Here at CNET, we reviewed hundreds of products in 2014 -- everything from smartphones and 4K TVs to LED light bulbs and coffee makers. What follows are our favorite products of the year -- the highest-rated reviews, and the ones that had staying power in their respective categories, as chosen by our expert team of editors and reviewers throughout 2014. Products are presented in no particular order, but grouped together by category.
We'll kick things off with our favorite TVs of 2014.
Superb picture quality powered by the local dimming of its full-array LED backlight makes the M series one of the best-reviewed TVs of the year. No, it's not quite as good a value as the company's E series, but its slightly better picture and sweeter styling tip the scales in favor of the M.
Our favorite big-screen app platform is Roku, but until the TCL Roku TV came along, you needed to connect a box (or stick) to your TV to get it. Now you can get all 1,700+ Roku apps, best-in-class input management and unparalleled ease of use built right into the TV. It doesn't hurt that TCL built it for a bargain price.
Best. Picture. Ever. If anything more needs be said, it's that LG's 55-inch OLED is the least expensive of its kind -- albeit still crazy at $3,500. Forget that it's relatively small, curved and "only" 1080p. None of that matters in the face of this TV's insane contrast, perfect black levels and gobsmackingly good images.
When the Fire TV box debuted with its Amazon-centric interface, "microconsole" gaming aspirations and $99 price, we were underwhelmed. Despite excellent voice search and speedy response time, it was just another streamer. But the stick, which offers almost as much functionality for a breakthrough $40 price, is suddenly very appealing, especially since HBO Go is promised in spring 2015.
Sure, the Fire TV is the new stick in town, but the Roku is still our favorite. Thanks to a software update it's plenty fast in its own right and, most importantly, runs circles around the Fire TV's app selection. Add in Roku's content-agnostic, fully customizable interface and best-in-class search (accessible via voice from Roku's app) and Roku remains the champ.
Are you, or do you know a "cord cutter?" Then chances are you know about the Channel Master DVR +. This great flat box allows you to record over-the-air HDTV from an antenna just like a TiVo, but it has one massive advantage over the Kleenex of DVRs: No monthly fee, for anything, ever. Yes you have to BYO hard drive, but that's a small price to pay for the joys of time-shifting and blasting through commercials (cough, Hulu Plus, cough).
The latest evolution of Harmony's category-leading universal remotes offers control of select smart-home devices, too (think Wi-Fi light bulbs and Nest Thermostats), but that's not why we gave it our Editors' Choice Award. What we loved was the ease of setup using the iOS or Android app, which also allows full control of your devices from a phone or tablet from anywhere in the house.
In the home audio realm, the Pioneer SP-SB03 is our pick for the best sound base of 2014. If -- like most people -- you aren't going to wall-mount your TV and will watch mainly movies, the Pioneer SP-SB03 is an excellent upgrade to the crummy sound emanating from your flat-panel's speakers.
While you don't necessarily need it for a budget component, one of the most requested features in sound bars and sound bases is HDMI switching. If you only have a couple of hundred dollars to spend on a sound base, the Sony HT-XT1 offers not only HDMI inputs but good sound and attractive styling.
Just when we thought that Pioneer had the budget sound accessory picks all tied up with both a sound bar and sound base, along came Yamaha with its excellent YAS-203. It kicks both the Pioneers to the curb for home cinema bombast, and has some thoughtful features unseen in similar products.
If you care about sound but don't want to take out a mortgage on your house to get close to audio nirvana, then the SVS Prime Towers offer audiophile quality for less than a grand. Great-looking and excellent-sounding, nothing near the price can compete with them for either scale or detail.
TDK Life on Record TREK Max A34 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker
Numerous water-resistant and waterproof wireless speakers hit the market in 2014, but TDK Life on Record's Trek Max A34 stands out for its design, performance and affordable price point. It's not a huge advancement over the previous A33, but the little improvements certainly made a difference.
Bose didn't make any changes to its highly rated SoundLink Mini, but it did come out with a whole new version of its larger portable speaker, with modest improvements that kept it near the top of the portable Bluetooth pack.
Meanwhile, Bose is loosening up a bit and trying to appeal to a younger audience. Case in point: its $130 SoundLink Color, which not surprisingly comes in multiple color options and offers very good sound for its size.
From wireless speakers to wireless headphones: Say what you will about the high price of the Beats Studio Wireless, but it really is an excellent Bluetooth headphone that offers good comfort and build quality along with strong battery life, impressive sound and a little noise-canceling thrown into the mix.
There aren't a lot of great on-ear wireless headphones out there, but Bose, somewhat new to the wireless headphone game, has a winner with the SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth, which offers both excellent sound and comfort.
Most in-ear Bluetooth sports headphones have some flaws and Plantronics BackBeat Fit certainly isn't perfect, but it offers a comfortable, secure fit, and decent sound for a reasonable price. That makes it a best bet (at least for 2014) in this growing category.
Wired headphones were no slouch in 2014, either. We like all of Grado's headphones, but we're highlighting the SR80e, because you'll be hard-pressed to find a headphone that sounds this good for less than $100.
Bose arguably has the best noise-canceling technology, and its headphones are among the most comfortable out there. With the QuietComfort 25, the company went with a more aggressive sound profile that makes it a more exciting headphone while slightly improving the noise cancelation.
iPhone naysayers may mock Apple's cult following and cautious approach to adding features and larger screens, yet year after year, the iPhone is a mass-market sellout that for many sets the standard for what an all-around smartphone should be. For example, while other smartphone makers battle over camera megapixels, Apple steadily improves image quality with the same 8 megapixels as before. Apple may be late getting Android and Windows Phone features like NFC, but it makes up for this tardiness by integrating a truly useful feature, Apple Pay, which triggers payments with a press of the finger. (The 6 was our only Editors' Choice Award-winning phone of 2014.)
Apple's better-late-than-never answer to "phablets" comes in the form of a 5.5-inch version of the iPhone 6. Its large, high-definition screen finally gives iPhone fans the display real estate they've craved, with access to all of iOS. The 6 Plus one-ups the iPhone, too, with optical image stabilization for that rear camera. Just one word to the wise: be careful where you put it when you sit.
The line that popularized supersize phone screens isn't just the best "phablet" of 2014, it’s also one of the best smartphones of any size. Top-tier specs in every category meet a 5.7-inch screen and a metal-framed body that feels as balanced as it looks. Yes, the Note 4 is pricier than many other handsets, but its functional stylus pen still brings the category something that no other phone on the market has: the ability to literally make your mark on the phone.
Samsung's spring flagship is smaller and more affordable than the Note 4, the perfect pocket phone for people looking for an Android handset with a little bit more. The "more" in this case refers to the S5's water-resistant chassis and boatload of extra hardware and software, which lets you do everything from track your heart rate to stash away personal files into a private locker.
Sleek, edgy design is one reason to love the Xperia Z3. Other reasons are its 20.7-megapixel camera and clear, HD screen. Its long, strong battery life is yet another plus, and for PS4 gamers, the remote link-up to your titles is a perk no other phone company can offer.
As far as we're concerned, poor, embattled HTC has the most sumptuous mix of hardware and software. This 5-inch One M8 is the phone we want to hold and pocket, and it's backed by powerful internals that more than hold their own in this cutthroat industry. Bonus: by the end of the year, you could pick and choose between the Android or Windows version (shown here).
Tap and the locked screen lights up. Tap again and it blinks out. This seemingly minor innovation turns out to be a real boon, and one of the most distinguishing features of this LG flagship. Rear button controls and saturated metallic colors on a rounded body make the G3 one of the most elegant handsets you can get for the price. A well-rounded feature set, from its 5.5-inch display details to its swift quad-core processor, make the G3 deserving of its place as one of the year's best phones.
Yes, even in the smartphone era, a dSLR still blows away your Instagram shots. Although it's on the pricey side for a lot of folks, the D750 delivers the best combination of performance, features and image quality -- photo and video -- for a full-frame camera in its price class that we've seen thus far.
The LX100 was a latecomer in 2014 but made quite an entrance. It introduced a relatively large Four Thirds sensor to the enthusiast compact camera market, delivering very good performance and excellent photo and video quality in one of the best-designed bodies in its class. Though it's fairly expensive, Panasonic didn't skimp on features: it's got an electronic viewfinder, fast lens and 4K video, to name just a few.
While the Hero4 Black is the top of the line, it's also $500. The Silver comes in at $400, but has many of the same features as the Black, has excellent video quality, and perhaps most importantly, has a built-in touchscreen.
Tiny, splashproof and with killer video quality, the Mini (aka the HDR-AZ1) is a powerful POV camera that can be mounted just about anywhere thanks to its lightweight, slim design. Oh, it can livestream your video, too.
If you've ever used a camera with a long-zoom lens, you know that it can be tough to keep your subject in frame when zoomed in. To help with this on its 50x zoom SP-100, Olympus put an eye-level targeting system that lets you put crosshairs on your subject, getting it back in frame. It works and it's awesome.
You'll have no trouble finding rugged point-and-shoots, but because of their sealed-up designs, their zoom ranges are pretty limited. Not the S1, though: it is the first weather-resistant 50x megazoom. Don't expect to go diving with it, but it will handle standing in the rain and snow, as well as dusty environments, without a problem.
From cameras to PCs: With a thin watchband-like 360-degree hinge, this lightweight hybrid is a serious contender for our favorite mobile PC of the year, even if the new Intel Core M platform inside it led to shorter battery life than we'd like. That said, it still looks and feels great, and everyone who picks it up does a double take because of how light it is.
After nearly one year of previews, this console-like mini desktop PC finally shipped -- albeit without the Steam OS, which has been delayed to 2015. It really did make it easy to play PC games on a TV, once you get past the setup process, and could very well change the future of living room gaming.
Anyone looking for bold new MacBook or iMac designs from Apple this year (or last year) will be disappointed, but the internal upgrade to a bold 5K (as in 5,120x2,880) display on the high-end 27-inch iMac is stunning to see, especially close up. Unless you're editing 4K video and have a big budget, it's a purchase that's hard to justify, but it's great for bragging rights.
At first, 2013 seemed like the year of the Chromebook. Now it looks like 2014 is actually when these small, low-cost, online-only laptops finally came into their own, with value-packed models such as this 11-inch from Toshiba with a full-HD display, a feature rarely found at this price.
One of the more pleasant surprises this year, the $199 11-inch HP Stream, a full Windows PC that's priced like a Chromebook, was decently constructed and ran for 8 hours on our tough battery test. Sure, it won't do much more than surf the Web, but it exceeded our modest expectations by a lot.
From hybrid PC tablets to "pure" tablets, the king stays the king for a reason. The Apple iPad Air 2 is the fastest model yet and, true to form, its ultraslim and lightweight design makes it a high-end stunner. If you're already wrapped into the iOS ecosystem, the iPad Air 2 is a no-brainer.
After being fairly skeptical about the first and second generations of Microsoft's laptop/tablet hybrid, the third model scores by upgrading to a higher-resolution screen and slimmer body with an adjustable kickstand. The design is so flexible, it works nearly everywhere (except perhaps in your lap), and it has the horsepower to run full-fledged PC tasks with no problem.
Don't judge a tablet by its minimal looks. The Google Nexus 9 is a sleekly subdued slate with cutting-edge specs, fast performance and the latest version of Android 5.0 Lollipop. As a Google-branded tablet, it'll also receive the latest updates to make sure things stay smooth and speedy.
Gamers, rejoice! The Nvidia Shield tablet is the best gaming tablet we've seen. In addition to its comfy wireless controller, exclusive Grid gaming service (think Netflix for games) and swift performance, it's also a great tablet for everyday casual use. The latest OTA update features an upgrade to Android Lollipop 5.0, and it's available in a 4G LTE model.
Hands down, out of all the tablets, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S slates boast the most eye-watering HD screens. The 8.4- and 10.5-inch pair rock super-AMOLED displays that are vibrant and colorfully saturated, with deep black levels you can really get lost in. It also doesn't hurt that they're some of the lightest and slimmest slates around.
If you believe you get what you pay for, the Fire HD tablets won't disappoint you bargain hunters out there. The 6- and 7-inch tablets start at competitively low prices and offer the easy-to-navigate, content-rich features we're used to seeing on Amazon tablets. If you're looking for something portable and affordable for basic use, like streaming video and e-mail, the Fire HD 6 and 7 are a budget shoppers dream come true.
E-book aficionados finally have a high-end e-reader to splurge on. The pricey, but premium, Kindle Voyage is thin and lightweight, with a high-resolution display and adaptive front light that adjusts depending on the environment you're in. As an Amazon tablet, you can also take advantage of Kindle Unlimited, a subscription book service with hundreds of thousands of books.
2014 was supposed to be the breakout year for wearables and smartwatches, and while we got plenty of products, there were few standouts. The Pebble Steel was definitely one them, thanks to better battery life, an always-on screen, classy design and a swim- and shower-friendly water-resistant chassis. Toss in improved firmware, including new continuous step-tracking and fitness apps, and you've got the best at-a-glance smartwatch around. And it works with iOS and Android, too.
It's affordable, it's easy, and you can swim with it: Misfit's little tracker counts steps and tracks sleep, and comes with wristband and clip accessories in the box. It's basically last year's Misfit Shine, but less expensive and made of plastic. It's one of the best little cheap pedometers around.
Android Wear is a work in progress, but has a ton of potential...and it's getting better every day. Just be aware you need an Android watch to pair with it. Our current favorite of the half-dozen or so Android Wear watches we've seen is the LG G Watch R: it looks like a regular sports watch, has a crisp round display and has heart-rate monitoring, too.
If you can afford spending up and are interested in a regular watch that also happens to track basic fitness, the Activité folds a pedometer and automatic sleep-tracking into a waterproof sapphire-crystal-covered stainless-steel watch with leather straps. A second dial shows daily fitness-goal progress. The hands are analog but are set via Bluetooth with a fitness app that it also syncs with. Meet the stealth smartwatch.
One of the big under-the-radar stories of 2014 was the falling price of flash storage: The Samsung SSD 850 Evo comes with the price of a budget solid-state drive but has the features and performance of the high-end Samsung SSD 850 Pro drive.
The Extreme Pro from SanDisk is a high-end solid-state drive and the one that delivers the best performance. On top of that, it was the first drive that included a 10-year warranty, and most importantly, it's more affordable than competitors.
Asus AC2400 RT-AC87U Dual-band Wireless Gigabit Router
Our favorite home networking product of 2014 was the Asus RT-AC87U. It's one of the first quad-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi routers on the market, delivering the top speed of up to 1,733Mbps on the 5GHz frequency band and up to 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. This means two things. First, you don't really need it since there are currently no quad-stream Wi-Fi clients yet. But secondly, the router will future-proof you for at least a few years to come. The main reason why it's a great router, however, is the fact that it performs very well, has great range and includes an excellent set of features.
With most smartphones being capable of working as mobile hotspots (or personal hotspots), most of us don't really need a standalone cellular mobile router anymore. However, if you have a lot of Wi-Fi-only tablets and want to get all of them online at the same while on the go, the Verizon Jetpack MiFi 6620L is the best choice. This compact device supports up to 16 Wi-Fi clients at time, delivers superfast 4G LTE Internet speed and is even unlocked (you can use it with other GSM carriers). But most importantly, it has an outstanding battery life of some 20 hours of nonstop working and can even be used as a juice pack to charge another mobile device.
The smart home is an evolution, not an event -- and 2014 saw some notable smart products hit the market. Taking care of one of the most important aspects of the smart home -- security -- the August Smart Lock keeps old fashioned functionality in place while adding Bluetooth connectivity. Have the door unlock automatically when you approach with an armful of groceries, and hand out digital keys to guest and family members. The August Smart Lock comes with the brains and brawn to work well and make a great addition to your smart home.
Plenty of connected cams promise to keep their eyes on your home while you can't, but the Belkin Netcam HD+ offers high-end features like night vision and two-way talk for the relatively low cost of $130. The images come through clearly and the push notifications proved reliably snappy. You can trust this Netcam to be a watchful sentry.
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Offering the power and price of unconnected window units, adding the app-enabled controls of the Wi-Fi-connected Quirky Aros should be an easy decision for anyone looking for a little extra convenience in their cooling. Remote controls, scheduling and budget tracking help complete this appealing package of smart temperature control.
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Ready to swap out those old incandescent light bulbs? If so, your timing couldn't be better. LED design keeps improving as prices continue to drop. The Osram 60W LED encapsulates this with its $10 price and great design. It's efficient, it dims well, and it's nice and bright. For a safe foray into the next gen of lighting, check out this very solid option.
If you’re ready to invest in LEDs and you're OK with paying a little more for the best, look no further than the GE Reveal BR30 LED. This Editors' Choice Award-winning bulb shows colors beautifully, and can dim to a full range of brightness levels with nary a flicker. It impressed in each and every one of our tests and this great bulb is well worth the $18 you'll spend to get it.
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GE Profile Built-In Double Convection Wall Oven PT9550SFSS
For a great oven that can add some smarts to your meal planning, the GE Profile Built-In makes a solid buy. It's definitely high-end, but it packs in convection cooking, steam cleaning and an LED status bar to provide plenty of justification for its price. On top of that, you can control it via the Brillion app, allowing you to change the temperature remotely and be sure you turned the oven off after you've left the house.
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Cooking a full-size turkey in less than an hour gives this countertop pressure cooker plenty of appeal. With the look of an old-fashioned microwave, the Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven can do anything a normal oven can do, but the pressure element lets it go faster and helps it keep in more flavor. It's costly, but if you're an avid home cook, this machine will be well worth it.
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In a performance league all of its own, this premium machine cooks a chicken with legendary deliciousness. It unanimously won the blind office taste tests, and the simple but elegant design helps it look the part of the designer oven. If cost is no issue, the Dacor Renaissance proves itself as quite the premium oven in cooking capability.
Published:Caption:CNET staffPhoto:Colin West McDonald/CNET
The sous vide style of cooking is becoming increasingly popular, thanks in large part to consumer-friendly devices like the Anova One Sous Vide Circulator. Attach this device to any stock pot in your house, and you're ready to make gourmet eggs or steak cooked precisely to temperature. The Anova lets you keep a wide range of water levels in the pot and keeps the temperature right where you want it, making this a smart circulator to start in on sous vide.
Bonavita brings superb coffee to your countertop with its fantastically priced and highly-capable Bonavita BV 1900TS. For $190, this simply designed drip machine brews up a delectable cup of joe, so good, in fact, that this coffee machine earned our Editors' Choice Award. Gourmet coffee just became accessible.
With a price of just $800 the Da Vinci 1.0 AiO is by far the most affordable full-featured 3D printer on the market. But it's also one of the best. The machine can print very large objects with great detail. It also prints fast (for a 3D printer) and works consistently right out of the box. But there's more: it also works as a 3D scanner. In short, this is the best deal in 3D printing to date.
2014 was also the year CNET started reviewing drones -- and if you considered buying a flying camera this year, the Vision+ was probably at the top of your list, and for good reason. The ready-to-fly quadcopter is well designed for rookie pilots thanks to its easy setup, smart safety features and preassembled gimbal and full-HD video camera.
Squeaking into the top list with a mid-December release is the Samsung Gear VR. Yes, you need a Galaxy Note 4 to use it, and yes, there's very little immersive content so far. But this Oculus-powered virtual-reality accessory was one of the most promising gadgets we played with in 2014. It's a great preview of a promising 2015 -- and proof positive that we're truly living in the future.
2014 was the first full year of games for the new PS4 and Xbox One, and even the Wii U had a nice comeback of sorts. Check out our picks for the best games of 2014 (including Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, shown here).