Belfast Telegraph

The 30 best gadgets of 2017

 

Adrian Weckler

What’s the gadget of the year? Is it the iconic iPhone X? Or a smartwatch? Or something else entirely? Now is a good time to look at the cream of this year’s gadgets, gizmos and tech tools. Technology Editor Adrian Weckler sorts through hundreds of contenders to pick out the 30 best phones, laptops, tablets, smarthome and audio devices of 2017

Gadget of the Year: iPhone X (from £1,150)

This is unquestionably the most important gadget of the year, or even the last five years. Apple's new 5.8in iPhone X ditches the bezels for an all-screen display (bar a small notch at the top).

That Oled screen is magnificent, with beautiful colour rendition and gorgeous tones.

But the iPhone X's biggest features is its Face ID facial recognition, which utterly changes the way you unlock, swipe and navigate your phone.

Forget about fears that it might not recognise you in the dark: this is pretty flawless, thanks to umpteen cameras, depth sensors and other gadgets on board.

To pay for something using Apple Pay, just look at your phone and tap the terminal. (Don't worry, you can turn the system back to pin codes if it freaks you out too much.)

The lack of a home button means that you now swipe up to return to base; switching between apps is now done by swiping up, holding the app for a second and then swiping sideways between apps.

As for its camera, this is on par with the best there is.

Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X has two lenses, one with a wide-angle 28mm perspective and the other with a telephoto 50mm view.

Like the iPhone 8 Plus (and 7 Plus), these combine to give you way more flexibility and quality than a single-lens phone camera.

But unlike the iPhone 8 Plus, the telephoto 50mm lens here is also stabilised, meaning clearer, better photos, especially in low light. That's a notable upgrade.

In short, this is the best phone on the market by some distance.

 

Huawei Mate 10 Pro (£670)

If you prize extra long battery life above many other things, this is definitely the phone for you.

Huawei's excellent Mate 10 Pro has a whopping 4,000mAh battery, way bigger and longer lasting than any top Apple or Samsung rival. The 6in phone has some top-level power specifications to go with that, making it a stand-out device for phone users who need a large, fast, powerful device that won't run out of steam.

The dual Leica cameras top the whole thing off nicely.

Fujifilm X100F (£1,329 from Currys)

Fuji's X100F is the spiritual successor to the Leica: a standalone, high quality digital camera that is beautiful to pick up.

It comes with Fuji's top-end 24-megapixel X-Trans III sensor, the one it put into the X-Pro2 (a brilliant camera) and the X-T2.

This means more detail in your photos, allowing you to crop in more from your 35mm shot.

Apple iPad Pro 10.5in (from £670)

Apple's new iPad Pro has a significantly bigger screen than the 9.7in model but is only marginally larger because the 'bezels' (the non-screen bits at the side) have been narrowed. There's also more power, storage and new technology in the screen via a 120Hz refresh-rate for smoother scrolling and content motion. With its Smart Keyboard, this is a default laptop for me.

HP Sprocket (£130)

This is a fun antidote to photos remaining solely on your phone or social media accounts. HP's little Sprocket is a pocket photo printer that prints 2x3 photos directly from your phone, Instagram or Facebook accounts.

The accompanying free photo app lets you edit the pics with fonts, borders and speech bubbles. The prints (which come in packs of 20 for £10) also have peel-off backs to make them into stickers.

Now TV box (£22)

Sky's Now TV box is an online streaming service that shows most of what's available on Sky, but you can pay for different bits individually through weekly or monthly 'passes'.

One way of accessing it is through a Now TV set-top box, which connects to your wifi and your TV.

Microsoft Hololens (£2,950)

While the world has been getting used to the idea of virtual reality with Facebook's Oculus Rift, HTC's Vive and Samsung's Gear VR, Microsoft has been busy on a different virtual vision.

Its Hololens headset sets you up with 'augmented' reality. The difference between this and 'virtual' reality is that while VR encloses you within its artificial world, in AR you can still see your environment with virtual artefacts overlaid onto it.

Samsung Family Hub fridge (£4,020)

Aside from being a top-end cooler, Samsung's Family Hub fridge has a giant touchscreen on the front that is wifi-enabled with apps and a web browser.

That means you can watch TV on it, as well as browse the internet.

A camera inside shows you (via a phone app) what you don't have when you're at the shops.

Apple TV 4K (£180)

Apple's TV set-top box is one of the easiest ways to stream popular services (such as Netflix) because it just plugs into your telly.

It also works with your iTunes account.

The big upgrade here is 4K resolution on big movies, which means 4K televisions (a majority of new TVs) deliver the action in all its glory.

Moto G5 (£160, Argos)

When it comes to budget smartphones, Motorola rules.

Its G5 gives you a hell of a lot for your money, including a fingerprint scanner, a decent 13-megapixel rear camera and a pretty nice 5in 1080p screen. Where it cuts corners is on the sameness of the design and just 16GB of storage.

However, there's MicroSD expansion built in and battery life is fine.

Google Pixelbook (£1,070)

The Pixelbook is a 12-inch machine that has a touchscreen, a 360-degree hinge, the latest power specifications under the hood and Google's web-focused Chrome OS operating system.

It's actually really nicely done and, unlike most Chromebooks, has loads of power under the hood, with an Intel i5 (or i7) processor, up to 16GB of Ram and 512GB of storage memory. Plus it can now run a host of Android apps.

It's a leap of faith, but a good one.

Dyson 360 Eye (£799.99 from Currys)

Dyson's robot 360 Eye vacuum gets around on tread-style wheels (like a caterpillar machine), which help it to move over things like cables and the edges of rugs without being blocked.

These scaling and navigation abilities are its strongest points. Its cleaning prowess is also fairly flawless. Dyson claims that it's twice as powerful as any other robot vacuum cleaner.

Its 0.33-litre bin isn't as large as some competitors' and is about enough for two medium-sized rooms with moderate dirt. To get the most out of it requires downloading the Dyson Link app. The biggest features here are the ability to see a map of where your robot vacuum has cleaned and also to schedule or programme regular cleans.

Samsung Gear 360 (£230 from Harvey Norman)

Samsung's updated 360-degree video recording gadget gives you a total view of your surroundings as you film, through 360-degree photos (up to 15 megapixels) or 360-degree videos (up to a 4K standard).

It has a battery life that lasts up to two hours and can take memory cards of up to 256GB.

Roberts Stream 93i (£170, Harvey Norman)

Roberts Stream 93i is a decent FM, DAB and internet radio that also connects directly to Spotify and external audio sources wirelessly or over cable.

The sound quality, for a radio, is excellent with a three-way speaker system and a bass sub-woofer. This sound can easily fill a large kitchen or a sitting room.

Microsoft Arc Mouse (£80)

We've heard of the Surface tablet and the Surface laptop. Now Microsoft has introduced the Surface Arc Mouse. Aside from being a svelte, minimalist take on the traditional PC accessory, it handily folds flat for when you want to bring it with you in a bag.

It also has a touch-sensitive button instead of traditional left or right click buttons.

HumanCharger (£160 from Amazon.co.uk)

If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, this gadget from Finnish company Valkee beams light into your inner ear canals (via earbuds).

Serotonin and dopamine is then released that aims to improve one's mood or increase energy levels.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 (£625, Harvey Norman)

Samsung's Galaxy Tab S3 has one of the best screens you'll ever see on a portable computer.

That means it's amazing for watching things like Netflix and YouTube on. (It also has good speakers.) It comes with a pen stylus which adds around £90 to the price.

Netatmo Weather Station (£110, Argos)

This clever gadget lets you monitor your indoor and outdoor climate and works as part of an integrated smart home unit.

It can measure temperatures, humidity, even air quality. As such, it can alert other smart systems in your home about when, say, the heating needs to go on. As a bonus, it's designed by Philippe Starck.

Motorola Z2 (£400)

What marks Motorola's Z2 out is not its nice 5.5in screen or its good battery life. It's its modded back covers.

These are different back-casing units that perform different tasks. One is a 'turbopower charger' that adds an extra day's battery life to the phone like a slim battery-boost pack. Another acts as a speaker, a third one as a portable games console controller. And so on.

Panasonic Lumix GX800 (£420 with 12-32mm lens)

This is an excellent choice for someone who wants a good, basic interchangeable lens camera that doesn't cost the earth.

Packing a flip-up touchscreen, photos are sharp and detailed and video goes up to 4K. It has the same excellent 16-megapixel sensor used in pricier Panasonic cameras. A wide range of interchangeable lenses are also available.

Fitbit Ionic (£300 from PC World)

Fitbit, which many know from the health-tracker wristbands that are so prevalent, has a new fancy smartwatch called the Ionic.

With a swipeable touchscreen, it has GPS, water resistance to 50 metres and can play music.

Air Selfie handheld drone (£260 from airselfie camera.com)

Not into complicated drone remote controls? The Air Selfie is a gadget that pops out of its small case, hovers in the air and takes photo or video shots of you.

It can also follow you around. To make it land again, just grab it out of the air or stick your hand out. The video quality is decent thanks to its 1080p, 5-megapixel camera.

Fuji Instax Mini 9 (£70 from Harvey Norman)

Instant cameras are experiencing a revival. Fuji's Instax Mini 9 is probably the best option you can get for under £100 and it comes with 10 free photos.

The prints are 2.1in by 3.5in and it's fairly idiot-proof to use. A setting guide even lets you pick between lighting conditions. It comes in five different colours and has a flash.

Microsoft Surface Laptop (£1,045 from PC World)

It's hard to think about Microsoft as a high-end computer hardware company, but that's what it is gradually proving itself to be.

Its latest touchscreen 'Surface Laptop' is gorgeous to use. This is partially down to its 'Alcantara' material-covered keyboard. The machine is very thin and pretty light, at 1.25kg.

It comes with Intel i5 or i7 processors and between 128GB and 512GB of storage. Battery life is decent, too. I wish it had an SD card slot, but otherwise it's great.

Kobo Aura One (£220 from Argos)

Kobo's Aura One solves a problem that only older people will have; it's the only eReader on the market with a screen bigger than the modestly-sized Kindles.

At eight inches across, it's about 50% bigger than a standard Kindle screen. Outside the US, Kobo is now the only real mainstream competitor to the Kindle, so there are plenty of ebooks.

Nest 3rd Edition (£149 from Currys)

There are quite a few smart thermostats out there, but Nest arguably stands above the fray for a few reasons.

First, its movement sensors can tell when you're in a room or not. Second, it works with your phone to instantly turn the heating off if you leave the house (by knowing your location via GPS). As with rival devices, you have full control with your phone.

DJI Spark (£630 from Argos)

DJI's smallest drone is easily the best sub-1kg drone you can buy. The footage (1080p 'full HD' rather than 4K 'ultra HD') is superb.

Its drawbacks are that it's slower than bigger drones and has a small battery life (around 12 minutes). But its incredible portability and excellent video quality are its selling points.

However, it's strongly advised to get the 'Fly More' pack (£630 versus £535) for the extra remote control, extra battery and carry case.

For a little less

Nokia 3310 (£60, Littlewoods)

Aside from the iPhone X, the most-hyped phone of 2017 was Nokia's retro-looking 3310.

It's is the same old-fashioned phone you remember from 2005 with a few minor style tweaks.

It has the familiar physical number pad and a small colour screen.

There's no 3G or 4G and its camera has a modest two megapixels.

Battery life is amazing, though: you can go a full week between charges.

Adidas smartphone gloves (£18)

Winter is a pain for smartphone use; screens don't work through gloves.

Well, not most gloves. But these Adidas mits have special thread in the fingertips to electrically connect your fingers to the screen's controls.

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