Best Gear Surprises of 2012

Screen Shot 2012 12 31 at 9 52 00 AM

As 2012 comes to an end I thought I might take a quick look at a couple of specific gadgets that surprised and delighted me over the past year. So here a quick list of my personal “Best Gear Surprises of 2012”.

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MacBook Pro with Retina Display

The biggest change in my gear this past year came in the form of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. I loved using and carrying my MacBook Air but the pull of a retina display-equipped laptop was too much. I bit. So did Judie. In fact, there was a bit of back and forth between us with regard to deciding which model to order. Ultimately Judie’s “advice” led me to getting a higher-end model than I initial planned. My impatience convinced Judie to go for the model with 512GB since the one with a larger drive would have resulted in a bit of a shipping delay.

The laptops came in at more than 3K each. It is the most expensive computer I have ever purchased. It is also the best. And while I miss the portability of the MacBook Air I cannot say enough about how fast, how powerful and how generally awesome the MBPr is. I surprised myself in that, after the MBPr came, I sold off my other computers. They just couldn’t compare. The 15″ MBPr is now my only computer and I could not be happier. You can read Judie’s and my post on it here.

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Libratone ZIPP Airplay Wireless Speaker

A day after beginning my review of the Sonos PLAY:5 a few years ago I ordered my own system. I love it. I love the sound, the convenience and the true multi-room experience. And while I have continued to review numerous other speaker systems none made me question my commitment to the Sonos approach in the slightest. That was until I got a Libratone ZIPP Wireless Airplay speaker to review.

Right out of the gate the Zipp blew me away with its sound. It is a single cylinder but it pumps out some pretty amazing sound, especially for its size. Then there is the AirPlay functionality. I reviewed a few AirPlay speakers when the system was first introduced but none really wowed me. All seemed to have moments of drop off that ruined the experience. Not so the Zipp which seemed to hold on to the signal far better.


And there’s more. You see, the Zipp can create its own ad hoc AirPlay connection for AirPlay on the go. Combine that with the Zipp’s battery and you can take the Zipp with you to the park, in your RV or wherever you want great quality music. I’m genuinely surprised by just how much I love the Zipp. Read the full review here.

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Pivothead Durango Video Recording Eyewear

I love Dick Tracy-like stuff. I’m sure that comes as no surprise. As a result I love gear and gadgets that look like one thing but do much more. Seriously, who wouldn’t want Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone??? When I saw the Pivothead Video Recording Eyewear I thought they looked rather neat. And while I expected the video they shoot would be mediocre at best I really wanted to try a pair. The company was kind enough to send some along for review and… I was surprised. I was surprised how comfortable they were. I was surprised that they actually looked pretty good. (Elana commented that they don’t look dissimilar to the pair of sunglasses I usually wear.) And I was totally surprised by the quality of the video they shoot.


Seriously, these video sunglasses shoot amazing Point Of View video. AND they do it surreptitiously. I used them when I visited Cuba in the fall. I used them again in Aruba. And I’ll be bringing them along with me to CES. These things are awesome and continually surprise me. (Read the full review.)

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The iPad mini

The fourth and final gear surprise is probably the biggest of them all. I am completely and totally surprised by how much I love my iPad mini. Now, I’m not nearly as surprised by this as Mike is.


After all, HE went on record that he wasn’t going to buy one.


I called that nonsense.


So while Mike is clearly more surprised than me by how much he likes the iPad mini (he actually sold off all his other small tablets) I’m still surprised by the device. I truly expected that I would like it for reviews and such but never imagined I would see it all but completely replace my 9.7″ iPad. It did. In fact, since the iPad mini arrived the larger iPad hasn’t left the house. I still love the large Retina display for reading magazines and watching video but for most purposes the iPad mini is now my tablet of choice. That does surprise me.

Was there gear that surprised and delighted you in 2012? Let us know in the comments below. We’ll pick one comment and that person will win a case for their device of choice. The winner will be announced in the next newsletter.


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4 replies

  1. My biggest surprise for 2012 gear is the Samsung ATIV. I’ve had my iPad since about a week after they first came out, and enjoyed most things about it for quite some time. I knew I wanted to try out the new Windows 8 tablets, but an unexpected event brought me the ATIV.

    Since I took it out of the box, the only time I took out my iPad was to restore it and give it to my wife.

    Windows 8 is ok. It’s not “fully formed” yet, and I would never consider putting it on my desktop computer or my current laptop. The Metro side of Win8 is interesting. It will get to be more fun I think, as more apps become available. The selection at the moment is a bit anemic. But the ability to run full versions of Windows programs (Or at least the ones capable of running on an Atom processor!) is what puts it over the edge for me. The ability to use Word and Excel make all the difference in the world, and then print using my regular network printer is so satisfying to me. Everything on the iPad felt like a work-around for me, even with Pages and Numbers.

    I also really like the keyboard dock. With the iPad, again even the best of the bluetooth portfolio keyboards didn’t seem as solid as the ATIV on it’s dock, which makes it function and feel like a small laptop, including the touchpad and 3 USB ports (2 on the dock, 1 on the tablet) along with a micro SD card slot. Having the ability to have unlimited memory via USB vs. having to continuously choose content on the iPad makes the ATIV a winner in my book.

    I never expected to actually love it as much as I do. I thought it might be something like the my Galaxy Tab, which got only occasional use because it couldn’t really be my iPad. (The Galaxy Tab went off to my sister.)

    I went from having 2 tablets to three, and then to just the ATIV in about 2 weeks. I think I’d still like to get an iPad mini though. The smaller form factor and familiarity of iOS (not to mention the 500 apps I have for it!) will keep me in the iOS family, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to having the iPad being my “go-to” tablet.

  2. I have nothing to contribute on the surprise and delight front (well, at least when it comes to tech!) but I had to drop by and wish all of you a Happy New Year!

    DeniTako: wow! gee, what a great review. You’ve got me wanting to try this tablet now …

    (No cases for me, just best wishes to you all!)

    • Thanks Rust! Most Best Buy’s have them on display – not with the tablets, but over in the mobile phone area. Some Staples stores have them out as well. If you get a chance to play with one, I think you’d enjoy it! :-)

  3. My biggest surprise of the year has to be the Kindle Fire. I purchased the it when Amazon had it on sale for $129.00. Tired of fighting my sons for the ipad and just wanting an occasional reader, that I could carry in my purse, it has exceeded my expectations. Since it has many of the same apps that I have on my iphone, I now have an extra larger screen for recipes(pepperplate), netflix, hulu, email, and Words with Friends.