The year 2015 gave consumers plenty of new toys to save up for, lust after, and play with. Gadgets came in all forms: big and small, retro and forward-thinking, economical and expensive, rugged and sleek, and basic and high-tech. It was a good problem to have so many options.
Now, the time has come to recognize these options. We took a quick look at our archives, and chose a few items that were nifty, and offered something its competitors didn't. We also deliberately excluded seeming shoo-ins like the popular self-balancing two-wheeled boards (because of recent overheating issues) and personal drones. (Though we gotta admit, this superdrone is insane.)
Here now are the Best Gadgets of the Year!
We've written about VR gadgets before, but we always thought we would never earn enough money to get one unit for ourselves. Enter the aptly named I Am Cardboard V2.0 kit, which is the perfect (and affordable) introduction to the wonders of virtual reality for both typical consumers and tech nerds. The Google Cardboard-inspired and -certified kit can be used with both Android and iPhones with a maximum 6" screen size; is idiot-proof with its three-step assembly process; and comes in six colors.
All powered up
We all want power, but we're okay with the literal kind, too. The Powertech Promate 240 Power Station is your lifesaver during extended blackouts, giving your appliances and gadgets plenty of supplementary power until you get back on the grid. It's also a boon for when your car battery is this close to quitting on you and Motolite Express Hatid or Outlast can't get to where you are. It can also be an additional light source thanks to its LED bulb. Oh, and you can charge it with (separately purchased) solar panels! Summer 2016, we're so ready for you. Bring it!
Gimme a boost
Speaking of power and power banks...they've gotten smaller and a whole lot cheaper. The 10050mAh ASUS ZenPower can fully charge your smartphone at least twice before needing its own top-up; is as small as a credit card; looks classy with its anodized aluminum exterior; and is armed with PowerSafe tech to keep cool and ward off short circuits. Best of all, it only costs P795 over at Lazada. Guess we really can't use the "low-batt ako" excuse anymore!
It fits in your pocket, can shoot in super-slow motion, and captures detailed/distortion-free high-speed shots and 4K video. Its name: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV. This camera—with a 20MP CMOS sensor, Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, and tilting LCD display, among other features—makes us want to hold and use an actual camera again. Don't worry, it has Wi-Fi and NFC so you can instantly upload your best photos and videos to your social media service of choice. In the words of genius billionaire playboy philantropist Tony Stark:
Now, where do we get P49,999 for this sweet, sweet shooter? For a camera this small, its features are truly something to behold.
BONUS: We also have to commend Sony's RX10 II, whose slow-mo capabilities are slowly becoming a must-have in every videographer's arsenal. We mean, look at some of its sample footage:
It also has an incredible zoom range from 24-200mm, which for most photographers is all the versatility they'd ever need for use across a varied range of situations.
No shake, walang stir!
Video footage of special moments and vanity will always be marred by this supervillain: shaky hands. Well, camera equipment maker DJI got tired of that shit, and came out with the Osmo. It shoots shake-free 4K videos and 12MP images no matter how much you move or how uncooperative your pasmado hands are. You have its Zenmuse X3 three-axis gimbal and custom processor to thank for the steady disposition. The Osmo can also capture 120fps full HD video, has auto and selfie panorama modes, and yep, Wi-Fi capability.
For US$649 (almost P30,700), you and your smartphone can get in on the action, and without The Blair Witch Project-level shakes. We also found the Osmo on Lazada, and is sold by Henry's Professional for P33,990.
If you own a car, put this gadget right at the top of your wishlist. The Zumi Duo X15 doesn't just capture (in 1080p HD video!) what's going on in front of your car, it also keeps an eye on what's going on behind your automobile. It's 2.7" TFT-LCD display acts as your (anti-glare) rearview mirror, and is a helpful guide when backing into a parking slot or doing U-turns. The Duo X15 also comes with features like auto on/off, G-sensor, loop recording, built-in mic, motion detection, and three viewing options, as well as an 8GB microSD card.
Its price is a bit steep at P8,000, but hey, we'd prefer having actual footage from the front and rear of the car instead of having a dude tapping away at our car's steel body. (Thanks for the heads up, Top Gear Philippines!)
A BlackBerry...running Android? Yep, it happened in 2015. The BlackBerry Priv jumped on the Android train (Lollipop) with a few BB tweaks. Many are saying it's a good call. But that's not all the Priv has. It's beautifully designed, and its 5.4” dual-curved screen looks similar to that of another smartphone on this list (again, we're not complaining). The sliding keyboard, 18MP Schneider-Kreuznach rear camera, 4K video capability, and BlackBerry's renowned security all make the Priv a really nice way to cap a stellar year in tech.
Also, if you have P45,000 to spend on this phone, congratulations. Wagi ka.
Edges and curves
The upgraded but still edgy Samsung Edge has a bigger curved Quad HD Super AMOLED display at 5.7”, and amps the entertainment factor via audio and video capabilities with video collage and slow-motion capture features. It also supports wireless charging, sports a 16MP camera with OIS, and is a proven hit with the ladies. For that last part alone, P39,990 will be money well spent.
It's fun to observe what's going on right now in the local smartphone scene. The homegrown brands keep making feature-loaded gadgets that can fight with the imports, but without the sky-high prices. Out of the many locally made smartphones that came out this year, the more recent Starmobile Knight Spectra appeals to us the most. The reasons: It has two rear cameras (13MP and 2MP) for speedier shooting and focusing; you can change your photos' focal point after you've taken it; it has DTV capability; and the smartphone has a P14,990 tag.
Not bad at all!
The year 2015 also ushered in more wearable tech. But out of the lot, the Samsung Galaxy Gear S2 Classic got our vote. It takes on a more traditional (or erm, timeless) smartwatch look, complete with the leather strap, and has a smaller AMOLED display (at 1.2”) compared to its predecessor. We're also pleasantly surprised to find out that it has a longer battery life at one and a half days, and keeps the swiping to a minimum.
The Gear S2 Classic is now available locally, and for P15,490.
Such a pro
Apple's latest tablet went large with a 12.9” Retina display, so now it's essentially the same size as a laptop. But the Apple iPad Pro has more things going for it. The expected bumps in processing power, audio, and graphics allow you to multitask, edit 4K video, and create presentations and documents on this baby.
Tablets have been marketed as laptop replacements for years now, but we're willing to bet that few people have actually done that. The iPad Pro, especially when paired with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, could make us reconsider. Price starts at P42,990 for the 32GB model with Wi-Fi.
No scratching this Surface!
Personally, we haven't used a Microsoft-powered desktop or laptop in years. But the Microsoft Surface Book is actually making us think about returning to the Microsoft fold. The convertible device does more than look great in any usage mode (including “Clipboard” mode, a.k.a. tablet). With the latest Intel Core i5 to i7 processors, Intel or NVIDIA GeForce graphics, touch-and Surface Pen-ready 13.5” PixelSense display, up to 1TB SSD storage, Windows 10 Pro, and a claimed 12-hour battery life, the Surface Book is a must-have.
Good job, Microsoft! You got it right on your first try, laptop-wise. But that US$1,499 starting price tag—almost P71,000—caught us off guard.
The Dell XPS 13 (2015 edition) may be the oldest product on this list, but even after all these months, we haven't forgotten it. The biggest factor? That gorgeous 13.3" borderless Infinity Display. We know we shouldn't spend all day looking at our gadget's screens, but with this ultrabook, that may be a tall order. It has other things going for it too: a projected 11 or 15 hours of battery life (depending on the type of display: FHD or QHD+), a viewing angle of up to 170-degrees, speedy startup and processing times, and that sleek aluminum exterior.
The fact that Dell has also made an Ubuntu Linux-powered version (geeks, rejoice!) makes the XPS 13 even more awesome. As for the asking price...Villman sells the i5 model at P69,780, and the i7 model at P74,988. Accent Micro also offers the i5 variant for P69,990.
Light and hardcore
Enough about consumer laptops. Let's talk about gaming laptops—well, one gaming laptop in particular. The ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) G501 is a thin powerhouse, fully ready for battle! Equipped with an Intel Core i7 4720HQ processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M card, a 15.6” IPS UHD display, and up to 1TB of HDD storage, it's the rig to have for those long nights of pretend-war. Prepare to spend P79,995 on this laptop, sir.
Planning to end the year by catching up on all the excellent TV shows you missed? Do it with the new LG OLED TVs. The 65” and 55” variants have curved OLED panels; support 4K Ultra HD and 3D visuals; and blast out sound through Harman/Kardon speakers. Connectivity isn't a problem as well as it can go online for more entertainment and gaming options. Now you know how we'll spend the remainder of 2015!