As we prepare to wave goodbye to 2013, we give kudos to the game-changing gadgets and dazzling devices that made headlines and single out our top picks of the year, from smartphones and tablets to home entertainment and wearable tech.
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Smartphone of the Year: HTC One
Though 2013 hasn’t been a kind year for HTC’s business, the Taiwanese phone-maker still managed to introduce us to the smartphone of the year as early as February when it unveiled the HTC One.
Awarded Best New Mobile Device at Mobile World Congress, the zero-gap aluminium HTC One has held strong at the top in a year of truly impressive releases. By a narrow margin, no Galaxy S4 from Samsung, iPhone 5s from Apple, Xperia Z1 from Sony or Lumia 1020 from Nokia could beat it.
Even with a large 4.7-inch full-HD screen, the One feels light and slim in your hand. With this device, HTC really made an effort to innovate every aspect: from introducing UltraPixel technology to the camera, to revamping the home screen with BlinkFeed and adding front-facing stereo speakers with Beats Audio integration.
Tablet of the Year: iPad mini with Retina display
Buoyed by last year’s Christmas haul, tablets hit the mainstream full force in 2013, which meant an influx of releases in the mid to low-cost end of the market, as well as some new high-spec contenders.
While Apple’s iPad Air release stole most of the thunder back in October, the iPad mini with Retina display is just as significant. Essentially, the new mini packs the same powerful processing power as the Air, thanks to its A7 chip with 64-bit desktop-class architecture, plus it features a densely packed display of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels in an easy-to-handle 7.9-inch package. It’s a mini triumph.
Computer of the Year: HP Envy17 Leap Motion SE Notebook
A plethora of powerful computers entered the market this year, so we based our decision on innovation. As well as being quite a mouthful, the HP Envy17 Leap Motion SE Notebook is also a landmark device as the world’s first notebook PC with Leap Motion technology built in.
Image via HP Schweiz on Flickr
Leap Motion’s 3D motion-control technology lets users control what’s on screen using touchless gestures. The built-in technology detects the user’s individual hand and finger movements with pinpoint accuracy, offering a whole new way of interacting with computers.
Games Console of the Year: PlayStation 4
After six years of the PlayStation 3, Sony was ready to unleash its next-generation games console on us this year, and gamers were not disappointed. The PlayStation 4 promised powerful graphics, speed and all-new integrated social capabilities, and it delivered with aplomb.
While it will take some time for the games ecosystem to catch up, the PS4 has kicked off a new generation of gaming and – with bonus points for its price, less-restrictive digital rights management and strong network of indie developers – the Sony console comes out on top ahead of the next-gen Xbox One, which has evolved into more of a home entertainment system than a games console.
Home Entertainment Device of the Year: Chromecast
Microsoft might well have scooped this category with the Xbox One if not for Google’s surprise reveal of the Chromecast this year. This clever two-inch dongle made by the owners of YouTube helps bring video back to the TV screen.
Plug the Chromecast into a TV’s HDMI port, connect to Wi-Fi and it can stream video from web platforms like YouTube and Netflix direct to the big home screen. Some features, like the ability to view any content from the Chrome browser, are still in development, but Chromecast has already built the bridge between web and TV, now it just needs to fortify it.
Though the US$35 Chromecast is only available in the US for now, we’re waiting excitedly for it to become a global phenomenon.
Camera or Camcorder of the Year: GoPro Hero3+
The GoPro Hero3+ is a five-star video camera that’s compact, lightweight and waterproof and shoots professional-quality videos in 4K resolution, as well as 12MP images at up to 30 frames per second. Rugged, wearable and mountable, you can control the camera using your smartphone and the GoPro app, checking the live view through the phone’s screen. It’s also Wi-Fi-enabled for easy sharing.
Can you spot the tiny GoPro Hero3+ in this picture?
A three-way pivot arm provided with the device lets you capture images from every angle and waterproof housing can take you to depths of 40m. All this and it weighs just 74g, which is lighter than a typical smartphone. All in all, it’s the most impressive and tiniest camera we’ve seen all year.
Wearable Tech of the Year: Oculus Rift
While we could have given this title to some fitness tech like the Fitbit One or Jawbone Up24, or a smartwatch like the Pebble or Galaxy Gear, we’ve selected some wearable tech that’s less practical and more awe-inspiring.
I was lucky enough to try out the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset on two occasions this year. Though not yet available to consumers, developer kit editions of this gaming gadget started shipping early this year following a successful Kickstarter campaign.
With the dev kit software, you can ride on a medieval roller-coaster or stroll through a virtual lakeside home and, though the graphics are far from convincing, the immersive virtual reality experience will trick your senses into believing it’s all real. A dizzying triumph and an exciting product that will have more to offer in years to come.
Main gadgets image by joingate via Shutterstock
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