Feature Articles
Top 100 Products of 2011
By Team HardwareZone - 30 Dec 2011,11:56pm

Picks 1-10

Reviewing 2011

The year has come and gone in the blink of an eye, and it has undeniably been a year filled with surprises and innovation that have created an impact in our lives. Consumers have begun to 'adopt' 3D as more 3D TVs are lining the store front, while we saw more compact interchangeable lens cameras (commonly referred as mirrorless cameras) from Sony, Panasonic, Nikon and many more landing on retail shelves. Also notable are the rising variety of advanced compact cameras closing the gap between the casual and enthusiast groups. Elsewhere, Apple's MacBook Air is no longer the king of slim notebooks with Ultrabooks paving the way for companies such as ASUS, Lenovo, Toshiba and many others to join in the limelight for the new standard of consumer notebooks.

2011 is also the year of the tablets, when Apple's iPad 2 was challenged by the likes of Google and its hardware partners with the launch of Android 3.2 Honeycomb. Unfortunately, the competition still paled in comparison, and Apple is still leading the race. While the yearly mobile OS update from Apple's iOS 5 and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.5 highlighted the importance of cloud services with iCloud and Windows Live, Google is also stepping up with services such as Google Music and the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update. The latter aims to unify the fragmented tablet and smartphone experience.

Smartphones, however, turned out quite differently. With dual-core processors making its way into devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S II, and added features such as Beats Audio on the HTC Sensation XE, the choices were aplenty for consumers. Mobile processors aren't the only ones making an impact, as Intel's Sandy Bridge lineup goes mainstream to makes its way onto a wide range of notebooks, as well as to the workstation and enthusiasts segment with the ubber expensive Intel Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E processor. Even in connectivity standards, Intel, in collaboration with Apple, managed to debut its new serial data interface, Thunderbolt.

Phew, what a busy year! As we gear ourselves up for even more exciting times in 2012, let us honor the products (in no order of merit) that made all the above (and more) possible with the Top 100 Products of 2011.

Amazon Kindle Fire

The US$199 Kindle Fire is Amazon's first venture into the tablet market, and a simple no-frills device with a winning premise. Equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen and a dual-core processor, the Android-based (customized) tablet also showcases a compact form factor and full integration with Amazon online services like Amazon Prime.


AMD E-350 APU (Fusion Processor)

The AMD E-350 (codename Zacate) is a dual-core CPU for small form factor systems notebooks and value notebooks. It is one of the earliest incarnations of the AMD Fusion APU (accelerated processing unit) concept that had finally came to pass early this year.  It packs a dual-core CPU and a relatively powerful integrated graphics engine, a Radeon HD 6310 GPU that is clocked at 500MHz, supports UVD3 to tackle all video processing needs and offers HDMI 1.4a support. The processor sports a single channel DDR3-1333 memory controller and has a TDP of just 18W, making it a all-in-one workhorse with relatively low power consumption. It is an an excellent choice for consumers who need a compact, fuss-free multimedia PC for their AV needs, or even build a HTPC to be tucked away within their TV console.


AMD Radeon HD 6990

Boasting dual-GPUs on a PCB with a grand total of 3072 streaming processors and a whopping 4GB frame buffer, the AMD Radeon HD 6990 is the first of the current generation dual-GPU solutions and is also the fastest single card according to our benchmark scores. It offers good performance increase over the previous dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970 and it was marginally ahead of NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 590 in some instances. It is an extremely specialized product for unique consumers who demand only the very best in gaming performance. Setting up a pair of these graphics cards for a quad-GPU system is what the AMD Radeon HD 6990 allows a hardcore gamer or hardcore rig builder to achieve. This card is akin to an exotic high-end sports car with all its quirky and extravagant features that has an inexplicable appeal to these purists.


Apple iOS 5

Though Apple has borrowed certain design elements such as a pull down notification system from its competitors, there’s no denying that the latest iOS 5 update comes with some much needed improvements. Taking a cue from developers with its iMessage and image editing features integrated within its camera app, iOS 5 is also a prominent update for one key reason: iCloud. The prospect of wirelessly synchronizing your iOS devices through a cloud server, and having it easily restored or updated, makes iOS 5 one of the key product highlights in 2011.


Apple iPad 2

Due credit has to be given to Apple when it reignited the tablet frenzy with their first tablet, the Apple iPad. Unsurprisingly, a successor came along in 2011, with an updated Apple A5 dual-core 1GHz processor, a stronger battery life, video conferencing and imaging support via integrated camera sensors and a much thinner profile measuring 8.8mm found on the Apple iPad 2. With its apps ecosystem growing much stronger in 2011, the second tablet from Apple retains its lead in the tablet race.

Apple iPhone 4S

Apple's latest iPhone iteration might look exactly like its predecessor on the outside, but rest assured, the iPhone 4S comes with a few crucial improvements and features. These include a new Apple A5 dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel camera and a surprisingly accurate voice assistant called Siri.


Apple Macbook Air

Since its launch in 2008, the Apple Macbook Air has gone from an over-priced toy, to the most sought after notebook of 2011. A Sandy Bridge processor refresh, OS X Lion, wallet-friendly price and formidable battery life made this very svelte, all-aluminium 13-inch machine one of the best notebooks to pass through our labs.


Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch

The 15-inch Apple Macbook Pro is the notebook that audio-visual professionals turn to when it comes to work. But what makes this year's version even more impressive is definitely the inclusion of the Thunderbolt port. With it on board, you can now choose to even do all your editing on the Thunderbolt supported storage medium itself, thanks to its super fast connectivity (10Gbps) between devices.


Apple Thunderbolt Display (27-inch)

If size does matter, Apple’s Thunderbolt Display, measuring in at 27 inches, is one display that will impress. What’s even more impressive about this LED-backlit display with an aspect ratio of 16:9 is its resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, producing one of the highest pixels-per-inch density on any displays in the market. As its name implies, the 27-inch display comes with Intel’s Thunderbolt interface, allowing you to tap into the display’s USB 2.0, Firewire 800 and Gigabit Ethernet ports with a Thunderbolt-enabled Mac.