Over the course of a year, we test a lot of tech products, from laptops through tablets to mobiles, along with a range of other hardware from routers to external hard disks, and of course an abundance of software from office suites to security utilities.
And every year, products make improvements on the previous year’s offerings, both in terms of quality and value. Indeed, many product categories have a number of excellent offerings among their ranks – but sometimes you want things really narrowed down. Sometimes, you want to know the winner among the winners – and that’s what this series of articles is all about.
We kicked everything off last week, when we looked at the best laptops of 2013, along with the best tablets and peripherals, highlighting the top product for 2013 across all the main sub-categories within.
Today, we’re looking at the best smartphone, smartwatch, and bluetooth headset.
Each product mentioned is the top of its class for 2013, and as such comes with an unreserved recommendation.
So, which is our favourite handset of the year? Read on and find out… and stay tuned for many more top products of 2013 in the coming days as we run up to Christmas.
Best smartphone (tied): Apple iPhone 5S (£549) and Samsung Galaxy S4 (£390)
We simply couldn’t pick between these two flagship giants, so for this category, we’ve called it a dead heat between the iPhone 5S and the Galaxy S4.
Apple’s iPhone 5S may be the same size as last year’s iPhone, but its more powerful hardware and software makes a major difference. This is the first 64-bit phone on the market, the first with a usable fingerprint reader, and it’s one of the two best camera phones, and of course, it runs Apple's unparalleled library of third-party apps.
Samsung's Galaxy S4 is the Microsoft Office of mobile phones: It has something for everyone. Light and slim, the S4 is nonetheless laden with an amazing number of features, from a simplified Easy Mode to special camera modes that let you insert yourself into a shot, and erase photobombers. While it’s true that the S4 is getting on a bit as we reach the end of 2013, it’s still a sterling handset, and you can now buy it for less than £400 sim-free, which is quite a bargain (relatively speaking)—Sascha Segan.
Best bluetooth headset: Plantronics BackBeat Go 2 (£60)
Plantronics stepped up its well-respected BackBeat stereo Bluetooth line this year with the BackBeat Go 2, delivering solid sound quality, a sweat-proof nano-coating, and a comfortable fit at an eminently reasonable price. While there are other solid choices at higher and lower price points, the BackBeat Go 2 hits the sweet spot—SS.
Best smartwatch: Pebble (£93)
Smartwatches are still in their infancy but the Pebble is the one which is closest to realising their potential. Its good looks, useful notification support, and a growing list of features (thanks to third-party development) make it a far better choice than any other smartwatch currently available—Eugene Kim.