As promised, I providing you with condensed review of what I consider the Best of Technology – 2013. These are devices I have gotten my hands on or thoroughly researched. For some of the items below, I will offer explanations **
Best e-mail of 2013: Outlook.com
* As I mentioned before, it is a good idea NOT to use the e-mail that came with your Internet service provider. You never know if they are going to change hands and and take away that e-mail from you. They leading “free” e-mail providers out there are Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook.com (formerly Microsoft Hotmail). There is nothing wrong with the first two, but Outlook.com completely reinvented itself this year. The changes started in late 2012 but continued throughout this year to offer a full Contacts book (People) and Calendar. Outlook.com is beautiful on the web, but can also interface with a Mac or Windows email program via IMAP or Exchange. Outlook.com accounts can be easily managed on iPhones, Androids and Windows Phones.
Best Laptops: Lenovo Thinkpad X240, Lenovo Thinkpad T440 (Close behind: Dell Latitude E6440)
*While I will always continue to support my clients who buy Mac laptops and still use one myself, the GREAT Mac laptops that we have seen since 2006 are fading away. In my honest opinion the currently available MacBook Pro 13 (non Retina) is the last of this dying breed. Apple is changing all of its MacBook Pros to the Retina product line which means proprietary parts. I can’t live with that. Perhaps you can. Proprietary parts mean YOU HAVE TO BRING IT TO APPLE FOR REPAIR. What are you going to do if you are on vacation with one of these systems and there is no Apple Store around? On the older MacBooks, the Lenovo’s, The Dell’s — anyone in the computer business could replace that hard drive. The bottom line, with the 3 year warranty — I can promise you Apple will take care of you for 3 years — probably better than most companies. However, just make sure you are near an Apple Store or have a second computer. With any premium laptop, the 3 year warranty is the way to go.
Easiest to use phone out of the box: iPhone 5s
* Not much to be said. This is Apple’s newest top of the line phone. It just works. Apple kept the same 4 inch screen size as last year’s iPhone 5.
Smart phone for people with big fingers, challenged eyes: Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Available on all carriers — this phone is well made and is sort of the anti-Phone and the second or third biggest seller in the world among premium phones. It has a 5.7 inch screen and seems gigantic compared to the iPhone. However, that big screen is easy on the eyes. Furthermore, it comes with a stylus pen so you can write on the screen (notes, etc.)
Best Cell Phone Provider if you want NO B.S. — T-Mobile
*T-Mobile made a habit out of calling itself — the UN-CARRIER this year. They also started selling cellphones primarily with no contract. You can finance your phone through them with interest free payments or you can buy your phone on Amazon, directly from Apple or Google for example. They even allow you to get basic data FOR FREE overseas. It’s nice to know that you won’t pay $100 to check some emails in Paris.
Best Nationwide coverage — Verizon Wireless (ATT catching up)
* Verizon is still the king when it comes to the actual technical merits of the service. T-Mobile is great if there is coverage in your area. Verizon knows they have an advantage in terms of being able to reach people from more areas with generally better call quality and that is why they COST MORE than anyone else and have more ridiculous policies about their phones.
Best Consumer Level desktop — Mac Mini $599
* I can faithfully recommend this desktop. Its smaller than a gallon of ice cream and looks great on your desk. It can connect to a $125 monitor of your choosing (not from Apple) and practically any USB keyboard and mouse. It’s a great mid-priced desktop and its still upgradable, repairable unlike other Macs.
Best Bargain Laptop — Dell Inspiron 15 $429 — ordered from Dell
* You know that I try to shy away from the cheap computers, especially at big box stores. They are junk. However, Dell wanted to try to break the mold on that this year. You might have a kid in school who can’t appreciate the $1100 Lenovo’s that I mentioned above. Maybe you need a second computer for the road. You may be on a tight budget. I really like what Dell did with their Inspiron 15 systems this year. These systems have some sense of quality and a lot of functionality for a great price. This isn’t the system that your kid will be able to play the hottest video game on, but it should get the practical stuff done and last at least 2 years. Be sure to choose the model with the i3 processor as the cheaper one DOES NOT have a CD / DVD drive.
Best Office Suite: Office 2013 Windows / 2011 Mac (Close second Libre Office — free)
Microsoft Office is a paid program and now that Microsoft has changed their business model, it will cost you $100 a year (or $10 a month) to use Office, albeit on up to 5 computers. However, if you love special features in Word, working with Excel spreadsheets, creating PowerPoints or even using Outlook — the Office subscription is the way to go. It’s called Office 365 and with it you get Office 2011 (Mac) or Office 2013 (Windows) installed on 1 to 5 machines. You will always be up to date with your subscription. However, office documents may not be THAT important to you, go with Libre Office. It is the successor to Open Office and is used by 10’s of millions world wide. http://www.libreoffice.org It gives you most of what Microsoft offers at a free price (donations welcome).
Best Cell Phone for the Price — Google Nexus 5 — $349 unlocked works on T-Mobile, ATT, and maybe Sprint
*Since 2010 Google has been selling Nexus phones, but in the past two years they’ve really caught fire. The full cost of an iPhone is $649. For hot Samsung phones, the cost is at least as much. Sure, sometimes you can buy a phone on contract for $99 or $199 but people and the cell companies are moving away from that pricing model. If you don’t want to be entangled to a contact, the Nexus 5 is the one for you. Not allowed on Verizon at this time.
Best Tablet for the Price — Google Nexus 7 (2013) $229 (Close second Amazon Kindle Fire HDX $229)
* The new iPad Air is wonderful at $499 and so is the Mini Retina at $399, but if you are on a budget go with the Nexus 7 or Kindle fire.
Best Battery Life on a Tablet — Kindle Fire HDX (10 hours, 18 hours when reading a Kindle book), Lenovo Yoga 10 (18 hours – $269), iPad Air (10 hours)
Best Backup Solution for a Family — CrashPlan – up to 10 computers — $149 per year
Best Anti-Virus — Intego (Mac), ESET (Windows) — Roughly $40 per year 1 computer, multi-computer discounts available .
Happy NEW YEAR!!!