The Most Important Gadget of the YearS

The battle for most important gadget of the year is over. Competition was fierce: You cast hundreds of thousands of votes over the course of the tournament—tens of thousands in the Championship Round alone. In the end, just one percent decided the winner.

Let's take another look at the competition.

THE CONTENDERS...

The 2011 MacBook Air

The MacBook Air has always been a thing of beauty, but this year's model represents the first time a tiny notebook computer was able to really satisfy a demanding user. The 2011 MBA is the point at which the guts caught up to the notion, and the Air was made whole. It's the manifest destiny of what a laptop for regular people should be; it's an entire year ahead of other Ultrabooks, and it's the driving force behind a renaissance in Windows laptops.

To think about this machine in a vacuum is a mistake: It put the market on notice that consumers would expect seriously impressive form factors with big-boy specs inside.

The Kindle Fire

The Air's competition, however, is not about specs at all. The Kindle Fire is a machine that proves ecosystem and experience trump numbers. And it also shows for the first time that there's a serious market for a 7-inch tablet—Amazon has already sold millions of Fires. Millions. The Fire is the highly successful, cheaper alternative to the iPad and other premium tablets that the market has been waiting for—and it's the centerpiece for Amazon's expansive roster of services and platforms. It's basically the first good, usable, and sensibly priced Android tablet.

The Fire is what you probably bought your parents—or told them to buy—for Christmas.

AND THE WINNER IS...

The 2011 MacBook Air!

You voted in the MacBook Air by the slimmest of margins. Seriously, it was close all weekend—and fiercely contested if the comments below are any indication.

The debate was even hot amongst the staff, and we brought our arguments anywhere anyone would listen: the comments (natch), Twitter, Facebook, and several other dark corners of the Internet we can't talk about here. Mat Honan, Barrett, Little Biddle and Supreme Leader Joe Brown were particularly vocal about supporting the Kindle Fire—some less delicately than others. The first string of team MBA shook out as Adrian, myself (despite Barrett's threats of violence and severe unemployment), and the always-subtle Jesus Diaz.

And you guys weren't pulling punches either. Here are some of our favorite discussions:

By the end of voting, barely more than one percent separated the two finalists (50.87 percent to 49.13). Both gadgets were worthy, as were many of the tournament's contenders, but the MacBook Air is your Most Important Gadget of 2011. Thanks for playing.