In 2017, the future was looking up. Literally.
From Elon Musk’s feverish Mars talk to Cassini’s kamikaze dive into Saturn, and the sun-swallowing eclipse that enraptured half the United States, humans spent 2017 looking skyward for inspiration. But life back on Earth yielded plenty of impressive marvels of the technological variety, if you were paying attention.
A street car can go from zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds on electricity. Artificial intelligence can beat the best Go players on earth, teach itself to walk, and help prevent suicide. Oh, and those annoying cords that dangle from your headphones are going away, too.
Our editors watched it all play out, and with the year coming to a close, we circled our wagons to look back at the most tremendous successes in every category. So reminisce with us, marvel with us, and imagine what 2018 has in store.
No one came to our annual Product of the Year discussion expecting the Nintendo Switch to win — not even the people who voted for it. Nintendo’s new oddball “hybrid” console, which you can carry around to play on the bus, or plug into your TV at home and play on the big screen, took the world by storm this year, and quietly made gamers out of us.
After the testimonies started, the Nintendo fans among us might as well have been handling rattlesnakes, preaching the word of Miyamoto, and fainting as if possessed by the Mario spirit. The Nintendo Switch has changed lives, and the face of gaming.
Nintendo has always been the first name in handheld gaming since it launched the Game Boy in 1989, but the games you could play in your palm were never quite as spectacular as the ones you play at home. They were often lesser. Limited. Shallow. Even after smartphones delivered the computing horsepower to do more, they never delivered. We were stuck crushing candy and slaying watermelons with our fingertips, not exploring worlds or battling demons.
Nintendo defied that precedent, and delivered a machine that delivers an engrossing home-gaming experience anywhere. You can play Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in your office cubicle. And Doom in the bathroom. And freaking Skyrim on your subway ride. And when you’re back at home, collapsed in the couch with a beer in hand, the same exact experience just picks up on your 60-inch TV, looking better than ever.
This is gaming built around your lifestyle, not around a processor or screen size. You can play real games whenever and wherever you have time, no longer confined to the mind-melting timewasters you’re used to tapping away at on your phone.
Whether you’re a working mom or a high-powered Wall Street broker, time is hard to come by, and Nintendo made a gadget that works with whatever chunks of it you have, brightening your day in bite-size chunks. If that’s not the kind of tech we want to see more of, what is?
– Read our full Nintendo Switch review
We’re deep into an era where demand dictates that cars need to be everything: Your SUV needs to be a sports car, your sports car needs to be economical, your economy car needs to be luxurious. No one will argue that cars, like all products, need to get better at many things, but it’s refreshing when a purpose-built car comes along and does exactly what it’s meant to do, and does it well.
That’s why for 2017, we were incredibly satisfied with the Civic Type R, a hot hatchback built primarily for fun. And boy does it deliver.
Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder engine that gins up 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, the Type R isn’t lacking in power for a car its size. That grunt complements the souped-up Civic’s incredible track-ready handling that’s accessible by pros and intermediates alike. As a hatchback, it’s still useful, too, just remember that going sideways might spill your groceries.
What was long considered forbidden fruit for the U.S. is now a treat for all to enjoy, and it was certainly worth the wait.
– Read more on the Civic Type R and our runners up for best cars!
At long last, Microsoft’s Surface Pro has achieved its original vision. It’s a tablet that’s also a laptop. Or is it vice-versa?
In any case, the 2-in-1 that forged its own path is now a powerful, portable, enjoyable machine that’s as quick as much larger laptops and can handle almost any task you throw at it.
Buy the Surface Pen – which unfortunately isn’t bundled – and you’ll see the real magic. Digital ink support is excellent on the Surface Pro. The credit for that goes not just to the Pro itself, but also to Windows 10, which has matured through constant updates. Almost every Microsoft application now supports it, and you can even search the web by scribbling the name of website in the Edge browser.
Price is still the Surface Pro’s issue. You’ll have to pay at least $1,000 to grab one with the Pen and a keyboard cover. Still, we think it’s worth what Microsoft asks. Many companies have tried to build their own, similar 2-in-1s – the Asus Transformer Book and Lenovo Miix look almost identical – but none quite match up to the original.
– Read more on the Surface Pro and our runners up for best computing products!
This year’s winner for Emerging Tech is a bit of an oddity. It’s minifridge-sized 3D printer that costs $10,000, and is likely too expensive for average Joes like you and I. So why the hell did we pick it as one of this year’s best products? Simply put, this sucker has the potential to kick off the 3D-printing revolution you’re always hearing about that never seems to arrive. How? It’s capable of printing production-quality parts rugged enough to use; it requires almost no specialized knowledge to operate; and it costs less than a tenth of what its competitors typically do.
And that’s just the beginning. Not only could this machine disrupt the manufacturing industry — the tech that powers it could also trickle down into consumer-level printers in the next few years. If you’ve been dreaming of a future in which 3D printers are a household staple akin to dishwashers and microwaves, where you can print products on-demand instead of buying them at a store, this is the tech that will make that future possible.
– Read more on the Fuse 1 and our runners up for best emerging tech products!
Following Denis Villeneuve’s haunting and brutal thriller about drug trafficking, Sicario, few would have predicted he’d be redefining the sci-fi genre with his next film about alien invasion, Arrival. Long after the film’s credits closed and the theater lights went on, however, Arrival stuck with us, so much so that we named it film of the year for 2016.
We’ve stopped being surprised by Villeneuve’s magic, but that didn’t make his breathtaking follow up in the genre, Blade Runner 2049, any less indelible. Though he was given the full blessing of Ridley Scott, legendary director and creator of the film’s 30-year predecessor, Villeneuve stood as on the edge of a knife in his attempt to create a story that breathed the air of sci-fi’s nostalgic past, but told a new story of its future. Despite the pitfalls before him, Villeneuve surpassed all expectations.
The result is 2017’s most masterful cinematic achievement. A beautiful, dark, and tender homage to one of the most beloved sci-fi tales ever dreamt up, Blade Runner 2049 pays fealty to the rich history of dystopian sci-fi, yet stakes its own ground as a fresh foundation for the flurry of new stories to come.
– Read more on Blade Runner 2049 and our runners up for the best in entertainment!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is not only the flagship launch title for our product of the year, the Nintendo Switch, it showed us that there’s a better way to make open-world games. Though it hews to many of the conventions that have defined the Legend of the Zelda franchise for 30 years, it turns the world of Hyrule into a truly open sandbox, full of puzzles to solve, monsters to slay, and interesting places to discover.
Open worlds have become a common game structure — see Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed — but Breath of the Wild sets itself apart with a world that feels more whimsical and alive. There’s always something new over the next hill, and it’s almost always something you’ll want to see. Though you can technically go right for the final boss after a scant few hours, most players choose to spend hundreds of hours climbing, sand-surfing, talking to people —getting lost in the world. No other game captures the spirit of “adventure” quite like this.
– Read more on Zelda and our runners up for best games!
With perfect black levels, improved brightness and shadow detail, support for every version of HDR available, 4K resolution, and nearly every fancy feature you can imagine, LG’s C7P OLED delivers the best picture quality and overall user experience available on the market today.
After picking LG TVs for this category three years in a row, we know we sound like broken records. But LG continues to produce peerless televisions that non-OLED competitors cannot touch. And even Sony’s very competent A1E OLED (built with an LG panel) wasn’t enough to dethrone it this year.
You can buy a more expensive TV, but you can’t buy a better one than the LG C7P OLED.
– Read more on the LG C7 OLED and our runners up for best home theater products!
There has only been one phone we’ve been thinking of since the start of the year. The iPhone X.
It’s not the most innovative smartphone: It’s far from the first to feature an OLED screen, or a bezel-less design, and wireless charging has been employed by the likes of Samsung and LG for quite a while.
It is, however, Apple’s vision for the future of smartphones. It shows the direction Apple plans to go for the next decade, and where the entire industry will follow. The technologies in the iPhone X may have existed for some time, but we expect to see wireless charging everywhere in 2018. We expect to see facial recognition a highlighted feature with every smartphone next year — or even this year, considering the OnePlus 5T.
Apple doesn’t often introduce features, it perfects them. The iPhone X reveals the building blocks of what will make tomorrow’s smartphone special.
– Read more on the iPhone X and our runners up for best phones!
iPhone X photo courtesy of Getty Images/Anadolu Agency
Everyone agrees a campfire is one of the best ways to unwind with friends and family, but dodging smoke is a constant thorn in everyone’s side. Because of this ongoing nuisance, camp gadget expert BioLite decided there had to be a better alternative.
Enter the BioLite FirePit – a portable device that offers the best aspects of a campfire without the smoke. With a built-in fan chock full of 51 separate jets, the FirePit pumps oxygen directly into a fire, allowing it to burn efficiently, reducing overall smoke output and generating more heat. BioLite also includes a removable grill that allows users to whip up a batch of wood or charcoal-cooked hot dogs, burgers, or corn on the cob, making this portable fire pit as versatile as anything in the company’s lineup. After securing a whopping $2.5 million on Kickstarter for its new release – and nabbing one of our Outdoor Awards this past summer – BioLite proves yet again it’s an up-and-coming force in the outdoor industry.
– Read more on the BioLite FirePit and our runners up for best outdoor products!
If mirrorless cameras are gaining ground on mirrored DSLRs, then Sony’s A9 has brought them on par. Packed with groundbreaking technologies, the A9 is an action photographer’s dream machine, capable of shooting at 20 frames-per-second. And because it’s using a stacked full-frame sensor, a newly developed image processor, a bright viewfinder with no blackouts, and a fast autofocus system that covers most of the frame, your burst of images look amazingly detailed — even if whatever you’re shooting is moving fast past your camera lens. In short, it performs at the level that formerly only high-end DSLRs could muster.
We’ve used the A9 on several occasions, and we can confidently say it is a terrific camera. It captures beautiful images, especially when paired with a Sony G Master lens. For sports photographers looking for a mirrorless alternative, the A9 should be at the top of your list.
– Read more on the Sony A9 and our runners up for best camera!
Sony A9 photo courtesy of Kārlis Dambrāns
With it’s cute, button-like appearance, decent sound quality, and excellent Google Assistant features, the Google Home Mini stole our hearts and takes the prize for Smart Home product of the year.
The round, smart device comes in three different colors (charcoal, coral, or chalk) and packs decent sound in a small package. The cloth cover gives the device a warmth that Amazon’s Echo Dot does not have.
We’re impressed not just with the looks of the device, but also with Google Assistant, which seamlessly integrates with the Google platform. This year, Google introduced a lot of thoughtful features to the Assistant, including “voice match” – the ability to recognize individual voices and respond accordingly.
While Google was late to the smart-speaker game, Google Assistant is loaded with lots of fun stuff, including the kid-centered Family Link, which allows families to interact with the device for things like storytelling and game-playing.
– Read more on the Google Home Mini and our runners up for best smart home products!