I test a lot of gadgets throughout the year, but only a few standouts make my year-end list. For the past 16 years, I've been writing about routers, laptops, and everything in between. Not every gadget is impressive enough to impact my daily routine and productivity. Here are the top picks that actually made a difference and helped me in my work.
1. Best smartphone: Apple iPhone X
I came to appreciate the inventiveness of the latest Apple iPhone X ($999), which uses a massive display and a new swipe-up for home interface paradigm. It works. Plus, the cameras for selfies on the front and portrait shots on the back worked better than ever.
2. Best laptop: Google Pixelbook
For $999, the Google Pixelbook packs a lot of cool design features. It's a touchscreen tablet and supports a stylus for jotting down notes. It's a Chromebook that also runs Android apps. And, it's light, portable, and sleek so it fits nicely in your laptop bag.
3. Best printer: Canon Pixma G4200
It's often hard to get excited about printers, but the Canon G4200 was a clear standout. It uses a new MegaTank Ink System where you fill the ink rather than constantly buying new cartridges. In my tests, the printer lasted for months without needing a refill.
4. Best desktop: Microsoft Surface Studio
Computing is going to become much more tactile soon. On the Microsoft Surface Studio ($3,000), you can tilt the 28-inch screen back and draw with a pen or place a Microsoft Dial on the screen to adjust settings like color and the zoom level in apps like CorelDraw.
5. Best headphones: Focal Clear
The Focal Clear high-end headphones ($1,500) are large enough to make bass feel ultra-realistic, especially if you are a fan of bands like Chvrches. They are curiously light though and didn't feel weighty even after using them all day in the office.
6. Best speaker: Sonos One
I was blown away by the speaker quality on the Sonos One ($200). It has a deep and rich bass with distinct mid-range, and it is Alexa-enabled so you can ask about the weather and sports. For business, the Sonos One is a great addition to any lobby or your own desk.
7. Best webcam: Logitech Brio Camera
The best webcam I've ever tested, the Logitech Brio ($200) has exceptional color quality as well, which makes Skype calls more valuable in business. Why does this matter? For business, the quality means you can hear and see the people at the other end without the miscues.
8. Best tablet: Apple iPad 9.7
The reigning champ of tablets, the latest Apple iPad 9.7 ($329) has a crisp 2048 x 1536-pixel display and lasts all day on a charge. (Many competing Android tablets don't last as long.) Apps like Evernote and Microsoft Word help you stay productive and run fast.
9. Best earbuds: Google Pixel Buds
The sound quality of the Google Pixel Buds ($159) is what sold me the most. You also benefit from the easy access to Google Assistant bot with a tap (or Siri if you connect up to an iPhone). For long typing sessions at coffee-shops, the Buds stay out of the way with a short thin cord and charge up faster than most.
10. Best robot: Jibo
The talking Jibo bot ($899) seems to have personality and charm. It can recognizes faces and turn toward you to look, then answer questions about weather forecasts or the latest sports scores. More expressive bots that mimic human characteristics? It's the first one that makes it work in a realistic way.
11. Best security gadget: Nest Secure Hub
The Nest Secure Hub ($499) makes security easier, especially if you work from home or have a small office. To configure the tags used for tracking devices, you just hold them next to the hub. You can also add additional sensors for doors, windows, and rooms.
12. Best drone: DJI Spark
For capturing footage at a company picnic or making real professional drone videos, the DJI Spark is super-smart. You can launch it easier than previous drones, trusting it won't fly away. At $399, the Spark is affordable for most startups but it is packed with features.
13. Best connected gadget: Ember Ceramic Mug
For $80, the Ember Ceramic Mug seems spendy, but it worked wonders in terms of keeping my coffee warm and that's worth the price. It connects to an app on your phone or the Apple Watch so you can set the desired temp, and the mug feels solid in your hand (and when you take a sip). It charges up on a coaster (included).
14. Best Wi-Fi gadget: Norton Core
I love the "pause" button on the trendy-looking Norton Core router ($280). It makes it easy to disable Wi-Fi if needed. The Core (about the size of a volleyball) looks different from most boring, rectangular routers with a multi-sided design and gray or gold colors. Norton software helps protect every connected device, which is a plus.
15. Best television: LG E7 OLED 4K
The colors pop brightly on the LG E7 65-inch television ($3,500), due to how the pixels in the OLED screen can turn off and on individually. Netflix shows like Jessica Jones in 4K looked more life-like; easy access to apps like Amazon using the remote made streaming simple as well. In an office setting, it will make every presentation more vibrant.
16. Best peripheral: Logitech Craft
A dial on the Logitech Craft keyboard ($200) gives you easy access to settings and features in high-end apps when editing a photo or a video. The soft-touch keys worked perfectly for me, improving my speed over my normal mechanical keyboard.
17. Best camera: Sony A9
I've never tested a camera with such a fast shutter. Using one at X Games 2017 in Minneapolis, I snapped photos in quick succession as a skateboarder zoomed past. None of them were blurry. And, the full-frame A9 camera ($4,500) captures 24.2-megapixel images and 4K video. It's currently my favorite high-end camera.
18. Best gaming gadget: Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch ($300) is a marvel of innovation, and it helps that the games (namely The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) are also incredibly fun and unique. The console works with a television and you can remove it form the base to go portable as well.
19. Best smartwatch: Misfit Vapor
My favorite smartwatch of the year uses an amazing new interface that actually works. (No squinting required, with apologies to the Apple Watch.) The Misfit Vapor ($200) shows Android Wear apps on a colorful touchscreen, and you can track your workouts and location (using the GPS on your phone). It lasts up to two days on a charge.
20. Best car: Alfa Romeo Giulia
I had to sneak my favorite car into the mix this year. The Alfa Romeo Giulia ($37,999 base) is an astounding new sedan that drives a bit like a Ferrari. A turbocharged version called the Quadrifoglio has a 505-horsepower engine. Did I mention it can take corners like a race car on a track (or for your daily commute)?