The 10 Best Tech Gadgets of 2017by Peter Griffin
1. Nintendo Switch
Nintendo redefined gaming with the Wii console and it may well do so again with the Switch, a console that plugs into your TV but can be reconfigured for gaming on the move as well. Don’t expect the graphics grunt of a Sony PS4 or Xbox One – that’s not the point here. This is convenient gaming that brings a new element to such Nintendo classics as Mario Kart. The Switch is effectively a tablet computer with the Joy Con controller, which ingeniously splits in two to allow two-player games. Versatility is the Switch’s key feature – it is highly portable and offers enough battery life for a serious gaming stint on the move.
2. Microsoft Surface Studio
Buoyed by the success of its Surface tablets, Microsoft makes an impressive pitch to reinvent the Windows desktop computer, with the 28-inch Surface Studio. Designed with creative types in mind, the huge touchscreen can be laid almost flat and tapped and drawn on with ease, making it perfect for photo editing or graphic design. The Studio’s metal frame and case and high-end technical fit-out come at a huge price premium. But desktops haven’t been this stylish and exciting since the first flat-screen Apple iMacs appeared.
3. Anki Cozmo
The kids may already be on the way to becoming smartphone addicts, but you can at least get them thinking logically and even learning the basics of computer coding with Cozmo, the cute little robotic truck. With its face-recognition-capable camera, it will soon be addressing you by name as it sets goals such as shifting blocks in complex sequences. All the robot’s functions are controlled with an iOS or Android smartphone over a Wi-Fi network, including allowing Cozmo to roam around beaming a view from its camera back to your phone’s screen. More than just a toy, it’s a great intro to intelligent gadgets for kids aged six and up.
4. Google WiFi
The new thing in home Wi-Fi is mesh networking, which lets you fill out pockets of patchy coverage using little devices spread around your house. Google WiFi makes this easy, harnessing your existing broadband router to set up a network optimised to your floor plan. Configure it via the accompanying smartphone app, which also lets you control internet access and monitor network performance. Add more nodes as you need them, although the three-pack will cover most large houses.
5. The Frame
Samsung’s Frame wasn’t the best TV to debut in 2017, but it showed us a compelling alternative to the black mirror our screens become when they are turned off. Intended to be wall-mounted, the Frame comes with a swappable blond wood trim, giving it the look of a contemporary picture frame. In TV mode, it is an ultra-high-definition screen with impressive contrast and colour. When turned off in “art mode”, the Frame displays digital artworks of your choice. Finally, the TV takes on a new dimension.
55-inch version from $3110
6. Nest Cam IQ
Famous in the US for its smart thermostats, Nest debuts here instead with its security gadgets, allowing you to keep an eye on your home remotely with the Nest Cam IQ. The beauty of these cameras is the easy set-up, which involves little more than connecting them to your Wi-Fi network using the Nest smartphone app. The camera can detect faces and will message you if an unknown person is spotted. You can watch, listen and even talk to people in front of the camera from anywhere via the app and the camera even has a night-vision mode. Cam IQ makes home-security monitoring hassle-free, and fun, too.
7. Samsung Galaxy 8
Competition is ratcheting up among Android phone makers, but nothing topped the Galaxy 8 this year as Samsung tweaked its flagship model, increasing screen quality and processing power to deliver a winning handset. The 8’s design masterstroke involved reducing the size of the bezel to provide more screen real estate without making the phone significantly bigger. The luxurious curved edge, which was a premium feature on the Galaxy 7, is now standard and there’s fingerprint and iris scanning as well as a waterproofed glass finish. Outside Apple’s iPhone domain, this is the device to have.
8. Nokia 3310
The design simplicity and bare-bones features of the 3310 almost make you yearn for the days when this was as sophisticated as mobile phones got. The 3310’s obvious market is retirees who hate tapping on digital keyboards. You won’t find any fancy apps, just the basics, including great battery life and decent call quality. Perfect as a lightweight second phone.
9. Bose QC35 II headphones
Whatever Bose has done with its multi-mode noise-cancelling system really works, letting you choose one of three settings to best block unwanted audio – be it chattering colleagues or the roar of jet engines. Support for Google Assistant and Siri means that by tapping a button on the Bose headphones, you can ask your smartphone to play music or read out your calendar appointments. Topping it off is one of the most comfortable pair of wireless headphones on the market.
10. Apple MacBook Pro
The workhorse of the Apple laptop line-up, the MacBook Pro’s late-2016 overhaul was supplemented during the year by further enhancements that made it slimmer, lighter and more powerful than ever. The touch bar above the keyboard is more than a gimmick, allowing faster navigation between applications, and integration of Touch ID from the iPhone lets you unlock it quickly.
From $2999 (13 inch)
Coming in 2018 … hopefully
1. Vodafone TV
The new set-top box from Vodafone hits the market early in the new year, offering, in one tiny box, access to Sky TV, Freeview, on-demand channels from local broadcasters and even apps such as Netflix. Convergence such as this of content sources in one device is unprecedented and if Vodafone can make it work seamlessly over broadband, this will be the set-top box to own. The only catch is that you’ll need to be a Vodafone broadband customer.
2. Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod
We may see official local releases of the three major in-home virtual assistant gadgets as competition for a spot in our lounge rooms heats up. Integration of local apps to make the most of these devices will be crucial and Apple has a lot of ground to make up with the HomePod, which will focus more on being the gateway to your music.
3. Kindle Oasis 2
The latest reader from Amazon is for those who devour a lot of e-books and want the feel of a quality device as well as the great battery life and touchscreen functionality of cheaper readers in the Amazon range.
4. Google Pixel 2
Google’s smartphone is seen as a worthy competitor to high-end Android rivals, thanks largely to an impressive camera, clever use of artificial intelligence and tight integration of Google’s apps. It is already on sale in Australia and it’s to be hoped we’ll soon be in the second wave of countries to see it.
This article was first published in the December 16, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
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