"What gadget should I get?" is a timeless question. To answer it, here's our current leaderboard of favorite gadgets, including smartphones, laptops and cameras—updated with the latest and greatest.
We know you don't want to blow that paycheck on merely the shiniest, or the the simply newest. So we've considered a balance of price, features, reliability—and above all, quality—to make sure you're choosing a gadget that isn't just great, but one that's sensible. We've updated our roster of Giz-approved gadgets, and below, you'll find these picks.
The Best Smartphones
We can geek out all we want, but the best way to choose is a phone is not just by the hardware or the OS, but the phone and the carrier. Here's the smartphone to pick on each... for now.
SBest AT&T Phone
Apple's iPhone 5 is the champion. (October, 2012) If you want to take a crack at Windows Phone (and we recommend that you do!) the HTC 8x is the way to go (December 2012). Want an Android? Then the Google Nexus 4 is for you. (December 2012)
Best Sprint Phone
We recommend the iPhone 5 for Sprint, too, but the LG Optimus G is a great alternative for Android fans. It absolutely screams. (December 2012)
Best T-Mobile Phone
Still no iPhone for T-Mobile T_T, so the speedy, sturdy Google Nexus 4 is the champion of T-Mobile-land.
SBest Verizon Phone
It's the iPhone 5 on Verizon as well, but if you're going to go with anything else, make sure it's the new HTC Droid DNA. It's been a while since Verizon had a flagship HTC phone, and this one, we gotta say, was worth the wait.
The Best Computers
The measure of a computer isn't just a mess of specs and benchmarks: it's the confluence of performance, design, usability, and the machine's fit to its particular task and pricepoint. These are the computers we think bring the total package.
Best Power/Pro Laptop
The new top MacBook Pros pack 2800 x 1800 resolution retina displays while weighing just 4.5 pounds. They're powered by a minimum quad-core, 2.3GHz Ivy Bridge processors, not to mention Nvidia's Kepler GeForce GT graphics for gaming. SSD finally comes standard to the MBP line with 256GB flash storage that's upgradable to up to 768GB. Get your wallets ready because this thing's a powerhouse. More » (July 2012)
The 2012 MacBook Airs are a supercharged update on last year's lovely SSD Bestmodo. They pack Intel Ivy Bridge processors at up to 2.0GHz, up to 8GB of RAM, and USB 3.0 for faster-than-ever connectivity. More » (July 2012)
The Lenovo X1 Carbon does the impossible. It makes a business laptop-a business anything-cool. Cool because it looks good, sure, but also because it works the way it's supposed to. More »
Best Budget Laptop
A great deal from Newegg.com, the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 is a less-fancy-looking version of the very nice ThinkPad Edge E420s. It's got a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i3-2350M processor, a 14-inch 1366 x 768 anti-glare display, 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive.
Best Gaming Laptop
Pretty much the diametric opposite of a budget laptop, the Alienware M17x (2011) is a monster. Its massive benchmarks are made more ridiculous by five hours of battery life-an eternity for gaming laptops. (February 21, 2011)
The Apple AirPort Express (2012) is pretty, fast, wonderfully simple, and appropriately capable. Unless you're a mega-power networker with a need for intricate customization, or are put off by the less sophisticated Windows version of AirPort Utility, the 2012 Express is the ultimate buy it and never think about it again object—and for a router, that's the ultimate praise. More » (July 2012)
We loved Samsung's 830 Series SSDs, and we love its new 840 Series even more. In the final tally, the Samsung 840 Pro took top honors in seven out of nine benchmarks, so it looks like it'll be taking its predecessor's place on our Best of the Best list. Samsung also claims this drive is energy-efficient and "robust," which is great news, but in the end, just icing on a very, very fast cake. (October 2012)
Best Hybrid SSD/Hard Drive
If you want a taste of SSD speeds but can't afford one, or simply need more storage and don't feel like Frankenstein-ing your rig with a combo SSD/HDD setup, the Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid Drive isn't a bad deal at all for $180. An SSD for with a third of the storage costs twice as much. But definitely get the 750GB model-not only do you get more storage, you get double the flash cache and interface speed.
If your computer has a Thunderbolt drive, odds are it's been pretty neglected. Some external storage options are good, but no one choice is a no-brainer. Until now, that is. LaCie's vivid orange drive is the best way to back up files, superfast. More »
The Silverstone Temjin TJ11 is 9 inches wide by 25 inches high and 25 inches deep. It's massive and expensive and absolutely a preposterous thing to own. But it has amazing build quality, thermal control and moddability.
Best Networked Storage Alternative
Some aspects of the TS-459 Pro II hardware are comparable to the competition, and in other respects, it's just head and shoulders above the rest. A 1.8GHz dual-core Atom powers the TS-459 Pro II, and 1GB of DDR3 RAM comes preinstalled, though you can upgrade to 3GB yourself. QNAP also offers more connectivity options than most mortals will know what to do with, and it's strong on the software side, too. (September, 2011)
The Best Tablets
It feels like the tablet market has been bursting at the seams, but for now the top choices are still relatively straightforward. Expect this list to get a lot more crowded in the coming months.
SThe Best Tablet
If you don't have a tablet and you want to buy a tablet, buy the 2012 iPad. It's excellent. But unless you are a comic book fanatic or do a ton of reading on your previous-gen 'Pad, there is no reason to upgrade from an iPad 2. It's simply not that much of a difference. Yes, it's better brighter faster stronger, but the hard truth of this new iPad is, it's not very new. (March 2012)
Best Android Tablet
If you know you want an Android tablet, the Transformer Prime is the one to buy. It's the best constructed, fastest Android tablet out there. The only people who should hesitate are those who don't want to be confined to Wi-Fi. (January, 2012)
The Microsoft Surface was the biggest new tech of 2012. Its first iteration—Surface RT, a confusingly named and marketed tablet-with-a-keyboard—bombed. Pretty hard. So why believe in the full-powered Surface Pro? Simple. It's a braver and more divergent take on the laptop-tablet convergence than anyone else has risked so far. And that's certainly not to say it's entirely successful—but as far as current Windows tablets, it's the best you're gonna get.More »
The Best Cameras
The great megapixel race is over. But now what the hell are you supposed to do? These are the best cameras of the post-megapixel world.
More than two years ago, the Canon T2i set the standard for beginner DSLRs. The camera proved, for $1000, that you could get beautiful photos and slick HD video. With an auto-focus video and an incredible touchscreen, the T4i is the most refined version of this camera yet.More »
Best Midrange dSLR
The Nikon D300s and Canon 7D deliver for the money, but the 7D delivers more, since it's packed full of newer technology and for the people who want it, the video component is truly killer (Nov 10, 2009)
Best Mid-Range-Pro DSLR
The Canon EOS 5D Mark III inherited the venerable legacy of the Mark II by improving its already excellent HD video and its low-light performance. But what really blows this camera—and the photographer—to stratospheric feelings of image-taking euphoria is Canon's new 61-point auto-focus system that makes getting sharp pictures in harried situation a breeze.
Best 'Spensive dSLR
Here's the thing about the Nikon D4: There basically nothing it can't do. Need to take it into ultra-dark conditions and walk away with usable shots? You're covered. Need speedy continuous shutter performance to capture quick journalistic photography at a protest? It's got you covered. And now that Nikon's top-end cameras have caught up with Canon's video capabilities, it's hard to argue you'd want any other camera (April 2012).
SThe Best Video DSLR
The Canon 5D Mark III's autofocus system alone is enough to justify choosing the Mark III over the Mark II. But it's all of the refinements-the sum of the Mark III's parts-that make it the best camera you can spend $3,500 on. (March 2012)
SBest High-End DSLR Alternative
Micro Four-Thirds cameras have long promised to bridge the quality of DSLRs with the size of point and shoots. The Olympus PEN EP-3 is the fullest realization of the Micro Four-Thirds dream so far.
SBest Affordable DSLR Alternative
for $600, the Sony NEX-F3, like the NEX-C3, is a great buy. It's a major improvement for people who would otherwise buy top point-and-shoot cameras, like the Canon S100. It provides the image quality, flexibility, and some of the features of a DSLR.
When the Sony RX100 was announced, its one-inch sensor and f/1.8 aperture seemed too good to be true. Near-DSLR power packed into a body the size of a compact point-and-shoot camera? Well, it worked.More »
The Best Inexpensive Point-and-Shoot Camera with Wi-Fi
The Canon 320 HS is a little more complicated to configure, but once it got going, the Wi-Fi features were faster and the design was a notch better than the Samsung WB150f, its main competitor.
A zillion new smartphones are going to be announced soon at Mobile World Congress, each promising camera advancements that may or may not live up to the hype. But with what's on the market right now, Nokia's Lumia 920 has the best smartphone camera you could hope to find. One major plus is the optical image stabilization, which helps the camera achieve a passable photo even under the toughest circumstances. Even using only the automatic setting, it still gets an accurate exposure and decent image in all shooting conditions. You can't beat it.More »
Best Rugged Waterproof Camera
In our tests, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS4 took the clearest, most vivid outdoor and underwater stills. It generally found very nice balance in light levels its competitors would blow out, and it really makes colors pop (especially greens). Panoramic shots are excellent, at up to 360 degrees. It's generally able to attain focus faster than the others, and it's the fastest and cleanest at nighttime shooting with a flash. And it feels rock solid. If you hit someone on this head with this thing, it would hurt. A lot. More » (July 2012)
Yes, it's action cam season. Sony's entered the market, Contour has updated its line with the Contour+2. But what about the latest from the brand that's come to define the category-the Kleenex of action cams, if you will?
We've been putting GoPro's highly anticipated Hero 3 Black edition (December 2012... More »
Best Camera Lenses
We're adding our roundup of well-priced, excellently-performing lenses to the list, for those of you looking for an upgrade. (Dec 6, 2010)
The Best Home Theater and AV Gear
In the absence of the side-by-side benchmark comparisons when you find when shopping for computers, home theater gear can be particularly hard to get a handle on. Giz has your back.
Best Big Screen 3D HDTV
The Panasonic VT50 delivers unrivaled picture quality. Incredibly deep blacks stand up in bright rooms. The 96mHz refresh rate handles 1080P with minimal fast-motion blur and enough clarity to count the whiskers on Baumgarner's face in the post-game interview. More » (July 2012)
Best Budget TV
The well-loved Vizio's XVT3SV series is a cheapass's dream come true. Its matte screen especially drew high praise. (Dec 9, 2010)
Best Blu-ray Player
The LG BD570's key virtue is file compatiblity-you can use this thing pretty much like an HD media player, a full-fledged Apple TV killer. The PS3 still holds its own, though. (May 13, 2010)
The Pioneer VSX-1020-K is controlled by your iPhone, and anyone who's slagged through their fair share of shitty AV receiver menus-whether on screen or on the receiver itself-knows what a boon it is to have a nice GUI in the palm of your hand. (Mar 4, 2010)
Best Game Console
The new Xbox 360 is smaller, has more ports, runs quieter and costs the same: $300. It has a 250GB hard drive and built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi. (Jun 14, 2010)
It's more or less like every single other Roku: a little black thing you plug in to your TV that'll deliver streaming media (Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Spotfiy, et al.) on demand. The Roku 3 is still very much this same thing-but it's reached a critical mass of how much stuff you can stream and how easily you can stream it. So much so that it really feels like an entirely new Roku. So much that it'll make your TV fun again. It's so good you'll use your cable box less. That good. (March 2013)
Best Affordable Amplifier
The Topping TP-30 is the best audiophile-worthy amplifier to be had for under $500.
Here's the bottom line: The Vizio SB4021M is the best tool we found to attain good, instant home theater sound. And, at $220, it's relatively cheap. For the price, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better overall experience. More »
Best All-in-One Home Entertainment
The home theater doesn't have to be a patchwork affair of gear you put together one layaway at a time. The LG LHB976 all-in-one does a downright enviable job, with solid speakers, a great user interface and an iPod dock.
SBest iPod Dock
The Octiv 650 nails a near perfect harmony between sound quality, easiness, and price with a few unique features to boot. If speaker docks are unremarkable almost by definition, the Octiv 650 is a shooting star.
Audioengine's been proving that you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a good set of speakers for a while now. Their A5 speakers last year were our favorites, and the A5+s are a direct upgrade. They have an improved cabinet design, better thermal management, a remote control, and a bunch of other nice improvements.
Even with the Phillipe Starck flashiness (which can singlehandedly ruin things sometimes), the Parrot Ziks are the best looking headphones in this battlemodo. Plus, there's the capacitive touch panel on the right ear, which allows you to control playback with gestures. The NFC capabilities allow you to automagically pair with compatible Android phones, and a sensor stops playback whenever you take your headphones off. All of this adds up to an unrivaled user experience. More »
There's a lot to love about the Audio Technica ATH-ANC9s. The plush leather pads on the earcups are so soft that they don't put much of a pinch on your head. On the inside, the cans have a great, slightly bottom heavy sound that doesn't blow up the clarity or detail on other frequencies. As for the sound of silence, the ANC 9s have three different levels of noise-canceling like the Sonys do-the only difference is that it, in this case, it really works. More »
The Best Lightweight Portable Headphones
Every detail has been attended to on the Sennheiser PX 100-IIs. The headphones fold into a slim compact package. Their build is sturdy. Though the earphones are only lightly foamed, they're not the least bit irritating. The PX 100-II's deliver lovely, textured bass of the kind you'd expect from much more expensive headphones. But what's really impressive is that the PX 100-II sound full-bodied without losing a bit of detail from the music.
We're finally recommending an official pick for cans, Bowers & Wilkins P5s—and they're a doozy. As our Joe Brown says, they are, in a word, "DOPE." (March 22, 2010)
Best Headphones for Running
Sennheiser PMX 680i Sports
The PMX-685i Sports series from Sennheiser/Adidas simply give you the most boom for your buck, and by boom we mean bass. These pack some of the heaviest bass we've heard on earbuds, and they're loud, too.
Best Budget Headphones
With a closed-back, over-the-ear design, and a durable design that has some portability, the Sennheiser HD280 cans are the king of the budget earphone mountain. They're not the cheapest, or the smallest, or the best looking, but they strike the best balance between clarity and resolution and the ability to handle multiple genres of music old and new. (December, 2011)
Best Home Audio Streaming
We've added the dreamy Sonos system to our end of year list—read Brian's lifechanger-status writeup and you'll understand why. (Nov 26, 2010)
Most AirPlay speakers have failed at their central purpose. Life is not made easier. Your liberation from wires comes with a monstrous configuration headache. But not with Pioneer's portable XW-SMA3. It finally delivers high-quality wireless audio in an easy, awesome package. You heard right! More »
Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The Braven 625s is cheaper than the Jambox for basically identical sound quality, with better connectivity and battery life. Braven makes a less expensive, bare aluminum model 600-go for the 625s, but the rugged casing is worth it. More» (July 2012)
A few years ago we had the pleasure of reviewing a pair of odd, conical, ceramic speakers by California-based designer Joey Roth. They were spectacular. Now Roth has built out the system with a beautiful ceramic subwoofer designed specifically for use with his speakers, but theoretically, they could work with any audio system. It's beautiful to look at, but more than anything, we can't get over how lovely this thing sounds. Unfortunately, factors like fragility and cost mean they're not for everyone.
Accessories & Miscellaneous
Some of the coolest stuff you own doesn't fit into a broad, big box category. Here are some odds and ends that we love.
The Zebralight H502 may look like the runt of the litter-smaller and lighter without the overbearing luminescence of the others-but this actually works to its advantage. Barely three inches long and 2.0 ounces, the H502 slips into a pocket or purse without notice. And thanks to its forward-facing optics, the H502 can also easily be worn on a belt, shirt collar, or headband as well. More »
A good bag is just about as important as the gadgets it carries. Your electronics are fragile and expensive to replace, and your back is fragile and impossible to replace. Ogio's Renegade RSS bag is damn near as good as it gets at protecting both. With a crush-proof laptop pocket and more cushioned nooks and crannies than you could possibly have gadgets, this is the only—and maybe last—bag you'll need.More »
The Seville UltraSlimline EHF10190 12-Inch Personal Tower Fan has three speed settings. The highest cranks out 8 MPH-probably too loud for an office-but the lowest still delivers 4 MPH of breeze at a whisper. It's cheap-$25. It's modest-matte black plastic with subtle grilles. You've probably used a tower fan much like this one at some other point in your warm life, so you'll be right at home... More »
Best Ice Cube Tray
No surprise here: OXO dominates kitchenware, and now it'll own your freezer. The OXO Good Grips tray doesn't have any fancy iron lever or pinch tabs—just an extremely sturdy plastic body and a cover that slides with ease. Really, do you want to have to think about the ice cube tray more than you think about the drink the ice is going into? OXO gets that, and our Bestmodo nod in turn. More » (July 2012)
SBest Bike Lock
Despite its fat locking mechanism, the OnGuard Pitbull STD is a breeze to use. The lock clicks into a sturdy, secure mounting bracket that doesn't bounce around while you're riding. Hand tolls like hacksaws and bolt cutters won't do any damage to the lock, and even when we attacked it with an angle grinder it held up for a full two minutes. More » (July 2012)
This is what we were looking for: The NiteRider Lumina 500 is a super-bright, incredibly even pool of light. It's so perfectly focused that you can see even small objects when traveling at high speeds More »
Best Solar Charger
Gizmodo Editor Emeritus Brian Lam said the Joos Orange is the "best solar charger [he'd] ever tested." It's rugged, works in weak light and can charge an iPhone four times with just one full charge. (Jul 12, 2010)
Best Bluetooth Headset
The Jawbone Era already has downloadable voices ("You have...two hours... of talk time remaining") and runs lightweight apps. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to envision future apps that utilize the motion sensitivity. (Jan 20, 2011)
Best Cloud Storage Service
It's SugarSync—with a few caveats. SugarSync was the best confluence of price, ease of use, and features, but if you're looking for pure, sheer simplicity for sharing your sharables with the lovable luddites in your life, Dropbox might still be the better option. And if you're a total cheapass, maybe take a look at Google, or Microsoft's SkyDrive.
Best Mobile Internet
You already knew this, but here it is in writing: Verizon's LTE network is the country's fastest 4G service. LTE is just better. AT&T's nascent LTE service is plenty fast, but Verizon's MiFis, dongles and hotspots will serve you very, very well.
If you can afford one, hotshot, an AT&T LTE MiFi will change your life a little bit: you have Internet virtually everywhere you go, a wireless high-speed network in your bag. More »
Best Online Music Streaming Service
Spotify's main draw over the competition—even more than the free access—is the ability to meld your local library with Spotify's streaming catalog. We'd note, though, that Rdio still has the superior mobile app.
SBest Urban Winter Jacket
Brent didn't think he was going to like a jacket called the Mountain Hardware "Downtown Coat". It sounded pretentious and he didn't think it would hack it. Turned out to be love at first wearing. It's a thigh-length coat that provides ample booty-warmth. It has the Best. Pockets. Ever. Overall, this is definitely your winner. Grab-n'-go winter goodness.
SBest Voice Command System
In terms of speed and accuracy, Google Voice Actions was ahead of Siri in almost all of our tests. Both have strengths and weaknesses, and both are handy convenience features. Siri has a little more colloquial chops and is more "fun," but Voice Search is ultimately a faster, more efficient tool.
SBest Automatic Coffee Machine
The Bodum Bistro produced a slightly better cup of coffee than the competition every time and is by far the more personable machine. But it costs $250. Is the coffee $100 better than the Bonavita, when $150 is already a lot to ask people to pay for a coffee machine? Maybe, for something you'll use every day, if you're thinking about spending that much in the first place (like on a Keurig machine).
Best Bluetooth Keyboard
The Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 6000 hit the sweet spot. First off, it's compatible with everything you can throw at it: OSX, Windows, Android devices, iOS devices, they all pair easily and you're good to go. They keys have great click to them. They're slightly stiffer than the Logitechs', but they're not at all hard to press. There's a very slight curve to the keyboard, making it gently ergonomic without alienating people who are used to a straight tray. (December, 2011)
Best Wireless Mouse
The Logitech Performance Mouse MX takes everything that's great about the Marathon Mouse-the same wonderful scroll wheel, the same smooth glide, similar (but better) thumb-buttons-and improves upon it. The laser it uses to track its position will even work on clear glass, which is crazy. It's also rechargeable. (December, 2011)
SThe Best Minimal Running Shoe
If you want to try the minimalist running experience then you should buy the Merrell Barefoot Road Glove. They are absolutely the most comfortable minimalist shoes we've ever run in. At $110 bucks, they aren't the cheapest, but they are simply terrific shoes.
The Best Room Fan
If I wanted a fan to help keep my office or any other full-sized room cool this summer, we'd grab the $90 Vornado 660. As opposed to other dedicated floor fans, which come in either skinny tower form factors or ultra-wide industrial ones, the Vornado 660 has both a design and footprint that makes it suitable for use on a floor or a desk. More importantly, though, this fan moves some serious air.
The Best iPad Keyboard
If you have your heart set on buying a keyboard/case hybrid for your iPad, then we suggest buying the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. It's the best of all the lousy keyboard cases out there. And it's inarguably better than trying to type with Apple's crappy on-screen keyboard.