While some intrepid tech reporters will zoom to the ends of cyberspace to run down a story, few take the job seriously enough to jump from 10,000 feet for the lowdown. But, then again not everyone is as fearless and fun as Molly Wood, Executive Editor at CNET. Earlier this month, Wood and "Always On" correspondent Jeff Cannata actually lept out of a helicopter to recreate the HTC One X "skydive commercial," and see if there was any truth to its crisp photo claims. They also brought an iPhone 4 along as competition; here's the video of Wood's adventure.
Back on solid ground, Wood paused from her hectic schedule (is it ever slow in techland?) to share her five fave must-have gadgets. We didn't ask her to take them up in a rocket or anything, but it's safe to say that Wood doesn't need to repeat her recent stunt to earn our high-flying regard. CNET has long been a go-to review site for the skinny on the utility of bargain electronics.
Apple iPhone 4S 64GB Worldphone
($149, a low by $50)
Yes, yes, we know: The iPhone 5 is here. But Wood still has plenty of tech-geek love for the 4S: "It's my organizer, my lifeline, my Star Trek communicator, and most importantly, my camera," Wood says. "I think my love for my phone has as much to do with the camera as anything else — and obviously, the iPhone has a great camera." Not that she doesn't love the competition. "I also carry a Samsung Galaxy S3, which I love almost as much for its maps and huge screen."
Apple MacBook Air Intel Core i5 1.6GHz 11" Notebook
($748.99 with free shipping, a low by $6)
Wood was not an instant or easy convert to the Apple world. "I resisted for a long time, but I have probably never loved a computer like I love my Air," she says. Her 2-year-old 11" model has been all over the world; she says that even though Apple would love for her to upgrade, she just doesn't see the need. "I actually bought myself a 13" Air and took it back to the store. I love this tiny little thing, and I travel with it in my purse. The battery life is great, the size and weight are great, and the way it wakes up instantly from sleep is better than any Windows laptop I've owned." There's only one thing lacking in this relationship: a 128GB solid state drive. "Then it would probably be a 'till death do we part' situation."
Amazon Kindle 6" eBook Reader
($69 with free shipping)
Though Wood has an iPad floating around her house, it's the sole property of her 5-year-old son, "who uses it as his personal television for Netflix and PBS Go and YouTube," she says. She's also tried out the Nexus 7 for reading and has thought about a Kindle Fire, but at the end of the day, she keeps coming back to the E-Ink Kindle. "It's light enough to bring on a trip along with my laptop; the E-Ink is easy to read and never gives me a headache, and it's just a dead simple device that does one thing, and does it perfectly. I am really a believer in the standalone eReader: I love it!"
Bose QuietComfort 2 Headphones
($324.95 with free shipping, a low by $25)
When she's not jumping out of helicopters, Wood frequently travels by more conventional means. "I was on a trip a few months back where I was absolutely exhausted, sitting [on the plane] with the loudest, most talkative man ever," she recalls. "And no matter what song I put on or how loud I made my music, my stupid, dinky little in-ear buds were just plain not doing the job. Plus, they give me a headache on long flights. I read some reviews online, asked Twitter for advice, and ended up buying the Bose QC2s. And let me tell you, I've now done two transatlantic flights with them — and countless shorter hops — and I would have paid double for these things. They are my cone of silence on any flight. Bring on the cranky babies; I don't even care anymore."
SodaStream Fizz Home Soda Maker
($96.99 via coupon code "SAVE" and $20 mail-in rebate with free shipping, a low by $17)
It's about as far away from an iPhone or tablet as you can get, but nevertheless, SodaStream is a blissful gizmo for Wood. "The SodaStream is a stealth gadget of awesomeness," she says. "Every time I use it, I'm just thrilled. I mean, you can make actual soda anytime you want, like orange soda or root beer or a little Diet Coke knockoff, or just fizzy water with a little lime. It's genius ... until the carbon dioxide runs out! And then I'll probably never replace it, and I'll have a little kitchen gadgety paperweight on the counter. But until then? Genius!"
Front page photo credit: The Molly