The Best and Worst gadgets of 2018

There was countless gadgets released in 2018. It’s the end of the year so Brian and I rounded up the best of the best and the worst of the worst.
Some where great! Like the Oculus Go. Or the Google Home Hub. But some were junk like the revived Palm or Playstation Classic.

CES 2019 is a few weeks away where manufacturers will roll out most of their wares for the upcoming year. But most products will not be available for purchase for months. What follows is a list of the best and worst gadgets available going into 2019.

Google Home Hub

Google took its sweet time bringing an Echo Show competitor to market. When the Home Hub did finally arrive, however, the company lapped the competition. The smart screen splits the size difference between the Echo Spot and Show, with a form factor that fits in much more comfortable in most home decor.

Assistant still sports a much deeper knowledge base than Alexa, and the Hub offers one not so secret weapon: YouTube. Google’s video service is light years ahead of anything Amazon (or anyone, really) currently offers, and the competition shows no sign of catching up.

DJI Osmo Pocket

I wanted to dislike the Osmo Pocket. I mean, $ 349 for a gimbal with a built in screen is pretty steep by any measure — especially given the fact that the drone maker has much cheaper and more professional options. After an afternoon with the Pocket, however, I was hooked.

The software takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve mastered it, you’re off the races, using many of the same tricks you’ll find on the Mavic line. Time-lapse, FaceTrack and the 10 Story Mode templates are all impressive and can help novices capture compelling video from even the most mundane subject matter.

Oculus Go

The most recent wave of VR headsets has been split between two distinct categories. There are the high-end Rift and Vives on one-side and the super low-cost Daydreams and Gear VRs on the other. That leaves consumers in the unenviable position of choosing between emptying the bank account or opting for a sub-par experience.

Oculus’ Go headset arrived this year to split the difference. In a time when virtual reality seems at the tail end of its hype cycle, the $ 199 device offers the most compelling case for mainstreaming yet.

It’s a solid and financially accessible take on VR that shows that the category may still have a little life left in it yet.

Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack

Granted, it’s not a gadget per se, but the Never Check is the best backpack I’ve ever owned. I initially picked it up as part of a Gift Guide feature I was writing, and I’ve since totally fallen for the thing.

As someone who spends nearly half of his time on the road these days, the bag’s space’s big volume and surprisingly slim profile have been a life saver. It’s followed me to a Hong Kong hostel and a Nigeria hotel, jammed full of all of the tech I need to do my job.

It’s also unassuming enough to be your day to day. Just zip up one of those waterproof zippers to compress its footprint.

Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2

Like most nerds, I have more keyboards than friends. In 2018 I gave mechanical keyboards a chance. Now, at the end of the year, I’m typing on a Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional 2. It’s lovely.

This keyboard features Topre capacitive 45G switches. What does that mean? When typing these switches provide a nice balance of smooth actions and tactile feel. There are a handful of mechanical switches available, and after trying most of them, this switch feels the best to me. The Topre capacitive switch is available in a handful of keyboards, but I like the Happy Hacking Keyboard the best.

The HHK has been around in various forms since 1996 and this latest version retains a lot of the charm including dip switches. Everyone loves dip switches. This version works well with Macs, has two USB ports and is compact enough someone could throw into a bag. Starting just last month, the keyboard is available in the US through Fujitsu so buyers do not have to deal with potentially shady importers.

Worst

Palm

The Palm is the kind of device you really want to like. And I tried. Hell, I took the thing to Africa with me in hopes that I’d be able to give it some second life as an MP3 player. But it feel short even on that front.

This secondary smartphone is a device in search of a problem, appealing to an impossibly thin slice of consumer demographics. It’s definitely adorable, but the ideal consumers has to have the need and money for a second display, no smartwatch and an existing Verizon contract. Even then, the product has some glaring flaws, from more complex user issues to simple stupid things, like a lack of volume buttons.

It’s easy to forgive a lot with a fairly well designed first generation product, but it’s hard to see where the newly reborn company goes from here. Palm, meet face.

RED Hydrogen One

Where to start? How about the price? Red’s first foray into the smartphone space starts at $ 1,293 (or $ 1,595 if you want to upgrade your aluminum to titanium). That price will get you a middling phone with an admittedly fascinating gimmick.

After what seemed like years of teasers, the Hydrogen One finally appeared in October, sporting a big, metal design and Rambo-style serrated edges. The display’s the thing here, sporting a “nano-photonic” design that looks a bit like a moving version of those holographic baseball cards we had as kids.

I showed it to a number of folks during my testing period, and all found it initially interesting, then invariably asked “why?” I’m still having trouble coming up with the answer on that one. Oh, and a few told me they became a touch nauseous looking at it. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess.

Facebook Portal

Why? is really the overarching question in all of these worst devices. It’s not as if the Portal was a bad product. The design of the thing is actually pretty solid — certainly it looks a lot nicer than the Echo Show. And while it was initially lacking in features, Facebook has made for that a bit with a recent software update.

The heart of the question is more about what Portal brings to the table that the Echo Show or Google Home Hub don’t. It would have to be something pretty massive to justify bringing a Facebook-branded piece of hardware into one’s living room, especially in light of all of the privacy concerns the social media site has dealt with this year. There’s never been a great time for Facebook to launch a product like this, but somehow, no feels like the worst.

Portal delivers some neat tricks, including impressive camera tracking and AR stories, but it mostly feels like a tone deaf PR nightmare.

Playstation Classic

1: Half the games are PAL ports and do not run well on US TVs
2: Missing classics like Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot, and Tomb Raider
3: Doesn’t include a power adapter
4: Only one suspend point
5: This product makes me angry

 

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TechCrunch » Gadgets

The Best And Worst Gadgets Of 2013

year-gadget-wrap-feature

2013 was a heady year: a time of hope; a time for sadness; a time for twerking; and a time for doge.

But it was also a time for gadgets. As we wait for 2013 to come to a close and hope for brighter things for the year to come, here’s a look at the gadgets we loved, the ones we hated, and the ones that we found aesthetically offensive.


The Good

fitbit-force

The Fitbit Force

Fitness trackers are many and varied, but Fitbit consistently delivers top-notch hardware. The Fitbit Force is the latest. It takes the successful formula of the wrist-borne Fitbit Flex and adds a basic screen so you can get information right from your wrist, instead of having to open an app on your phone every time you want to check your progress (in more detail than via a few lighted dots).

pebble-outdoors

The Pebble

Many tried to make a smartwatch people wanted to wear and use this year, and many failed. Pebble succeeded. Success for a smartwatch still doesn’t look like massive millions of units sold, but it looks better than when the Pebble team tried this a few years ago with the inPulse smartwatch for BlackBerry. “The what?” you say. Exactly.

ipad-mini-front-hand

iPad mini with Retina Display

The iPad mini with Retina display takes the winning form factor of the original iPad mini and slaps a super high-res screen in there. It’s essentially a no-compromise machine, in that it’s cheaper than the iPad Air, and has the same processor, computing power and battery life. Plus if you have big pockets, it’s pocketable.

raspberry pi CC

Raspberry Pi

Kids need coding skills if they want to survive in our dystopian future. The ability to hack a circuit board could be the difference between eternal servitude and mastery over a private robot army by 2050 and we all know it. This educational tool is the perfect, cheap apocalypse survival kit. It’s technically from last year, but we contend it had more impact this year when production really spooled up.

kindle-paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon knows when it’s got a good thing going. Last year’s Kindle Paperwhite was a good thing, and this year’s update keeps all the good and adds some better stuff. Like faster page refresh, greater text/page contrast and more even lighting.

The Bad

gearhandson4

Samsung Galaxy Gear

Pebble made a good smartwatch, and Samsung made a dumb one. They made weird ads to try to promote their dumb smartwatch, too, which helped nothing and creeped out the entire world. Plus it only works with a small pool of Galaxy devices, and it has terrible battery life and looks awful. Go home Samsung, you’re drunk.

gamestick

Gamestick

“Android-based game console” is a phrase we wrote so many times this year. So. Many. Times. And it turns out, they mostly blow. Atop the pile of those that miss is the Gamestick, a crowdfunded disaster that no one loves.

ouya

Ouya

The Ouya is like the Gamestick, in that it was a disappointing “Android-based game console,” but to its credit, it isn’t the Gamestick. It’s still not great by any stretch of the imagination, but huge hype didn’t help, and it has decent niche appeal for anyone who really likes emulation and would rather have something permanent instead of plugging their phone into their TV repeatedly.

leap motion

Leap Motion

Speaking of startup gadgets that really blew it in 2013, the Leap Motion Controller doesn’t live up to its massive hype at all. Sure, if you’re a billionaire inventor like Tony Stark or Elon Musk it’s great for designing space ships or giant death airships, but for regular people, trying to, say, browse the web, you’re going to try this once, hate it and stick it in a drawer.

The Ugly

digitalpotty

CTA Digital iPotty

Kids need to learn to use the toilet, and they should learn early that they also need to use iPads while they’re doing their business. So why not combine potty training and tablet use into a single device? The answer is that you shouldn’t do this because God will never forgive you if you do.

glass_google_flickr_blue

Google Glass

Maybe face-based computing is going to work eventually, but as-is, Google Glass looks like garbage. It makes your face look bad. Don’t try denying it. Google has released plenty of images of models wearing it and none of them look any good, so you with your normal-person face will look plain ol’ stupid.

lg-g2

LG G2

The LG G2 is a great phone, as it is essentially a slightly improved version of the excellent Nexus 5, albeit with some LG bloatware crud. But LG went out of its mind and put the wake/sleep and volume rocker button on the back, just to infuriate me to the point where I would like to do murder. You couldn’t choose a less ergonomic place to put that button, LG. Not if you ran a thousand focus groups to figure out more inconvenient positioning.

nintendo2ds-screen

Nintendo 2DS

I ain’t mad at you for dropping one of the ‘D’s Nintendo – you never needed three to begin with. And this device is actually pretty great, and I’d buy this instead of a 3DS if I didn’t already have one. Still, it’s not good-looking. It is, in fact, ugly. Good looks cost money, though, so uglification for a budget device may be strategy, not a stupid mistake.

TechCrunch » Gadgets