The 100 Best Products of 2008

This year's tech gems—including the iPhone, Eye-Fi, Flock and Facebook—will leave you more productive, connected, and entertained.

After a good deal of—ahem—lively discussion, the editors at PC World have completed this year's list of the 100 best technology products available today. How did we do it? After nominating hundreds of devices, apps, sites, and services we knew to be good, we rated each one on its design, functionality, performance, and impact; the ones garnering the highest total scores made our list. Note that we chose not to rate products specifically on their price or value, focusing instead on their overall quality. After the scoring was over and the dust had cleared, we had a list that served, among other things, to remind us of what an exciting time in tech this truly is, with game-changing product development happening on many fronts.

The Number 1 Product of the Year

Hulu

1. Hulu (video site, free/ad-based) Hulu may offer the best-looking, most watchable Web video to date, rivaling the standard-definition content of regular TV. A well-financed joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corporation, Hulu is ultimately a one-stop on-demand repository for high-quality programming—the holy grail of online video.

Hulu's content includes current prime-time shows from Fox, NBC, MGM, Sony, Warner Brothers, and others, plus TV reruns new and old. Hulu's list of full-length movies has burgeoned since the site's debut last October. The high-def content gallery is mostly a clipfest so far, but it should blossom as video compression and broadband speeds improve.

Hulu also lets you cut and share clips with friends as you watch. If Web video is destined to clobber cable and satellite by giving us more control over our TV viewing experience, Hulu represents easily the best attempt yet at that ideal. Review

The 100 Best Products, Numbers 2 through 10

Apple iPhone

2. Apple iPhone (smart phone, $400 with two-year AT&T wireless contract) Rarely have handsome industrial design and breakthrough technology (including the supercool multitouch interface and visual voicemail) mated so happily as in the iPhone—and the rest is history. Review | Check prices

Facebook

3. Facebook (online social network, free) Facebook is a very popular way to stay in touch your friends' status, photos, plans, events, and more. But it lands at number 3 on our list because the application development platform it created last year is beginning to spawn some truly useful third-party-developed tools. Site

Windows XP

4. Microsoft Windows XP (operating system, not sold separately) It has been discontinued except as an option for certain low-end PCs, but XP is leaner, meaner, and less bloated than Vista. Despite the outcry from users, however, at press time Microsoft still planned to retire the OS on June 30, 2008. Review | Check prices

Lenovo ThinkPad X300

5. Lenovo ThinkPad X300 (ultraportable laptop, $2500) As everyone swooned over Apple's hot Air, Lenovo snuck in the back door with a business-centric notebook that answers most of the Air's shortcomings. It has processing power to burn, plenty of ports—and a paper-thin optical drive. Stick that in your manila envelope, Steve. Review | Check prices

Flock

6. Flock (browser, free) Sick of having to surf to all your favorite sites and services? Flock integrates Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, YouTube videos, Flickr photo streams, Gmail and Yahoo Mail, and blogging tools into a single navigation (and browsing) interface. Review | Download

Eye-Fi

7. Eye-Fi (wireless camera memory card, $100) The 2GB Eye-Fi card converts any digital camera's Secure Digital slot into a Wi-Fi-enabled device, so you can upload photos directly from your camera to your PC or to sites like Flickr. Review | Check prices

Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1

8. Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1 (digital camera, $1000) The 6-megapixel EX-F1 captures video at up to 1200 frames per second at its lowest image-quality setting and shoots full-resolution (1920-by-1080-pixel) images at 60 fps. Video review

Rock Band

9. Harmonix Rock Band (game bundle, $170) All you need is your PS3, Xbox 360, or Wii to get the band back together. Really, Rock Band is Guitar Hero times four: It puts you on tour as a guitarist, singer, or drummer. Video review | Check prices

wikipedia

10. Wikipedia (open-source encyclopedia, free) This online trove of information has more than 1.6 million volunteer-contributed articles on everything from Britney to biochemistry. It becomes more credible and reliable as more people check and edit the entries. Site

The 100 Best Products, Numbers 11 through 20

Netflix

11. Netflix (DVD rental and online video site, $5/month and up) Though it started as a DVD-by-mail service, Netflix offers an ever-widening array of movies, TV shows, and documentaries that you can stream instantly to your PC. With any of the service's DVD-by-mail plans you can watch as much streaming video content as you want. Site

X-box

12. Microsoft Xbox Live (online service, $59/year) You can download a lot more than game demos from Xbox Live. Other options are full retail software, independent and home-brew games, expansion packs, music, weekly video updates for gamers, TV shows, and HD movies. Site

iPod Touch

13. Apple iPod Touch (media player, $299-$499) The iPod Touch's beautiful design, 3.5-inch (and 480-by-320-pixel) multitouch screen, built-in Wi-Fi, and useful array of applications (such as Mail, Maps, Stocks, Weather, and Notes) outweigh any quibbles that might arise regarding its audio quality. Review | Check prices

Craigslist

14. Craigslist (online classifieds and discussion, free) In many cities, Craigslist is the best way to get a job, find an apartment, buy furniture, or get a date. It's not flashy or slick, but you won't see any commercial ads here, and the Best Of section is not to be missed. Site

Scrabulous

15. Scrabulous (PC game, free) This exceedingly Scrabble-like game, created by brothers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, has become such a popular Facebook application that Scrabble's trademark holders, Hasbro and Mattel, threatened to sue to have it removed. Site

Nintendo

16. Nintendo Wii (game console, $250) The Wii is a gateway addiction for people who don't think of themselves as gamers. The Wii's controllers encourage players to get up off the couch and move around—and soon, to engage in actual exercise! (Watch for the new WiiFit balance board coming soon.) Review | Check prices

Apple Leopard

17. Apple Mac OS X 10.5 'Leopard' (operating system, $129) Vista's woes may be evidence of a general decline in the popularity of Microsoft Windows; meanwhile, Apple's new Leopard operating system has users buzzing over the Mac yet again. Review | Check prices

Apple Cinema Display

18. Apple Cinema HD Display (23-inch LCD monitor, $899) This 1920-by-1200-pixel-resolution monitor renders text sharply, and images and video beautifully. It looks pretty good on the outside, too, with its cool industrial design. Site

Twitter

19. Twitter (social networking site, free) Imagine a hybrid of blogging and text messaging—that's Twitter. People seem polarized over this quirky tool, either loving or hating it, but Twitter has helped pioneer an age of social networking in real or near-real time. Site

Pioneer Kuro

20. Pioneer Kuro PDP-5010FD (50-inch plasma HDTV, $3500) The Kuro's great design, vivid color, and deep black levels impress us mightily. Too bad you have to take out a loan to buy one. Review | Check prices

The 100 Best Products, Numbers 21 through 30

Mozilla Firefox

21. Mozilla Firefox 3 (browser, free) Firefox 3, in beta, builds on its predecessor's strengths by adding better security and new tools for storing and accessing your bookmarks and your browsing history. Review | Download

Safari

22. Safari (mobile browser, free) This mobile version of the Safari browser may be the true killer app of the iPhone and iPod Touch. United with the iPhone's multitouch gesture support, the spacious Safari browser makes surfing the Web on a 4-inch screen feel like an immersive experience. Site | Download

23. NPR.org (news site, free) Welcome to the online home of NPR's lauded national news coverage and commentary, special reports, and documentaries. NPR's site has done a lot in a short time to convey its rich content in compelling digital formats such as podcasts and live and recorded streams. Site

Photoshop. Click to see full-size image.

24. Photoshop CS3 (image-editing software, $650) A fresh, simplified interface, new editing tools, and better integration with Adobe's Creative Suite help Photoshop remain the gold standard in image editing programs. Review | Check prices

25. Google Maps--Street View (mapping software, free) Google's Street View brought a new dimension to mapping this year, offering users real-life images from ground level. Site

26. Apple MacBook Pro (Penryn) (Laptop series, from $1999) What a difference a chip makes: With Intel's Penryn processor inside, the new MacBook Pros handily outperform not only older Mac laptops, but also many Windows-based notebooks. Review | Check prices

27. Google Docs & Spreadsheets (Web-based internalivity suite, free) Arguably the best of a new breed of online, collaborative app suites challenging the supremacy of Microsoft Office, Google Docs & Spreadsheets permits users to edit, share, and store word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation documents from any machine—fixed or mobile—that can run a Web browser. Site

28. Apple Final Cut Studio 2 (video internalion suite, $1299) Available for Mac OS X only, this package includes Final Cut Pro 6.02, Apple's highly rated, de facto industry-standard application for digital video editing. Site

29. Linksys Dual-Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router WRT600N (wireless router, $200) Here's the first router that serves both older 2.4-GHz 802.11b/g gear and newer devices that stream over the 5-GHz band. Review | Check prices

30. Flickr (photo-sharing site, 200 photos free, unlimited photos and storage $25/year) Like most photo sharing sites, Yahoo's Flickr makes organizing, sharing, and tagging photos easy. Better, the site's many users translate into a wide array of active user groups—and you won't have to wait long before someone discovers and comments on your photos. Site

The 100 Best Products, Numbers 31 through 40

31. Sony KDL-52XBR4 (52-inch LCD HDTV, $3500) Sony has a reputation for great design, but what makes this big-screen beauty a real standout is its truly impressive performance. Review | Check prices

32. Intel Penryn (processor line, prices vary) Starting with its Core 2 Duo design, Intel shrinks its chips to a 45-nanometer core for desktop, server, and mobile CPUs. The result: better performance and larger caches, without any increase in power consumption. News and reviews links

33. Apple iChat (instant messaging, $129) Included in Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard," iChat takes instant messaging to a new level with a slick interface, cool video, custom backdrops, and special effects. Review

Creative Zen and Intel Penryn

34. Creative Zen (MP3 player; $130-$300) Amazingly, the Zen manages to fit all of the functionality of the older Zen Vision M (FM, a built-in microphone, video, and more) into a device the size of a business-card case. Review | Check prices

35. Verizon FiOS (high-speed Internet access, $160/month or less) Verizon's fiber-powered FiOS is the speediest consumer broadband service available in this broadband-challenged part of the world. The fastest FiOS plan in most markets promises 30-mbps downloads and 15-mbps uploads. Site

36. Pandora (streaming music site, free or $36/year subscription)1. Enter your favorite artist's name. 2. Click Create. 3. Listen as Pandora plays a custom radio station full of well-known and obscure music that's eerily well-matched to your tastes. A paid subscription delivers mobile and home streaming support. Review

37. Canon EOS 40D (digital SLR camera, $1500 with kit lens) Excellent image quality and killer features—such as a burst mode that captures images at up to 6.5 frames per second—make the EOS 40D the digital SLR to beat for enthusiasts and professionals alike. Review | Check prices

38. LG Electronics L196WTY-BF (19-inch LCD monitor, $220) LG's flat panel comes with a mechanism that permits almost 360-degree swivel—a capability that people who use their monitors as presentation tools will welcome. Review | Check prices

Tivo and Linksys

39. TiVo HD (digital video recorder, $300; service, $13/month) With its excellent user interface and its ability to record high-def programs, the TiVo HD box might be all the DVR you need. Review | Check prices

40. Data Robotics Drobo DRO4DU10 (external hard drive, $500 without drives) This storage device uses disk and storage virtualization algorithms instead of RAID 5 to provide data redundancy. Review | Check prices

The 100 Best Products, Numbers 41 through 50

41. Google Gmail (e-mail, free) Google scores another coup by adding IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) support to its free e-mail service, enabling users to read Gmail messages on mobile devices and on other desktop mail clients. Site

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