This year was forgettable for many reasons, but we can at least take solace in the fact that 2016 was filled with a lot of great technology. From Apple’s iPhone 7 to the PlayStation 4 Pro, we were spoiled with an abundance of riches—and these products didn’t even make our favorites list.
We tried to keep our list as diverse as possible and pick the things we’d actually use. Sure, there are a lot of things we could have included, like the OnePlus 3T or Daydream VR. Heck, Tesla’s Model 3 probably should have been included. But we think this list is pretty well-rounded, with the best, most exciting products of the year.
No doubt we didn’t include something you hold in high regard. Don’t consider it as a personal attack against you. Instead, let us know down below why you would have included one product over another. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
These are in no particular order.
Google often makes some of the best apps for iOS, and the company really outdid itself with Gboard. Announced in May, the app is an ingenious keyboard replacement that features built-in search for web, image, and GIFs results, along with handy emoji suggestions and Glide typing. The beauty of Gboard is that it eliminates the need to jump into a separate app to perform a search. So, the next time you’re planning a night out with friends, you can search right from your keyboard and paste the results into your threaded message. How did we ever live without it?
Sunglasses specifically designed to post updates to your Snapchat Story sound terrible. But, against all odds, they’re actually really fun to use. Available in three colors, Spectacles shoot circular video that can be viewed in any orientation on a phone. It’s a clever solution to the vertical video epidemic. Specs record ten seconds of video, which is then automatically added to your story. At $129, they’re priced right, and beat the pants off Google Glass, the search giant’s failed experiment that set people back $1,500.
The sleekest all-in-one computer isn’t made by Apple. Announced in October, the 28-inch Surface Studio is a creative dream capable of tilting totally flat, making it perfect for designers, planners, and artists of all kinds. Of course, it supports Microsoft’s Surface Pen, along with the new Surface Dial, a clever trinket that gives the Studio a mechanical edge. With a starting price of $2,999, it ain’t cheap, but this is one pricey machine that may be worth its asking price.
The most surprising thing about the Google Pixel is how ordinary it is. There is no iris scanner, it doesn’t support wireless charging, and the design is as plain as vanilla. Yet, it’s one of this year’s top phones, highlighting how important it is to get the fundamentals right. Case in point: the Pixel’s camera produces phenomenal results, besting the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7. That’s no small feat and proves Google’s new smartphone will be a competitor for years to come.
Echo Dot (2nd generation)
The first Echo Dot, a hockey puck sized version of the original Echo, was neat because it offered great functionality in a smaller package. The only problem? It needed to be hooked up to an existing speaker system. The second generation Echo Dot rectifies that with its own speaker, and it even sports an improved voice recognition system. At $50, it’s the easiest way to jump into Amazon’s smart home ecosystem, which is gaining more skills and capabilities by the day.
DJI Mavic Pro
Everything you loved about DJI’s line of drones has come to a head with the Mavic Pro. It has a 4K camera stabilized by a 3-axis gimbal, automated flight features, and a “Sport” mode that allows it to exceed 40 mph. It is, for lack of a better word, the perfect consumer drone. And it can fold up to fit into a small bag, a feature that will no doubt catch the eye of travelers. If you purchase the Mavic Pro with all the bells and whistles, you’re looking to spend about $1,299.
You know what would pair nicely with the headphone jack-less iPhone 7? AirPods, Apple’s first-ever wireless headphones, which are finally available to order after a brief delay. These headphones can sense when they’re in your ears and pause when you take them out. And when you want to talk to Siri, just double-tap either AirPod and the personal assistant will be at your service. “Siri, play Taylor Swift.” It’s that easy.
The Amazon Echo is the reigning champ of the smart speaker market. But Google Home already has a lot to offer, and it’s cheap, too. Google’s Assistant AI is the brain of Google Home, offering a superior experience to competitors like Alexa and Siri. In addition to being able to set timers, Assistant is capable of engaging in two-way conversations, bringing humanity one step closer to Spike Jones’ Her.
Oculus and Vive helped usher in the high-end VR market. But Sony’s PlayStation VR is the product that’s helped establish VR as the next great medium. It splits the difference between gadgets like the Vive and Daydream VR, and connects to the more than 50 million PlayStation 4 consoles that have been sold. And with support for games like Resident Evil 7, it offers some of the best, most immersive experiences on the market—and it’s only a few months old. Expect PSVR to have a big 2017.
Nintendo NES Classic
Nintendo’s NES Classic is, without question, this year’s most frustrating gadget. Not only is the console’s controller cord appallingly short but it’s near impossible to find. (Good luck getting one before Christmas.) That said, the NES Classic absolutely oozes charm, and provides gamers young and old with some of Nintendo’s best titles, including Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda. You don’t need it but you definitely want it.