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ITPP's favourite gadgets of 2014

As you might expect, we love gadgets here at ITProPortal and this year has certainly been a good one for new and exciting devices.

We've seen the next generation of smartphones and tablets, the continued rise of wearables, virtual reality take significant steps forward and drones have started to become commonplace.

So, suffice to say that picking our favourite gadgets of 2014 was not an easy task, but we've given it a go and this is what we've come up with. Let us know your thoughts on our picks in the comments section.

Barclay Ballard

My favourite gadget? It’s a wearable drone that helps you take the perfect selfie - no other gadget summed up 2014’s technology trends quite like Nixie (opens in new tab).

The winner of Intel’s Make It Wearable (opens in new tab) challenge may only be at the prototype stage, but it is already boasting some impressive features. Nixie owners strap the device to their wrist and then via a simple gesture, the quadcopter takes off just like a drone and captures the best selfie possible while airborne.

Nixie could prove especially useful for outdoor enthusiasts who want to document their activities but find it difficult using a more traditional camera - rock climbers we’re looking at you.

Inventor Christoph Kohstall, who has a PHD in experimental physics, claims that the device is capable of taking single shots, a series of images or even a short video. Complex algorithms ensure that once Nixie is “set free,” it automatically turns around and takes a photograph of its point of origin, capturing whatever activity the user is taking part in.

While it is still in the early stages of development, Nixie ultimately aims to compete with other well-known camera brands such as Go Pro for that lucrative selfie market.

Nixie Drone

Darren Allen

My favourite gadget of this year is an easy pick - it’s my new phone which I purchased back in the autumn, the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (opens in new tab).

Yes, I’m not particularly fussed about having a massive screen size or phablet, so I chose the Z3 Compact rather than the full-sized Z3. The screen is just big enough at 4.6in (the same as the iPhone 6) - I must admit I was a tad concerned that it might be a little small, but it’s actually a good size.

It also means that the phone is very portable and easy to carry around, slip into a pocket and so forth. Furthermore, the small display means a resolution of 1280 x 720 still looks nice and sharp - and perhaps the biggest benefit is that the handset’s Snapdragon 801 CPU is overpowered for pushing that many pixels around.

The result is an extremely smooth running phone, even before it has seen a Lollipop update. It’s crisp as a bag of Walkers when it comes to slickly navigating menus, browsing, even loading chunky games, everything happens quickly and very smoothly.

The camera is great (and solid enough in low-light) as well. And the best part of all? This is a flagship phone which effectively isn’t much different from the full Z3 at all - the main difference is the smaller screen, and lower resolution, but it’s still plenty sharp enough - and yet you can grab it for a budget price.

I got my Z3 Compact (opens in new tab) with Vodafone for £14.50 per month with a £50 up-front fee. Yes, the allowance is a basic one at that tariff level of course, but less than £15 for a top-end phone is pretty incredible in my book - and one of the main reasons that this smartphone is my gadget of 2014.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

David Curry

Apple recently announced the iPad Mini 3 with Touch ID support and a gold color option, but the bigger story was the price drop on the iPad Mini with Retina Display (opens in new tab), now known as the iPad Mini 2, my favourite gadget of 2014.

For those who don’t care about Touch ID on an iPad and are not fond of the gold color option, the iPad Mini 2 is a steal at £239 (£279 with 32GB of storage).

The iPad Mini 2 (opens in new tab) is best in class out of all tablets between 7 and 9-inches. Apple’s retina display (2048 x 1536) matches all the current 2K displays on Android and surpasses most of them, with sharper colors than most IPS and Super AMOLED panels.

Performance wise the iPad Mini 2 should be behind most Android tablets priced between $200 and $400, but because of the optimisation on iOS, the iPad Mini 2 runs almost every app without an issue

The main reason to pick up an iPad has to be the apps store. Android has caught up on smartphones, but game developers especially are hesitant to release new content at the same time on Android, normally releasing it months early on iOS.

Minor complaints would be battery life, but these can be circumvented by carrying a charging brick when travelling. All other parts of the iPad Mini 2 are stellar, and I’d recommend picking up the Apple case to go with it.

ipad mini 2, apple, retina display

Fadil Pašić

Just as you would never ask a mother who her favourite child is, in the same manner you would never ask a gadget freak like me, which gadget he liked best in 2014.

There have been so many interesting gadgets born over the last 12 months that it’s hard to pick just one.

The iPhone 6 Plus, the first iPhone to get a 5.5 inch display, Apple Pay, the incredible Oculus Rift, as well as the rise of the drone, are all my favourites for 2014, but if you’d put a gun to my head I’d have to go with the Bebop drone (opens in new tab).

The iPhone, even though it’s a big step forward, is still “just” a smartphone, while Oculus Rift is still in development and not available on the market.

So it leaves the drones - tiny machines that gave us stunning images of the world around us (opens in new tab), videos from within a fireworks display (opens in new tab) and so much more.

High quality machines, with great cameras, fairly long lasting batteries and simple commands certainly gave us the most fun and awakened lots of creativity in 2014.

As for 2015 - I already vote Oculus Rift.

Parrot Bebop

Jamie Hinks

My favourite gadget is the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro (opens in new tab).

I challenge anyone to deny that they’ve ever wondered how much better their house would be if it had a projector in it…and now thanks to Lenovo that dream became a reality in 2014 inside its Yoga Tablet 2 Pro (opens in new tab).

Co-designed by Ashton Kutcher, the tablet takes the hybrid device into a new territory by combining all the best bits of an Android tablet into a laptop-sized device that has enough to take on all comers. The projector really is the best part though and takes a run-of-the-mill tablet from being just another Android slate to something that is one-of-the-kind.

Whilst I’m not going to promise that this tablet will improve your friend count, it will certainly turn heads if you tell people that your Netflix knocks the socks off their version and when they arrive at your house you just switch to projector mode and hey presto, there’s a cinema in your own home. This is all on the premise that your friends don’t have a projector themselves.

Lenovo Tablet 2 Pro

Nathan Chai

It is with great humility and regret that I reveal to you, dear reader, my favourite gadget of 2014. As a staunch Apple hater I’m embarrassed to say that my favourite gadget of 2014 has been… my girlfriend’s iPad Air 2 (opens in new tab).

It is perfect, I mean really, it’s perfect. It doesn’t have the annoying weight of trying to watch things in bed on my laptop, it’s large enough that I can watch videos on the go and not think “I wish this was a little bigger”.

Seriously it feels like I’m gushing (I am) but with such a great TV app roster (BBC iPlayer, 4oD, Netflix, Youtube), it is exactly what I want. And with the release of games like Fates Forever and Vain Glory providing a genuinely better-than-you’d-expect-from-such-a-casual-platform gaming experience, I really can’t flaw the device.

Even at parties the damn thing shines; someone starts telling me about a song, I pull out the iPad (opens in new tab) and we find it on Spotify or Youtube and listen to it there and then, and the same can be said for “Did you see that video…” or “Did you read that news story?” conversations.

iPad air 2

Sam Pudwell

This is actually quite an easy decision for me. Upgraded smartphones and tablets are all well and good, but they just don't excite me like some other gadgets we've seen this year.

Lots of gadgets crossed my mind when picking my favourite. Tweeting gloves (opens in new tab), a James Bond-inspired laser watch (opens in new tab) and an air-powered umbrella (opens in new tab) all came close, but in the end I had to go with my heart and anyone who has read some of my previous articles will know that my heart lies with wearables.

More specifically, fitness trackers. I've always been a strong advocate of these devices and the one that stands out for me is the Jawbone UP3 (opens in new tab) fitness band.

Not only does it measure fitness metrics in more detail than most other fitness trackers out there, it also measures sleep cycles to provide an added layer of data. But there's actually looks good too! Which is a big consideration seeing as its supposed to be worn 24/7.

Jawbone has recently announced that its release date has been pushed back to February 2015 (opens in new tab) and I for one can't wait to get my hands on one.

Jawbone UP3