Top 10 Best Tech of 2016
2016 has been an excellent year for tech enthusiasts, with it having seen the release of a number of truly fantastic smartphones, the beginnings of the virtual reality “revolution” and a continued push to make 4K the common standard.
With so much great hardware at our fingertips, it’s therefore been exceptionally difficult to whittle the list of the tech we’ve enjoyed the most this year down to just 10 products. With so many disparate markets to choose from, encompassing everything from VR headsets through to DSLR cameras, and a tech industry that is frequently sweeping the rug from out beneath our feet in terms of where we expect it to head next, 2016 has been as difficult as any to compile this annual list.
The criteria we used for this year’s list focused upon what we believe to be the most important facets of a tech product; performance, ingenuity and accessibility. Each product featured in this rundown excelled in at least two of these departments, providing consumer tech that either set a new benchmark, led the charge for a brand new market or was simply so impressive from a technical standpoint that it had to be included.
With that being said, here’s our list of the top 10 best tech/gadgets of 2016:
10. PS4 Pro
The first 4K-ready consoles were launched in 2016, with the Xbox One S and PS4 Pro both making their way to store shelves worldwide. While the Xbox One S focuses upon delivering 4K video content (it is the only console of the two that can play 4K blu-rays), the PS4 Pro is more suitable for those who want to inject more power into their games. Although it doesn’t boast a native 4K resolution for each game in the PS4 library, the PS4 Pro does provide graphical upgrades to a wide range of both existing and new releases, along with welcome boosts to frame rate and other performance enhancements. It may only be a stop-gap console, but the PS4 Pro is a very enticing deal for 4K TV owners who want to get more out of their PS4 games.
9. Anki Cozmo
Anki’s Cozmo is an adorable smart toy which proves that, when artificial intelligence does eventually take over and transforms the world into a post-apocalyptic dystopia, there will be at least a few cute robots that we can maintain our friendships with. Cozmo’s functionality is simple but its design is tremendous, with Anki having collaborated with Pixar and DreamWorks animators to bring a lot of personality to the small machine. It’ll play with your books, recognize you and other members of your household, but most importantly it will learn new tricks as it “matures.” This means that playing with Cozmo regularly is a must, while Anki plans to push routine updates to its app in order to make the little droid more intelligent over time.
8. PERI Duo
You may not have heard of the PERI Duo, but after being able to get our hands on this crowdfunded device ahead of its release, we can safely say that it’s one of the best smartphone accessories we’ve ever seen. A Wi-Fi/Bluetooth-enabled speaker that snaps to your iPhone as though it were a protective case, the Duo provides stunningly high sound quality of up to 100 decibels, amplifying your tinny phone audio into something that rivals and even betters other portable speakers in its price range. On top of this feature, the PERI Duo also acts as an external battery, providing up to 120% more life for your phone. These two features combine to make the most useful smartphone accessory we’ve seen in a long time.
7. Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon’s second generation smart speaker offers the same features as its first iteration at nearly half the price, providing your home with an AI personal assistant for just $50. The Echo Dot improves upon many of the issues that plagued its predecessor, most notably more competent noise cancelling technology that can pick up your voice with impressive accuracy, being able to communicate with you even if you have music playing in the same room. The Echo Dot boasts the same functionality as the larger, pricier Alexa, allowing you to ask it a variety of questions, play music and check weather/sports updates, though is much smaller and even accommodates for more Echo Dots to be placed around the same home, with its Echo Spatial Perception technology ensuring that only the closest device to you will respond to your voice. As such users can place multiple Echo Dots in their living room, bedroom and kitchen, allowing it to control every aspect of their smart home with ease.
6. DJI Phantom 4
Drones weren’t as prevalent in 2016 as they were last year, but regardless it still saw the release of arguably the best consumer drone yet, the DJI Phantom 4. DJI is the go-to drone brand and the Phantom 4 represents the best addition to their family thus far, with its obstacle-avoidance system making it an excellent option for both beginners and more advanced drone operators. With it able to successfully navigate its way around potentially perilous collisions using this feature, the Phantom 4 can also reach impressive speeds of up to 72 kph, along with performing autonomous flight that allows it to follow you, orbit you or even follow a set of waypoints you designate to it using its dedicated app. There may have been less of a buzz surrounding consumer drones this year, but for hobbyists the DJI Phantom 4 offered more than enough to keep them interested in the future of the unmanned aerial vehicles.
5. PlayStation VR
This was a formative year for virtual reality with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR all making their way to market after a lengthy wait. However, while the HTC Vive is the technically superior headset of the three and the Oculus Rift has the more versatile software line-up, the PS VR emerged as the most popular and profitable of the trio. While it remains to be seen just how competently Sony supports the VR headset in the future, at launch it was an extremely impressive headset that didn’t require consumers to jump through the myriad of hurdles required by its contemporaries, instead working with just a PS4 and a PlayStation Camera. It’s a marvelous bit of kit, with it being one of the most comfortable VR headsets out there and boasting a selection of great launch games including the likes of RIGS Mechanized Combat League and Batman: Arkham VR. For many the PS VR will be their first foray into virtual reality, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The key to producing successful hardware is combining technical prowess with accessibility, and the PS VR does just that.
4. Oculus Rift
The Oculus Rift may not be superior to the HTC Vive from a technical standpoint, but the financial backing of Facebook has ensured that it is the virtual reality headset with the most amount of software to enjoy from right out of the gate. The Rift provides a midway point between the Vive and the PS VR in terms of both price and accessibility, with it not needing the extensive amount of room required for the Vive’s full-body motion tracking, making it arguably the more reasonable option for the majority of PC gamers looking to invest in virtual reality. Aside from boasting the most comprehensive library of games and other VR media, the Rift is also made considerably more attractive when factoring in its unique and innovative Touch controllers, which provide a comfortable and incredibly immersive way of allowing players to interact with the Rift’s virtual worlds.
3. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV has been a long time coming, with it having been 4 years since the release of the Mark III. Fortunately, it was well worth the wait. The Mark IV may be incredibly pricey, costing $3,499 for the body only, but its premium expense makes way for one of the most robust DSLR cameras you’ll ever encounter. Presenting a near 10MP jump from its predecessor at 30.4MP, the Mark IV’s significant improvements don’t end there, with the addition of a large 3.2-inch touchscreen interface and excellent dynamic range performance making it among the finest cameras you’ll come across. Though its lofty price tag will put it out of range for many, those who are serious about their photography will recognize that Canon made a strong effort to raise the bar this year.
2. Google Pixel
While Apple exhibited a clear lack of imagination with its underwhelming iPhone 7, Android smartphones enjoyed a banner year in 2016 and the Google Pixel is a testament to this. The Android OS creator’s first attempt at actually developing a smartphone, the Pixel was a remarkable first crack at the whip that enjoyed widespread praise upon its launch. Boasting arguably the greatest smartphone camera we’ve seen thus far, the Pixel clearly aped the iPhone with its sleek and minimalist design, though with its excellent Android 7.1 OS, great performance and crisp display it managed to best Apple at its own game this year.
1. Samsung Galaxy S7
While the Pixel was an excellent debut smartphone for Google, the very best phone to launch this year was the Samsung Galaxy S7, which has now set the benchmark for all future Android devices. The Galaxy S7 saw Samsung firing on all cylinders, delivering a smartphone that ticked mostly every box. Building upon the numerous improvements Samsung has made to its flagship phone over the years, from its much more visually appealing design through to the implementation of the better-looking, more intuitive Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow operating system, the Galaxy S7 also featured one of the best displays we’ve ever seen by way of Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology, a camera with a robust selection of features to enhance the user’s images and a comfortable design perfect for one-handed use. The Samsung Galaxy S7 was the very best smartphone of the year and our pick for the best tech of 2016, too.