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Best Products of 2016: Cool Tech

3D printers, vaporizers, and drones grew up this year, and these were the finest

Winner
Maker Select Mini

To be totally and completely honest, Monoprice’s Select Mini isn’t the best 3D printer we tested this year. In fact, when it comes to print quality, we’re not even sure it’d make our top five. So why are we calling it one of the best products of 2016? The answer is simple: value.

What’s remarkable about the Select Mini is not only the fact that it costs just $200 (which is pretty remarkable in and of itself) – it’s that in addition to being one of the cheapest 3D printers that’s ever hit the market, it’s also one of the most feature-rich 3D printers you can get for less than $1,000.

Get a load of these specs: It has a heated bed (which helps prevent prints from warping), an adjustable temperature hot end (which allows you to print with a variety of different materials), and a full color LCD screen to help you navigate settings – all of which are features that are usually reserved for printers that cost five times as much. The fact that Monoprice managed to pack all this stuff into a printer that costs less than a Fitbit is nothing short of incredible.

Over the years, a handful of startups have tried to break the $200 barrier, but while companies like Peachy Printer and Tiko were busy struggling with manufacturing and fulfilling Kickstarter pledges, Monoprice stepped in and actually made it happen.

This kind of democratization is exactly what 3D printing needs in order to become mainstream. If we’re ever going to realize a future in which 3D printers are a household staple akin to dishwashers and microwaves, where we can print products on-demand instead of buying them at a store, then bringing down their price and making them more accessible is the first step. And that’s why the MP Select Mini wins our pick for Best Cool Tech Product of 2016.

Runner up
DJI Mavic Pro

DJI’s Mavic Pro is a close second this year. What makes it so amazing is that, despite the fact that it’s one of the most compact and portable drones we’ve ever flown, it’s also one of the most capable and full-featured — if not the most. It’s equipped with a 4K camera, a 3-axis gimbal, obstacle avoidance, tons of autopilot modes, range over four miles, and somehow it still fits in the palm of your hand. With the Mavic, DJI basically proved that scaling down size doesn’t necessarily mean scaling back on features, and that big things really can come in small packages.

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Runner up
Pax 3

The Pax 2 was already one of the best vaporizers in existence, and the Pax 3 improves on it in a number of big ways. In this third iteration, Pax pinpointed all the major flaws and shortcomings of the previous generation, then systematically addressed them with a series of smart design upgrades. It’s smarter, faster, longer lasting, and best of all; costs just as much as the Pax 2 used to back when it was first released. If you’re in the market for an herbal vaporizer, look no further. The Pax 3 is arguably the best you can get — at least for the time being.

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Whew! Rough year. Fortunately, we got some amazing tech out of it. Digital Trends’ expert editors picked the most amazing gadgets in their respective categories, then convened as a panel to pick the one that towered above them all. Join us every day between now and Jan. 1 as we recap our favorites, and build up to the big Best of 2016 reveal!