Summer means bad tan lines. It means road trips, (temporary) freedom if you’re a student, and a whole lot of barbecuing. Late June’s also the perfect opportunity to get a part-time job flipping burgers or valeting at that beach-side hotel. Why? Those shiny new gadgets aren’t going to pay for themselves.
We’re halfway through 2012, and already there’s been plenty of amazing tech: Lumia 900, Galaxy Note, new iPad, Transformer Pad 300, and if you have a trip planned — Europe, Yosemite, New York City — you’ll no doubt want to bring along an arsenal of fancy new gear. TechnoBuffalo’s simple summer guide aims to highlight the best of the best, the stuff at the top of our wish lists. Keep in mind that below are what we consider to be the hottest gadgets out right now, meaning this list could change by Fall, or even in the next month.
Such is the nature of technology.
We almost gave this slot to the HTC One X. Almost. Yes, the One X is a great phone, one of the best out there, but the Galaxy S III is our summer pick for one very big reason: It’s available on five major U.S. carriers, and that’s a huge, huge deal. Samsung’s new monster packs quite the punch, too, so it’s locked and loaded to fend off the best devices on the market for months to come. Not only does it come equipped with LTE connectivity, a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display, Android 4.0 and a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor — the very same inside the One X — but all S III variants hitting U.S. shores will pack 2GB of RAM. If you haven’t pre-ordered one yet, maybe now’s the time to pull the trigger. $299 (Reviews: T-Mobile, AT&T) — TechnoBuffalo Mobile Team
There are a lot of great tablets on the market right now, but none quite as excellent as Apple’s iPad. Consistently raising the bar for design and quality, the device has single handedly defined the tablet space, sitting at the top of the mountain since arriving in 2010. Apple’s newest iPad, which introduced that incredibly hypnotic Retina display, once again showed other manufacturers how it should be done. If you want the most robust app experience, user-friendly mobile OS and again, best screen out there, the new iPad is definitely the best choice. You can’t argue with over 75 million sold to date. Heck, the current iPad’s biggest competition is last year’s iPad 2, which says a lot about the device’s popularity. But maybe, just maybe, Microsoft’s new Surface line will have a say this time next year. $499 — TechnoBuffalo Mobile Team
Alternative: Asus Transformer Pad Infinity (Review)
Protect that iPad and add a Bluetooth keyboard at the same time, just in case your Summer reading inspires you to write the Great American Novel. Adonit’s Writer Plus is the best iPad keyboard case I’ve tried; the key action is excellent, the layout not too cramped, and the rubber/aluminum/suede construction protects your tablet, coddles your wrists, and classes up whatever table you set it down upon. Or, harness the power of the sun with Logitech’s new Solar Keyboard Folio. A built-in solar cell charges the Folio’s Bluetooth keyboard so you can type all day at the beach, and deep into the night too, without having to plug your QWERTY into wall. The case also provides multiple viewing angles in case you need to take a break from your manuscript to watch Point Break on your iPad. $99 Writer Plus, $129 Solar Keyboard Folio — Noah Kravitz, Editor-at-Large
Alternative: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover
If you’re in the market for a new notebook, the new MacBook Pro offers enough bells and whistles to make a fire truck jealous. If seeing truly is believing, the MacBook Pro’s 15.4-inch Retina display’s stunning 2880 x 1800 resolution will make a believer out of just about anyone. However, things don’t end here, as the new MacBook is powered by a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and features a new streamline design making it only 0.71-inches thin and a light 4.46 pounds. So whether you’re looking for something to edit tough video projects with or something fancy to handle your homework, the new MacBook Pro has got you covered. The only real drawback here is a hefty price point, with entry-level models starting at $2,199. (Hands-On) — Mark Hearn, Editor, Mobile
Alternative: MacBook Air
Pick your poison, folks. Gaming on the go is clutch for summer fun. Especially if you’ll be spending time on the go between different parts of the world. The Nintendo 3DS or the PlayStation Vita, whichever one you pick will provide you tons of entertainment. Nintendo’s got their tried and true franchises present and accounted for on the 3DS (with more on the way), and Sony’s made an absolutely beautiful effort with the stunning tech of the PS Vita. Each handheld sports several fantastic games to choose from, so select your quest and get gaming. Vita $250, 3DS $170 — Joey Davidson, Senior Editor, Gaming
The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight was introduced just ahead of Mother’s Day this year and it’s still at the top of our list of eReaders. Unlike any other popular eReader before it, the Simple Touch with GlowLight offers a soft glowing backlight that’s completely adjustable. You still get the amazing E-Ink Pearl display that’s perfect for reading under direct sunlight, but the GlowLight feature allows you to read at night, on the bus, on the train or anywhere with a lack of light. We no longer have to worry about waking up our significant others while reading with the light on at night. We think this is the perfect option for anyone this summer — it’s great on the beach and even better at night when you’re taking the bus home and don’t want to use an overhead light. Toss in Barnes & Noble’s excellent user interface, an incredible $139 price point that includes a charger, and the super compact design and you have the best eReader available today. (Review) — Todd Hasleton, Senior Editor, Mobile
Alternative – Kindle Touch
Although a plethora of exciting digital camera models have been unleashed this year, including the Olympus OM-D EM-5, Nikon D800 and Canon PowerShot G1x, Canon’s EOS Rebel T4i is the most exciting release this summer. That’s because this is the first DSLR equipped with a lens system that enables the camera to autofocus silently and smoothly in video mode. This is something we’ve seen on higher end Micro Four Thirds cameras for the past few years, but the technology never made it to the DSLR market until the T4i. Secondly, the Canon EOS Rebel T4i flaunts a brand new 1.4-million pixel touchscreen LCD, another first in the DSLR realm. Owners can swipe through images in Playback, pinch-to-zoom and operate Touch Focus and Touch Shutter. Other goodies include a revamped Hybrid CMOS AF system, new shooting modes, Digic 5 image processing and a new 25,600 max ISO level.
The EOS Rebel T4i will be available at the end of June for an estimated retail price of $849.99 for the body alone; $949.99 bundled with an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens kit. It’s also available in a Movie Kit bundle for $1199.00 with the new EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. The new EF 40mm f/2.8 STM lens and the new EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM will also be available separately at the end of June at an estimated retail price of $199.99 and $549.99 respectively. — Mike Perlman, Senior Editor, Camera & Automotive
Alternative: Pentax K-01
There’s no shortage of pricey items here to make you drool, but hey — who says everything on a wish list has to be expensive? And these DryBuds are an incredibly handy summertime accessory that won’t gouge your wallet. At just $40, you can ensure that you’ve got some sweet sound candy embracing those ears, no matter where you are or what you’re doing — whether working up a sweat hiking or lounging around poolside. Not only do the buds laugh at moisture, but even the mic is waterproof. Sweet. — Adriana Lee, Senior Editor, Lifestyle
Whether you’re a surfer, body border or just a kid looking to play in the waves, the GWX8900B-7 Solar Atomic Big Case Tide Watch is a sure win this summer. The watch will set you back $150 but is water resistant to 200M (go snorkeling!), offers a tide/moon graph so you can always be prepared for waves, 4-daily alarms to make sure you’re up in time for those early breakers, a Super Illuminator LED backlight and Multi-Band 6 Atomic Time keeping. It’s also solar powered, so the more time you spend in the sun the less you have to worry about your watch’s battery life. — Todd Hasleton, Senior Editor, Mobile
Alternative: Casio’s $99 Case G-Lide GLX150 Tide Watch
On those hot summer nights where it’s just too much to even think about running down to the nearest Redbox to rent a movie, why not just fire up your Roku 2 XS and enjoy some good old fashioned entertainment streaming? Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, Crackel and more await you in this little device which is barely larger than a hockey puck.
While there are cheaper models than the XS, this top of the line model will only set you back about $99, and it also features the Bluetooth remote and a USB port so you can stream some of your own media via external hard drive or thumb drive to your television. — Sean P. Aune, Editor-in-Chief
Alternative: Apple TV
I haven’t done the best job at keeping my love for the Model S a secret. Everything about this car screams to me, but not for the reasons most would consider picking up an ell electric car. This thing is a performance machine, the 85 kwh battery, with performance packages, pushes this 4-door sedan to 60 mphs in 4.4 seconds, that’s faster than a stock Porsche 911. Since there isn’t an engine, the front of the car becomes a trunk (frunk?) allowing for more storage and essentially a giant crumple-zone and improved safety. Speaking of safety, the battery pack is mounted on the bottom of car, lowering its center of gravity while increasing rigidity in an accident, earning the model S 5 stars in every category (or as Elon Musk said, if they offered a 6th star, we’d get it). Now for the geeky bit, that 17″ touchscreen is just flat out awesome. Say what you will about practicality as a nerd, it’s my dream to have essentially a 2 iPad sized screen in front of me. Plus, it’s built and engineered in America. — Jon Rettinger, President