It was another great year for tech companies with Apple continuing to soar in terms of market capitalization, while Samsung showed that it doesn’t play second fiddle to the Cupertino-based iPhone maker anymore with the launch of Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 smartphones. Google showed us that you don’t need dual-lens setup to produce portrait mode pictures. The search giant has some serious AI software cooking up in its backyard.
Microsoft came out of its silo to launch not only its first laptop but also the most powerful gaming console yet. But the gaming action belonged to Nintendo, which forced to switch their gaming habits with its aptly named hybrid console Switch. Another passing year means drone have to get smaller and DJI launched its smallest drone yet. The palm-sized Spark is not only compact but also an easy to pilot drone. It was also a great year for those looking for televisions with Sony edging out Samsung and LG to launch one of the well-designed 4K TVs of this year.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the top gadgets launched this year.
Nintendo Switch was arguably the most important product launch of this year. While rivals Microsoft and Sony are focused on pushing many many teraflops of performance on their consoles, Nintendo stuck to form over function to deliver a truly hybrid game console. The Switch is designed to be the only console you use at home and while on the go.
The Switch consists of a 6.2-inch tablet that connects with Nintendo’s Joy-Con controllers to become the ultimate portable gaming machine. At home, the tablet can slide into a dock which connects to a TV for a more console-like experience. Apart from the form factor, Switch’s another major selling point is game titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Odyssey.
Nintendo is believed to have sold 10 million units since its launch in March and is expected to get new game titles including Bethesda’s Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and SquareEnix’s Project Octopath Traveler. Nintendo, which sold only 13.6 million units of its Wii U console, over a period of five years needed a standout device and Switch has turned into a savior for the company.
Drones are shrinking in size and becoming easier to fly. The change in the dynamics of drone piloting and designing is spearheaded by one company, DJI. The Shenzhen-headquartered company’s latest drone is even smaller than its previous drone called Mavic Pro and makes palm-sized drone the next big thing in the world of drones.
DJI Spark‘s unique selling point is that it can take off from your palm and doesn’t need a remote control for navigation. It can even be piloted with gestures and includes a 12-megapixel camera capable of shooting 1080p videos at 30 frames per second. Despite its compact form factor, the Spark has a maximum flight time of 16 minutes and has a velocity of 36kmph at 2 meters above ground.
Microsoft Surface Laptop
The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first attempt at a Windows notebook that does not have a tablet or a convertible design. The Surface Laptop brings the design language seen on devices like Surface Book and Surface Pro to clamshell form factor. The laptop can be configured with up to 16GB RAM, 1TB SSD storage and Intel Core i7 processor and it is widely acclaimed as the MacBook Air replacement that Apple is not willing to make.
With Surface Laptop, Microsoft also introduced Windows 10 S, a streamlined version of Windows that only allows users to install apps from Windows Store. Windows 10 S locks users out of apps like Google Chrome, but it is seen as a bold move to convince developers to deliver their apps via Store and not another easily available installer.
Apple iMac Pro
The iMac Pro, which finally became available for order on December 14, is the first workstation-grade desktop computer from Apple in nearly three years. If you are a video or graphics editor then you already what it means to have all that extra processing power. With the new iMac Pro, video editors can now start editing 8K RAW footage while Final Cut Pro editors can edit 360-degree VR videos.
Apple iMac Pro will serve as an interim device before the company launches modular Mac Pro sometime next year. Its availability mainly sends a message that Apple is not neglecting the segment of professional users, who have started looking for better devices and software from the rival camp.
Apple iPhone X
Apple finally redesigned it’s iPhone after nearly four years and it demonstrates what an ideal edge-to-edge smartphone should look like. The most expensive iPhone yet also has new technology like Face ID, which uses specialized sensors placed under the notch, to create 3D model of the user and enable face unlock and mobile payment authentication.
With A11 Bionic chip and dedicated neural processing, the iPhone X also shows Apple’s grand plan to bring AI implementation beyond Siri to its mobile ecosystem. As with any iPhone, the star attraction is the dual rear camera setup with advanced image sensors and signal processors that enable features like portrait lighting mode and slow-sync flash. The fact that Apple iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X are the only phones capable of shooting 4K video at 60 frames per second serves as a testament to how the company continues to think out-of-the-box with its product lineup.
Are cameras dead? Well, the answer is clearly no. While Sony introduced A7R III with twice the resolution of the A9, it is the Nikon that clearly turned into the torchbearer of high-end camera gears. The Nikon D850 comes with a 45.7-megapixel back-side illuminated (BSI) full-frame image sensor and is the successor to D810 and D810A. The camera comes with 9fps continuous shooting at full resolution and has 153 focus points. Nikon is also focusing on videography this time around with features like 4K time-lapse that can be upscaled to 8K playback. The ability to record 4K videos and 1080p slow-motion videos at 120 frames per second is just another advantage.
Nikon has been seen as a laggard when it comes to shooting videos on its DSLR but D850 changes that altogether. Apart from these core features, Nikon D850 is also backward compatible with Nikon’s lens ecosystem, making it a versatile camera for professional photographers.
Sony A1E OLED TV
If 2016 was the year when 4K became commonplace in television then 2017 will be the year when 4K HDR on an OLED panel became commonplace. Samsung, LG and Sony – all rivalled to one-up each other with their own lineup of 4K TVs. However, Sony stunned everyone with its A1 OLED TV that not only supports 4K HDR but also brings award-winning design to the household.
Sony A1 powered by Android comes in 55-inch and 65-inch screen sizes and is powered by company’s X1 Extreme engine. Due to its slim profile, Sony redesigned the audio experience with what it calls Acoustic Surface technology. The sound here comes from the entire screen instead of a set of speakers assembled within the system.
The audio on A1 is more spatial and immersive than most soundbar systems and shows Sony can innovate despite its failing mobile business. Good things never come cheap and Sony A1 is one such good thing that comes with a very hefty price tag.
Xiaomi Mi MIX 2
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 has to be on this list not because it is one very good looking device but for the fact that it initiated the trend where smartphone manufacturers have started trimming or getting rid of bezels. The Mi Mix 2 fixes every noticeable flaw of original Mi Mix by making the smartphone thinner and fixing the piezoelectric audio with an actual microphone.
Xiaomi also continues to stun with its engineering prowess by offering Mi Mix 2 with ceramic unibody, which is unheard of in the smartphone space and brings rigidity to a slim bezel-less smartphone. If Xiaomi needs to improve in an area next year then it would be software. A Mi Mix phone running stock Android and developed in close collaboration with Google would be dream of every Android tech nerd out there.
Microsoft Xbox One X
Xbox One X brings Microsoft back in the game (literally) after falling behind Sony when it comes to who has the most powerful console. The Xbox One X packs six teraflops of performance and can natively playback 4K games. If you ever dreamed of playing Forza in 4K on a 4K TV then that dream has come true.
The Xbox One X not only matches the sheer performance of a high-end gaming PC but comes in a relatively sleek package. The Xbox One X should be the console of choice until Sony comes with an even powerful version of its PlayStation.
Amazon Echo (Second Generation)
2017 was the year of digital assistants and artificial intelligence powering them. While Siri changed its sound on iOS and Google brought an enhanced assistant to Android, the year belonged to Alexa, which has been making its way into households for some time now.
With Echo, Amazon remains the undisputed market leader in the smart speaker space. It pioneered the segment and continues to set the benchmark with its second-generation Echo series. Amazon has tweaked the design making them more attractive not only in terms of look, but also in terms of how they sound. It also introduced new Echo speakers this year with standalone screens suggesting the e-commerce giant is ready to hook people into its ecosystem.