Worst tech of 2006
By Tim Moynihan (January 26, 2007)
Contrary to popular belief, we feel really bad about making fun of these gadgets. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it. From budget HDTVs to failed all-in-one gadgets, they all have their hearts in the right place. But if it's bad, it's bad, and there are enough paying customers whose heads are still throbbing from trying to use this gear. Without further ado, here's the worst tech we've reviewed over the past year.
[Editors' rating: 3.7 out of 10]
Downloading music over P2P networks is illegal, but it'll save you money, right? Wrong, if you use Kazaa 3. It's free, but a four-year-old will open up your PC case and dump molasses in it for free, too. This is basically the software equivalent of that. After it installs a special blend of spyware, flashing ads, and useless toolbars on your machine, you'll want to throw your PC off a pier and fork over the money for a new one. Kudos, Kazaa 3, for putting the "app" in "crappy."
These headphones sound great, but thanks to a terrible design, you'll never hear their full potential. Everyone else will, though. That's because these loose-fitting 'phones don't fit snugly, which means you really need to jack up the volume to hear anything at all, which means anyone within earshot will know that you're secretly listening to Kevin Federline's rap album. There's a solution, but it involves wrapping your head in duct tape, wearing an old-timey football helmet, or growing ears large enough to use these as earbuds.
They say you get what you pay for, but not in this case. At one point in our testing, this FineDigital GPS unit had our reviewer driving around in circles. For $700, it also gives unnecessary instructions every 30 seconds, nags you incessantly when you make a wrong turn, and ends up botching some directions altogether. It's like having an electronic mother-in-law on your dashboard.
At the other end of the pricing spectrum is this basic MP3 player. Maybe it's unfair to put anything that costs less than $20 on a worst tech list. On the other hand, cheap is cheap in more ways than one. Coby's sub-Jackson, 128MB player has no display, subpar sound quality, lame headphones, and bad battery life. But still, it's a valid buy for a quick-and-dirty MP3 player, great for kids, and practically disposable (which may come in handy).
Geniuses have trouble in social situations, which may be why this "Intelligent" remote has so many problems. See, it's so smart that it can't be bothered with mundane tasks, such as responding to buttons being pressed. It's too absorbed in deep thought to let you know if you've programmed it successfully. It also posits that if you hit the volume button once, you want the volume to increase six notches. So you see, it's not a lousy remote. It's just that its internal components are too distracted by the socioeconomical implications of string theory and the works of Søren Kierkegaard. Or maybe it just sucks.
Dude, isn't Hahvahd supposed to be smaht? This suite is fah from perfect. It's wicked hahd to instawl. Six discs, dude. Furthamowah, the integration between each paht is nothing shawt of a debahcle. We'll say one thing: this suite makes wicked pissa chahts. But is it worth 300 dawlahs? No suh! In due time, you'll prawbably find this suite pahked in the half-awf bin at Babbage's.
At the very least, this poorly-designed gadget is honest; it does what its name suggests--not very well--and nothing more. It's a "system" that makes "sound" on your "PSP"--and only your PSP--louder. That is, if you can manage to muscle your PSP into the dock. Once you've managed to get it in there, good luck changing the UMD disc or powering the PSP on or off. The connection between the PSP and the speakers isn't solid, either, so get used to the enchanting sound of loud static. For a device built for one thing and one thing only, it manages to do that one thing remarkably half-assedly.
This lower-than-low-end HDTV combines the price of an iPhone ($550), the sleek form factor of a CRT monitor (22.2 inches deep), the weight of David Spade (118 pounds), the picture quality of guacamole (soft and green), and the uniform colors of the 2-14 Oakland Raiders (worst record in the NFL). Sure, it's an insanely cheap HDTV, but don't be fooled by the letters "HDTV." We couldn't see much of a difference between DVD and HDTV sources...which actually kind of makes it a fairly expensive, fairly non-HD TV.
With the MiniWireless Optical Mouse, the people at Belkin have accomplished the seemingly impossible: they have created a mouse small enough to be used by plankton. That in itself doesn't make this wireless mouse bad. This does: the wireless receiver is one of the largest we've ever seen, and it still can't connect with the mouse if it's more than three feet away. After a day of using this amazingly uncomfortable mouse, your hand may actually reverse-evolve into a plankton swimmerette to avoid having to use it anymore.
If you think about it, $150 is a hefty amount of money to spend on a pair of headphones. It's even too much for Bluetooth
headphones, if they perform like these duds from Creative. If the poor sound quality doesn't drive you nuts, the all-too-frequent sound dropouts will. And they're not rechargeable, so don't forget to factor in the cost of a boatload of AAA batteries. You'll need to replace three of them after every seven hours of using these headphones. It's all about the Benjamins...getting flushed down the toilet.
Remember when you'd push vegetables around on your plate to make it look like you'd eaten more than you actually had? This bargain-bin Soyo 32-inch LCD applies the same concept, substituting speakers for vegetables; its side-mounted speakers make the screen size seem way bigger than it actually is. And you might as well watch the speakers instead of the screen when this TV is turned on, because the picture quality is bottom-notch. One thing this set has going for it, other than its sub-$800 price: a nifty 80-step zoom feature. In other words, the cash you'll save buying this subpar set comes back to you 80-fold in megazoomable, low-def porn. Hooray! (Note: Porn sold separately.)
iPod speaker systems are like the club DJs of technology: There are so many of them that it's hard for any one to stand out, the majority of them are bland, and they both make a living off of playing somebody else's music. Case in point is the $55 Radian iBlast. It offers hissy sound, terrible bass, no battery power, and no remote. At least you don't have to wait behind a velvet rope for half an hour to experience its mediocrity.
Who wouldn't want to wear a Swiss Army Knife on their head? That's the appeal of these seemingly versatile Bluetooth headphones, which play MP3s and unprotected WMAs, tune in FM radio, and act as a wireless headset for MP3 players and some cell phones. Sounds like a godsend for joggers, until you put them on. They don't fit so well, and they're really bulky. We also had trouble getting them to connect to a PC at all via Bluetooth, and they only work with a small number of phones. Add dreadfully slow USB file-transfer time and short battery life to the mix, and this headset's features start to look more "Swiss cheese" than "Swiss Army." Or maybe they're more "Kiss Army" than "Swiss Army," once you consider the color scheme.
This gear also had a bad year
The GrandTec Ultimate Wireless offers some potentially useful video-conversion ports in its base unit, but the wireless output is composite video only, which greatly limits its appeal. Also, the image quality is poor.
Although it has enough features for most folks, the less-expensive Maxent MX-5020HPM can't keep up with the picture quality of the competition.
A vibrant display and good speakers aren't enough to outweigh the Systemax Epic M31E10's unremarkable performance, battery life, and design.
The inexpensive Acer Aspire 3000 delivers bargain-bin components and battery life and lacks some key features; if you desire anything more than absolutely basic laptop functionality, keep looking.
Whether or not this was its intention, Live Fidelity has made an earphone set most suitable for music containing heavy low end--everything else becomes too boomy to enjoy.
The DigiArmor DMS-S20 is a rip-off in every respect, from its price to its firmware to its hardware design--we don't recommend it. Get a Creative Zen Vision:M instead.
We like that the RadioShack 2.4GHz Wireless Stereo Headphones eliminate headphone wires, but we wish they were significantly more comfortable.