Digital Crave

Highest-rated tech: Gear that wows reviewers

Digital Crave

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Best high-tech toys

Those shopping for high-tech toys have already come to this realization: there are many more gadgets available than what your limited budget permits.

So, where on earth do you start?

After figuring out what kinds of tech toys you want to buy -- whether it's a holiday gift or if you're treating yourself -- the next step is to use the web to read or watch reviews from tech experts at reputable sites.

After all, many "customer" reviews are, well, planted, so it can be difficult to trust them. That, and many bloggers are known to gush over anything they get for free.

To give you a head start, Yahoo!'s Digital Crave rounded up some of the highest-rated gadgets and gear you can buy today, reviewed by some of the industry's biggest names in tech. The following are some examples of what's trending out there, including some products you might not know about.

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3M Streaming Projector

What do you get when you cross a portable pico projector with a Roku? The answer is the 3M Streaming Projector ($299.99), a small gadget with high brightness, DVD-quality resolution and integrated dual-band Wi-Fi and Roku stick to stream on-demand content — including apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, HBO Go and Amazon Instant.

"Walking around and beaming Netflix on the nearest available wall is just a flat-out cool experience," says CNET's Matthew Moskovciak in his official review. "Plus, the ability to set up a 'TV' anywhere seems like a godsend for anyone who needs to entertain kids on the go," he adds.

While Moskovciak says battery life should be better — the projector peters out after 90 minutes if not plugged into the wall — but the product still makes CNET's coveted Holiday Gift Guide.

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Libratone Zipp

Those in the market for a portable, wireless speaker have more options than the Jambox, Bose SoundLink or HMDX's Jam Wireless Portable Speaker.

While you might not have heard of it, Libratone Zipp ($399.99) is a premium AirPlay solution with PlayDirect technology — therefore no Wi-Fi network is required. Simply pair this funky-looking speaker with your iOS device (or PC or Mac) and crank it up for loud and clear audio powered by patent-pending FullRoom technology that disperses sound in different directions, reflecting it off walls and surfaces.

With a Verge score of 8.5 out 10, writer Thomas Ricker says in his review the "Libratone Zipp is my new favorite portable wireless speaker."

"Zipp looks fantastic and sounds great, but its biggest selling point is with PlayDirect, a new AirPlay technology that untethers the Zipp from your home network and router allowing you to create a direct-to-speaker wireless connection from your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad for trips outside," he adds.

Ricker acknowledges the price may be steep for some, plus AirPlay only works with Apple's iOS products, therefore those on Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry should stick with a Bluetooth solution.

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Sony NEX
Sony NEX-5R

While many will be clamoring for the latest Canon or Nikon dSLRs, you might want to give Sony's compact and mirrorless interchangeable lens camera a try.

Sony's NEX-5R (from $649.99 for body only) takes exceptionally fast and sharp photos, plus it also has integrated Wi-Fi and support for nearby smartphones and tablets. In fact, a number of free Android and Apple apps can do everything from fix up your photos and upload them to Facebook to serve as a wireless remote control for the camera and initiate time-lapse photography.

"Focusing and performance improvements make this cam a winner," says Zach Honig from Engadget in his review.

"Sony has reinforced its commitment to the photography community with a very solid 2012 lineup, and anyone on the hunt for a market-leading camera should keep the NEX-5R near the top of their list."

Specs include 16.1-megapixel Exmor APS C-size HD CMOS sensor (resulting in images up to 4,912 x 3,264 pixels), a 3-inch touchscreen LCD and compatibility with a number of Sony lenses.

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Panasonic TC-P55ST50

LED TVs are all the rage right now, and with Samsung models in particular selling like hotcakes — even long before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So how is it a little-known plasma television from Panasonic has not only netted a score of 9.2 from CNET's snooty TV reviewers, but it has also been awarded CNET's 2012 Editors' Choice in the plasma TV category.

Found as low as $1299, the 55-inch Panasonic Viera TC-P55ST50 "exhibited outstanding overall picture quality, characterized by exceedingly deep black levels with great shadow detail, accurate colors, and solid bright-room performance," summarizes senior editor David Katzmaier. "Unlike LCDs, as a plasma it has superb off-angle and uniformity characteristics." "The styling is attractive and the feature set well-chosen, including excellent onscreen help options."

Not bad for a television you haven't heard of, no?

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Samsung Galaxy S III

OK, so this one you know about.

In its annual list of Top 100 products of the year, PCWorld ranks Samsung's flagship Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy S III (from $148 on 2-year term) at number 6, right behind the Windows 8 Professional operating system (at no. 1) and following a couple of Windows-based laptops and an Apple iPad.

"You don't get to be the best-selling Android phone by being average, and the Galaxy S III definitely has what it takes to move ahead of the Android pack," writes Ginny Mies at fellow IDG tech site TechHive, in her linked review. "With a speedy processor, an eye-catching display, and loads of attractive features, it's our favorite smartphone of 2012."

Rated 4.5 out of 5, Mies adds "At its core, the Galaxy S III is an excellent phone, and Samsung did the right thing in making it uniform across the multiple carriers."

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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Finally, is there really more room for yet another ebook reader?

Yes, absolutely — especially if you're The Verge's Joshua Topolsky, who gushed about the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite ($119) in his 2,000+ word review here.

"The Paperwhite is an excellent reader, probably the best I've used," he says of the 6-inch device, before doling out a score of 9.0.

"Between the new display, the improved software and performance, great battery life, and Amazon's massive book selection, there's not much here to complain about," says Topolsky.

Capable of storing up to 1,100 books, the Paperwhite lasts up to 2 months on a single charge — even with its built-in light turned on, which evenly illuminates the screen to read in any lighting condition.

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