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The Best of Technology 2009

Advisors can bank on these software and hardware picks.

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 12/10/2009

In keeping with the end of year holiday spirit, I've had a long tradition of using my December column to highlight some of the best products I've encountered over the previous 12 months. During the year, I heap both praise and criticisms on the products I review, so it is gratifying to have an opportunity to tune out the negatives and accentuate the positives. This year, as in previous years, we consider awarding candidates in three categories: hardware, software, and "rookie of the year."

Here are the ground rules: Software and hardware candidates can be either new products or improved versions of existing products that are capable of generating a positive impact on an advisory practice. Industry-specific products qualify, as do general-purpose products. Rookie of the year contestants are new products used by financial professionals that might not yet be perfected but either break new ground or hold great promise. In order to make sure that we only reward the most deserving products, candidates are not limited to products I've reviewed in this column over the past 12 months. In order to be considered, a product must be something I have tried and liked over the previous year; there are no other qualifications for consideration.

Before we go any further, let's not forget the annual disclaimer: Morningstar has no involvement in the selection process, so please direct all accolades and complaints directly to me. Morningstar or I do not necessarily endorse any product mentioned in this article. This is just my way of highlighting some products that are particularly worthy of recognition in 2009. And no, I don't present the winners with actual awards. Winners will have to be content with bragging rights until we do this again next year.

Hardware Product of the Year
It was a banner year for hardware in our little corner of the world. I had the opportunity to try quite a few new products, and I liked many of them. This made selecting a winner in this category more difficult than usual. In the end, though, I selected the EVGA InterView Dual Monitor System, which I reviewed last month, as the hardware product of the year.

In my tests, the EVGA InterView Dual Monitor System increased my productivity. It also provided me with me capabilities that I didn't have before. As an added bonus, this product was extremely enjoyable to use.

The system includes a pair of 17" LCD monitors capable of resolutions up to 1440x900. The stand has hinges, so the screens can be positioned however you like. When working alone, you can configure the screens side by side, or at a slight angle facing you. This creates one extended desktop. The software allows you to drag windows from one screen to the other, so it offers a great deal of flexibility when arranging your workspace. If a client or colleague is sitting across the desk from you, one of the screens can be flipped over, and the monitors can be set to mirror each other, so whatever you display on the screen facing you will also be displayed on the screen facing the other person. This functionality is great for one-on-one presentations or client review meetings.

In addition, the stand includes a built in webcam and a microphone, so conducting video conferences with this system is seamless. The stand also includes multiple USB ports for further convenience. Ideally, you want to pair this monitor system with a video card containing dual DVI connections, but if you don't have such a card you can purchase an adapter that will allow you to run the system in the dual-screen mode.

When I first tried out the EVGA InterView Dual Monitor System about two months ago, I was very enthusiastic about it. Two months later, if anything, I like it more than the day I first tried it. For productivity and flexibility, the EVGA InterView wonderful choice.

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