The 25 Most Innovative Products of the Year


Entertainment: Creative Zen Vision, Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Nintendogs for Nintendo DS, TiVoToGo.

Creative Zen Vision
PORTABLE MEDIA PLAYER ($400) Even Steve Jobs admits that the new video-enabled iPod is a music player that offers video as a bonus, not a video-centric device. If you're looking for a truly multimedia handheld, Creative's Zen Vision (
see picture

Creative Zen Vision
) may fit the bill better than any product with an Apple logo on it. And the Vision is decidedly more practical than the bulky, pricey first-generation portable Media Center players that debuted in 2004.

Compact enough to fit (just barely) into a shirt pocket, the Vision has a knockout 3.7-inch display that makes the video iPod's screen look like it shrank in the wash. Movies in a variety of formats are very watchable indoors and out, and you can output them to a TV. You can also load photos onto the Vision's 30GB hard drive, via its USB port, a built-in CompactFlash slot, or an optional adapter for other memory-card formats. And, hey, this video player offers audio as a bonus, including subscription services based on Microsoft's Windows Media 10. It even sports an FM radio tuner.

What the Vision lacks is a service for acquiring video that's as simple and seamless as the iTunes Music Store's new TV downloads. But if you're willing to put some effort into getting video onto this gadget, it'll sure look good once it's there. Latest prices

Microsoft Xbox 360
GAME CONSOLE ($400) Within a few days after it launched, the
Xbox 360 (see picture

Microsoft Xbox 360
) sold out in stores and started appearing on eBay for $5000 and above--games included. It earns points for being the first console with a well-integrated online gaming component, support for high-definition TVs with resolutions up to 1080 interlaced, and impressive 3D graphics horsepower. The first time you power up the Xbox, it asks you to create a log-in name, which you'll need if you participate in Microsoft's Xbox Live online gaming community. Games, such as Activision's Call of Duty 2 and Microsoft's Perfect Dark Zero, look very impressive on the new Xbox. In fact, Call of Duty looks about as good on the 360 as it does on a relatively new PC with a low- to mid-level graphics card. You can use up to four controllers with the 360, and we appreciate that Microsoft improved the game controller; it's better designed and more comfortable to hold than the one that came with the first-gen Xbox. If you plan to put the system in a room without an ethernet connection, consider dishing out an extra $100 for the Wi-Fi adapter. Latest prices

Nintendo Nintendogs for Nintendo DS
GAME ($30) Nintendo's (
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Nintendo Nintendogs for Nintendo DS
) uncannily realistic canines, including Labrador retrievers, Chihuahuas, dachshunds, and other breeds, are irresistible. This title for the DS handheld isn't just addictive--it's also one of the most inventive games in years, taking full advantage of the DS's quirky features. You interact mostly through voice commands ("sit!") and by using the DS's pen to do everything from taking your pup for a walk to scratching him or her under the chin. You can even blow bubbles by gently blowing into the handheld's microphone.

The game has no particular goal other than to raise a happy and well-behaved pooch, and the closest the game gets to conflict is if a fellow doggie parent chews you out for failing to clean up after your pet. But if you're a fan of dogs, simulation games, or both, you'll love this puppy. Latest prices

DVR (free with
TiVo subscription) No longer is the content on your beloved TiVo tethered to the hard drive you recorded it on. TiVoToGo unleashes your recordings onto your home network, and lets you take those recordings with you. Connect a wireless adapter to a Series2 TiVo and install the free software on your Windows PC, and you can transfer as many recorded episodes of The Simpsons as you can fit on your hard drive. Watch your action flick on the computer in the den while a romantic comedy plays in the living room. Or load up a laptop with shows before a trip, and watch all your favorites on the road. Plus, TiVoToGo lets you browse and play all the digital music stored on your computer through your TiVo. The company recently started rolling out support for transferring TiVoToGo content to Apple's video-capable iPod.

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