If you’re going skiing and you want to take a picture of one of your friends doing a trick, you’re not going to have one of those big, bulky cameras on the slopes with you — too expensive, too risky. You’re probably going to have one of these.”

Biggest Con: This camera may be more portable than a DSLR, but with a protruding lens, it can’t beat the convenience of an iPhone. “You could put this in your pocket,” Saren told us. But when we challenged him, he admitted it would take “a big pocket, a winter pocket,” to tote this camera around. 

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