From solar power to girl power, summer 2012 could very well go down on record as having some of the most seriously smoking-hot, gold-medal-worthy gadgets ever. I have several favorites among the top contenders, but when it all boils down to the tech tools that do the most, cost the least, and sport the hottest cool factor, these top trends are the stuff of summer legend.
1. Ultrasleek Ultrabook: HP Folio 13
Buy: From Amazon
A recent Tech on the Beach travel survey shows three out of four people plan to take a personal computer (PC) on their summer vacation and that a laptop is still the number one way to share updates, back up photos, and stay on top of emails so that there's not a big backlog in your inbox stressing you out when you get home. After all, according the survey, nearly one-third of travelers list unanswered emails as the top post-vacation stress.
But lugging around a big ol' laptop that you have to recharge every few hours is sooo last summer. I've been running around the country with the HP Folio 13. It stays charged up for nearly 10 hours, weighs less in my purse than my iPad, and costs less than a thousand bucks.
2. Solar Power: Eton Rukus portable bluetooth sound system
Buy: From Amazon
Solar-powered gadgets are a hot trend this summer, from backpacks that charge your gadgets on the go to solar-powered automatic lawnmowers that mow your lawn without your touching it. But my favorite so far is the Eton Rukus portable bluetooth sound system with solar panel. It's a portable speaker that powers your playlist. Solar panels charge it up, and then it links wirelessly via bluetooth to your iPhone or media player. It takes about six hours of sitting in the sun to get a full charge, which gives you about eight hours of playtime. You can also back it up with batteries.
3. Girl Power: Disney's Brave The Video Game
Buy: From Amazon
Price: $19.99 to $39.99
For ages: 10 years+
I wrote about this hot summer video game right before it came out to the masses. What strikes me most, aside from how much fun it is to play, is how incredibly empowering it can be for tween and teen girls who despite often being told that they can do anything, rarely get it see that play out in such a powerful way via modern media. The third-person action adventure game is the tip of this thumb-twitching new trend of tailoring more positive video game content to girls.
4. Splashproof: G-Go bluetooth speaker
Buy: From Target
If the surf's up in your summer plans, then you'll be into waterproof gadgets. There are several great water-resistant models making a splash this summer, but when it comes to being totally soak- and submersion-ready, the G-Go bluetooth speaker can take a quick dunk in a pool, get splashed by a wave, or even play your favor tunes in the shower.
Also hot are new ways to protect the gadgets you already have. For even more protection from sun, surf, and even sunscreen smears, the winners this summer are the Dry Case that can protect gadgets in water up to 100 feet, and the Samsung Rugby Smart waterproof smartphone, which works as far as a half-mile underwater as long as a half-hour. If you're really into using your existing phone under water, check out the TAT7 iPhone Scuba Case, specially designed for snapping photos underwater at depths of up to 100 feet.
5. Olympic-Inspired: ElliptiGo
Buy: From ElliptiGo
Price: $1,800 to $3,500
With the summer Olympics buzz in full swing, you might be inspired to train like an athlete. The ElliptiGo might just be a secret weapon for some of America's most fine-tuned finishers. The hybrid bicycle and elliptical trainer packs a powerful cross-training workout, and it turns out several Olympians are using i t for increased conditioning. If you're like me and like to run but the ol' knees can't really do it every single day, this is a perfect way to get a great workout and still get outside. (I'll write more about my experiences with the ElliptiGo within the month.)
I just received a cool retro American flag iPhone 4 case in the mail. That also seems like a nice way to show your USA spirit. I'm also rounding up some other Olympic-inspired gadgets that you'll be able to read about here on Tecca very soon.
6. Hot New Ways to Cool Off: iPhone Fan
Buy: From Amazon
Remember the old days when you had to actually sweat when you went outside? Now, all you need is an iPhone and this little clip-on fan to cool yourself down. Sadly, it also puts the big chill on our battery power, but for a blast of air on the run, this works great.
The other fan making waves this summer is the blade-free Dyson Air Multiplier. You read right — no blades. Very Frank Lloyd Wright aesthetic. They start at roughly $170.
Videotaping ourselves as we careen through life is très trendy, and now you can do it without duct taping a machine to your head. All you do is press a button on these sleek sunglasses, and they record video or snap photos. These polarized shades stay charged up for about two hours of off-and-on recording. They're 100% UV-blocking and impact-resistant.
8. Dual-Purpose: BioLite CampStove
Buy: From BioLite
This stove converts heat from your camp fire into electricity and has a USB port to power up your iPhone, no matter how deep in the woods you happen to be. It's a very solid, 2-pound camp stove that's easy to pack. It only takes about five minutes to boil water, and an outside fan keeps your embers glowing. I know, it's lame to think we can't leave the iPhone home for a camping trip — but in reality, we can't leave the iPhone home for a camping trip.
Best of summer
I still can't get enough of a few of the gadgets I've written about earlier this summer. The Braven bluetooth speaker hasn't left my side since I showed it off on The Talk, and the House of Marley Bag of Rhythm wins big on a daily basis with my entire household. I haven't written specifically about cameras, tablets, e-readers, or smartphones here for two reasons: They get a lot of ink here on Tecca, and I haven't yet spotted a stand-out among the new devices I've already had my hands on. That could change soon, and I will let you know the minute it does.
Have you discovered a new gadget this summer? Or has the heat refueled your love of something that's been around awhile? As always, we love to hear from you in the comments section at the bottom of your screen.
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