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Best Products of 2016: Overall winner

The best product of 2016 showed us a whole new world in our living rooms

Overall Winner
HTC Vive

Yes, we picked a VR headset — again — as best product of the year.

Last year, we praised Samsung for the accessible Gear VR, an affordable, entry-level headset that introduced mainstream buyers to a technology many of them couldn’t even fathom before trying it. Like Ford’s Model T, it was clunky and limited, but still a revelation to anyone stuck in the horse and buggy days of two dimensions.

If Samsung’s Gear VR was the Model T of virtual reality, HTC’s Vive is the ‘65 Mustang.

Powerful, evocative, and … okay, still not sexy, the Vive unlocks a level of VR immersion most of us only dreamed of. We mean that quite literally, because spending an hour exploring other worlds inside the Vive is a bit like a waking dream you won’t want to wake up from.

Sure, you can pick up laser pistols and mow down wave after wave of marauding robots in games like Space Pirate Trainer. But you can also romp around Tokyo feeling like Godzilla in Google Earth, cause mayhem heaving mugs of coffee at virtual coworkers in Office Simulator, or thoughtfully construct life-size vehicles in Fantastic Contraption.

The Vive’s defining feature, room-scale VR, means you can explore any of these virtual environments by walking around the real room you’re in, giving it a Holodeck level of immersion completely unmatched by any other device. Even with its new controllers, the Oculus Rift is a watered-down imitation.

The Vive isn’t in every living room, of course, and it’s not likely to be. Yes, it’s damned expensive. No, it’s not perfect yet, and we would kill to snip the cables off the back. But the fact remains: If you didn’t get a chance to try the HTC Vive, you missed out on this year’s most exciting new device.

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TESLA MODEL S P100D

Runner up
Tesla Model S P100D

The world’s fastest production car is now an EV. Just let that milestone sink in. This humble sedan can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds without burning a drop of gasoline. Now consider this: It also drives itself on the highway. Tesla isn’t just surpassing traditional automakers, it’s embarrassing them by rewriting the rulebook at every turn.

amazon echo dot

Runner up
Amazon Echo Dot

“Alexa, play some Billy Joel.” “Alexa, turn up the heat.” “Alexa, tell me a joke.”

Amazon’s original Echo already introduced us to the attentive personal assistant Alexa, but the Dot is taking the next step: putting her in every home for $50. With a lower price and growing list of abilities, Amazon is making the smart home a reality, one robotic dad joke at a time.

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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!