They say true beauty lies within. To that, I say, “Bah!” We know a good-looking device when we see one. Sure, there are workhorse gadgets out there that forego form for function, but if anything has the potential to make us forget about our spec snobbery, it’s a sexy design paired with head-turning functionality.
This is not a “best” list, but a “sexy” list. The distinction? A “best of” list gets picked with your head — I chose the following based on something more primal: An immediate, deep-seated longing that has me screaming, “I want it!” the moment I gazed at these beauties. No doubt, you’ll be familiar with some of them; others, perhaps not so much. But in all cases, their elegance has qualified them for my list of sexiest gadgets of 2011. So settle in and enjoy this collection of tech pr0n. And try not to drool all over your screen.
Smartphone: Nokia Lumia 800
To be honest, I was tempted to put the iPhone 4S here, but I decided against it for one simple reason — the form factor hasn’t really changed in two years. But Nokia‘s Lumia 800? Maybe it’s not the analysts’ darling, but I think it’s a fresh take that stands out in a sea of smartphone form factors that, frankly, all starts to look the same after a while. The company took those rounded edges and deep-colored polycarbonate — and put it together with Windows Phone OS, a 1.4 GHz CPU, 8MP camera, and Clearblack display. The result? A stunner of a design-forward package. While I do bemoan the lack of a front-facing camera and a few other specs, I also have to say — never has WinPho looked sexier than when it runs within this handsome handset. Available in Europe, those of us in the States will have to wait until next year to see if this (or its successor, the Lumia 900) will be enough to make the platform a real contender. Personally, I can’t wait.
Watch: Hamilton Pulsomatic Watch
Word has it, Apple and Google are both working on their own wearable tech initiatives. Well, until that bears out, I’ll stick with the time-tested wristwatch. There have been several interesting ones released this year that offer unique takes on this old standby, but there’s just something about the Hamilton Pulsomatic that captures my fancy. It’s not über-trendy — its clean lines and sophisticated design seems more timeless than “faddish.” Little wonder there: Hamilton is a classic brand with some real history behind it. And yet, it’s also decidedly modern: The Pulsomatic offers a sapphire crystal screen, liquid crystal display, pinpoint-accurate Swiss movement and water-resistance durability (to 50m).
Luxury Gadget: Porsche Design’s P’9981 BlackBerry
Okay, so not even this Porsche/RIM collaboration could lift BlackBerry out of the mire, but on its own merits, this is a stunning piece of kit. Usually, I find luxury phones either awful-looking or about as functional as steak sauce at a vegetarian buffet, but this Porsche Design smartphone is different. It’s a full-fledged smartphone running BlackBerry OS 7 device, complete with the familiar BlackBerry shape, but it has a decidedly luxurious twist, having been forged from a single piece of aluminum and backed by a leather rear panel. With a 2.8-inch display, the P’9981 features a 1.2GHz processor, custom Porsche Design interface and exclusive BBM PIN, so owners can single out and locate other P’9981 users. If I were a rich BlackBerry user, and perhaps didn’t know that RIM was on the verge of disaster, I’d seriously consider this phone. (Of course, all bets are off if someone steps in and makes a luxury BBX handset. Jussayin’.)
Artists’ Tool: Wacom Inkling Digital Stylus Pen
Sometimes, the most alluring thing about a device is its simplicity. This may just look like a simple, pretty pen, but for artists, it is oh-so-much more. I’m not huge on the styluses (er, styli), but an attractive digital stylus/pen that can draw with real ink on paper? One that made the graphic design world gasp this year? If ever there was a tool that could make me rethink needing a stylus, this is it. That it allows people to work and play in a more tangible realm is beyond sexy.
Computing Peripheral: Orime Mouse
I had a Magic Mouse once… for about a day and a half. Having that pretty, glass-tastic peripheral just wasn’t worth all the hand cramps I got from it. Then I got a gander at the wireless polygonal Orime Mouse from Japan. Whoa — this is not a peripheral for the meek. The design is bold, and the looks, attention-grabbing, almost like a big gemstone or sculpture. Now this is a mouse I wouldn’t mind leaving out on my desk. And yes, those facets do line up with the curve of the palm, to make for comfortable usage. It also rocks four buttons and an itty bitty USB dongle/connection point.
Ultra-Notebook: Macbook Air
I’ve been hot for a MacBook Air since Apple unveiled its latest models this year. And why not? Sleek, minimal looks paired with Intel Core i5/i7 processor, 4GB RAM, and a barely-there thinness and weight (0.68 inches, 2.38–2.96 lbs). Add that solid state drive, and for the first time, its performance puts it on par with the MacBook Pro for most uses. (Alternate: OS X not your thing? Then check out the Asus Zenbook. If I were going to go for an ultra-notebook PC, it would definitely be the Zenbook.)
Audio: McIntosh MC275 Amplifier
I’m a sucker for vacuum tubes — it takes me back to a time when people had boudoir slippers and smoking jackets — and this satisfies my retro bent quite nicely. While many steampunk-ish products and projects offer fairly average performance, this 50th anniversary version of the McIntosh MC275 can deliver some fuel injection to any home audio set-up. Its two 75W outputs and goldplated binding posts make for a clean, crisp sound that’s almost as attention-getting as its looks.
Home/Kitchen Gadget: Handpresso Handheld Espresso Maker
Now here’s something totally different. Amid all these high-tech gadgets comes something definitely a little more foodie. If you’ve ever traveled, only to find that your hotel doesn’t have a coffee machine (or the Sanka packets there aren’t quite up to snuff), this Handpresso can keep you blessedly happy and caffeinated, inside or outside. As far as handheld espresso makers go, this is a thing of beauty. And not only is it small and portable, but it can force hot water through an espresso pod with 16psi of pressure. Fancy.
Photography: Fujifilm FinePix X100
Also on the vintage-inspired theme, the Fujifilm’s retro-stylish magnesium alloy body belies its incredible photo-snapping chops. The only thing better than its looks are the images this beast captures; they’re nothing short of spectacular. No point-and-shooter, the X100 is more geared for professional and near-pro amateurs, with its large 12.3MP APS-C Size CMOS Sensor, dual (optical/electronic) viewfinders, 2.8-inch LCD with 460K-dot resolution, 100-12800 ISO capabilities, fixed 35mm (equivalent) F/2 lens and HD 720p Video W/Stereo Sound. So yeah, this is serious gear for serious folks (with a whopping $1,100+ price tag to match). But damn… even if it were just sitting on a shelf like a museum piece, it can still inspire drool.
Unique Consumer Product: Lytro Light Field Camera
I know I already included a camera, but shoot – there was no way I could overlook the Lytro light field camera. I can describe why in four simple words: Small, stunning, powerful, jaw-dropping. It’s not only an elegant, compact little image-capture tool, but it takes what the company calls “living pictures,” allowing shooters to take pics now and worry about focusing later. The detail it captures is amazing, letting users zero in and focus on different parts of the image after it was taken, in post-production. How it manages to pack so much into such a small product is nothing short of amazing.
Gaming: Razer Blade Gaming Laptop
Razer’s gaming mouse products are legendary, and its Blade laptop could be joining the ranks. The Blade is crazy light (at just 3.1kg), but packs enough sexiness to blow your hair back, like the LCD touchscreen and customizable keys, a cue taken from its Switchblade concept. Go inside, and there’s even more lustworthy goodness in there, including Nvidia GeForce graphics, an Intel Core i7 CPU that runs up to 3.5GHz (turbo mode), and 8GB of RAM. I’m not much of a gamer, but boy, this really makes me want to be.
Tablet: Asus Eee Pad Transformer Tablet
There are some people who will take aim at me for not putting the iPad 2 here, and I don’t blame them. The iPad 2 is a beautiful device, even slimmer than the iPad 1 that I already owned. Thing is, the follow-up just didn’t offer enough sex appeal over the original to make me want to upgrade. (Although I did it anyway, since I work in tech and all.) Enter the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. When this Android tablet came along this year, I didn’t care that I already had a tablet. I had a visceral reaction: I wanted one. Bad. Just look at it — it’s gorgeous, in all its lean, aluminum glory. And that it’s built to work with a keyboard dock would’ve had me at hello. The only thing that looks better to me right now is the Transformer Prime, which is slated to release next month. Also thin, light, and versatile, it will boast a Tegra 3 quad-core, beautiful 10-inch SuperIPS 1,280 x 800 screen and — word has it — it may launch with Ice Cream Sandwich on board.
The goal here was to celebrate gadgets as “objets d’art,” and show that function doesn’t always have to sacrifice form. These 11 were my picks for sexiest gadgets of the year. Which ones were yours? Hit the comments and let me know if you have some favorites of your own to add to the list!