What happens when a truly original product becomes part of your daily workflow?
For most of us, it means the difference between staying productive or losing hours of work trying to figure out how to complete tasks. Before the Apple iPhone, for example, smartphones were not exactly smart. A brilliant new gadget changes how we work and what we can accomplish, but they also inspire us and make our lives a bit smoother.
In 2018, these products offered features that were refreshingly original in how they impacted my day and also my entertainment choices after work. Here are my top picks.
Dell Canvas 27 ($1,699)
One of my favorites of the year, the Dell Canvas 27 is a new kind of workspace. You can draw with a pen and use your hands at the same time, with the 27-inch touch tablet responding accurately as you work. (There's also a totem you place on the screen to select options). It's not dramatically different from the Microsoft Surface 2 or the Wacom Cintiq, but it's responsive easy to use. One caveat: The Canvas requires a second desktop or laptop.
Google Pixel 3 ($799)
Even if you're a bit jaded about smartphone innovations (the latest models are only a hair faster, a bit thinner), the Google Pixel 3's new "groupie" camera will impress you. With a click you can switch to a wide angle view and fit everyone into the selfie shot. The Pixel 3 does this by using two cameras located on the front of the device. The back camera is also super-powerful and crisp for other photos and videos. One caveat is the price. Other Android phones, including several from Samsung, cost less.
Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch ($999)
I've already made my case that the new Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch tablet works much more like a laptop. It's powerful enough for all of the apps I use like Texture and Google Docs, and next year will even run a full version of Adobe Photoshop for photo editing chores. The new iPad Pro is innovative because of the Smart Keyboard Folio, which helped me type faster than my normal laptop. One caveat is that the new iPad Pro doesn't have a Home button, so you have to learn to swipe to unlock and go to the home screen.
Sonos Beam ($349)
A speaker bar that responds to Amazon Alexa commands? That's a brilliant innovation, because if you use the Sonos Beam in the living room or the break room at your office, you'll likely ask questions more often--about the weather or to change the current playlist. One small caveat is that, while the Beam sounds amazing, the price is a bit higher than most.
Vizio M-Series 65-inch ($900)
I'm impressed with how Vizio has embraces digital content on their M-Series models. The remote buttons provide direct access to Netflix, Amazon, and other services. But what really impressed me was the ability to stream movies directly from my Android phone. (For that, you normally need a separate adapter like the Google Chromecast.) The main perk here? It's about price. Vizio models tend to cost much less than Samsung, LG, and Sony televisions. Quality is not quite as high, though, especially for the latest Hollywood movies.
Steelcase Silq Chair ($641)
When a well-known office furniture company releases a chair without any levers, you know something is up. In the past, a "performance" chair meant you can adjust every setting for lumbar support, your arms, and a headrest. The Steelcase Silq eliminates all of that confusion and just feels like a comfortable, flexible chair you'd use for meetings, at your desk, and everything in between. I do recommend trying one out to make sure it fits your body posture, and the Silq is not meant as an all-day desk chair.
Neato Botvac D7 Connected ($700)
One of the main issues with most robotic vacuums is that they tend to go rogue, vacuuming right off the top of a staircase or on the kitchen linoleum. The Neato Botvac D7 Connected doesn't use any barrier strips or virtual walls. It scans the room and knows where to clean, and can adjust it's pattern depending on the furniture or changes in the room. Plus, it senses a staircase. One caveat to mention is that the D7 works best in a room without too many extra obstructions like dangling cords or lower tables where it can get stuck.
Nookdesk Standing Desk ($810)
Not every standing desk company lets you customize just about every spec--the wood used for the desk surface, whether there's a filing cabinet attached, and the length. Nookdesk even lets you pick the exact color for the wood you use, and add on speakers for your laptop or desktop. The electronic controls for adjusting the height also let you save a custom setting. One small ding against standing desks is that you might forget to stand and keep it lowered, which negates any of the ergonomic benefits.
Dyson Cyclone V10 ($700)
Corded vacuums are annoying because you spend half the time plugging in, dealing with the cord, and then wrapping up the cord. Yet, many cordless models lack power. I was impressed with the Dyson Cyclone V10 because it has more power than previous Dyson cordless models, enough that the job takes much less time and without any frustrations. Of course, all of this convenience comes at a higher price tag than some cordless models.
Trek Super Commuter+ 8S ($4,800)
There's no question the Trek Super Commuter+ 8S is original. I road one for 35 miles and the electric charge indicator barely went down one blip. (Trek claims the bike battery will last for almost 100 miles for a typical rider on the eco setting.) Otherwise, the Commuter+ rides like a normal bike, too--not a funky or weird electric that sticks out like a sore thumb. I had to wonder a bit about repairs if that ever came up, and charging the bike requires extra planning--you can't just hop on and ride on a whime without charging up.