Every once in a while (though we must admit, it seems more and more often these days) a gadget of uncommon novelty and usefulness is released and instantly blows every tech-geek's mind wide open. For many of us, that lineage has been limited to whatever Apple seems to be announcing at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference—do you remember where you were the first time you heard about the iPhone?—but just because we're often blinded by the big-ticket spotlight doesn't mean there isn't a whole host of other new, innovative gadgets that are worthy of our love and affection. And sometimes that T.L.C. is earned in the tiny little details that take what might otherwise be a totally boring piece of technology into the realm of the totally cool. To that end, we've compiled a list of five gadgets released or announced this year (so far) that get our blood pumping and our AMOLED screens a little steamy.
Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera
Is it a camera? Is it a phone? Is it even for sale yet? These are the questions we had when we first set eyes on this unearthly combination of a 16-megapixel camera (with 3X optical zoom!) and a classic, iPhone-style smartphone. In theory it is both, though we'll have to wait until Polaroid actually releases the marvelous-looking little beauty to know how effectively it handles either role. Early reviews of showroom models point out that it does neither very well (yet), but you can't blame the classic instant-photo magnate for trying to push their product line into the future. With WiFi and 3G capabilities built in, plus onboard apps that connect users to e-mail, social media and everything else internetted, it’s a truly inspired idea that we hope comes fully realized whenever it actually sees the light of day. Best chance for success: it's powered by Android. So, yeah, the future is bright. Price: TBA. Check it out here!
Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook
When you think of quality computer brand names that also manage to build a little bit of cool into their cachet, the name Dell doesn't always ring the bell. The Dell XPS 13, however, changes that for the better in a big way. It may largely be an aesthetic attraction, but this sleek little notebook is decked out in magnesium alloy, aluminum and carbon fiber which, at 0.7 inches thick, makes the superslim ultrabook incredibly sturdy-feeling to the hands. It also features a powerful Intel Core i5 processor, which gives this svelte machine some torque. Add to that an HD display with a bezel so barely there you could miss it and a $1000 starting price point, and you've got a winner. Return on investment is the new height of innovation. Price: $1000. Buy here!
Samsung Galaxy Beam
Another combination gadget entry is the Samsung Galaxy Beam, which boasts a 15-lumen integrated projector capable of projecting a 50-inch, 360p image from a distance of two meters. Those specs may not compare to your standard flatscreen display, but considering this is all built into an otherwise fully functional Android smartphone, our palms are still a little sweaty. The Beam also packs in a 5-megapixel camera capable of shooting 720p video, a crisp four-inch display and some pretty bold design. Just imagine the possibilities at that high-stakes pitch meeting when blowing up the screen is as easy as pulling out your smartphone and pressing play. Price: $TBA. Pre-order here!
3D printing may not be the most widely applicable capability, but the idea of bringing it home is enough to get us excited. Any tech geek has seen videos of industrial-sized 3D printers at work and photos of the amazing objects talented designers have been able to create with them, but the MakerBot Replicator opens the door to at-home manufacturing of anything from toys to art objects at a not-totally-outrageous price. It may be a fascination rather than something to be integrated into your daily life, but for the DIY-ers out there, this is the best way to bring physical form to all those ideas floating around in your imagination. Price: $1750.00. Buy here!
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display
Five. Point. One. Million. Pixels. In a 15.4-inch screen. If it stopped there, we’d still be dizzy with excitement. But it doesn’t; the new MacBook Pro with Retina display also fine-tunes and amps up everything the previous generation of miracle-working Pros had going for them, making your every design, recording and editing need easier to achieve than ever. With the latest Intel quad-core processor and an all-flash hard drive, this beast is more powerful than any other notebook on the market. Even Apple is boasting it as the most powerful in their entire product line. Never mind the always-stunning design, intuitive multi-touch OS interface and the fact that all of this is bundled into a 0.71-inch chassis. Beauty runs deep in this most desirable object. Price: $2200.00. Buy here!