The Toybox top-five: best of 2008

It is that time of year again, but before we head off to beaches and baches for the holidays, I thought this would be the perfect time to sum up the past 12 months here at Toybox headquarters, and at the same time give you some Christmas gift inspiration. Below is my top-five list of toys and gadgets that have passed through since January.

1. Hewlett Packard’s Mini 1000 netbook ($899)

This little machine did not win the top spot just because it was the latest gadget I reviewed — it is actually very cool, and nice-looking. The short story is that the Mini 1000 is very lightweight — thanks to its plastic casing, it has a close to full-size keyboard and a 10-inch screen. The machine sports a 60GB hard drive, or a 8GB solid state drive, and is powered by Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz processor. The Mini 100 also has a slot for a 3G SIM card in the battery compartment. This is very exciting, but unfortunately, the 3G feature is not working in New Zealand yet.

2. V8 international phone card (from $10)

This is still a favourite of mine. I frequently annoy fellow bus-travellers by chatting to friends and family, in Swedish, on my way to work in the morning. The phone card allows you to call international landlines for as little as five cents per minute from your Vodafone mobile — great for those five-minute catch-ups with loved ones overseas that you tend to miss out on otherwise.

The V8 card works just like a traditional landline phone card — you have to call a number (in this case, 449), then enter a code and then call the overseas number. However, you can punch in the ten-digit code and then save it, so you don’t have to go through the tedious process of getting the card out and entering the number every time you call. Benefits include great calling quality and low rates — five cents per minute to call 30 countries.

3. Navman’s S150 Platinum ($549)

The S-series Platinum GPS range marks a big step forward for Navman, in terms of usability and design.

The super-stylish device is 13.5mm wide and weighs in at a mere 150 grams. It has a dedicated home button, which takes you back to the main menu, and a 4.3-inch scrollable and “glidable” touchscreen. Benefits such as enhanced search capabilities; the incorporation of options into the “flow” of using it; the ability to calculate the best route for fuel efficiency; and pedestrian mode all contribute to the ease-of-use of the device.

4.Toshiba’s Portégé R500 ($4,033)

This incredibly lightweight, but also incredibly expensive, notebook really made a lasting impression. I think it was the “squishiness” of it that appealed to me. Let me explain. Weighing in at just 1 kg, the little notebook is a mere two centimetres at its thinnest, and just over 2.5 centimetres at the heavier end.

What really surprised me was how flexible the super-thin 12.1-inch widescreen was. There was a good deal of flex in the keyboard as well, and even more in the panels on either side of the track pad, hence the “squishy” tag.

Despite its petite form-factor, the R500 has an optical drive, a PC card slot, three USB ports, and a fingerprint scanner. It runs a 1.2GHz Core 2 Duo processor and has 1GB of RAM. It comes with either a 160GB hard drive or a 64GB solid-state drive.

5. Panasonic’s CF-Y7 Toughbook ($4,399)

The Clark Kent-esque CF-Y7 looks unassuming but has secret powers. The thin, plastic-looking chassis is actually made of magnesium alloy and can reportedly take 100kgs of pressure. The 1.5 kg machine can also take a free-fall of 76cm — the average height of a desk — without shutting down.

The spill-resistant keyboard can handle being drenched by a cup of coffee. This Toughbook for business people is designed to handle the off-roading challenges posed by the modern open-plan office.

The CF-Y7 comes with 1GB of RAM and an 80GB shock-mounted hard drive.

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