by Tim Moynihan, Michelle Thatcher, and Peter Butler
Calling a piece of tech the "best" often starts an argument, but just about everyone knows a lemon when they see it. December is a long way away, but we couldn't wait to put together a list of the worst tech, tech events, and downloads of 2006. If there's a particularly horrendous gadget or tech happening you think we've missed, let us know in our TalkBack section. Here we go, in no particular order...
Worst product demo:
Intel's voice-activated remote control
As this video shows, Intel's Don McDonald had quite a bit of trouble getting his company's voice-activated remote control prototype to listen to him during an Intel Developers Forum demo. Yes, yes, it's only a prototype. But it also makes us ask: "Exactly how lazy do you have to be to use a voice-activated remote control?"
Worst MP3 player named after a legume: Sony Walkman Bean
Thanks to hissy audio, a weird interface, and stupid controls, we'd rather listen to a plate of three-bean salad than to Sony's bean-shaped player. For what it's worth, the Sony Walkman Bean is also the best MP3 player named after a legume. But there isn't much competition in that category.
Worst-kept secret: Microsoft Origami
"We're working on a top-secret project that will blow your mind, and we won't give details until next week. Except that it's bigger than a handheld and smaller than a notebook PC. Oh, and it has tablet functionality. And we're calling it the ultramobile PC. But that's all we're saying!" Ooh, mysterious.
Most overhyped announcement: Apple's "fun, new products"
Media and fans alike worked themselves into a froth of excitement over the possibilities of Apple's February 28 announcement of "fun, new products." But alas, the iPod Hi-Fi, leather Nano cases, and an Intel Mac Mini were nowhere near as fun or as new as the stuff in our imaginations. Now our imaginations are filled with images of Apple jumping the shark.
Worst battery life: Acer Aspire 3000
We couldn't measure this laptop's mobile performance because its battery life was well short of the 90 minutes that it takes to run the benchmark. But you can use it as long as you want while it's plugged in. Which is totally the purpose of owning a laptop. If you live in the magical realm of Electro-Outlet Land.
Worst use of fire-engine red (MP3 player division): Wolverine Data MVP (120GB)
A portable media player that holds 120GB of music, video, and pics? Awesome! A "portable" media player that's roughly the size of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey and available only in fire-engine red? Not awesome! This feature-packed player has a lot going for it, but we resent these facts: we need a wheelbarrow to lug it around, and everyone can see us doing it because it's bright freakin' red.
Worst use of fire-engine red (laptop division): CyberPower Xplorer
We haven't carried around anything this red since we played with Tonka trucks. For the record, that was a while ago. This CyberPower laptop makes up for it a bit with decent performance, but anything this red should have a tourniquet wrapped around it. Still, it's probably smaller than the Wolverine Data MVP.
Worst name for a product that's supposed to go in your living room: Biohazard Media Center Xpress
This rack-style Biohazard multimedia PC will look great next to your LeadPaint-brand A/V receiver, Asbestos-brand speakers, and Steaming Pile of Human Waste-brand HDTV! Hazmat suit sold separately.
Worst-rated product that CNET readers love: Nokia 770 Internet Tablet
This thing, it surfs Internet. You want to make phone call? You can't make phone call. You like Ethernet? No Ethernet. You get Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is nice. No wires! You like slow load times? Yes? It is good for that. You like battery that lasts more than three hours? It does not have one. Nice screen, though.
Worst product that can get you arrested and ruin your PC: Kazaa 3
The latest version of Kazaa's P2P file-sharing app is loaded with all the fixin's! Unfortunately, those fixin's include system-gumming spyware, ridiculous flashing ads, and useless toolbars. Is the RIAA in on this? It should be, because this P2P app is the best argument against illegal downloading we've ever seen.