10 Futureproof Gadgets You'll Still Love Next Year

When it comes to tech shopping, sometimes it pays to wait for a new-and-improved model. But too much procrastination can turn you into a high-tech Hamlet wondering whether to be or not to be a Galaxy S III owner while your digital Denmark rots. Here are 10 products you can pull the trigger on today, without regretting your decision six months or a year from now when the next big thing arrives.

There's nothing worse than spending your hard-earned money on a gadget only to have the next hot technology drop two days after your return window closes. Our friends at Laptop Magazine have rounded up a list of gear you can buy right now without the risk that it will be obsolete soon.

Monitors

Even if you use a laptop all day, you need not just one but two or full-size monitors on your desk at home and at the office. The more pixels you have, the more productive you'll be, so grab yourself two 1080p screens for each of your work desks.

You can find inexpensive 23-inch 1920x1080 screens without too much effort these days. However, I recommend spending a bit extra for an LED-backlit monitor. Get the highest resolution you can afford. Although we may see more touchscreen displays in 2013, today's monitors will serve you well many years after your PC goes to the recycling bin in the sky — and they're not getting any cheaper.

More: 15 Ways to Accelerate Your PC's Slowest Component: You!

SSDs

If you're not using a Solid State Drive in your computer, stop reading this article and email an apology to your boss for wasting so many potentially productive hours waiting for your computer's sluggish hard drive to load things. Better yet, get on your knees and crawl to her office on all fours; you'll probably get there long before Outlook loads and sends your message.

SSDs have never been more affordable, with a blazing fast 240GB model going for around $150 and a 128GB unit for under $100. Those prices may drop over time, but new models won't be significantly faster than what we have today for a long time.

Even $200 is a small price to pay when the difference between an SSD and a hard drive is the difference between booting in 56 or 14 seconds, loading Photoshop in 11 or 324 seconds and copying a 3GB file in 13 or 71 seconds. Add all those seconds together and you'll have more time to spend with your family, whom you should also apologise to.

More: 5 Ways to Supercharge Your Laptop For Under $US100

Windows 7 Notebooks

"They don't make ‘em like they used to" is what people often say about cars, houses and eye-dislodging toys. Soon, many users will be saying the same thing about their brand new Windows 8 notebooks. Even though Microsoft's new OS offers better performance and a raft of touch-friendly features, a lot of consumers will be turned off by the new Start-button-free UI and the steep learning curve required to master it.

If you need a new PC but like the traditional Windows interface the way it has existed more or less since 1992, your time is running out. After Windows 8 launches on October 26, most new notebooks released after that date will come preloaded with the new OS. Stocks of Windows 7 models will dwindle and soon you'll only be able to buy a Windows 8 machine. If you buy a Windows 7 notebook and decide later that you want to upgrade, it won't cost you more than $50.

More: Top 10 Notebooks Now

7-Inch Media Tablets

If you want a low-cost, high-portability media tablet, there's no reason at all to wait. Right now, you can buy the Google Nexus 7 for $249, while the slightly larger 7.8-inch iPad Mini is expected to launch in the next few weeks.

Since none of these companies refresh their flagship products more than once a year, if you buy one now, you won't see a new version come out until late 2013. Even at that time, they'll be hard-pressed to improve the high-res screens, speedy CPUs and long battery lives you get from these devices today. I also don't expect prices for premium media tablets to drop much, because the companies that sell them would be swallowing a huge loss.

More: Top 10 Tablets

iPhone 5

If you're an Apple fan, the iPhone 5 is the phone you've been waiting for. With the larger screen and addition of 4G LTE, Apple addressed the two biggest complaints about its previous-generation device. Even when Apple does replace the iPhone 5 this time next year, I don't expect the next version to be a major upgrade; the company tends to only do a major redesign every two years. In 2013, the new Apple phone will probably be the iPhone 5 with some minor tweaks — nothing you can't live without.

That said, if you're open to purchasing an Android or Windows Phone handset, there are a number of key products coming down the pike, including the next-gen Nexus phone and the Nokia Lumia 920.

More: 10 Ways the iPhone 5 Beats Android Phones

Ereaders

If you like to read on a greyscale e-ink screen, your time is now. The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is a fantastic premium ereader that is easy to view in bright sunlight or the darkest room. On the lower end of the price spectrum, you still have the $89 Kindle that is worth considering.

Since Amazon just refreshed its ereader lines, we don't expect any new models for a year. And it's hard to imagine what additional features you'd want from an inexpensive e-ink device that you don't get now. Someday, these companies may come out with colour e-ink readers, but right now that technology is cost prohibitive and not particularly attractive.

More: Kindle Paperwhite review

Set-top boxes

I like to stream videos as much as anyone, but I hate viewing movies on a computer or mobile device. Smart TVs that let you view streaming video provide are capable but extremely expensive solutions. Fortunately, inexpensive set-top boxes like the Roku box and Apple TV allow you to stream your favourite content directly from the web to your home theatre.

Although new models are always coming out, today's best boxes output in 1080p, which is the main feature you're going to need today and for many years to come.

More: iKillers: 10 Biggest Threats Facing Apple

Printers

Like most technologies, printers keep getting better, but the differences are so subtle most of us wouldn't notice. If you buy a decent printer or an all-in-one today, it should still be more than adequate five years from now.

I have an HP Laserjet 5P from 1997 that's still going strong. The image quality you get from even a budget printer today is good enough to print your own high-quality colour photos. I recommend buying a colour laser over an inkjet, because laser printers with locking paper drawers tend to suffer from fewer jams.

More: Best Wireless All-in-One Printers: Review Roundup

Keyboards

The last major change in PC keyboard technology occurred in 1994 when Microsoft first added the Windows key to its Natural Keyboard and other vendors followed suit. Yes, there are a number of innovative features that have appeared in gaming keyboards over the past few years, ranging from extra programmable keys to bright backlights to the colour LCD screen on Razer's Deathstalker Ultimate.

However, none of these advances makes your keyboard from the Clinton administration really feel out of date. Mice are a different story — a new generation of Windows 8-friendly touch mice should start rolling out over the next few months.

If you're looking for a better typing experience on your PC, there's no reason to wait. I recommend a model with springy mechanical switches, like the Unicomp Ultra Classic or the Rosewill RK-9100.

More: 5 Things to Look For in Your Next Notebook Keyboard

External hard drives and USB keys

The biggest advance in external storage technology in the past few years has been the advent of USB 3.0. While we may see more Thunderbolt-enabled drives in 2013 and beyond, chances are that they will remain expensive, boutique products like FireWire drives before them.

If you buy a USB 3.0 hard drive or flash drive today, you'll still be happy with it in 2014 and beyond. I do expect external SSDs to get cheaper over the next few years, but they won't reach price parity with external hard drives for a long time. Wireless hard drives — a relatively new category — will continue to improve over the next few years, but they won't match the speed and ease-of-use offered by a simple USB 3.0 drive.

More: USB 3.0 Hard Drives Compared

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Comments

    May I just say that the achievia shimian monitors are amazing and really good value for money

    can anyone say "faff!"?

    Why only 7 inch Tablets, why not just say tablets as all pretty are on a yearly cycle.

    WinXP is still widely used, it would be interesting to know the percentage of xp to win 7 use over the world.

    Last edited 11/10/12 1:22 pm

      XP support ends in 2014 (for commercial customers). It's already end of life for individuals. If you're buying something new today that you want to last for years, XP is not the right choice.

        I recently got a win7 pc at work, so happy to not have to look at XP any more, after so many years I just cant stand the site of it any more.

          My work is still using winXP with no sign of a change over yet :/
          Not only that, administrators have locked in the setting that makes it look like win98......

      At the end of August this year Win7 overtook XP with a market share of 42.72% vs XP 42.52%.

      Just sayin..

        Thanks for the stats.
        42% market share is pretty high considering how long ago win7 came out. I blame vista for the slow uptake of win7 in business ;)

    "From the Clinton administration," I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

    Last edited 11/10/12 1:29 pm

    I'd say that monitors would be the last thing on my list, given things like the retina macbook pro and samsung series 9 with a 2560*1400 display are coming round either now or soon. to buy a 1080p monitor at this point would be a bit short sighted i'd say.

      Considering you'd need a $400+ graphics card to run your games at 60 frames with all the fancy bits turn up at 1080p, I'd say 1080p monitors are here to stay for a few more years.

        That would certainly be the minority of games. I still run most new games at 1080p on highest settings with an 18 months old $200 (at the time) graphics card.

        The sheer pixel pushing power you can get for $400 today is overkill for today's games, which are largely limited by consoles that are nearing the end of their life cycle, yet still need to be supported (lets just say that if any console port is still struggling on new hardware then it's not the hardware's fault).

        Since we have all this power in our graphics chips that we don't really know what to do with, I'd really like to see LCD makers take the opportunity to push resolutions up a notch. Lower pixel density is the only thing stopping me from moving up from 21.5".

          "The sheer pixel pushing power you can get for $400 today is overkill for today's games, which are largely limited by consoles that are nearing the end of their life cycle, "

          That's a contradiction is it not? If we have surplus processing power now at the end of the bottle necking console's life, what happens when go next generation consoles.

          1080p is here to stay.

      I think you missed the point of that idea. More monitors is more productive (trust me). Buying a laptop with a massive resolution is fine but you still only have a small space to spread out your work. And most people who would (still) buy a monitor would more likely be gamers who don't use laptops... IMO.

        I don't see how two monitors is more productive at all. It could be an OS X vs Windows thing but I find working on dual monitors at work to be a real PITA, to the point where I pretty much ignore one of them altogether. I am far more comfortable with everything right in front of me, my mouse and my keyboard, rather than having to twist around to do stuff. I had dual monitors at home for a while but I got rid of them in 2005 or so, because they dragged the performance of my graphics card down far too much, and I haven't missed them at all.

          Really? I can't work without dual monitors now. You musnt be Gen y

          Some people like them. You don't need to understand it, MotorMouth.

            How would you know what I do and do not need to understand?

              so it's vitally important for you to understand how and why people like me find dual monitors productive? And it's up to us to tell you? Work it out.

    "Like most technologies, printers keep getting better..." - hahahaha good joke. Printers are awful. PC Load Letter? WTF does that mean?!

      And what do you use, the old printing press?

    lol iphone 5 ?????????????????????????????? rightt i just sold mine today worst phone ever

      +1 ! why iPhone 5 is in the list ??!! it's already outdated even before it was release...

    "10 Futureproof Gadgets You’ll Still Love Next Year"

    Really? Technology not outdated in 3 months is classified as futureproof? Come on guys... You've got such large, ambiguous product groups here that you would have been better off making a list of what not to buy right now.

      Stopped reading when I got to 7 inch tablets and the iPhone 5 as futureproof. Really?

      Oh, and why would I crawl on hands and knees to apologise to my boss for the slow computers? I don't know about you but I don't buy the work computers around here...

    If your going to get a printer I recommend picking up a CISS. Ink is so stupidly priced.

      I've been looking at the Rihac CISS. I wasn't aware that there are others available (only just started looking). Do you have a recommendation?

        I have been using their products for a number of years on Epson, HP and now back to Epson printers. They are great quality, providing high quality results and have a very good sales and support team. BTW, the only support I ever needed was to discuss recommendations on printers .. as thay are in a great position to feedback on what their customers tell them.

    A few real clangers here. First up, who is to say that SSDs are not going to keep getting faster and faster? Even if they don't, I bet the higher capacity ones continue to get cheaper for a while yet. Secondly, if you buy a new laptop today so that you can have Win7, you will be really annoyed in about a month when the next gen machines all hit the shelves with more and better everything. About the only exceptions I can think of are the second gen Zenbooks, everything else misses out in one spec or another (usually screen res). The worst clanger, though, is reserved for keyboards because next month a whole raft of new keyboards with extra keys for the Charms Bar and other Win 8 things will hit the shelves, making your current keyboard obsolete.

    I also hate using dual monitors. It annoys the hell outta me, especially at work where we all have two different sized screens and until you log in, it has them back-to-front.

      in regards to Win7 to Win8 keyboards... it won't be obsolete, you assumed that Microsoft users will upgrade straight away to Win 8. I for one see no value at the moment in upgrading to Win 8 from Win 7. Just because the company releases new software, does not mean Microsoft users are like a flock of seagulls going at it on each and every releases the company made. (troll moment) unlike Apple users on Mac OSx and other apple products.. :D

        Of course they are. You all are, it is like you can't help yourselves.

    Please don't link to the "10 ways the iphone is better than android" anymore. That article must be a paid advertisement for apple, because it so biased and ignorant of several facts. Like the purple haze problem on IP5's camera, and android's ability (mostly) to install bigger batteries if needed.

    Then there is this article here. I don't have time right now to itemise the list, but the monitor, keyboard and printer are probably the only ones I agree with and even then only to a point. Keyboards break easily, printers can get faster and more accurate (plus in some cases it's cheaper to buy a new printer than replace the cartridges), and monitors can increase in size and screen resolution for the same money next year.

    I'd say the nokia 808 is pretty future proof ;) and probably more so than the iphone, by september next year will again be obsolete

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