We spend a lot of time playing with gadgets at Gizmodo. A lot! Very few actually impress us, but 2016 did deliver some great gear we actually liked. Here are some of our favourite gadgets this year.
Sony Playstation VR
With the launch of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, 2016 started out strong as the year virtual reality finally went mainstream, but no headset impressed quite like PlayStation VR—the first that could realistically get a foothold. Compared to more expensive systems, PSVR was easy to set up, relatively cheap, and worked with a console that’s owned by 50 million people. You’ll still get a headache if you play for too long—as with most other systems—but the games are solid and price isn’t bad either. £350
We’ve seen a lot of pet robots over the years—but none were ever as cute or cheap as the $180 (£147) Anki Cozmo. With the help of a couple of Pixar animators, toymaker Anki built a robot with two motorised treads, big engaging eyes, and a tonne of personality. The robot comes with built-in facial recognition, so it knows who it’s playing with. It also has a couple of simple games in which the little bot moves plastic cubes plastic around a table. When Cozmo loses, it throws the blocks around and sulks. Sore loser, huh? $180 (£147)
NES Classic Edition
This year, Nintendo made a splash when it re-released a smaller version of its original NES with 30 classic games built in. Even though the system is miniaturised, the controllers are still full-sized, meaning you’ll now be able to kick arse in Donkey Kong on your huge flatscreen TV. £50
DJI Mavic Pro
The DJI Mavic Pro manages to strike the best balance of any drone we’ve ever used. It’s a great substitute for the more expensive and heavier Phantom 4, and and holds up well even when hit by a strong gust of wind. Its four propellers also fold into the body and its controller folds up too, making it easy to carry around in something like a parka jacket pocket. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, it has an excellent 4K camera and solid in-flight performance. If you’re looking for a great portable drone—this is the one to get. £1,099
After years of waiting, it’s finally here: The most user-friendly smart TV system can finally support 4K video. The Roku Ultra is packed with all of the set-top box system’s classic features, like the ability to set up a custom feed with your favourite TV shows—but it also has the ability to playback 4K and HDR content. Starts at $100, but isn't officially available in the UK. Buying from resellers will cost between £100 and £200.
This year, Google hopes to top the success of the Amazon Echo with its own digital assistant speaker, Google Home. The sound quality is definitively better than the original Echo’s, with the obvious catch that the unit can’t hear voice requests when it’s playing at maximum volume. Google Home currently responds to fewer commands than the Echo, but Google just released the an SDK for the device, meaning third-parties can program new capabilities. $130, up to £200 if you buy from a UK reseller.
What can we say: GoPro still makes the best action camera because it’s simple enough for anyone to use but small enough to go anywhere. This year, GoPro finally released camera that’s waterproof without clunky plastic casing. It also packs in some smart features like automatic bookmarking while recording videos. £249
iPhone 7 and Plus 7
They’re missing a headphone jack, but they’re still among the best phones on the market. The newest iPhones include a bunch of deceptively ambitious technology including a dual-camera (on the 7 Plus), a touch-sensor home button, and both models are finally water resistant. That means you can take great photos even after you drop your phone in the toilet (just be sure to give it a thorough rinse if you do). starts at £599
Bowers & Wilkins’ P7 Wireless
Wireless Bluetooth headphones get a bad wrap for having short battery life and sacrificing sound quality. Not the P7s. These headphones get a ridiculous range out of their drivers and the 17-hour battery life is plenty enough for a full day of work or a super long flight. The P7s also come with the classic look of B&W’s other wireless headphones, so you don’t have to worry about looking like a dweeb with a pair of overpriced phones. £319
Amazon Echo Dot
For a long time, the Echo Dot was only available to Amazon Echo owners. Not anymore. Now, anyone can buy one. The Dot lets you outfit your existing speaker setup with the same artificial intelligence that the Echo uses, meaning your home cinema can also be your personal digital assistant. At its heart, the Dot has the same seven-microphone array that was in the original Echo, so it hears your requests when you belt them out from across the house. It also works with all of the smart home stuff and apps that have been built for Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. £50
Bose QuietComfort 35 Bluetooth headphones
You can walk into basically any airport and see a pair of Bose headphones within a few minutes. There’s a good reason for that: The company’s noise cancelling headphones have been preferred by travellers for years now, and the company just released a new and improved wireless version. The sound quality on the headphones is still solid, and though they’re not as great-sounding as the Bowers & Wilkins P7s, the 20-hour battery life is one of the longest available and the fact that they collapse into a small burrito-sized package is a nice touch. £290
Asus made a solid pitch for its own Zenbook PCs this year when it built a laptop that matches the MacBook in weight and thickness. Price varies depending on the processor, but the cheapest model packs in an Intel i5 processor—more power than the MacBook for less money. starts at £900.