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PCMag's Best Products of the Year

Every year PC Magazine (http:www.pcmag.com) editors rank the best PCs, HDTVs, components, sites, and services. Plus: the products they are looking forward to next year, and which technologies are rising and falling.

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Flipboard

It's been years since Flipboard came out on the iPad and it's still the best aggregator of news, social networking, links, video, and images on the platform. Even the page swiping is impressively fast. In version 2, users can create and share personalized magazinesand recipients don't even need to have Flipboard installed to read them.Eric Griffith

Flipboard (for iPad)

Free Flipboard, one of our 100 Best iPad Apps, is an excellent app for tablet readers. It leverages the iPad's Web-connectivity and large 9.7-inch display to cull blog posts, social networking feeds, images, video, and articles into a slick, print-like layout that closely replicates the traditional reading experience.Jeffrey L. Wilson

Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner

The Flip-Pal mobile scanner offers an innovative design with PC-free scanning, a 4-by-6 flatbed, and a 2GB SD card. It has a neat trick for scanning originals that won't fit under the flatbed lid: take off the lid, turn the scanner over, and place the glass on top of the item to be scanned. It offers good scan quality and as a flatbed scanner it eliminates the risk of mangling photos or delicate documents possible with a sheet-fed scanner. Its 1.7-inch LCD lets you preview scans on the spot.TH

Garmin nvi 3590LMT

$399.99 Don't call the standalone GPS device category dead yetespecially with overachieving models like the Garmin nvi 3590LMT. You get a sharp, bright 5-inch capacitive touch screen that displays smooth map animations and even graded terrain data. Garmin's routing and point-of-interest (POI) search algorithms continue to top the industry. And the new split-screen lane assistance views make it easier than ever to follow complex highway interchanges.JL

Garmin nvi 3597LMTHD

Garmin has been in the GPS navigation game for a long time and it shows with the top-end nvi 3597LMTHD. This model includes a 5-inch glass capacitive display with a sharp (for a GPS) 800-by-480-pixel resolution. In a world of free smartphone GPS apps, the expensive nvi 3597LMTHD really has to earn its keepand it does, thanks to beautiful 3D terrain mapping, a brilliant magnetic mount, and improved natural-language voice prompts that are accurate and well-timed. Split-screen, photorealistic 3D lane assistance makes exiting complex highway interchanges a cinch.Jamie Lendino

Garmin nvi 3790T

The Garmin nvi 3790T is a solid navigator that raises the bar for the standalone GPS category, with its slim build, ultra-high-resolution screen, flexible routing and traffic, and gorgeous terrain mapping. This is a high-end gadget worth the premium price.

Gateway DX4870-UB2B

The Gateway DX4870-UB2B is a basic tower desktop PC that checks all the boxes you need from a new desktop, particularly if you already have an LCD display you're carrying over. It's speedy for its segment, has spacious storage, will let you keep many documents open simultaneously, and is relatively inexpensive. It's also expandable so it can grow with your family. A great bang for the buck, it's a solid choice.Joel Santo Domingo

GOLD: Acer Aspire AS8950G-9839

The Acer Aspire AS8950G-9839 offers the best and biggest media experience available in a laptop thanks to a giant 18.4-inch 1080p screen, 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, and Blu-ray. With a surprisingly long-lasting battery and a powerful quad-core Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU, you'll also find that the AS8950G-9839 has a lot of muscle where it counts for entertainment and productivity alike.BW

GOLD: Acer Revo RL100-UR20P

The Acer Revo RL100-UR20P is a slim home entertainment PC that packs in a Blu-ray player, a wireless trackpad/keyboard remote, a huge 750GB hard drive, and a slew of other features at an inexpensive, sub-$600 price. This PC is the content consumption device to get if you're looking to consolidate all your digital media to one device. Just think, you'll have all your downloaded videos, as well as Netflix, Hulu, and the rest of the Web at your finger tips.Natalie Shoemaker

GOLD: Adobe InDesign CS5.5

The industry-leading layout software gets drastic improvements in object placement, anchored objects, varied page sizes, and lots of new support for digital publishing using EPUB and HTML. It's also become an integral member of Adobe's Creative Suite. We were particularly impressed with the auto-column balancing, drag-and-drop anchored objects, and variable page size capability. The $699 program has transformed itself from a grudgingly must-use desktop publishing program into a must-have joy, and new subscription pricing puts it in the hands of more users.Michael Muchmore

GOLD: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.5

Adobe's workflow app is indispensible to anyone serious about digital photography. It lets you easily organize even the largest of photo collections, and has the unmatched ability to correct for specific lens model's chromatic aberration, vignetting, and geometric distortion. Adobe quickly adds support for each important new camera and lens that comes on the market. The built-in noise reduction obviates the need for a third-party plug-in, though those are supported by the software, too. Lightroom's elegant interface is available to both Windows and Mac users, and on either platform you'll be impressed with the quick, 64-bit operation.MM

GOLD: Alienware M17X (Sandy Bridge)

From its 1080p screen to its black clad magnesium frame, the Alienware M17X is built from the ground up to offer superb performance and an intimidating look. It could be, however, that what's inside is even more menacinga beefy 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-2720QM quad-core processor and the competition crushing AMD Radeon 6970M graphics card with 2GB of VRAM. It's the best gaming laptop, period.BW

GOLD: Amazon Kindle (2011)

It took four generations, but Amazon has finally released an ebook reader that almost anyone could likeand afford. The newest base model Kindle lacks some of the features you'll find on higher-end models, such as a touch screen, memory card slot, and headphone jack. But it offers everything the avid reader needs: a high contrast screen (with newly minimized page turn flashes); a svelte, lightweight design; and the best online ebook store available today. Amazon's cloud-based backup and diverse array of Kindle mobile apps mean you'll never be without your books. Even die-hard print addicts can find much to like here.Jamie Lendino

GOLD: AMD Radeon HD 6990

Are you looking for the fastest discrete video processing you can get? Cards based on the AMD Radeon HD 6990 design scheme provide it. It essentially unites two Radeon HD 6970s within a single unit, achieving outstanding frame rates on pretty much any game you can throw at it, with as big a monitor as you can swing. (We tried it on the biggest we had, with a 2,560-by-1,600 resolution, and it barely broke a sweat.) This isn't to say there aren't downsides: Because the card measures about 13 inches long, it won't fit in all cases; it sucks up a lot of power, so don't even think about it if your PC doesn't have at least a 750-watt power supply; under load it sounds like a helicopter taking off; and, with a price upward of $700, it will be far from affordable for most people. But if you don't paying a premium for best-of-the-best graphics, you simply can't do better.MM

GOLD: Antec Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1 Speaker System

For a pair of desktop speakers, the Antec Soundscience Rockus 3D 2.1 PC Speaker System is surprisingly powerful. Twenty-five watts powering each speaker and 100 watts behind the subwoofer give this set more punch than the best iPod docks we've heard, all for a reasonable $200 price tag. The only worthy complaints are a remote with a cable that's too short and a futile 3D effect mode.WG

GOLD: Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.0.1

Yes, it's controversial among the video pros, but Final Cut Pro X is a massively awesome piece of software development. Version X brings a new level of ease to complex video editing tasks. Not only has it been completely revamped for 64-bit and multicore support, but its "trackless" Magnetic Timeline video editing metaphor, color correction, "Auditions," "Compound Clips," and content auto analysis will blow you away with their intuitive power. If that's not enough, the new code base speeds up performance enormously, as does the new background processing while you edit. The vast majority of our readers, who are recreational video editors, and even some pros who actually give it a chance, will love it. Apple has vowed to give pros what they need in updates, too, with a few of these already having showed up in the .0.1 release. Oh, and it also dropped $700 in price from $1000 to $300.MM

GOLD: Apple iOS 5 (for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch)

iOS 5 remedies many gripes that Apple fans have had with Cupertino's mobile operating system by implementing a decidedly Android-like notification system, system-wide Twitter integration, iCloud sync, cord-free set up, and many other improvements. Unfortunately, two of the operating system's best features are tied to particular hardware; the iPhone 4S, for example, gets the Siri voice assistant and AirPlay Mirroring, thus alienating part of the base. Despite that, iOS 5 is an excellent mobile OS that reigns as king over Android, BlackBerry, and Windows. If you own a compatible iDevice (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch 3rd Generation, iPod touch 4th gen, iPad, and iPad 2), consider iOS 5 an essential upgrade.Jeffrey L. Wilson

GOLD: Apple iPad 2 (Wi-Fi + 3G)

It takes a thousand developers to make a great tablet. The iPad 2 is slim, fast and powerful, but what really makes it a winner are its 100,000 third-party apps. More than any other tablet, the iPad 2 is whatever you want it to be thanks to the range and depth of tablet-designed apps, and the new A5 processor gives developers a chance to shine. In a competitive tablet market, Apple has maintained its lead not by providing the most built-in features, but by marshalling the best team of app creators to show what can be done with a 10-inch tablet that just isn't possible on a phone.Sascha Segan

GOLD: Apple iPhone 4S

As of this writing, Sprint's model of the iPhone 4S is the only one we've reviewed. Apple's "incremental" update to the iPhone brings a faster processor promising even better apps, and Siri, the early version of an advanced voice interface for mobile computing. Sprint is the only carrier to offer unlimited data for the iPhone, letting iPhone users surf freely without worrying about hitting their limits.SS

GOLD: Apple iPod Touch (2011)

Apple's new model of the iPod Touch hasn't changed much from previous versions, with nearly identical hardware. However, that hardware still holds up, with an excellent screen and lots of functionality enhanced by iOS 5. The price tag is $30 less than the 2010 iPod Touch, so even if it doesn't warrant an upgrade, it certainly warrants consideration if you need a new portable media player. iOS 5 adds iCloud syncing between wireless devices, iMessage texting between networked devices, and other new features not yet seen on the iPod Touch.Will Greenwald

GOLD: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Thunderbolt)

The Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (Thunderbolt) is one of the best laptops you can buy in the ultraportable space. Its slim and sleek chassis is hardly any bigger than a magazine and yet it's packed with features, like a Core i5 processor, Thunderbolt port, and 4GB of memory. In this iteration of the MacBook Air, Apple has reinstated the backlit keyboard and throws in Mac OSX Lion. Road warriors will especially want to consider it for its feather-light 2.9 pound weight.Natalie Shoemaker

GOLD: Apple OS X Lion 10.7.2

The most elegant, reliable desktop operating system, now with iCloud online syncing! Apple's new operating system takes a page from the company's wildly popular tablet, the iPad, with its own App Store and Launchpad program starter. Other notable new capabilities include full-screen apps, versioning, autosave, better Multi-Touch support, and the impressive AirDrop file transfer. And if that's not enough, the new iCloud service syncs your mail, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, photos, and iWork documents. It also includes "Find My Mac"most useful for MacBooks inadvertently left in cafes.MM

GOLD: Asus U56E-BBL5

There's the basic budget laptop, and then there's the Asus U56E-BBL5, which is so much more. The Asus U56E-BBL5 offers powerful Core i5 processing and phenomenal battery lifetwo corners that budget-friendly laptops usually cut first. The feature set is equally generous, with a USB 3.0 port, spacious 640GB hard drive, WiDi 2.0 and WiMAX.Brian Westover

GOLD: AVG Family Safety

AVG Family Safety is completely Web-based, with just a small client program installed on each computer to enforce its rules. Parents can change the parental control configuration or view activity reports from any Internet-equipped computer. If the kids start misbehaving online, AVG Family Safety can notify parents by email or SMS text. The product filters out inappropriate websites in 61 distinct categories and can schedule just when each child is allowed to use the Internet. In addition to those basic features, it offers ratings-based restrictions on games and video clips, chat monitoring, and blocking of specific program types. Parents can even push the product's rules into supported home network routers, allowing it to control Internet use on non-PC devices such as smartphones or game consoles.NJR

GOLD: Blogger (2011)

If you're serious about starting a blog but don't know much about hosting a website or coding HTML, Google's Blogger is the best free tool you'll find. The platform has been significantly redesigned and improved in 2011 after years of being fairly stagnant, although the refreshed site is an opt-in change that has kept old-school Blogger fans happy, as well. Team Blogger has finally tucked a rich text editor into the systema long overdue changeand developed an amazing template designer that lets blog users customize the look of their sites without ever touching a line of code.JD

GOLD: Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones

The Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones are more earphones than headphones, but they offer such excellent sound quality and bass response that any semantic argument is meaningless. A filter that projects sound outward improves sound imaging, and the "Secure Loop" parts of the earphones keep them comfortably in place in the ear.WG

GOLD: Canon Pixma MG8220 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-in-One

The Canon Pixma MG8220 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-in-One is the company's latest high-end home photo lab MFP. It can print high-quality photos from so many different sources that you can reasonably use it just for photos without ever connecting to a computer. It can scan 35mm slides and strips of film, print directly from film as well as from many other sources, and can print onto printable optical disks. The MG8220 has two 150-sheet paper trays, letting you keep both plain and photo paper loaded at the same time.TH

GOLD: Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS

The Canon PowerShot Elph 310 HS squeezes 12 megapixels, an 8x zoom lens, and a large 3-inch LCD into a super-small body. Images from the camera are sharp, as is the 460k-dot LCD. Its HD video quality is also quite nice, as is its performance: it can continuously grab still images at better than two frames per second. The Elph isn't the least expensive camera on the block, but it's one you can use to record memories for years to come.Jim Fisher

GOLD: Cloudmark DesktopOne Basic 1.2

Most antispam products use deep analysis of email message content to distinguish spam from valid mail. Some need to be "trained" by the user. All too often, a high spam detection rate goes hand in hand with a high rate of false positives (good mail tossed into the spam folder). Cloudmark DesktopOne turns spam detection around by enlisting its millions of users as spam detectors. When enough users report a specific message as spam, Cloudmark blocks that message for all other users. Valid mail to a single recipient can never be blocked, and Cloudmark's detection rate for undeniable spam is excellent.Neil J. Rubenking

GOLD: Dell 1250c

The Dell 1250c is a decidedly personal single-function printer, built for one person's use in any size office, as evidenced by its small form factor, relatively modest paper capacity, and connectivity limited to a direct USB link to a computer. But this LED-based laser-class machine delivers where it counts, enough to set it apart from the rest of its ilk. It's surprisingly fast for a personal printer, beating out or tying many lasers in the $300 range. It adds solid output quality, including terrific-looking photos, which we rarely see from a laser printer at any price.Tony Hoffman

GOLD: Dell XPS 15z (Microsoft)

Everyone loves a laptop that's jam-packed with state-of-the-art features and components, but a beautifully made one makes a definitive statement: Buy me. The XPS 15z (Microsoft) is arguably Dell's finest creation, aesthetically and functionally. Wrapped in fine aluminum, the 15z is configurable with options like a 1,920-by-1,080 screen resolution, backlit keyboard, and SSDs. It's powerful, too, as the dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and Nvidia graphics chipset are the kind of parts you want handling the latest software. The built-in battery, meanwhile, will last more than seven hours on the road, which is better than many of its competitors. While the 15z's looks might seem eerily similar to the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch, you can't argue with the fact that it's $800 cheaper.Cisco Cheng

GOLD: Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700 UB

The LCD-based Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700 UB offers an impressive collection of features and performance made even more impressive by the relatively low price. Features include a 2.1x zoom and lens shift controls; THX, Dynamic, and Living Room modes; two HDMI connectors; and an effective enhanced resolution mode. It even comes with a voucher for a free replacement lamp. It lacks the 3D support that you'll find in some current DLP projectors, but the 3D in today's low-price projectors is extremely limited.Tony Hoffman

GOLD: Epson Stylus Photo R2000

The Epson Stylus Photo R2000 is a high-end, near-dedicated photo printer that offers speed, output quality, and features suitable for professional photographers and graphic artists. It uses eight ink tanks and can print on cut sheets or roll paper up to 13 inches wide. It will also appeal to serious amateurs, as it is unusually affordable for its level of output qualityit offers similar sets of key features as Epson printers costing several hundred dollars more. In fact, there is nothing else in its price class that even comes close to challenging it.TH

GOLD: Evernote for Windows, Premium (4.2.2)

Evernote's motto is "Remember everything." The company likes to think of its namesake product as "your second brain." Ask anyone who uses Evernote to describe it to you, and you'll likely hear a very personal account of what one person does with the service, from clipping apartment listings, to taking pictures of whiteboards after a meeting, to making notes about wine tasting. Evernote is so open and flexible, each user tends to leverage it in very different ways. That's part of what we love about it. In a nutshell, Evernote has a suite of applicationsfor iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac, Windows, BlackBerry, and on and onfor taking notes. You can type, record a voice memo, take a picture, or clip a Web page and save it to your free Evernote account. Evernote synchronizes your files and makes them searchable in an incredible number of ways, so that no matter what device you're using, you can always find what you're looking for, or "remember everything."JD

GOLD: Garmin nuvi 2350LMT

TomTom, Garmin, and Magellan have been duking it out in the marketplace for the better part of a decade, but right now Garmin holds the advantage with the nvi 2350LMT. It's not the flashiest device on the marketfor that, you'll need to step up to the Garmin nvi 3790T or the TomTom GO 2535 M LIVEbut it offers accurate navigation, along with the best POI search and simplest user interface in the business. If you're upgrading from an older Garmin, you'll feel right at home, as well as enjoy the nvi 2350LMT's improved graphics, faster processor, and free lifetime map updates and traffic reports.JL

GOLD: Google Chrome 14

The search giant continues to raise the bar in the Web browsing software game. Speed has long been its main hallmark, and now the Chrome browser can often load a page even before you're done typing its address in the "Omnibar" (which handles search as well). The browser's minimal interface doesn't take the spotlight away from the Web page you're viewing, with but a single control button. Chrome saves users the trouble of downloading and installing Adobe Flash or Acrobat Reader, including those inside the browser. It's also arguably the furthest along in HTML5 support among its browser brethren. And it's no slouch at security, running in a sandbox (and running Flash in its own, too) so that malware code can't infect the rest of your system.MM

GOLD: HP TouchSmart 610-1065qd

The HP TouchSmart 610 pushed the touch-screen all-in-one PC from a novelty to a truly usable desktop. With quad-core power and every feature under the sun, it's the one system that gives you reasons to get a touch-screen, aside from "so I can be ready for Windows 8." It's also future-proofed, with two HDMI-in ports for your HDTV and a cable box. To top it all off, from the optimal distance of a couple feet away, the screen looks absolutely huge and fills your field of view.Joel Santo Domingo

GOLD: HP Webcam HD 5210

Webcams aren't the most glamorous accessory these days, but desktop PCs still need them. And webcams have certainly come a long way, as the HP Webcam HD 5210 proves. With full 1080p high-definition video recording, Skype HD-certification (at 720p) for online video chats, and clear audio, the Webcam HD 5210 certainly earns its keep. It's compatible with a variety of online services in addition to Skype. HP also throws in a comprehensive, if somewhat disorganized, collection of software for adding avatar-style effects, sharing photos and videos, and cutting your own home movies.Jamie Lendino

GOLD: Intel Core i5-2500K

With the release of its second-generation Core (aka "Sandy Bridge") family of processors earlier this year, Intel declared its intention to pack as many enthusiast-level features as possible into its mainstream family of CPUs. It succeeded across the line, but especially with the Core i5-2500K, which unites all those boundary-breaking capabilities with an outstanding clock speed (3.3GHz), an unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking, and a killer price. It isn't the fastest or even the most diversely capable chip Intel released this year, but it offers incredible value that can put performance-freak power in the hands of ordinary, everyday users for the firstand hopefully not the lasttime.MM

GOLD: ioSafe Rugged Portable SSD (120GB)

We dropped it, we prodded it, we froze it in a solid block of ice. The ioSafe Rugged Portable Solid-State Drive (SSD) still works, even when frozen to 10 F-12 C. Did I mention that the ioSafe is a solid-state drive with a USB 3.0 interface? That means it's the fastest external storage you can buy right now. It is pricey, but if you're hard on your equipment, it's worth it to keep your digital files safe.Joel Santo Domingo
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