The Best-Tech Products Of 2006

Published Date
08 - May - 2007
| Last Updated
08 - May - 2007
 
The Best-Tech Products Of 2006
Vendors, readers, and even we writers think of "being featured in the Zero1 Awards" as an achievement. The products that win these awards are monoliths in their category, looking down condescendingly upon those that didn't make it. Another way of looking at it is that the Zero1 Awards are beacons, attracting all yet rewarding only the most deserving.

Each product category is fiercely competitive, each product a potential winner, every entrant just as important as the next. We encourage battle: we revel in it, for this isn't about bloodshed, but providing choices for our beloved readers-the IT shoppers of the nation. Performance, reliability, value for money-the battle-lines are clearly drawn, and it's up to the contestants to put up their best. We stand watching.

Then, at the end of the year, it is our practice to revisit all the categories. We test the products that didn't make it to the comparison tests at the time they were held-maintaining our parameters and standards, of course. If any new Gold winners emerge… just so much the worse for the former winner! And if our Gold winner manages to hold firm in the face of new challenges, it's bestowed with a Zero1 award.

This year saw a number of revolutionary products stealing the show-upsetting rivals and establishing dominance. We've seen dual-core processors become mainstream. Falling prices make them affordable to almost everyone. Intel's Core 2 Duo range of processors completely dominated the proceedings, topping our processor charts and upsetting the long-standing winners, the AMD 64-bit Athlons and X2s. We've also seen AMD changing platforms and moving to DDR2 memory with their AM2 socket processors. As we'd expected, the mainstream memory market bids a hasty farewell to DDR as DDR2 takes over.

The GPU market has been at its evolutionary best. We've seen new performance kings emerge throughout the year in this, the most volatile of product segments. We've seen NVIDIA's attempt at two GPUs on a single graphics card, or rather two PCBs-their 7950GX2. We've also seen GDDR4 enter the graphics arena, onboard ATI's X1950XTX. The biggest splash was perhaps the last to be made: NVIDIA's DirectX 10 card, the 8800GTX, emerged, featuring enough innovation to be called revolutionary. Needless to say, ATI will soon respond. The lower tier of graphics cards now reflect true value for money, with such heavyweights pushing the prices of those below them still lower.

Far from the silicon battlegrounds, we've seen fatter platters: hard drives well and truly crossed 500 gigabyte territory. Perpendicular recording became mainstream this year, bringing about size and performance explosions-with some of the biggest increments in performance since SATA 1.

A whole new breed of motherboards aimed at the enthusiast but priced for mid-range buyers surfaced this year, vying for your attention. These feature-rich hunks of silicon now sport a serious amount of visual appeal, with manufacturers adding good looks-chunky, fan-less heatsinks, LEDs, and more-to what used to be a relatively drab product category. Keeping in mind the user who wants to flaunt is something that seems to be paying off.

2006 also saw widescreen LCD monitors make their mark, and gain acceptance over regular LCDs, especially in the home entertainment segment. Prices have also dropped drastically: a 19-inch widescreen LCD monitor today costs what a 17-incher demanded a year ago.

All devices keep getting smaller, as you know well: witness the entry of the LCD monitor itself, and the diminutive inkjet printers of today. In fact, a whole new breed of compact photo printers means you can now carry your printer with you without sacrificing on printout quality.

The cell phone market is booming the  most: it has seen tremendous spurts of growth. Think newer technologies and cooler-looking handsets. The Nokias and Sony Ericssons of the world have locked horns firmly over the turf called India. This can be nothing but a good thing for us, the consumers: we've seen truly smart phones trickle into mid-range budgets. We're also seeing digital-camera-like quality on cell phone cameras-speaking of which, cameras have scaled the upper megapixel range. We're seeing bigger, better features on smaller cameras that don't cost as much.

What were once just MP3 players have become the media players. "All-in-one" is the trend: these devices serve as your jukebox, photo album, cinema, and more! Then, Flash drives have scaled up to eight gigabytes, something that has favourably affected prices.

A wonder of a year, then, with increasing amounts being set aside by households and corporates alike for IT purchases. On to the Digit Zero1 Awards for 2006, and those masterpieces deserving enough to have reached the pinnacle of pinnacles in the fascinating world of tech products. There is no place for seconds here-neither for also-rans.




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