My friend, biologist Darrell Whitworth, works and lives in Italy for about half the year. Just recently he was traveling on the train from Arezzo to Rome when a thief nabbed his laptop. Unfortunately, it contained thousands of MP3 files and huge amounts of his research.
“I just left my seat for a minute,” says Whitworth. “When I got back, my backpack was gone.” If his laptop hadn’t already backed up his collection of digital music onto his new Cowon C2 Portable Media Player (PMP), he would’ve sworn off Italy for good.
The cool new C2 PMP is one of dozens of gadgets that could make your summer safer and more fun. From notebooks to e-books, here are the top five portable tech gadgets I recommend checking out before your upcoming excursions:
For: Those who love mobile music and video
Hot Feature: 50+ hours of battery life
As Whitworth discovered, the Cowon C2 is capable of supporting both music and video on its 2.6-inch resistive touch-screen display with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. The diminutive Cowon C2 comes with a choice of 4 GB, 8 GB or 16 GB of storage built in. And there’s also a microSD card slot so you can add extra storage to store all your favorite movies and music. With a 32 GB microSD card, you can have a small PMP with 48 GB of space. The Cowon’s C2 is definitely the best pick in this price range.
For: Cloud-computing mavens
Hot Feature: External storage that connects wirelessly
Seagate Technology recently introduced the first mobile hard drive that can stream content to the iPad. Now, Hitachi’s G-Technology has come up with a similar product of its own: the G-Connect wireless storage product. The G-Connect is a compact 500 GB portable hard drive that has a built-in Wireless-N access point that can stream your stored digital content to up to five wireless devices. The G-Connect has one major advantage over the Seagate product: It comes with an Ethernet port, so you can get online by connecting to an existing network as well. The G-Connect also comes with an app that enables Apple iOS devices to conveniently access its content.
For: The savvy notebook user who loves Google
Hot Feature: Near instant boot-up
For years, Google’s been touting the idea of always-on, always-connected laptops based on a version of its Chrome browser. At last, the Chromebooks are here, starting with the Samsung Series 5 — a sharp-looking laptop that promises instant online access, 3G connectivity and long-enough battery life to surf the Web for hours. The Series 5 is more laptop than netbook. The glossy, white lid with metal Samsung and Chrome logos give it a unique look. And the entire system is decked out in a soft, rubberized plastic you could easily mistake for carbon fiber. If you love the Chrome browser (and don’t need to use any other) and would readily trade local storage for a zero-second boot time, then the Chromebook is a solid, formidable laptop that will weather your summer vacation and more.
For: Those craving an Android tablet
Hot Feature: Great price point
In the past, gadget reviewers tended to agree: Android tablets don’t perform as well as Apple’s iPad. Not so with this sleek new tablet from Asus. It features a wide-screen aspect ratio of a 10.1-inch 1,280 x 800-pixel capacitive touch display. As a result, you might feel more comfortable holding it in landscape orientation. The Eee Pad includes a keyboard dock that not only makes typing easier, but also doubles the battery life and boosts connectivity to the cloud. Removed from the keyboard dock, the tablet bears a face similar to many top new Android Honeycomb tablets. It’s glossy, black and rather iPad-like. Surrounding the black bezel is a strip of bronzed metal, lending the Eee Pad Transformer an impressive sense of quality that was missing from the all-plastic Samsung Galaxy Tab, last year’s top Android tablet.
Hot Feature: 35 percent lighter than the first-edition Nook and long battery life
The new Wi-Fi-only Nook just about, well, closes the book on e-book readers. It measures 5 inches by 6.5 inches, weighs less than 7.5 ounces, and sports a 6-inch touch screen that marries infrared technology with a “Pearl e-ink” display to let users navigate with taps and swipes. Powered by Android 2.1, the Nook includes 2 GB of onboard storage, allowing for 1,000 downloaded books. It also has an SD card slot for additional storage. And it runs on an 800 MHZ Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor, which the company says enables a much smoother reading experience — including quicker page transitions and 80 percent less “ghosting,” or page flashing. It also lasts two months between charges — almost the entire summer. The Kindle 3 (the Nook’s biggest competitor) features a mere one month of battery life.