Here's a secret for gadget makers: If you want to get a lot of attention for your new device, release it in January.
The first month of the year heralds CES with all its noise and bluster. But after the show, when the insanity dies down and holiday sales recede into history, the gadget landscape dries out. As we do each month, we used our unique algorithm to rank gadget buzz according to search volume, engagement on CNET, and editors' ratings. This month, the effects of a dry release cycle come into clear relief. The usual suspects are still popular -- even more so, in some cases -- and the few big devices announced at CES that are actually available now got a lot of attention.
Case in point: The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact entered our leaderboard all the way up at No. 13. No slowly inching up the charts for this one -- even though the phone is the smaller sibling of Sony's Xperia Z1 S flagship phone, this little stunner earned our accolades as the best small Android phone available right now even though it's available only in Europe and the UK. The Z1 S stood out of the crowd as a sleek alternative to larger phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4, which still dominates the list at No. 1 for the second month in a row.
Even with CES's wave of future announcements, many of the CNET 100 Top 10 stayed put from December to January, including the Galaxy S4 as well as the discontinued but still popular Panasonic TC-P55ST60 plasma TV at No. 3; the inexpensive, $90 Roku 3 at No. 5; and the Google Nexus 5 at No. 8.
Here's the whole Top 10 list:
- Samsung Galaxy S4
- Samsung Galaxy Note 3
- Panasonic TC-P55ST60
- Fitbit Force
- Roku 3
- Google Nexus 7
- LG G2
- Google Nexus 5
- Apple TV
- HTC One
The device drought also made some room for a few devices that dropped off last month to come back. The biggest name in that bunch is the MacBook Pro with Retina, which clawed its way up to its highest rank yet at No. 86 after having dropped off January's CNET 100 as shoppers hunted for much cheaper devices than the nearly-$1,500 notebook.
Connected home products -- and even the not-so-connected home gadgets -- crept up the list, too. At No. 75, the Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away is the first vacuum to make the CNET 100 cut. And thanks to Nest's surprise acquisition by Google, the now-famous Nest Learning Thermostat climbed a whopping 38 spots up the list to settle in at No. 11 while the Nest Protect smoke detector rose from 76 to 36.
Will the same products dominate next month's list? That's up to the product-release powers that be. Either way, you should explore the rest of the list -- you might be surprised by something you find at the bottom.
A reminder about how we generate this list: We use three factors to determine the ratings: inbound search volume, clicks on CNET, and our editors' ratings. The inbound searches measure the visitors to CNET who get to us by typing a product's name into a search engine and ending up on our site. Because CNET is the world's largest tech reviews site (by far), this metric tells us reliably what the broad marketplace is looking for.