Rappler's 16 favorite gadgets of 2018
MANILA, Philippines – To say that it's been a messy year for tech is an understatement. On one end of the spectrum, you've got the tech giants dealing with sweeping issues on data privacy, political information operations, hate speech, trade wars, and fines amounting to millions, sometimes billions of dollars in between.
On the other end, you have consumer tech, providing you with a fresh batch of shiny, new things that promise either new tricks or old tricks done in, sometimes, terrific, new ways. We've rounded up some of the coolest we saw this year:
Fitbit has always had a robust fitness app and a practical roster of smarwatches. If you wanted a reliable, discreet tracker, Fitbits almost always fit the bill. But they weren't always the sort of watch you'd wear for their style. They're Spartan pieces more than anything. But the Versa changed that. With the Versa, suddenly, you had a stylish choice with most of the hallmark Fitbit features to date. And the consumers agreed: months after its launch, the Versa hit one million shipments, making it the brand's fastest-selling device.
These glasses use special type of lenses that block the wavelengths of light that come from LCD and LED screens – meaning through these glasses, screens become black as if they were not turned on at all while everything else that's not an LCD or LED screen can still be seen.
Beyond that cool trick, the product is a nice, little commentary on how some of us are so screen-fatigued that there'd be demand for a product like this. Since it debuted on Kickstarter on October 2018, the glasses have amassed over $140,000 in pledges, topping its $25,000 goal several times over. Technically not a 2018 product (it's coming out April 2019) but too nifty not to make it on this list.
Huawei P20 Pro
The Huawei P20 Pro launched with what most thought was a mere gimmick – a 3-camera setup. It later blew everyone’s expectations of how far the capabilities of a smartphone camera can be pushed.
We had hands-on time with the P20 Pro and we immediately fell in love with what its cameras could capture. Photos come out with a level of sharpness and are packed with detail. With an eye-catching premium design and impressive performance, Huawei has arguably put out one of the best smartphones you could own this year.
Dubbed as the best noise-cancelling headphones out in the market, Sony’s WH-100MX3 lives up to its promise of drowning out all ambient noise in your surroundings. And it does this without sacrificing sound quality. Design-wise, the headphones are ergonomic and comfortable enough for long use which means they’re handy for say, a long flight. All things considered, this is a solid pick for anyone in the market for high-quality wireless headphones.
Optoma BE Free5
Remember when we all mocked Apple for releasing the AirPods a few years back? We derided the complete lack of wires, noting how easy it might be to lose them, and well, for many of us, just the concept of a truly wireless set just seemed silly then. Now, they're actually cool. The AirPods are still pretty pricey though, so we always regularly find ourselves Googling for less expensive alternatives.
And one name regularly pops up: the Optoma BE Free5. Launched in May, it's from Taiwan company Optoma, and at $100, it's cheaper by about $60 than the AirPods. It sounds decent, has a decent 4-hour battery life (16 total hours with the battery case) with the big qualm being that the connection can sometimes drop. Looks sleek for the price too.
TP-Link Kasa Smart WiFi Power Strip
We can do most everything remotely nowadays, so why not multi-outlet extension cords? Router company TP-LINK made theirs back in September. There have been several such products before 2018 but this one's from a more familiar brand, and we're dealing with electricity here, so reputation is fairly important. There are also single outlet smart sockets but this one with 6 outlets (and 3 USB outlets that are always on) appears to be more cost-efficient, launching at $80. Single-outlet options can be more expensive on a per-outlet basis.
Don't remember if you unplugged your microwave? Just turn off the outlet where the microwave is plugged using an app. No other hub needed – just your home WiFi connection.
It's a novelty but that doesn't mean we can't like it. HMD, the firm that now makes the Nokia phones, knows the brand's history, and how beloved the phones were from way back when. If anything, the new 8110 – like last year's 3310 revival – generates attention, helping the Nokia brand stay afloat in this era of notches, multiple cameras, and bezel-free-ness. At its best, a cute secondary phone for those who love their phone history.
DJI Osmo Pocket
It's too cute to pass up. It's a bit pricey at about P23,000 but for that you get a great stabilizer in your pocket. It's really a luxury for most, but if you want stable shots without having to carry an accessory that won't fit in your pocket, this diminutive accessory is a dream. It has a built-in camera that records 12-megapixel still and 4K video up to 60 frames-per-second, built-in dual microphones, and advanced noise-canceling. If you're unimpressed by those, you can pop in your iPhone or your USB-C Android device too.
NES Classic Edition
After it initially sold out when it first launched in 2016, we’re so glad Nintendo decided to re-release the NES Classic Edition this year.
This miniaturized version of the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or Family Computer is a nostalgia trip for those old enough to have been around during the 80s. Younger Nintendo fans, meanwhile, can play the console’s library of games for the first time the way they were meant to be played. The console also comes with quite a selection of preloaded games which include Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, Ice Climber, and Donkey Kong to name a few.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 ticks all the boxes of what we want and expect from a flagship smartphone. It has top-notch specs, an elegant design, decent battery life, and above all offers a great experience. Plus, the S Pen has been upgraded to remotely snap photos, browse photos in the gallery, and skip a song. With only its steep price holding it back, Samsung’s flagship phablet is tough to beat when it comes to power and features.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
No one would argue that DJI makes the best camera drones that you can buy. So it might not come as a surprise that the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is impressive.
It comes equipped with a Hasselblad camera with a 1-inch, 20-megapixel sensor that shoots 4K video with 10-bit high dynamic range (HDR) – the perfect tool for filmmakers and videographers. What’s more is that the drone has an omni-directional obstacle avoidance system that allows it to brake automatically before a collision. This new feature will help you fly the drone more confidently and ensure that it stays in one piece.
Apple Watch Series 4
The Apple Watch Series 4 is not a giant leap from its predecessor but it boasts improvements that matter. One such improvement is a larger display brought about by a slightly larger Watch body size. The added screen real estate offers more functionality for apps and just makes the smartwatch a lot easier to use. New health and fitness features such as a built-in ECG reader and fall detection are also noteworthy additions. The Apple Watch has come a long way since it first launched in 2015 and this year it truly feels like it stands on its own.
Sony A7 III
Despite being called a “basic” model, the Sony A7III is far from it. From better image quality to a better autofocus system, the camera boasts big upgrades from its predecessor, the A7II. It’s a fantastic bang for your buck all-around camera that will work for different photo and video styles. In essence, you would be hard-pressed to find a better full-frame mirrorless camera in 2018.
Huawei Matebook X Pro
Apple's dealing with Huawei not just in the phone arena. They're also facing off against a worthy opponent in the laptop business with Huawei's Matebook X Pro, Huawei's flagship laptop with the bells and whistles you'd expect, and a sleek design that rivals the best of them.
There's a reason why the X Pro figures into several best-of lists, and the reasons, not the least of which, are that it looks slick, the typing and navigation feel premium, and has the performance and battery life to back all that up. The downside: it hasn't officially arrived in the Philippines. There were announcements back in June but they seemingly didn't come to fruition.
ASUS ROG Phone
Perhaps ASUS' boldest move this year: a performance phone with a design language derived from its popular line of flashy gaming laptops. It ticks the boxes in terms of performance of course, including an overclocked Snapdragon 845 chip. But more than that, it showed how all-in it was for creating an entire ecosystem of gaming accessories that enabled capabilities such as a dual-screen configuration, desktop docking, and enhanced cooling. It also had its own official console-style controller attachment. Will we buy?
At P50,000 (and almost double that if you spring for all the accessories) it's only for the most hardcore of hardcore. But at the very least, if mobile gaming grows beyond the casual audience, ASUS would already have some history to boast of.
Roli Songmaker Kit
Have you ever come across something on YouTube and said to yourself, "Ok, that's what I want to do now!" We felt it when we first saw a parkour video, and we felt it again when we saw this performance of a woman singing Michael Jackson's "Beat It." What's that thing she's using? It's what's called a Roli Songmaker Kit – a fancy MIDI controller, which is essentially a keyboard that controls music-making computer software.
MIDI controllers are not new, but this one promises to enable more levels of musical expressiveness with a keyboard that changes the sound according to the gesture being made by the user, and as programmed by the user. There's a modular element to the system too, letting users add more control "blocks" as needed by the user. For anyone who's ever wanted to dabble in digital music production, this one looks like a pretty cool device to try out, although at $600, beginners may want to start with much more basic MIDI controllers first. – Rappler.com