Top 10 gadgets of 2016

by Peter Griffin / 14 December, 2016

An LG E6 TV.

LG E6 65-inch OLED TV

Thankfully, the LG wasn’t ­sitting on my TV cabinet when the earthquake struck last month. My ageing Samsung took a dive and survived, but I doubt the LG E6, 10 inches larger and wafer thin, would have been so lucky. The combination of an ultra-high-definition display and new high-dynamic range technology delivers the best screen quality on the market here, although a dearth of suitable content limits the viewing options – I spent most of my time browsing YouTube for adventure sports and nature clips. Built into the TV is a Harman Kardon soundbar, which adds a bit of bulk but filled my apartment with lush sound, and the smart TV interface dials up Netflix and other apps with ease. This is high-end, extravagant TV viewing for home-theatre buffs, but expect a price drop after Christmas. $11,500

Playstation VR

I fell in love with virtual reality using the Samsung S7 smartphone clipped onto the Gear VR headset. That was amateur hour compared with the PlayStation VR, which takes quality – and price – to a higher level. A sleek and comfortable headset tethers you to a PS4 console to display high-quality, 360-degree graphics and sensors that track your motion. This really is the future of video gaming, offering an immersive experience that doesn’t induce nausea. An impressive early line-up of VR games shows the potential that Sony is tapping into. Requires a PlayStation camera, which is sold separately ($95). $629

A PlayStation VR.

Bose QC35 headphones

Forget the jack, with the QC35 headphones, the first wireless noise-cancelling headphones from Bose, you connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone or computer, streaming directly from the likes of Spotify, YouTube or iTunes. Yes, these headphones are yet another gadget you need to charge, but you’ll get a very reasonable 20 hours of battery life, and cutting the cord is liberating. Great option for digital audiophiles. $599

Kindle Unlimited

The e-book and audio-book subscription service from Amazon is finally available to New Zealand users via the Aussie Amazon store. For NZ$14.60 a month, you get access to one million e-books and thousands of well-narrated audio books. You can download 10 at a time onto your Kindle or a device running the Kindle app. Many of the major authors aren’t available on Kindle ­Unlimited, but there’s a big enough ­selection to keep you occupied, with a decent range of non-fiction and classic titles. Great for voracious readers. $14.60 a month

Bose QC35 headphones.

Dyson V8

The V8 invokes visions of a Supercar race, complete with roaring, petrol-guzzling engines. Maybe that is by design, as Dyson’s newest wireless vacuum cleaner is all about great suction power. My housework was revolutionised by its predecessor, the V6, and the V8 is much easier to empty and clean, and almost doubles battery life to about 40 minutes. Not worth ­upgrading from the V6, but a dream machine for anyone seeking to liberate themselves from a noisy, corded vacuum cleaner. Note the eye-watering price. $948

Fitbit Charge 2

The fitness-tracking fad isn’t going away any time soon, and although Fitbit has struggled with some quality issues on several models in the past year, it is still the best dedicated fitness monitor on the market. The Charge 2 is a bit chunky, but the larger touchscreen display and additional fitness-tracking options are an advance on the Charge HR. It offers multi-sport tracking – from outdoor and treadmill running to walking and weight training, exercise on an elliptical trainer and interval workouts. It’s still pretty underwhelming when it comes to text message, email and calendar notifications from your smartphone and isn’t as stylish as the Apple Watch 2 or Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch. But if you take your fitness seriously, the Charge 2 will help keep you on track like never before. $259

A Fitbit Charge 2.

Huawei P9

In the smartphone world it was another year dominated by Samsung and Apple, but the quiet achiever was Chinese manufacturer Huawei, which debuted the impressive P9, a great-value high-end smartphone. The Android-based device boasts impressive build quality, a powerful processor and screen quality comparable with the best on the market. Huawei went all out with the camera set-up, embedding two 12-megapixel Leica cameras to capture photographic detail and offer impressive night-shooting features. The user interface is still a little clunky, but the P9 offers more bang for your buck than its high-priced rivals. $899

MacBook Pro

The first major MacBook update in four years improves on a winning formula with a thinner profile, better screen quality and boosted performance. The real advance is the introduction of the Touch Bar, which replaces the MacBook’s function keys with a series of touch-sensitive icons that change depending on the application in use. It is remarkably effective in providing shortcuts in your computing life. The Touch ID sensor, borrowed from the iPhone and iPad, allows for quick unlocking. Frustratingly, and true to Apple form, the standard USB ports have been ditched for the new USB-C standard. That means an adapter will be needed to use non-compatible peripherals. From $2999

Wacom Bamboo

By now, we were all expected to have ditched paper and pen for scribbling on screens in digital ink. It hasn’t really worked out that way as it is hard to replicate the tactile writing experience on a cold, hard screen. Wacom takes a different approach with the surprisingly effective Bamboo. It has a note pad with real paper that slots into a folder embedded with sensors which detect what’s written on the pad. A digital copy is then sent wirelessly to your smartphone. Perfect for capturing all those brainstorming doodles. $289

Canon G7 X Mark II camera.

Canon G7 X Mark II

Smartphone cameras now rule, but heading away on holiday, many will still want a dedicated snapper to get the best shots, and ideally one that isn’t too big to lug around. In the compact camera range, the G7 X Mark II is great for serious photographers who want to travel light. It fixes the main flaws of its predecessor, with better focal range, touchscreen and battery life. It has a sturdy, metallic feel in the hand. Expensive but a worthy substitute for a digital single-lens reflex camera. $1049

This article was first published in the December 17, 2016 issue of the New Zealand Listener. Follow the Listener on Twitter, Facebook and sign up to the weekly newsletter.

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