PC Magazine presents its Technical Innovation Awards
Every year, the 20-strong editorial team of PC Magazine stops writing and starts arguing. Having spent 12 months reviewing and testing more than 1,000 computer products - both hardware and software - they sit down and choose their own personal best of the bunch.

The Technical Innovation Awards, affectionately known as Tinas to the team, give PC Magazine's journalists and PC Labs technicians the chance to pick out their top systems, peripherals, software and gizmos from the avalanche of computer equipment that arrives daily at their London Bridge offices. Size of company or marketing spend is ignored as the team takes an independent, hype-free view of just how good the products are.

The awards, handed out at a computer glitterati breakfast at Anton Mosimann's restaurant, covered 17 categories and are detailed in the January 1997 issue of PC Magazine. The Tinas were presented for products across the entire spectrum of PC computing, from standard desktop PCs to the very latest Internet products.

The best desktop system award went to Compaq for its excellent DeskPro 6000 range of PCs. The Compaq 6000 PCs, using powerful 166MHz and 200MHz Pentium processors, were picked for their use of technology, which cleverly monitors and predicts impending hard-disk failures. The hard disk is one of the few pieces with moving parts inside a PC and any problem here can be catastrophic. The Compaq system - making use of a method called Predictive Failure Analysis - gives users enough warning to save their data on to tape or another drive before the disk fails completely.

The best peripheral award went to US Robotics' cheeky little handheld personal digital assistant, the Pilot 5000. Having tried out (and discarded) so many cumbersome or just downright annoying PDAs over the years, the Pilot 5000 is the first electronic organiser that many on PC Magazine felt really hit the spot. Weighing just 60g, it is small enough to genuinely slip into a shirt pocket, is incredibly easy to use and holds the details of more than enough appointments, names and addresses to keep the most frantic of journalists satisfied.

Best of all, the Pilot 5000 can be placed in a cradle which connects to your PC to synchronise automatically its data with that on your desktop machine.

The best Internet product award was won by Shockwave from Macromedia. Shockwave brings superb interactivity and audio-visual multimedia to Web pages and sites.

Unbelievably, for this sophistication of technology, Shockwave is free; you can download it from Macromedias Web site at no charge at all. The fact that more than a million people have chosen to do just that indicates the success of this first-rate Internet tool.

The loudest and longest argument of all, when the magazine's staff chew over the Tinas, is the product of the year award. This can come from any category and thus has to be exceptionally good.

This year, it was the beautifully engineered and feature-packed Toshiba Tecra 720CDT notebook that was judged to be the product above all others.

The Toshiba is the first notebook to use a massive 1024 dots by 768 dots resolution on its colour display, actually improving the capabilities of some desktop PCs.

On top of this comes high-speed graphics facilities, built-in stereo sound and, unusually fast for a portable, a six-speed CD-Rom.

The number of products considered for the 1996 PC Magazine Tinas was huge. Yet the pace of change and rate of innovation shows no signs of slackening. The number of PC products to appear in 1997 is expected to be bigger still.

Compaq (0181 332 3000) http://www.compaq.com

Macromedia (01344 55644) http://www.macromedia.com

US Robotics (01734 228200) http://www.usrobotics.com

Toshiba (01932 841600) http://www.toshiba.com