Over the past 52 weeks, a lot of gadgets great and small have crossed my desk here at Gizmodo. Here are 10 of my favourites — pieces of technology, hardware and software, that have changed my life for the better.
Apple Watch Series 2
The Apple Watch is an overpriced contrivance, sure. You’re paying at least $400 for a gadget that relays notifications from your phone. But the Series 2 is the first Apple Watch that can track your activity while you’re swimming, and that was a big part of what got me to join the gym and start swimming again — and I’ve shaved 10kg from my waistline in the last six months. I probably put half of that back on over Christmas, but whatever. I hold the Apple Watch partially responsible for me getting fit(ter).
Samsung HW-K950 Dolby Atmos Soundbar
While still largely limited to a few demo discs and Ultra HD Blu-ray movies, you gotta hear Dolby Atmos in action to appreciate how well it works. And it works well even if you’re just listening to it virtually, through the upward-firing speakers of Samsung’s HW-K950 soundbar — which is just about my perfect home audio setup, with a gutsy front-firing soundbar, surprisingly powerful subwoofer, and wireless rear speakers. No stupid cables snaking around the sides of my living room.
Samsung Series 9 LED TV
2017 is going to be, among other things, the year that 4K finally comes into its own. More powerful gaming consoles that support native 4K output and HDR games are out now, and more and more Ultra HD Blu-rays and streaming 4K HDR titles are being added to Netflix as the weeks roll on. You need a good, compatible TV to take advantage of those, and that’s what this is. The Series 9 also remains only one of two TVs that I’d happily currently play a 4K HDR console or PC game on, because it’s one of very few with acceptably low input lag.
LG EF950T 4K OLED TV
Everything I just said about the Samsung above, but more. If you haven’t ever been lucky enough to watch a good movie on a good TV, get thee to a Bing Lee and go and sit down in front of an OLED and experience those perfect black levels. Was it not for its regrettable lack of Dolby Vision support, the EF950T would be the perfect OLED TV and my perfect TV ever, but if you want those then you’re going to have to shell out for a somewhat newer — but not necessarily more expensive — G6T or B6T from LG.
A cordless handstick vacuum that actually works as a vacuum should. It’s not wimpy and useless, and its battery lasts more than a couple of minutes, even if you use max power mode. You should use max power mode. This is the gadget that meant I vacuumed my car for the first time in about a year. It’s now been superseded by the newer, more powerful V8 but I’m thinking the fleet of V6 vacuums I’ve acquired over the last 12 months will last me a long time still.
20 million subscribers and a catalogue of over 40 million songs can’t be wrong, right? Apple Music is the big competitor to Spotify, but I like that it has a bunch of curated playlists, curated by actual people that live and work in Australia, whose tastes seem to line up extremely well with mine. The workout playlists are great, the party playlists are great. And then you get Beats 1, which is probably the most diverse and interesting radio station on the planet. Apple Music works on Android too, y’know.
The Pixel has the best camera I’ve ever used on any phone. It’s really surprising, given that it doesn’t look like it does, but the combination of some excellent in-camera processing and a HDR+ mode that balances multiple exposures and blends them expertly means that the Pixel is my go-to camera for photos these days. Oh, and it’s a good phone too. Google’s text-to-speech, Siri-beating Assistant needs some work but it turns the Pixel from another also-ran into one of the best phones of 2016.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
I’m including the iPhone 7 Plus in this list partially because it’s only the second phone that’s done the dual-lens camera thing properly — the first was Huawei’s P9. In good light, its Portrait mode captures lovely photos, and having two lenses and two sensors genuinely does give you twice the utility in actually taking photos. iOS 10 is also the best that it’s ever been, and it’s catching up to Android in a lot of ways — it actually shows notifications properly, for one.
2016 was the year that I started listening to podcasts properly. I’m now keeping up with The West Wing Weekly and Blurry Photos, and I’m working my way through Last Podcast on the Left, and I mostly have Shifty Jelly’s Pocket Casts app to thank for it. It works very well, downloads everything I want to or might want to listen to in the background, and on Android it even lets me throw podcasts onto my Sonos speakers around the house.
Gramovox Floating Record Player
This record player currently sits in pride of place in Gizmodo’s little living room in our otherwise soulless and corporate offices. On more than a couple of times throughout the year when I’ve been working on the weekend, I’ve spun up the music from A New Hope or Flume’s Skin or the new Avalanches album, because vinyl is so tactile and enjoyable. It genuinely brings the fun back to music.