Dallas Bar Association

Tech Toys for Lawyers – 2012 Edition

by Tom Mighell

It is that time of year again—time to start thinking about the holidays, and the toys that all good little girls and boys will no doubt be clamoring for this season. While you are doing that, there is no harm in thinking about a tech toy for yourself, right? In this 2012 Edition of Tech Toys for Lawyers, we will take a look at the hottest tablets, some great entertainment centers and other fun gadgets worth checking out as holiday gifts for you or others.

If tablet computers were a hot technology last year, this year there is a positive frenzy over them, and the manufacturers do not disappoint. If you still have not sprung for a tablet device yet, there are some great options this year, but choosing one will depend on what you hope to get out of it. Let us start with the tablets that are suitable for work and play; Apple just unveiled its new iPad with Retina Display (4th Generation, $499-$829), and it is a tremendous productivity device. Its new processor makes it significantly faster than its predecessor, and the retina display is really fantastic. In my opinion, the iPad is still the best tablet for lawyers, because of 1) the available legal apps are superior to other options and 2) it just works. However, the Samsung Nexus 10 ($399 and up) is poised to give Apple a run for its money—the product had not been released as of this writing, but the reviews are all very good so far. If you prefer an Android-based device that you can tinker with and customize, this may be the tablet for you. Not to be outdone, Microsoft has finally entered the tablet market with its Microsoft Surface ($499-$699), a device that promises to be a tablet when you need a tablet and a laptop when you need that, too. Perhaps the best thing about the Surface is that it provides you with direct access to Microsoft Office on a tablet, which none of the others can do at this point.

For those of you looking for more of a content consumption experience, try a 7-inch tablet. The iPad Mini ($329-$659) and Nexus 7 ($199) both offer the same power of their 10-inch siblings, but with a smaller screen. These tablets are especially good for reading books, magazines, or documents and watching television or movies, but they will both run the same apps as the larger tablets. If you are an Amazon fan, the Kindle Fire ($199-$499) offers a great experience, although Amazon primarily intends these tablets to serve as platforms to sell their book and video products to you. Finally, although it is not a tablet, the new Kindle Paperwhite ($119-$179) is an absolutely stunning e-reader, if all you need is something to read books and magazines.

If you’re looking for something the whole family can enjoy at once, consider buying a streaming media device. These gadgets have been available for a couple of years, but this past year their popularity really took off. The Roku HD ($60) is a small wi-fi device (think the size of a square hockey puck) that offers dozens of streaming video and audio services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora, MLB.tv and more. Just plug it into your television, connect the Roku to a wireless connection, and you can enjoy all of these media sources on your television. If you have even one Apple i-device, then think about Apple TV ($99), which offers most, but not all of the services listed above. But with an iPhone or iPad, you can use the Airplay feature on your phone or tablet to stream pictures or video directly to your television. These are both great toys for watching or listening to movies, television or audio recordings.

If you are looking for a stocking stuffer, consider the Fitbit ($99), a pocket-sized device that clips on your pants as you go about your day. It is a tech-savvy pedometer, measuring the number of steps you take, calories you burn, stairs you climb and even hours you sleep at night. If you want to track your weight as well, buy the companion Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale ($129), which will transmit your weight to Fitbit to include with the site’s other analytical tools. If losing weight or staying in shape are among your New Year’s resolutions come January, these are two tools that can help you keep on track.

Finally, a fun but pricey toy for creative photographers—the Lytro Light Field Camera ($450) looks like no camera you have ever seen—it is just a 4-inch metal box that uses “light-field photography” to allow the camera to shoot instantly without the need to focus. Further, you can refocus an image over and over using the Lytro’s software—just click on any area of the photo and that portion will come into focus. It is very cool, but not for everyday photographers.

Happy Holidays to all of you, and may you and yours get the tech toys you crave this season!


Tom Mighell is a Senior Consultant with Contoural, Inc., and is the author of “iPad in One Hour for Lawyers,” “iPad Apps in One Hour for Lawyers,” and the soon-to-be-released “iPad in One Hour for Litigators,” all available at ababooks.org or in the iBookStore. He can be contacted at tmighell@gmail.com.

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