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The best tech of 2016

These are our top-rated products of the year.

CNET staff
1 of 69 Josh Miller/CNET

Snapchat Spectacles

Consumer technology in 2016 was split between evolutionary refinements of existing products (iPhone 7, PlayStation 4 Pro) and truly futuristic gadgets that seemed to spring from the pages of a science fiction novel. But items on both sides of that ledger were among CNET's top-rated products of the year.

On the latter side, Snapchat Spectacles were nearly impossible to find (thanks to a buzz-inducing rollout via randomly placed vending machines). But being easy to use, fun and not terribly expensive, they corrected nearly all of the problems that plagued Google Glass.

2 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

HTC Vive

2016 also saw the first real full-scale virtual reality gear hit store shelves. The HTC Vive was arguably the best, with included sensors delivering a full "room scale" virtual world experience.

3 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

Oculus Rift/Touch

As cool as Vive is, Oculus Rift was hot on its heels. Rift debuted alongside Vive in April, but its just-released Touch controllers are best in class, and totally remake the entire VR experience.

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PlayStation VR

VR wasn't just for PCs, either. Sony's PlayStation VR delivered a solid virtual reality experience to console gamers at a comparatively low total price point.

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Xbox One S

While Xbox won't get a VR add-on until 2017 or later, Microsoft's game console finally got a much needed redesign -- cramming 4K Blu-ray and HDR video support into a slimmed-down, more affordable rig.

6 of 69 Scott Stein/CNET

Nintendo NES Classic Edition

This mini recreation of Nintendo's original home console -- which includes 30 built-in classic games -- distills 1980s retro nostalgia in one perfect little box. Too bad Nintendo grossly underestimated demand, making it nearly impossible to find for holiday shoppers.

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Falcon Northwest Tiki

An amazingly powerful, and amazingly compact, gaming desktop, this is a custom-built virtual reality monster with a price to match.

8 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft Surface Studio

Apple may continue to eschew touchscreen tech on Macs (outside of a tiny Touch Bar on the new Pro laptops), but Microsoft is going all in. The company's first desktop PC features a 28-inch touchscreen that can tilt down like a drafting table.

9 of 69 James Martin/CNET

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch, 2016)

That's not to say that the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pros isn't cool; it is. But the thinner and lighter design, giant trackpad and addition of Touch ID combine to make it the most lustworthy MacBook Pro ever.

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Apple MacBook

If the new Pros are too pricey for your budget, consider the sophomore version of the 12-inch MacBook, which offers a more powerful Intel chip than the 2015 original.

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Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga

Once you see an OLED display in a laptop, it's hard to back to a mere LCD. This slim Yoga pairs a brilliant OLED display with one of our favorite 2-in-1 designs.

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Alienware 13 R3 (OLED)

The Alienware 13 R3 also included a stunning OLED display. Pair that with its stunning VR-capable graphics processor, and you have one of our favorite gaming laptops of the year.

13 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

HP EliteBook Folio G1

There have been many super-slim laptops this year, but most traded a touchscreen for a thinner body. This 12-inch HP hits the right balance, with a high-res touch display in a very slim, lightweight body.

14 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S

Samsung came close to beating Microsoft at its own Windows tablet game with the TabPro S. Unlike the Surface, Samsung includes the keyboard in the box -- along with a sumptuous AMOLED display, too.

15 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple iPad Pro (9.7-inch)

Apple's only new iPad of 2016 was its best yet, delivering the power and Apple Pencil compatibility of the 2015 iPad Pro in a more familiar, portable 9.7-inch screen size.

16 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

Huawei Mediapad M3

In a year where superior Android tablets were few and far between, the Huawei Media Pad M3 stood out. This small, elegantly designed tablet's sharp HD screen and loud speakers give the iPad Mini 4 a run for its money.

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Amazon Fire HD 8

The 2016 version of Amazon's 8-inch Fire tablet delivered a far faster experience for a much lower price. Yes, please.

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Amazon Kindle Oasis

Amazon's Kindle Oasis is pretty much the best e-reader ever. The only problem? It costs almost four times as much as that aforementioned Fire HD 8 tablet.

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Apple iPhone 7

Despite Apple's controversial move to slash the iPhone's headset jack, the phone is a solid performer that introduces waterproofing to the iconic brand.

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Apple iPhone 7 Plus

The larger 7 Plus delivers a major step-up feature with its dual-lens camera. Its portrait mode, which blurs the background while keeping the foreground subject in focus, really sets it apart.

21 of 69 Jason Cipriani/CNET

Google Pixel and Pixel XL

Pick up Google's first solo phone and you know you're holding something special. The experience is lightning-fast and buttery-smooth, and it takes some of the best photos we've seen. The larger XL version supersizes the screen space without feeling bulky or dense. (It's otherwise identical.)

22 of 69 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Samsung Galaxy S7

A little smaller and thriftier than the larger Edge, the Galaxy S7 was the first great phone of 2016, earning top marks across the board.

23 of 69 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

The Edge version of the S7 offered a larger screen and with a stunning wraparound design that remained unmatched in 2016.

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OnePlus 3T

Prepare to be blown away by the value of a phone that delivers nearly all the top features of top-shelf rivals for just a fraction of the price.

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Lenovo Moto G4

Moto is out to prove that a budget phone doesn't have to mean it's barely tolerable; you get a tremendous amount of power for the price.

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Lenovo Moto Z Play

The cheapest of the Z-series of phones with magnetic, snap-on Mods is also our favorite for balancing innovative new accessories with an affordable price -- and a headset jack.

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Panasonic Lumix ZS100

Unlike most competitors, the Lumix ZS100 adds a good general-purpose zoom range to this 1-inch sensor compact in addition to a great feature set, delivering better quality than you typically see from a consumer compact camera.

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Nikon D500

Nikon's update to its prosumer action-focused dSLR is a great well-rounded camera -- as long as you don't need robust Wi-Fi capabilities.

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Olympus PEN-F

The retro design, excellent photo quality, solid performance and Micro Four Thirds lens mount -- enabling smaller lenses -- makes this mirrorless one of our favorite cameras for street photography.

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Panasonic Lumix FZ300

Point-and-shoot cameras might be on life support as a category, but the FZ300 and its fantastic f2.8 zoom lens shows there's still room to innovate.

31 of 69 Joshua Goldman/CNET

GoPro Hero5 Black

After two years, GoPro came back strong with the feature-packed Hero5 Black including a waterproof body, GPS, voice control and improved software.

32 of 69 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

DJI Phantom 4

The Phantom 4 had a lot of firsts for DJI packed into it, but it was its obstacle avoidance that stole the show.

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DJI Mavic Pro

It's one of the most advanced consumer drones available, but it's the DJI Mavic Pro's compact foldable design that makes it great.

34 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

Fitbit Charge 2

The Fitbit Charge 2 combines all of the mainstream fitness tracking features we want (well, except GPS and waterproofing) into one affordable package.

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Apple Watch Series 2

Better software, real waterproofing and improved battery life put the second Apple Watch head and shoulders above the first.

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Garmin Forerunner 235

The Garmin Forerunner 235 is the best watch for both casual and serious runners.

37 of 69 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon Echo Dot (2nd generation)

Amazon refined its smaller-scale Echo device and gave it an irresistable $50 price tag, making it one of the best smart home buys of the year.

38 of 69 Chris Monroe/CNET

August Smart Lock, HomeKit-enabled

The connected lock category is getting increasingly competitive, but August's deadbolt-turning gadget remains our favorite way to smarten up your front door.

39 of 69 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit

Colors aside, Philips Hue remains the best-developed, best-connected lighting platform on the market, and this white light starter kit is your most affordable way in.

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Lutron Caseta In-Wall Wireles Smart Lighting Kit

Lutron's smart light switches remain the most user-friendly way to smarten up your lighting controls.

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Nanoleaf Aurora

No product has leaned as heavily into the niche novelty of smart, color-changing light as Nanoleaf's Siri-friendly LED panels, and we kind of love them for it.

42 of 69 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

D-Link Wi-Fi water sensor

D-Link's water sensor kills the competition by not requiring batteries or a smart home hub, making it the easiest entry point for protecting your home against floods.

43 of 69 Chris Monroe/CNET

Neato D3 Connected robot vacuum

Neato's Botvac was the first robot vacuum you can control with your phone, but we liked it best for its cleaning power.

44 of 69 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Kenmore Elite 31633

Modern looks, top-notch cleaning scores, and a reasonable price tag make this top load washer one of our favorite appliances of the year.

45 of 69 Chris Monroe/CNET

Kenmore 13699

Don't let the bland looks fool you -- this bargain-priced dishwasher does an outstanding job when it comes time to clean.

46 of 69 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Samsung Family Hub Fridge

The four-door smart fridge with an enormous touchscreen on one door won us over with its gorgeous design and surprisingly helpful slate of features.

47 of 69 Chris Monroe/CNET

Breville Barista Express

This hands-on, do-it-all machine makes a mean shot of espresso, and compares well with setups that cost hundreds more.

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Jenn-Air JJW380DP

It doesn't come cheap, but this gorgeous double oven helps you pick out the best cook settings for your recipe, and works with the Nest Learning Thermostat to cool your house as you cook.

49 of 69 Josh Miller/CNET

Synology RT1900AC

Affordable, reliable and most importantly incredibly customizable, the Synology WRT1900AC is the router for advanced users who want to customize their network to the max.

50 of 69 Dong Ngo/CNET

Netgear Orbi

If you want the absolute fastest Wi-Fi you can get, the Netgear Orbi is the system for you.

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Google Wifi

The Google Wifi is the best overall Wi-Fi system for a large home, thanks to its balance of performance, cost and ease of use.

52 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Blu-ray

The first 4K Blu-ray player is still the gold standard and now cheaper than competitors, providing the best picture yet to your 4K HDR TV.

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Roku Streaming Stick

This fast, simple, affordable streamer is the best one-stop shop for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and thousands more.

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Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

For Amazon fans or those who prefer speaking to their devices, the affordable Alexa-powered stick is the best option.

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Roku Premiere+

If you have a 4K TV with HDR and want access to the most 4K HDR content anywhere, Roku's Premiere+ delivers the goods.

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Sony STR-DN1070

The Sony STR-DN1070 offers excellent sound and a flexible feature set at an affordable price. Its support for Google Cast streaming is the icing on the cake.

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Samsung HW-K950

With or without Dolby Atmos, the Samsung HW-K950 offers some of the best sound we've ever heard in a sound bar.

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The LG SH7B sound bar offers great sound quality and a number of excellent features including Google Cast and HDMI.

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Polk Magnifi Mini

With a laundry list of features and great sound from a tiny speaker, the Polk Magnifi Mini is one of the best budget sound bars.

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Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3

If you just won the lottery, here's the first place to blow some cash. Speakers don't come more elegant-looking or transparent-sounding than the Bowers and Wilkins 805 D3.

61 of 69 Sarah Tew/CNET

Elac Uni-Fi UF5 tower speakers

High-end sound for an affordable price. Designer Andrew Jones has once again redefined performance in mid-level speakers with the Elac Uni-Fi F5 (and the bookshelf UB5).

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Bose QuietComfort 35

With the addition of wireless Bluetooth to its top-of-the-line noise-cancelling model, Bose has arguably created its ultimate headphone.

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Sony H.ear On Wireless NC

Sony's latest and greatest wireless noise-cancelling phones are the QC35's only real challenger so far.

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Bose SoundSport Wireless

These wireless and sweatproof in-ear headphones deliver superior sound and exquisite comfort at a very affordable price.

65 of 69 David Carnoy/CNET

Jaybird X3

Jaybird's best wireless in-ear headphones to date can be found online for as little as $100.

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Audeze Sine

Don't worry about what "planar magnetic" drivers are. Just know they produce amazing sound. And Audeze even offers an iPhone 7-friendly Lightning model, too.

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Vizio M Series 2016

The best picture quality available at anywhere near the price, Vizio's M series has all the 4K and HDR fixins' in addition to a tablet remote.

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Vizio P-Series 2016

A step up in image quality from the M series and better than competing Sony and Samsung TVs that cost even more, Vizio's P is the real deal.

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It's not cheap, but LG's B6 OLED TV makes the best picture quality more affordable than ever, at least in 55-inch and 65-inch sizes.

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