Early adopters beware: These are the best new gadgets, but is it the right time to buy?

Are you an early adopter? Are you the sort of person who's willing to take a punt on technology that's only just come out and costs an arm, a leg and half a kidney? Do you still have a Betamax, Laser Disc, and/or HD-DVD player gathering dust in the loft? If so, the following is most definitely for you.

There's no doubt about it, we are currently in the middle of exciting times for technology. More gadgets, gaming devices and gizmos are flooding the market than we know what to do with, and with crowd funding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, even more, wacky concepts and inventions are on their way.

Technology categories too are expanding, with new ones being formed at an equally rapid rate. It all sends shivers down our spines. But also our wallets.

The main problem we, and many tech fans have about the new wave of thrilling products is when to jump on board. Buy too early and you might find that, while the category expands and is taken up by all, the doohickey you now own is defunct. Ask anybody with a first generation iPad how that feels?

So which of the new wave of technology should you be confident about supporting now, and which should be left to mature? Read on to find out...

Smartwatches

Bar those that went before that are now largely forgotten, there have been a fair few smartwatches to hit the market in the last couple of years, but only now are the major software giants becoming interested enough to try to unify platforms.

Samsung had moderate success with its first Galaxy Gear smartwatch, but the early adopters who bought them will eventually bemoan subsequent devices from Samsung or other manufacturers - such those that sport Android Wear watches or, dare we say it, Apple's iWatch. As time goes on, the most obvious difference will be battery life and that will have a massive effect success of the technology. Who wants to wear a watch that needs to be recharged every day?

Pebble is about the best bet at present, but if you fancy a full-colour display and more bells and whistles, we suggest waiting.

READ: Android Wear: The watches from Motorola, LG and more

Google Glass

Google Glass has finally been released in the UK - well, the Explorer edition anyway, which is still more geared to the development industry than general consumers. And as such it is offered at the hefty price point of £1,000.

So should you cough up a grand of your own cash to be a pioneering Glasshole? Well, that really depends on what you want to do with it. Should you be looking to develop apps for wearable computers, it's a no-brainer. However, if you just want to look cool in front of your mates, it's too pricey.

While decent tech and a fun experience, with its instant directions, search functionality and ability to take surreptitious photographs or video of people who don't realise you're doing it, it also makes you stick out like a sore thumb. You'll garner so many stares that you might as well have forgotten your trousers.

When Google manages to shrink the device, drop the price and the public gets used to the fact that people are walking around with fully-functioning computers strapped to their their faces, it will take off like a Harrier Jump Jet. Of that we're pretty sure.

READ: Framing the future: The styles, shapes and colours of Google Glass

Oculus Rift

Let's start by saying that of all new technologies, Oculus Rift perhaps attracts the most interest from people we meet on a day to day basis. Friends and family are always asking what it's like to use and our answer is invariably the same each time, "Bloody brilliant!"

Every demo we've had on increasingly better specified prototype headsets has blown us away - sometimes even left us feeling like we've undergone a genuine out of body experience. But the clue there is the "ever better specified prototype" part. Like with Google Glass, the technology is currently still in a Beta phase and is therefore geared more to the development community.

It is possible to order the latest DevKit - Development Kit 2 - for $350 (£205) even if you're not a developer, but you can bet that a better version will be on its way soon enough.

That being said, when we used a DevKit 2 headset to play the utterly terrifying Alien: Isolation, it offered an excellent experience. And should around £200 not be too much for you, we'd thoroughly recommend it. There's certainly enough content out there already for you to try out.

A rival virtual reality headset has also recently been shown - Sony's Project Morpheus - but that is far from a consumer release at present.

READ: Oculus Rift: The best experiences and games available right now

OLED TVs

In terms of pure picture quality, contrast levels and colour saturation, there is no better television display technology on the market than OLED. However, thanks to its high manufacturing costs many companies are shelving production of OLED panels for the sake of furthering the potential for backlit-LED.

In addition, it is seemingly really tricky for manufacturers to up the resolution of OLED panels for general use, so it is unlikely you will see an OLED TV at a higher resolution than 1080p, certainly less than 55-inches in size. LG does have a curved 77-inch 4K OLED TV, which is great if you can house something that size and/or pay the £20,000 for the privilege, but it is hard to see a time when the technology becomes more affordable.

We're not saying that OLED is not worth an investment, but if you really want to be future-proofed you should be considering a 4K ultra high definition TV as your next main set purchase.

READ: Sony halts OLED TV development in favour of 4K LCDs

4K UHDTVs

And so we come straight onto 4K UHDTVs, the evolutionary next stage for televisions, according to just about every manufacturer that makes them. And it's hard to argue against.

While little 4K content is available - Netflix streams some, 4K video players are starting to arrive, and YouTube is a valid source for UHD clips - the TVs themselves more often than not come with intelligent picture processing that makes conventional 1080p Blu-rays look better.

The first batch of 4K sets are hamstrung by the fact that they, on the most part, are not compatible with the HEVC (h.265) video codec, that allows 4K video to take up about the same bandwidth either by air or over the internet as a former 1080p stream, but subsequent tellies released are. So now we can't really see why it doesn't make sense to invest in a 4K TV over a Full HD one these days. Apart from price, and even that is dropping rapidly.

READ: Sony KD-65X9005B 65-inch 4K TV review

Curved TVs

A fairly new trend in television technology has emerged in the last year or so; curved TVs. Manufacturers such as Samsung and LG are essentially publicly trialling sets that feature a pronounced curve in the middle so that, in theory, a viewers eyes are equidistant to each part of the screen.

This is to improve contrast, it is said, and other perceived image qualities. But it makes the TVs look odd when mounted on a wall, so is best suited to those who prefer to set their televisions on AV stands.

To be honest, it's hard to see curved panels as little more than a fad. Although, that said, there's no real disadvantage to buying a curved TV now if that's the sort of thing you'll think you'll prefer. In all other respects, they are the same as normal flatscreens. Well, bar price. The Samsung UE48H8000 is around £1,300 and yet only Full HD so you are paying a premium for a bended display.

READ: Samsung UE48H8000 curved TV review

Glasses-free 3D

The last TV category is, perhaps, our easiest to give an answer on when it comes to to the question of whether you should buy now: "no!"

We're not entirely sure, given the seeming lack of interest in 3D in the home and the swerve by manufacturers away from promoting the technology, that we'll even see any glasses-free 3D TV that is more than just a gimmick. And the ones we've viewed in the past suffered from too many flaws than to be actually useful as either a 3D video watching device or a conventional set.

Glasses-less 3D requires a viewer to remain in a sweet spot and, even with intelligent eye-tracking cameras in operation, it has always results in blurring and picture ghosting. Just take one look at a Nintendo 3DS in 3D mode and you'll discover why most gamers turn it off.

If you are happy investing silly money into glasses-free 3D display technology at present then you have more money than sense.

READ: Stream Ultra-D 4K glasses-free TVs coming 2014, smartphones and tablets to follow

3D printing

We love 3D printers and can definitely see uses for them in the home. They will definitely become more than a curio, maybe even a standard for those who require the ability to replace parts or want to print-off shower heads and the like. However, the technology needs to be far cheaper than it is currently to really take off.

The 3D printing materials are actually quite cheap. Imagine needing to replace the wheel on a child's toy or a washer in some part of a plumbing link, you could 3D print one for around 30-60p. The printer though, even a small one, will set you back close to a grand and that's what will put many off.

Prices will drop though and there are ruminations that cheaper alternatives to the bigger manufactured models, such as the Makerbot range, could start to appear in 2015. So unless you have a fair bit put aside, you'll find that you need to wait a bit longer anyway.

READ: 3D printing takes over the Tech Tavern: Having fun with Makerbot Replicator and Replicator Mini

Drones

A tech industry buzzword for quite some time, drones are only now becoming more mass market and offering features that put them above radio controlled helicopters and planes in the public conciousness.

Some spectacular drone devices are coming out now too, with Parrot perhaps leading the way with its more advanced quadricopters, such as the Bebop with its Full HD video recording abilties and image stabilisation. It can also be used with an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, giving you a first person view of everything the drone sees.

Price for that particular model is yet to be announced, although it is expected to be more than $1,000 (£583) so we think it will find its way into the hands of serious film or documentary makers first (image filming snowboarding action by chasing the boarder down a mountain?). Cheaper drones are available though and they are certainly becoming more popular.

READ: Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition review

Next-gen gaming

The answer of whether you should invest in a next-games console right now is simple; of course you should. The hard part is which one. Both the PS4 and Xbox One have done well in sales and have already secured a long and successful future. But considering the quality of the games seen at this year's E3 videogames trade show, it's hard to recommend one over the other.

Many of the big games are coming out across both platforms. But it is the home-grown titles that cause consternation. If you want to play Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive or the forthcoming Halo 5, you need an Xbox One. For Uncharted 4 (when it arrives), The Order: 1886, DriveClub and The Last of Us Remastered, you'll need a PS4. Decisions decisions.

Therefore, if you're particularly poor at coming off the fence, you might want to wait it out to see if they come down in price any. That way you might even be able to afford both and everyone's a winner.

READ: Best games for 2014 and beyond: The 36 best PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC and Wii U games

Flexible phones

Some marvelled while others laughed when both LG and Samsung unveiled their bendy smartphones last year. And, to be honest, we've not really heard much in the way of further development of the technology.

There's no doubt that the LG G Flex and Samsung Galaxy Round raised eyebrows, but they more came across as proof of concept devices than actual bone fide consumer handsets. Neither have really set the world alight.

Perhaps the biggest indication that this is very early days for any similar curved phone display technology is that the two main manufacturing instigators couldn't even agree on where to put the curve. LG's was centred horizontally so that, when watching a movie, the curve wraps around your field of vision. Samsung centred its horizontally so that, er, ahem, we're not entirely sure. Fits in a back pocket better?

Time will tell if we see another curved handset. What's more likely that we'll see genuine bendable displays in the near(ish) future, although whether that will have a genuine purpose we shall see.

READ: LG G Flex vs Samsung Galaxy Round: What's the difference?

Are there any other products you think are too early in their lifespan to take a punt on at present? If so, let us know in the comments below...



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