The year is coming to an end, and of many products I've worked with during 2013, just a handful of them are really memorable because of a unique feature, function, or capability that each possesses. Note that these devices are not necessarily among the best of their type (though most of them are); they are just those I personally find most interesting.
I've listed each product below with the reason that makes each stand out from the pack. This list is sorted in the order in which they were reviewed, with the most recent on top.
The Black 2 Dual Drive is WD's asnwer to the solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD) movement. The new drive is not a hybrid drive, however, but rather it comes with two separate drives on the inside including a 120GB solid-state drive (SSD) and one 1TB hard drive (HDD). Depsite that the Black 2 retains the standard design of a typical laptop internal drive, making it, for now, one-of-a-kind. The drive worked very well in my testing, offering real SSD performance and 1.2GB of storage space. For the first time, you now can have the affordable dual drive setup on your laptop.
The Samsung LTE Mobile HotSpot Pro is a lot more than just a cellular mobile hot spot that brings fast 4G LTE Internet to up to 10 Wi-Fi clients. It's the first I've seen that comes with a sizable internal battery to give it a really long battery life. On top of that, it can also work as a juice pack to provide your mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, with much-needed power when you're out and about. The device also comes in a very practical and convenient design. Despite the capacious battery, it remains compact, and most importantly it delivered in my testing.
Home network storage is at its best with the WD My Cloud. The device is fast, very easy to use, and affordable. On top of that it has an innovative personal cloud features, and provide up to 4TB of storage space. I found almost nothing to complain about other than the fact that it's a single-volume device (and hence is susceptible to data loss should its internal drive die). WD later introduced the
The Asus RT-AC68U is one of a few high-end routers on the market that offers up to 1.3Gbps of wireless speed on the 5GHz band and up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz. And it worked well in my testing. But that's not what's special about it. The router offers lots of cool features, among which the ability to turn one of its four LAN ports into a secondary WAN port is by far the most uncommon. This allows you to use two separate Internet sources for faster speed or backup purposes. Note that this Dual-WAN feature was retroactively made available also to previous models via firmware updates, including the
Generally, I don't recommend getting a combo networking device that combines a broadband modem and a Wi-Fi router in a single box, and the Motorola SBG6782-AC is the only exception so far. This is because the device combines a great DOCSIS 3.0 modem and a top-of-the-line 802.11ac Wi-Fi router and with a price that's much lower than if you buy the two separately. That plus the fact that it worked very well in my testing make it a great investment for cable Internet users.
The Samsung 840 Evo has all you care about when shopping for a solid-state drive: performance, capacity, and price. With up to 1TB of storage space and the cost of much less than $1 per gigabyte, it's very hard for you to find any other SSD that offers a better deal. In my testing, the drive's performance was also excellent. What makes it special, however, is the included Samsung Magician software that turns the drive into a very versatile internal drive, including the ability to use a computer's system memory as its cache to further enhance the performance.