|1. Hitachi G1000 Multimedia Communicator Pocket PC
Our initial impression: BEST PDA/PHONE HYBRID: "Hitachi's Multimedia Communicator Pocket PC is the first Windows-powered PDA/phone hybrid with a built-in keyboard, a digital camera, and an Intel 400MHz XScale processor."
Our hands-on verdict: Ouch. The G1000 wasn't released until summer, by which time smaller, better-designed smart phones such as the Treo 600 and the Samsung SCH-i600 were already in the pipeline. By comparison, this gargantuan hybrid looks as out of date as those oversized "brick" cell phones from the 1980s.
|2. Sony CLIE PEG-NZ90
Our initial impression: BEST MULTIMEDIA HANDHELD: "In addition to its built-in 2-megapixel camera, the PEG-NZ90 also offers a flash, a 2X digital zoom, and manual-exposure adjustments. Plus, it has built-in Bluetooth wireless and a Wi-Fi expansion slot."
Our hands-on verdict: The PEG-NZ90 was indeed the top-dog multimedia PDA when it was released in February. But our new favorite is Sony's subsequent CLIE PEG-UX50, which offers a better form factor and built-in Wi-Fi.
|3. The Fossil SPOT watch
Our initial impression: BEST GADGET: "In addition to its PDA functionality, users can take advantage of data services from Microsoft that send news, stock quotes, restaurant reviews, instant messages, and more to their wrists."
Our hands-on verdict: Thanks to a longer-than-expected testing phase, Microsoft's Smart Personal Objects Technology didn't quite make it to market in 2003. But Microsoft will officially launch its MSN Direct service at the show, and we do have a couple of working Fossil Smart Watches in the office. Better late than never, right?
|4. Prismiq MediaPlayer
Our initial impression: BEST HOME-NETWORKING DEVICE: "The $249 MediaPlayer uses an existing wired, wireless, or power-line network to allow you to listen to MP3s, watch DVD-quality video, view digital photo albums, and browse the Web from any room."
Our hands-on verdict: Prismiq delivered on its promise, providing one simple, affordable device to liberate music, video, and photos from your networked computer's hard drive. But with such networking features beginning to become a ubiquitous feature on products such as Gateway's Connected DVD Player, Prismiq may join TiVo and Apple on the list of companies forced to watch others get rich on their groundbreaking ideas.
|5. Digital Innovations Neuros
Our initial impression: BEST FM-FRIENDLY MP3 PLAYER: "Not only does it play and record FM, the Neuros also lets you tag radio songs for automatic identification and broadcasts your stored MP3s to any FM radio (such as your car's or another user's)."
Our hands-on verdict: The Neuros wasn't quite able to realize its impressive feature potential; Digital Innovations never ironed out all the bugs in this product. Meanwhile, Samsung's Napster-friendly YP-910GS offers the same FM broadcasting technology.
|6. RCA Lyra Audio/Video Jukebox RD2780
Our initial impression: BEST PORTABLE VIDEO PLAYER: "With its ability to record and play back music and video, and a 3.5-inch color LCD for comfortable viewing, the RCA RD2780 looks like the best challenger to Archos's lock on the portable video player category."
Our hands-on verdict: The RD2780 just squeaked into 2003 with a November release. In the interim, Archos's AV320--a considerable improvement over the French company's earlier Jukebox 120--has earned raves. Now if only Apple would get around to releasing a video iPod.
|7. Sony DCR-TRV22 camcorder
Our initial impression: BEST BUDGET CAMCORDER: "By integrating the excellent feature set of the DCR-TRV18--plus some enhancements--with a great new compact design, this shooter looks like it might be the budget camcorder to beat in 2003."
Our hands-on verdict: When it hit stores in March, this little Sony measured up to our expectations. We found the DCR-TRV22 to be a solid value and a capable, highly portable family and travel camcorder. It sits atop our list of recommended budget camcorders along with the similarly priced Canon ZR65MC.
|8. Panasonic PT-56TWD63
Our initial impression: BEST HDTV: "The 56-inch wide-screen PT-56TWD63 looks to be the first plug-and-play cable-ready HDTV, thanks to its POD slot, which will accept a module from your cable company that plugs directly into the coaxial cable coming out of the wall."
Our hands-on verdict: The cable industry's new Point Of Deployment technology standard, which could do away with cable boxes, sounds like a great idea. Too bad this TV--or any other POD-enabled product--never became available. Let's hope 2004 is a better year for the POD people.
|9. GoVideo D2730 DVD player
Our initial impression: BEST NETWORK-READY DVD PLAYER: "This is one of the first home network-compatible, progressive-scan DVD players we've seen. It includes a PC Card slot in back and comes with an Ethernet card, so you can plug it into your home network and access JPEGs, MP3 files, and MPEG-1 and -2 movies stored on a computer."
Our hands-on verdict: GoVideo blazed an impressive trail with this networked-enabled DVD player. But Gateway--as well as lesser-known companies such as Amoi and KiSS--have since debuted equally impressive products, often at less expensive prices. Starting in 2004, it will become more difficult to find A/V product lines without Ethernet or wireless networking onboard.
|10. Philips DSR708
Our initial impression: BEST COMBO TIVO/SATELLITE RECEIVER: "The DSR708 replaces your standard satellite receiver with this TiVo-enabled DVR that can digitally record up to 80 hours of programming, all for a mere $4.95 more per month tacked onto your bill."
Our hands-on verdict: Rather than add a standalone TiVo Series2 to your existing satellite system, the DSR708 seamlessly integrates a dual-tuner 70-hour TiVo into a standard DirecTV receiver. It's satellite TV bliss, but there's a nearly identical DirecTV DVR that new subscribers can get for $99--or even free if you can find a good deal from your local installer. We're just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that Philips can follow the lead of Pioneer's DVR-810H and add a DVD recorder to next year's version.
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