My Picks for Best Gadgets of 2012

My Picks for Best Gadgets of 2012As another year is coming to a close as we head quickly into a busy holiday season. This has been a very busy year for the tech industry. Advances have put more powerful computers in our pockets, better cameras in our bags, and another wave of gaming systems that crank out even more FPS than we could ever ask for.

2012 has thus far been a wild ride. The release of Windows 8 in addition to an increasingly strong tablet market has changed the way many analysts think about the future of computing. One can only guess what 2013 will bring, but for now we have a stunning selection of gadgets to choose from this holiday season.

Here are my top pics for 2012.

Best Full-Size Tablet: Apple iPad Fourth Generation

The fourth generation iPad features a stunning A6X processor and hits all the points of a solid tablet. Where it might be a toss-up between the Nexus 10 and the iPad, the edge in this one comes down to sheer numbers. With over 250,000 apps made specifically for the tablet form factor in iOS, it’s hard to deny that Apple has a leg up in terms of app support on the tablet.

The Microsoft Surface also came close here, but ongoing issues with performance and an inherent manufacturing problem with the touch keyboards makes it a gadget I wouldn’t personally recommend until the next generation is available.

I’m Android user at home, and while I do enjoy many of the exclusive features on my Android tablet, the available apps on iOS make the fourth generation iPad my pick for 2012.

Best Budget Tablet: Google Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 was Google’s first official hardware entry into the tablet market. Recent revisions in late 2012 have only improved on what began as a stunning budget tablet. On the specs sheet, it blows away anything else in its price range, and the fact that it is supported directly by Google only makes it that much more appealing.

The iPad mini is too expensive to be considered a budget tablet. At over $320, it falls in the same price category as other full-featured tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab. I wouldn’t count it out as a favorite choice during the holidays, but it just doesn’t quite match the value of the Nexus 7.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD is also a good choice, but many users find the Amazon branch of Android too limiting and focused on content consumption rather than creation.

Best Smartphone: Google Nexus 4

I had a very hard time determining a victor in this category. I’ve been using the LG Optimus G (a cousin to the Nexus 4) for the past week and feel that if it came with Android Jelly Bean it would easily take this pole position due to its inclusion of LTE and microSD.

That said, the Nexus 4 delivers the best Android has to offer with a stunning display, camera, and a processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4) which is boasted to be the fastest found in any smartphone today.

The iPhone 5 may well become the best-selling phone out of any released in 2012, but with iOS and Android coming so close in terms of capabilities and app support (for smartphones, at least) the edge has to go to the device with double on-board RAM and a better off-contract price tag.

The Samsung Galaxy S III deserves some honorable mention here, as well. It was the best-selling smartphone of Q3 2012, and is a feature-packed monster that is sure to maintain its significance well into 2013.

Best Laptop: Apple MacBook Pro 15″ with Retina

I have to give the title of the best laptop to the new flagship of Apple’s portable lineup. The 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display is a stunning representation of clever engineering coupled with an artist’s vision. There are plenty of excellent Windows-based PCs on the market which can boast better specs, but these plastic systems pale in comparison when the 15″ Retina display comes into the picture.

Early graphics stutter might cause pause to any early adopter, and the premium price could cause even the most liberal spender to consider other options. It all comes down to offering the most in terms of pixel density and portability. This lightweight and extremely pixel dense laptop is undoubtedly going to be the one PC OEMs will be fighting against in 2013.

Best Gaming System: Falcon Northwest Tiki

When the term “boutique computer” comes to mind, you might be thinking about overpriced mid-range systems that feature the best design with specs that would have been impressive a few years ago. This isn’t the case with Falcon Northwest and its new Tiki system. This 4-inch wide desktop sits on a natural granite stone base to keep it from being knocked over.

This slim design doesn’t come with any sacrifice in performance. An Intel 3rd Generation Core i7 processor is coupled with a series 600 NVIDIA GeForce graphics card to deliver class-leading performance in a small package. Each Tiki is configured to the user’s desired specs with up to 16 GB of RAM and three hard drives (2x solid-state and 1x hard disk drive).

It may not be the most budget-friendly gaming system on the market, but it certainly packs enough of a punch to keep the player happy for several years.

Best Standard Desktop: Apple iMac (2012)

It’s difficult not to be impressed with the design of the latest iMac. With an edge thickness of just 5mm, it’s hard to imagine it would have any actual performance to speak of. The iMac actually does deliver in this area, and with the Fusion Drive, a performance level similar to that of SSD can be achieved without sacrificing storage capacity.

The market appears to be shifting to all-in-ones. The Dell XPS One 27″ is another great candidate for the top spot in this category. One major advantage of the Dell system is an integrated touchscreen which promises to improve the overall Windows 8 experience.

For me, it’s hard to look mast the clever design of the new iMac.

Best DSLR: Canon 5D Mark III

The Canon 5D Mark II changed the way an industry thought about DSLR cameras. The 5D Mark III is a much-anticipated upgrade to a camera that introduced video to DSLR. Now, video is a feature most users expect to see in a camera. Commercials, television shows, and even some feature films have been shot on Canon EOS hardware, emphasizing the advantages of having a good sensor coupled with a series of excellent lenses. Traditional camcorders available at consumer prices leave you stuck with the lens that came with the camera. For a similar price to that of a decent consumer camcorder, you can enjoy a range of different shooting possibilities thanks to the advances made in the EOS line.

You might be wondering what makes the Canon 5D Mark III better than the more reasonably priced 5D Mark II. Quicker autofocus is key to recording solid video and taking better photographs. Manual focus is great when you have a controlled subject, but any sports photographer will tell you that quick autofocus and improved burst shooting is vital to capturing the perfect shot.

41 cross-type focus points, 61 individual focus points, integrated HDR, much higher ISO capability, and a 6 FPS burst rate makes the Canon 5D Mark III my top pick of 2012.

Arguably, the DSLR world is beginning to see stronger competition from mirrorless cameras, though it’s hard to argue with the sheer performance increase offered by a full-frame DSLR.

Best Portable Media Player: Apple iPod touch (2012)

Portable media players are an excellent choice for students and folks that just don’t want to invest in a smartphone. There is very little you can’t do with an iPod touch that you could do with a smartphone.

The new iPod touch delivers a lot of what people loved about the iPhone 4S to the media player market. An excellent processor, camera, and plenty of available apps makes it a touch option to beat.

There is an Android alternative. The Samsung Galaxy Player is an excellent alternative for Android fans.

Best E-Reader: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

I can’t consciously call the Kindle Fire HD or Nook Tablet an e-reader. These devices have become so much more than simple readers. When it comes to just reading books, it’s very hard to overlook the current e-ink options available to the consumer.

Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have plenty of options available, but I can’t help but to give my pick to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. It glows in the dark, lasts a month (even with the light on) and connects you directly to the greater Amazon Kindle library of books.

These are my picks for the best gadgets of 2012. What are yours?

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • Vincent Perkins

    Surprise you guys haven’t covered the wii u, and what effects that might have on the tablet market. Any way good write up.

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Ryan Matthew Pierson

      I wish I knew more about the Wii U. I haven’t kept up with the console or portable gaming market much since I stopped running a gaming blog. Perhaps I should brush up, eh? Thanks. :)

  • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

    Good list.

    I’d say the Nikon D4 deserves at least an honourable mention, and whilst I am still in the subject of cameras maybe there should be a mirrorless/compact camera category. DSLRs might still be selling like hotcakes, but mirrorless systems are gaining lots of fans.

    I’d personally separate desktops and all in ones, as nice as the Apple iMac and Dell XPS One 27″ are I don’t really think of them as pure desktops. Tough though, the only desktop I recall being launched in 2012 with any pizazz was the Alienware X51.

    A for gaming system I would have awarded that to the iPhone 5… lol… Only joking, but I’m just a casual gamer and my gaming takes place on my phone :)

    As for the MacBook Pro with Retina display, I’m not sure this is deserving of the award as there are plenty of reports of laggy scrolling. I’m 100% in agreement in that when it comes to buying a laptop the quality of the display is paramount, but I think that perhaps Apple needs to sort this issue first before crowning the MacBook Pro the best of the best. Otherwise the machine has a lot going for it, great chassis, nice keyboard, 16:10 display (thank goodness!), etc…

  • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

    Good list.

    I’d say the Nikon D4 deserves at least an honourable mention, and whilst I am still in the subject of cameras maybe there should be a mirrorless/compact camera category. DSLRs might still be selling like hotcakes, but mirrorless systems are gaining lots of fans.

    I’d personally separate desktops and all in ones, as nice as the Apple iMac and Dell XPS One 27″ are I don’t really think of them as pure desktops. Tough though, the only desktop I recall being launched in 2012 with any pizazz was the Alienware X51.

    A for gaming system I would have awarded that to the iPhone 5… lol… Only joking, but I’m just a casual gamer and my gaming takes place on my phone :)

    As for the MacBook Pro with Retina display, I’m not sure this is deserving of the award as there are plenty of reports of laggy scrolling. I’m 100% in agreement in that when it comes to buying a laptop the quality of the display is paramount, but I think that perhaps Apple needs to sort this issue first before crowning the MacBook Pro the best of the best. Otherwise the machine has a lot going for it, great chassis, nice keyboard, 16:10 display (thank goodness!), etc…

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Ryan Matthew Pierson

      There is a lot more to the MacBook Pro than the monitor. It packs serious processing power, incredible design, and that asymmetrical fan really does cut down on the turbine sound.

  • dwick_OR

    Well… at a minimum base price of $2200 that can easily top $3000 configured, saying a 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina is the best laptop is a bit like saying the $1.4M Maybach Landaulet is the best 4-door sedan. At that price, it should be! So tell me something I didn’t know.

    Laptops are a commodity and it’s a small segment of the market indeed that is going to spend $2200++ for a luxury model these days. This article would be more useful/informative on this point if you had split the laptop category into perhaps a premium model for the 2% and a best one for the rest of us.

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Ryan Matthew Pierson

      Actually, Apple surpassed any other manufacturer as the best-selling brand of laptop computers. More MacBooks are in the wild now than any other portable PC. To say that these make up a small segment of the market would be a bit harsh considering it’s leading the market.

      • dwick_OR

        Are you including iPads in those Apple laptops sold numbers?

        Anyway, I didn’t say ALL MacBooks were a small segment of the market – just those $2200++ Retina jobbies. The overwhelming majority of MacBook units sold are Air and 13″ Pro models (e.g., 15″ Retina is #20 on Amazon best-selling list…)

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Ryan Matthew Pierson

      I’d add one thing, though… In terms of performance per buck I would have to throw a nod to Alienware and Asus for their gaming laptops. There are some smaller brands out there making great strides in the gaming laptop world, but having owned both an Asus and an Alienware in the past five years, I’d have to say these are SOLID choices for Windows users.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

        I guess the issue is that it really depends what you are after, for me now that the MacBook Air can be had with 8Gb of RAM that makes it the most desirable MacBook for everyday use. But others might prefer what the Pro has to offer.

        As for the Alienware range, true, awesome range on many fronts. But with the M11x dead the range is lacking a candidate that’s easily portable.

        Don’t forget the Dell XPS 13 either, with the Gorilla Glass, machined aluminium and carbon fibre combo feeling like a million bucks it is not to be sneezed at if you are a Windows user.

        Lastly you cannot forget laptop “workstations” like the ThinkPad W530 and the Dell Precision M4700. For some users nothing else will do.

        Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the MBP isn’t worthy of a top award. What I like about it is that it strikes a great balance between being a work powerhouse and an entertainment laptop.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Zozman Zoran Zivanovic

        I have to agree with the choice, I have the current Asus lamborghini gaming laptop, 16GB or ram 3GB GPU & SSD drive.
        I love the massive beast, then i got the retina macbook pro, 16GB of ram.
        Im running bootcamp, i loaded borderlands 2 on both systems, my retina pro kills the asus, im running borderlands 2 at full res on the retina & its going awesomely, The asus not so much, i had to lower some settings & the res isnt as high.
        The asus gets 40 mins batt life, the retina pro gets 5 hours or so.
        Size wise i could stack 4 retina pros on top of eachother for the size of the lambo & the price is really similar.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Zozman Zoran Zivanovic

        I have to agree with the choice, I have the current Asus lamborghini gaming laptop, 16GB or ram 3GB GPU & SSD drive.
        I love the massive beast, then i got the retina macbook pro, 16GB of ram.
        Im running bootcamp, i loaded borderlands 2 on both systems, my retina pro kills the asus, im running borderlands 2 at full res on the retina & its going awesomely, The asus not so much, i had to lower some settings & the res isnt as high.
        The asus gets 40 mins batt life, the retina pro gets 5 hours or so.
        Size wise i could stack 4 retina pros on top of eachother for the size of the lambo & the price is really similar.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

      It was about picking the best, but yeah. Perhaps budget, mid-range, and top end would be fairer. But I suspect that Ryan could then write a whole book about choosing the right laptop :) There’s just too many variables.

      • dwick_OR

        I guess I just have a problem with the semantics of calling something that can cost upwards of $3000 a ‘gadget’… heh!

        • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

          Its difficult, money is relative. To middle class people in first world countries a MacBook Pro 13 is relatively affordable. To most of the world, it isn’t.

          • dwick_OR

            Fine… but we were talking about a MacBook Pro 15 here, not a 13.

          • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

            Typo. But it doesn’t matter, money is relative, you could replace MacBook Pro 13 with Ferrari and middle class with wealthy. The point is that to some people it is nothing and to others totally unattainable.

          • Linda Blair

            Upper middle class maybe.

  • http://twitter.com/decio_crytek Décio Costa Arruda

    On the best smartphone there’s a mistake. It actually has a “Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4 Pro”, not a “Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4″. The difference is majorly the fact that the pRO VERSION IS QUAD-CORE.

  • http://twitter.com/decio_crytek Décio Costa Arruda

    On the best smartphone there’s a mistake. It actually has a “Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4 Pro”, not a “Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4″. The difference is majorly the fact that the pRO VERSION IS QUAD-CORE.

  • jbrow45

    In the media world your assessment might be correct. But for the rest of the world Apple products are like buying brown shoes to wear with a tuxedo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.brady.16718 Thomas Brady

    Asus TF700 beats the ipad easily in so many ways HDMI etc.