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Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]
By Charlie White,
Mashable, 17 June 2012.

The past seven days in the technology world have been nothing short of profound.

Profound? That’s the word we use when a ground-breaking laptop is rolled out by the world’s foremost technology company, hybrid vehicles win first and second place in the 24 hours of Le Mans, a new operating system is introduced for iPhones, and a company accustomed to cranking out hard drives aces its first router…all in one rip-roaring week.

And that’s just the beginning! You’ll be impressed and amused with the other occupants of our perennial list, encompassing ideas that none of us had ever considered.

So dive into the best gadgetry and innovations the week had to offer, right here in the burgeoning bundle of commentary and graphics we call Top 10 Tech This Week.

1. Audi E-Tron: First Hybrid to Win Le Mans

This is a watershed event: An Audi E-Tron race car became the first hybrid vehicle to win the 24 hours of Le Mans race. Not only did it come in first, but another Audi E-Tron came in second.

Audi wasn't the only carmaker with a hybrid entry - Toyota also jumped in with its LMP1 hybrid, but the racing gods apparently weren't smiling on that car on Saturday - the Toyota hybrid was involved in race-ending wreck.

Check out our video with more about this landmark day in racing history, where hybrid cars, which still sound way-cool on the race track, by the way, taught all those old-timey gasoline-only engines who's boss.

[More information at Jalopnik]

2. MacBook Pro with Retina Display

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Apple dominated the news this week with refreshes to its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops, giving them all faster Intel Ivy Bridge processors. But the star of the show was this gorgeous MacBook Pro with Retina Display, sporting the highest-resolution screen that's ever graced any laptop. Its sharpness and colour saturation is downright astonishing.

It's even skinnier than its predecessor, almost matching the thinness of the thickest part of the MacBook Air. It's packing a solid-state drive inside, losing that spinning hard drive, as well as the optical "superdrive" Apple thinks won't be necessary anymore. You've probably heard all about the other technology on board, making this spectacular piece of technology a step ahead of anything else on the market.

We've taken a close look at it, and it feels like a notebook that's been plopped down from the future. My only gripe? The Mac tax attached to it, making the one I bought cost upwards of US$3300 with the fastest processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512MB solid-state drive. But hey, you get what you pay for. If you want to ride on the bleeding edge, you're always going to have to plop down some serious money, financing this tech for all those who follow.

3. ShaveTech USB Rechargeable Travel Shaver

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Worry no more about strange plugs in foreign lands when you can connect your shaver to a handy USB port on your laptop. That's the promise of this ShaveTech USB Rechargeable Travel shaver, and it doesn't look half bad, either.

We're hoping to get one of these into the Midwest Test Facility so I can give you a full report about how well it can transmogrify me from grizzled hobo into clean-shaven babyface - a tall order, indeed - all fodder for a future Top 10 Tech column.

[More information at ShaveTech]

4. Karma 4G

Great idea: Sidestep greedy cell phone providers and start a pay-as-you-go network that undercuts crazy pricing with reasonable rates. That's what Karma has done, using this little US$69 hotspot device to access the Clearwire 4G network, charging users US$14 per gigabyte of data.

There's a social element to it, where others around you can also login to your open Wi-Fi network you just created, and when they sign into their Facebook accounts they can get a free 100MB's worth of browsing. Sure beats the US$50 for one gigabyte of data Verizon charges in its overpriced shared plan.

Karma is reportedly talking to the major cell phone providers to strike a deal to use their massive networks as well, but there's no word of progress on that yet. Nevertheless, this fledgling company is opening up a Pandora's box for those fat cats, introducing the concept of competition. Sometimes the free market does work.

[More information at Karma and The Verge]

5. Duracell PowerMat

Duracell PowerMat

Duracell tries wireless charging again with its PowerMat, and this time it's a hit. Extensively updated from three years ago, this wireless charging system is stylish and easy to use. Here's how it works: Put a shiny sleeve on your iPhone 4, iPhone 4S or iPod, and then you can place your device on a matching mat that wirelessly charges it up like magic.

We got one here and put it to the test.

Duracell PowerMat

Aiming to please, Duracell also includes an auxiliary battery in the US$100 package (along with an iPhone charging sleeve and the 2-place PowerMat itself), which also charges when placed on the PowerMat. Then, you can take that little hockey-puck-sized battery with you on the road, plugging it into your iPhone for a quick recharge when you're away from civilization.

Duracell PowerMat

Duracell wants to spread this recharging technology everywhere, embedding it in tables and countertops in places where people regularly hang out, such as bars, nightclubs and gyms.

Duracell PowerMat

My only complaint is that just like its predecessor (and unlike its excellent competitor from Energizer), the PowerMat is still finicky about exactly where you place your device to begin this wireless magnetic charging. Place it slightly off the mark, and nothing happens. Even though you can correct the error forthwith, it's still mildly frustrating.

And then there's the necessity of using just this charging case, and not another of your own choosing - I long for the day when this technology will be built into iPhones and other handsets.

If you can deal with those issues, along with the slightly annoying bleep the thing makes every time it begins charging, it's US$100 well spent - there's something wonderful about the convenience of just plopping your iPhone down on a little platform and having it charge up without having to futz with wires and cables.

[More information at Duracell]

6. iOS 6

There's a new version of the Apple mobile operating system on its way, and iOS 6 will be packing a plethora of interesting innovations. My favourite is the long-awaited arrival of turn-by-turn navigation, included as standard in iOS for the first time. Sure, you've been able to get great GPS navigation apps from Tom Tom, Garmin and others for years, but now you won't need to buy any of those at all. In fact, Apple's getting help with its turn-by-turn navigation from Tom Tom itself.

Whether Apple's break from Google Maps - diving into Apple's own lovely in-house 3D renderings - will be ready in time for a Fall release remains to be seen. We've heard way too many reports this week of hilarious errors in Apple's mapping software thus far (is the Pacific Ocean really in the middle of the continent of Africa?). But "this Fall" could be a half a year away, giving Apple plenty of time to clean up its act.

7. Booster Brolly

This bright red umbrella can do to handy things: It can charge your phone using its solar charger, and also act as a serious antenna booster in areas with weak cell phone coverage. This fully working prototype was invented by Kenneth Tong, and he's calling it the Vodafone Booster Brolly.

According to the Vodafone blog, the golf umbrella is equipped with a high-gain antenna along with a low-power signal repeater that concentrates radio signals, giving phones much better reception. That solar charging capability is just an added benefit, albeit an important one.

“We’ve put in all of this technology,” Tong says, “but its not heavy, its not big - and it looks good. In fact, it’s a bit of a James Bond umbrella - you can’t tell what it does from the outside.” He hasn't said yet when this clever invention might become available.

8. Acer Aspire S5: World's Thinnest Laptop

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While everyone was fawning over the MacBook Pro with its Retina display, Acer sneaks in with a laptop introduced a few months ago but available this month. What's the big deal? It happens to be the slimmest laptop in the world.

Acer Aspire S5

Just look at it. You really could slice bread with this thing.

Just how thin is it anyway? It's 11.2mm (.44 inches) at its thinnest point in the front, and 15mm (.59 inches) at its thickest in the back. And it's a featherweight as well, tipping the scales at a mere 2.65 lb.

For comparison, the MacBook Air 11" and 13" models are .68 inches at their thickest point, larger than the Acer Aspire by .09 inch.

Acer-Aspire S5

It's well-equipped, too, with a 13.3" 1366 x 768 screen, an Intel Ivy bridge i7 processor, a 256GB solid-state drive, 4GB of RAM and USB 3.0. Another impressive stat: It's the first Windows laptop to have a Thunderbolt port on board, formerly a purview of only Apple hardware. Best of all, there's no Mac tax - the Acer S5 will cost you US$1399 when it arrives for sale later this month (June, 2012).

[More information at CNET]

9. Western Digital My Net N900

Western Digital My Net N900

Western Digital ventures out of the hard drive space and into wireless routers, and we tried out its new US$180 My Net N900 router here at our Midwest Test Facility.

A router? Why should you care? Sure, routers are geeky as they can be, but if your router flakes out on you, it's enough to ruin your day, or maybe even your week.

Western Digital My Net N900

This one starts out on the right foot, with 7 hard-wired Gigibit Ethernet ports, up from the usual four ports. I like the way it was super easy to set up, giving you both 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands to do your wireless networking using the latest "N" standard (although it's not yet compatible with the upcoming and faster 802.11AC protocol).

I liked its snappy download and upload speed over three laptops and a Wi-Fi-equipped TV all at the same time.

Western Digital My Net N900

Using that Wi-Fi TV to watch streaming video, it gave me a chance to test this router's claim to fame: its ability to give preferential treatment to streaming video signals, which look awful if they're interrupted.

I put a heavy burden on the router, downloading huge files to two other laptops while wirelessly watching an HD episode of Mad Men on Netflix, and playback was perfect with nary a dropped frame during the entire 45-minute episode. All the while, those PCs were still able to download from the web at 5.54 Mbps. That's impressive.

Western Digital My Net N900

In my informal testing, this router handled everything I threw at it with an alacrity and speed I've seen with equipment from established router manufacturers such as Netgear and Cisco. So yes, it is possible for a hard drive maker to make a great router.

[More information at Western Digital]

10. Taihoo 2046 Concept Car


Even though this lovely concept car is probably a flight of fancy, its gorgeous design certainly caught my eye.


Even though it looks like a hovercraft, there are three wheels underneath that elegant skirt, propelling this electro-pocket-rocket in a most delightful way.



This baby's built for the future, with solar cells on the roof, an aluminium body, and an electric motor on each wheel.


It's designed for the 18- to 35-year-old crowd, who apparently like to do a lot of lying around in their cars, because the vehicle's seats fold out into a bed. Hey, it's kind of like camping!


Designer Hao Huang says he drew inspiration for this attractive vehicle's undulating shape from the Taihu Stone, a porous decorative type of rock used in gardens in China.


[More information at Yanko Design]

[Source: Mashable. Edited. Top image added.]

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