Our favorite 2015 tech from 'Back to the Future Part II' reviewed

Would the tech in the 2015 of 'BTTF' have survived our rigorous CNET testing process? We've reviewed everything from the Holomax to self-lacing Nikes.

Sarah Mitroff Managing Editor
Sarah Mitroff is a Managing Editor for CNET, overseeing our health, fitness and wellness section. Throughout her career, she's written about mobile tech, consumer tech, business and startups for Wired, MacWorld, PCWorld, and VentureBeat.
Expertise Tech, Health, Lifestyle
Nate Ralph Associate Editor
Associate Editor Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith, covering mobile software and hardware for CNET Reviews. His hobbies include dismantling gadgets, waxing poetic about obscure ASCII games, and wandering through airports.
Caitlin Petrakovitz Director of audience
Caitlin Petrakovitz studies the Marvel Cinematic Universe like it's a course in school, with an emphasis on the Infinity Saga years. As an audience expert, she rarely writes but when she does it's most certainly about Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Westworld, San Diego Comic-Con and great streaming properties. Or soccer, that's a thing she loves, too.
Sarah Mitroff
Nate Ralph
Caitlin Petrakovitz
7 min read

The year 2015 is coming to a close and for gadget lovers, it has been one for the almanacs.

A few hits, a few misses, and more than a few "what were they thinking?" -- I'm looking at you, self-lacing shoes.

From faxes you can send on the go -- honest! -- to top-notch pizzas you can fit in a purse, there's something for everyone this year. Here are some of our favorite new products from 2015. See anything here that you like? Send us a fax, and let us know.

Universal Pictures

Black & Decker Hydrator

Good: Black & Decker's Hydrator cooks portable dehydrated food in seconds.

Bad: Some foods will lack the texture and flavors you get from cooking in a traditional oven.

Bottom Line: You can't beat the speed and convenience of this Hydrator, especially if you're not into cooking from scratch.

Faster food prep is the dream of any home cook and the Black & Decker Hydrator makes it a reality. Dust off your old dehydrator and start cooking because this new Hydrator is the perfect accompaniment.

Black & Decker's model hydrates, heats and cooks your dehydrated food, from pizza and burgers to eggs and bacon. Voice commands let you talk to the machine to set the hydration levels, making it mostly hands-free. Through the small window on the front, you can watch your food's progress. No more lugging a big lunch to the office or school -- you can just slip a compact dehydrated sandwich or steak into your bag and hydrate them when needed.

The machine can turn a hockey puck-sized pizza into a family meal in seconds, but I'm skeptical that it can get the same toothy crust and bubbling cheese that only an oven can provide. Those who like soft pizza won't be turned off by the Hydrator's results. For those not already dehydrating at home, fast food restaurants like Pizza Hut are now selling prepackaged meals, so you can get that eating-out experience at home. Personally, I can't wait for dehydrated Taco Bell tacos.

Universal Pictures


Good: Watching the Justice League fight all around you in the theater gives you a wonderful immersive feeling, as you experience a film rather than simply watch it.

Bad: For some the giant screen is too large, and the sensations evoked by the intense holograms are causing many to stay away from the theater. Think 3D motion-sickness amplified by fear and surprise and you can see potential for major accidents.

Bottom Line: Without judging the quality of Holomax films (don't get me started on that "Jaws" sequel), I think the technology has some great potential. The latest entry in the "Human Centipede" series really showcased just how frightening a great horror film can be when you truly envelope the audience in the moment.

That being said, the jump from 3D films to immersive Holomax has left some people feeling more than a little queasy. From reports of seasickness to complaints of injuries sustained while moviegoers were trying to get away from incoming monsters, missiles and cars, the theater experience itself doesn't seem to be prepared for these types of visuals. Holomax is a great first step, but studios and directors need to pick and choose carefully which properties they continue in this format -- otherwise, there may not be a next step.

Universal Pictures

Nike MAG power-lacing shoes

Good: Nike's MAG shoes lace up on their own, making them convenient, quick and better than your average shoe.

Bad: The shoes likely need frequent recharging and only come in one style currently.

Bottom Line: If the MAGs fit with your far-out fashion vibes, grab a pair now. Otherwise, wait for version 2.0.

Are you still lacing up your shoes by hand? How passé. Go out right now and get a pair of Nike's MAG power-lacing shoes, the future of footwear. Designed to fit perfectly, they'll conform to your feet and lace up in seconds, hands-free. Simply slip your foot in and let them do the rest -- you'll program them when you buy them so they'll fit just right.

Mechanics inside the shoes automatically pull the laces tight and release them, all powered by a rechargeable battery in the heel. That battery should last at least a few days, since you'll only be using the power-lacing twice a day to put on and take off the shoes.

No doubt, the style is a bit masculine. They have a speckled gray sole, gray exterior and extra-large white flaps that hug your ankles. The lights on the outsole and heel counter are a major improvement on the flashing lights of our '90s L.A. Gear sneakers and add some not-so-subtle style to the shoes. This is just version one though, and Nike is sure to give us new styles with the next iteration.

Amanda Kooser/CNET

Mattel Hoverboard

Good: A great beginner board, the funky Mattel Hoverboard is a cheap way to get your kids into a new hobby.

Bad: That color scheme grows on you, but it'll take a while. The handlebars look a little dorky.

Bottom Line: Your kids aren't going to win any races on this thing without a lot of luck, but as a beginner's ride before they pick up their very own Pit Bull, you could do worse.

Mattel's latest entry into the crowded hoverboard space is strictly for kids. Not that there's anything wrong with that: the bright pastels are fun, and the foot strap and included handlebar will keep your little ones upright while they get used to gliding around.

Experienced boarders should steer clear, though. Mattel's hoverboard isn't all that speedy, being outpaced by even the relatively low-res No Tech hoverboards. Like most hoverboards you're going to want to stick pretty close to solid ground to give it the occasional kick -- if your kids want to keep their crags dry, they'll steer clear of deep puddles.

Universal Pictures

Pac Fax

Good: The fastest, most convenient way to send a message is available on a street corner near you.

Bad: Sending a fax occasionally takes up to a full second. Some might miss that old-timey feel of sending a physical letter through the mail.

Bottom Line: Short of some wonder-tech that'll let you send a fax from your pocket (ha!), the Pac Fax is as quick and easy as it gets to send a message while you're on the go.

Sure, fax machines are the fastest way to send your folks a photo of your kid, or pass along that last minute "Happy Birthday" message. But when you're out and about, do you really have time to send a fax?

As it turns out, you do: just pop over to a Pac Fax, punch in the number of the fax machine you're trying to reach and you're good to go. In just half a second, your message will be shooting through telephone wires and popping out of a fax machine across the world -- it's without a doubt the fastest way to get your point across.

The Pac Fax isn't perfect. To start, they aren't available everywhere. And you've still got to lug around the sheets of paper or pictures you want faxed, as you'd have to be a real bojo to want to type a letter on the tiny keypad. But it's a nice compromise, and since they're available in most cities and even plenty of small towns, there's a good chance there's a Pac Fax near you.

Self-drying, auto-adjusting jacket

Good: Caught in a storm without an umbrella? Splashed by a truck as you're crossing the street? This jacket can help -- it won't dry all of you, but on more than one occasion I was thankful for the speedy blow-dry (it even helped dry my hair!).

Bad:The jacket would randomly size up or down as I was trying to unzip it, and there was no way to silence the "wet" alarm or postpone it. Sometimes the jacket misread my arm length if I was wearing long sleeves and I couldn't adjust myself.

Bottom Line: This isn't the first incarnation of self-adjusting clothing, but it is the most fully realized and the most fashionable.

I have been so excited for adjusting clothing since it was first announced. Even so, I had significant issues with the auto-adjusting randomly "adjusting" at the wrong times. Plus, what use is a self-drying jacket if it's not also waterproof and protecting my clothes underneath? I'd love to see this tech implemented in more clothing items, and until then it's really only recommendable for early adopters who don't mind a few bugs.

'Back to the Future' gear for right now (pictures)

See all photos

Honorable mentions go to JVC's video glasses, the Garden Center and thumb pads -- though we're still a little leery of the dangers of security which uses an appendage (especially amid reports of a rise in break-ins).

Here's looking forward to 2016!

Editors' Note: We chose not to include bionics on our list of best technology of the year. This is because they are not fully legal, and are prone to overloads based on a user's emotions.If bionics are legalized in the upcoming election or at any point in the future, we will happily review them.