Of all the new wearable gadgets, smart light bulbs, TVs, decked-out cars, and other consumer electronics we reviewed this year, these are the ones that truly stood out.
We review hundreds of products each year. In CNET offices across the country, our expert editors spend countless hours testing everything from smart light bulbs and coffee makers to budget tablets and high-performance gaming laptops. Among all those products, we've found some real duds -- and some true gems. Here we've rounded up the consumer tech products that received the highest overall ratings and those that received our coveted Editors' Choice award in the past year.
We begin with the only TV to ever receive a perfect 5-star rating. This series of Panasonic plasmas -- with its deep black levels, accurate colors, and strong performance in less-than-perfect conditions -- won our strongest recommendation for a TV ever. There's just one problem: earlier this year Panasonic announced it's getting out of the plasma game. So if you want to take advantage of this great buy, you'll need to do it fast.
We already loved the original Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, with its clever fold-back laptop-turned-tablet design. But this year's model managed to do even better with an ultrahigh-res 13.3-inch display. Anyone looking for a thin, light laptop in the $1,000 price range would do well to consider the Yoga 2 Pro.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: The Monoprice 9774 scored a CNET Editors' Choice by delivering nearly identical sound quality to our earlier favorite 5.1 speaker system, the Energy Take Classic, at an even lower price. But the product was "nearly identical" in more ways than one: it was pulled from the market after Klipsch (Energy’s parent company) accused Monoprice of patent infringement. Monoprice returned later in the year with the similar 10565 speaker system, which was apparently different enough from the Energy to avoid a legal challenge.
Put simply, the Nexus 7 is the best small tablet you can buy. It has a gorgeous screen, excellent gaming performance, and since it's a Google-branded tablet, it'll always be first in line for the latest version of Android.
It's amazing to think that, just a year ago, the iPad Mini was positioned as a smaller, cheaper, less powerful iPad. In the time since, the smaller iPad has become a true top-tier tablet, with a 2,048x1,526-pixel Retina Display that's exactly the same resolution as the larger iPad, and a far faster 64-bit A7 CPU that parallels what's in the iPhone 5S and iPad Air.
As a company, HTC had aprettytough2013. But the HTC One was a bright spot in the Taiwanese manufacturer's year. When CNET editor Brian Bennett reviewed it earlier this year, he called it "the fastest, most beautiful phone [he'd] ever used."
Desktop PCs don't get the same kind of attention as tablets, phones, and modern-style hybrid laptops. But manufacturers have made great strides in the desktop realm, and today's tabletop PCs are a fry cry from the old beige towers of yore. The Dell XPS 27 is well-built, easy to use, and can capably serve as the central hub for household computing, or as a one-stop entertainment device.
Compared to the gorgeous HTC One and iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy S4 leaves something to be desired on the design front. But its blazing quad-core processor, colorful 5-inch HD screen, sharp-shooting 13-megapixel camera, and mile-high stack of software extras make the Galaxy S4 the most powerful superphone anywhere in the world. This phone has just about everything for just about everyone.
The battery life of Motorola's Droid Maxx isn't its only great feature, but it is the thing that sets it apart from an increasingly crowded market of well-built, nicely designed, high-performing smartphones.
The five-bay Synology DiskStation DS1513+ would be overkill for many people. But it is an excellent storage system that could be a game-changer for consumers and small or medium-size businesses looking for a server upgrade.