Our Top 10 Best Gadgets
From Amazon Echo Dot to Fujifilm X-T2
Anki’s Cozmo is one of the most ambitious attempts yet at bridging the gap between video games and real-world toys, an increasingly popular trend. Unlike most so-called “smart toys,” Cozmo is powered by emotional emulation software that lets the toy evoke different responses to stimuli. Pick him up and he may furrow his eyes in an angry scowl or giggle, depending on his “mood.” Cozmo’s intelligence and endearing behavior make it truly feel like a toy come to life.
Smartphones have democratized photography, putting above average cameras in the hands of millions who might not be snapping photos otherwise. But despite advancements in mobile photography, there are still good reasons to own a dedicated camera, especially for those serious about shooting. In that case, it’s hard to go wrong with Fujifilm’s X-T2. While it’s made to look like an old-school film camera, this shooter packs some of the latest and greatest photography technology, with a 24.3 megapixel sensor, lightning-fast autofocus, and swappable lenses. Photography nuts will love the X-T2’s setting dials, which offer a sense of control you just can’t get with digital menus. Shooting on the X-T2 is like driving stick: It takes a little practice to master, but it’s immensely rewarding once you’ve got it down.
Samsung has long been the dominant player in Android smartphones, but the first true Google-made handset proves there’s plenty of room for competition. With its attractive looks, easy-to-use software, and great camera, the Pixel gives iPhone owners a compelling reason to switch. Plus, its AI-powered Google Assistant is helpful for answering questions and managing schedules. Google’s Pixel is the Android phone to beat, especially given Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 recall.
Rhe original Apple Watch may have been the best smartwatch on the market when it launched in April 2015, but the technorati faulted the wearable for some obvious shortcomings. But critics largely agree that a year and two major software releases later, Apple hit the bullseye with the $369 Apple Watch Series 2. Boasting 50 meters of waterproofing, built-in GPS functionality, a brighter display, and a faster processor, the device is no longer trying to be an iPhone on your wrist. Instead, it aims to be a running buddy, swim partner, and all-around fitness must-have. Those improvements aren’t enough to make the Apple Watch “insanely great,” to borrow a term from Steve Jobs. But it is better than ever — and that’s proven to be good enough for most critics.
The pinnacle of first wave otherworldly immersion, HTC and Valve’s virtual reality headset is the first that lets you take several steps around a holodeck-style slice of imaginary real estate. It offers the highest fidelity tracking, too, thanks to its groundbreaking pair of “lighthouse” sensors that continuously sweep your play space. Instead of indirect controls, your hands become whatever an experience warrants: a pair of grasping gloves or laser-spitting guns, or a single, swooshing paintbrush. It’s a difference you can measure in astonished expletives whenever you slip the headset onto curious passerby.
The iPhone 7 Plus didn’t “wow” the world in the same way so many other Apple products have done in the past. But with its latest smartphone, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company delivered one of the best mobile camera systems around. The larger iPhone includes two lenses, one standard wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens that can offer an optical zoom up to 2x. A portrait mode, meanwhile, produces professional-looking headshots.
Sure, the $179.99 Amazon Echo smart speaker launched two years ago. But when its little cousin Dot hit the e-tailer’s shelves in March, the company’s Alexa voice-enabled assistant finally came within financial reach (and shouting distance) for the masses. Dumping the original’s audio power and instead letting the Dot connect to other speakers via Bluetooth allowed Amazon to price the hockey puck-shaped hardware at just under $50, making it a “why not?” splurge. And as Echo had gotten smaller, Alexa had become larger via an open, developer-friendly platform that emerged before rivals like Google could roll out their own competitors. From playing Spotify to ordering Dominos and hailing an Uber, Amazon’s hardware is paving the way for bringing voice-centric interaction to the home.
Drones can help you create truly stunning, never-before-possible pictures and video. But until now, they have often been a hassle to carry around to the places you most want to use them, like the top of a mountain or a ski run. Drone maker DJI’s Mavic Pro solves that problem with two pairs of landing legs that fold inwards for storage and transport. With the legs tucked in, the lightweight Mavic Pro is about the size of a loaf of bread, making it easy to stash in a regular-sized backpack. Add a 4K stabilized camera, a redesigned and ergonomically-friendly controller, and up to 27 minutes of flight time, and DJI’s Mavic is the most user-friendly drone on the market today. The convenience, however, comes at a cost: $999 compared to DJI’s less expensive options, like the $499 Phantom 3.
Sony’s PlayStation 4-tethered headset hits closest to what feels like early VR’s sweet spot: affordability without meaningful compromise, ergonomic maturity, and in a few instances riveting platform-exclusives. And at $399, it’s yours for hundreds of dollars less than its fellow high-enders. It’s the lithely machined and beveled progeny of a multi-billion-dollar global firm’s decades of consumer electronics know-how. It’s design like this that explains why Steve Jobs said he wanted to turn Apple into the “Sony of the computer business” when he returned to the company he founded in 1998.
30 of the finest video games to grace the medium, several of those design exemplars, all tucked snugly into a chip soldered onto a peewee circuit board inside a pint-sized replica of the most iconic games console in history. That’s Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, an ostensible paean to 8-bit playgrounds with modern HDMI video support and multimode display options (digitally crisp or wobbly retro) that buyers can have for $60. And with its replica A and B button gamepad, it’s also a chance to experience, tactilely, perhaps one last time, what the boomerang-shaped gamepads we routinely clutch for hours on end owe a debt to.