Last but certainly not least, we go to the finale of this series and what most people probably care about and have been waiting for. Gadgets. In case you missed it, we previously covered some good options for bags and accessories which can be found in part 1 and part 2 so without further ado, lets talk gadgets.
Gadgets are probably the most important gear in our daily loadout. From smartphones, laptops, to cameras, they help us get work done. In this list, we try to cover the best and most popular ones for your hard-earned money.
The Inspector Gadget
Probably the most used gadget we have, smartphones have become an integral part of our daily lives. From checking e-mails, communication, media consumption, talking selfies to casual gaming sessions during our commute, everyone has their smartphone stuck to their hands and their eyes glued to its screen.
When it comes to Operating Systems and therefore Ecosystem, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are really the only reasonable choices so lets focus on devices from those two only.
With Apple, it’s fairly straightforward with the company making their own OS and designing the hardware for it, the choice is down to what new iPhone is released during the year, in this case, it’s the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Apple’s latest and greatest packs better performance, better 12MP camera(s) – in the case of the larger Plus model – water resistance, a new home button (sort of) and two new color options; jet black and matte black. Buy unlocked directly from the Apple store for $649 and $769 respectively for the 32GB base model or through a postpaid plan on the carrier of your choice.
If you don’t need to have the latest, bleeding edge technology, you can opt for last year’s 6s and 6s Plus models. They still offer great performance and cameras and they have received a small price cut which makes them an even better option. More importantly, they have something the new 7s don’t have, a headphone jack. You can also buy it unlocked from the Apple store starting at $549 and $649 respectively for the 32GB base model or through carrier postpaid plans.
With Android being an open-sourced OS, means more options as far as hardware goes. The whole Note 7 snafu notwithstanding, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are one of the best phones on Android’s camp. With an amazing 1440p AMOLED display, great 12MP camera, good battery life, great Snapdragon 820 performance, water resistance, and a nice if albeit fingerprint prone all metal and glass build, it is easily one of the most recommendable Android smartphones even towards the end of 2016. With the looming announcement of the new S8 model, expect prices to drop in the near future but for now, you can grab either the S7 or the S7 Edge direct from Samsung for $669 and $649 respectively or through the carrier of your choice under a postpaid plan.
For the Android purists, the venerable and much sought-after Nexus brand is now gone, replaced with the Pixel. With the Pixel, we see what Google is capable of when they have full control of smartphone design and hardware components. The end result is a great smartphone with the best component currently available in the market from the Snapdragon 821 processor, to the AMOLED screen, to the highest-rated DxOMark 12MP camera, and good battery life but it was wrapped around a shell that quite frankly was uninspired and dull and has been met with mixed reception from the tech community and it does not have IP certification which comes standard with most phones today. The biggest point of contention however, was with the price. Starting at $649 and $769 respectively for the 32GB model, it is in direct competition with Apple and even other Android OEMs. Still, the Pixel line is arguably the best phone you can get right now with capable hardware and Android as Google intended it to be.
Chinese startup Oneplus has been making waves in the mobile tech sector in the last few years, offering flagship specs at mid-range prices when it released its first smartphone, the “flagship killer” Oneplus One back in 2014. Two years and 3 (and a half) generations later, Gone is the “flagship killer” moniker, replaced with the Oneplus 3T, an all-around great phone offering great hardware for a great price. With the Nexus brand gone, Oneplus is in a opportune position to take advantage of the space it left behind. At $479 for the top-end 128GB model, you’ll be getting a capable 16MP camera, good battery life, top shelf performance from the Snapdragon 821 chip rivaling the Pixel and the Galaxy line of the Android space in a solidly built, if a little generically designed hardware. It might not be a flagship killer anymore but it is still a flagship phone for a great price.
Our portable work machine away from our desks, laptops have been around for a while now. In the last few years, technology has pushed towards the use of smartphones and other portable devices as a means of communication but also productivity. While these devices have grown in power and utility year after year, they still have their limits as compared to traditional laptops as far as productivity goes. These devices serve to supplement laptops rather than replace them. Whether you’re a designer, a content creator, a writer, or a student, there are multiple choices to fit specific needs so with that in mind, let us check out some good options for laptops worth considering on your next purchase.
This year, Apple announced the discontinuation of the Macbook Air 11. Thankfully, the 13 inch model is still around and while it has not seen a spec bump this year, it is still one of the best ultraportable laptops available today. It is an all-around daily laptop fast enough for basic tasks such as web browsing, word processing, and the occasional media streaming. It is best suited for writers and student who needs something reliable with its thin and lightweight design, good performance, and amazing 12-hour battery life. Starting at $999 for the base model including a 5th gen Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 128GB flash storage and $1199 for double the storage to 256GB. It is not the cheapest option out there but it performs reliably, light enough to carry around and lasts all day.
If you need something more powerful, the recently announced 2016 refresh to the MacBook Pro line-up might be what you’re looking for. Available in both 13 and 15 inch models, the new Pros are geared towards professionals with a 2560 x 1600 (2880 x 1800 for the 15 inch model) display and multiple configurations ranging from an i5 or an i7 processor, 256GB up to 1TB SSD, 8GB up to 16GB of RAM, Radeon Pro 450 or 460 graphics for the 15 inch model and the new Touch Bar and Touch ID for the higher spec’d variants. It won’t come cheap though, with prices starting at $1499 for the base 13 inch model all the way up to $2799 for the 15 inch model with maxed out specs.
Over at Windows’ side, one of the best laptops you can buy for productivity also happens to be a laptop made for gaming. The new Razer “Blade” offers the best balance between portability and power with a 14 inch display with either a standard 1080p display or a 4k touchscreen display, an i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB up to 1TB SSD and a healthy number of ports on each side. All this power packed inside a chassis that is 0.7 inch thin and under a still relatively lightweight 2kg. Starting at $1799 for the base model with a 1080p screen and 256GB SSD, it is directly competing with the new MacBook Pro 13 inch with Touch Bar and ID. The Razer wins out on a few key aspects though as even the base model comes with the i7 processor, 16GB RAM and GTX 1060 GPU combo as standard.
There is also the $3699 Razer Blade Pro variant for even more power and productivity with double the RAM and SSD options and a GTX 1080 GPU. It comes with a 17 inch, 4k touchscreen display and weighs a little over 3.5kg which places it in desktop replacement territory and not really advisable for carrying around.
If you need something more for office use then the options above might too excessive for you. Enter Dell’s new XPS 13 ultrabook, a good alternative to the MacBook Air for Windows users. Starting at $799, you get the company’s “InfinityEdge” 13 inch 1080p display with incredibly thin bezels, making the entire footprint not that much bigger than a 11 inch laptop, a 6th gen Intel i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD, and battery life that will last you well over the work day. Other configurations are also available with a step-up to either an i5 or an i7 processor, double the RAM and SSD, including a 3200 x 1800 touchscreen display for higher-tier variants.
For those on a tight budget, there are some good option under $500 as well. The Asus VivoBook E403SA comes with a 14 inch 1080p display, a quad core Intel Pentium N3700 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of eMMC storage. It can bought directly from Asus for $389 but unfortunately, it is out of stock as of this writing, however it is available through Amazon for a slightly more expensive $419. Even with the small price bump to its usual pricing, it is still a great value laptop under $500 that offers solid performance for basic school or office tasks and a good 9-hour battery life.
If you you really need to squeeze every amount you can on savings, then the Lenovo Ideapad 100S might be a good option for you. It comes with a 11 inch 1366 x 768 display, an Intel Atom quad core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB eMMC storage. Going down to this price point obviously has its compromises. Performance is limited to basic task like web browsing given the processor and RAM combo, only 32GB of storage is available but thankfully, there is a card reader available and one minor annoyance is the lack of gesture support on the touchpad. One saving grace for this laptop is battery life, which comes at around the 9-hour mark. Still, for basic task likes web browsing or word processing, it might be good enough for students on a fixed budget. At $199, it is one of the best options from a known brand that you have right now.
Smartphone photography has come a long way in the last few years, rivaling traditional point and shoot cameras and even some entry level DSLRs. While the gap between the two has narrowed, the level of flexibility and overall performace from compact cameras is still apparent, especially in the mid to high-end enthusiast market. With that in mind, here are some of the best compact cameras that you can buy right now.
The RX100 was first ever enthusiast compact camera to feature a 1 inch type 20.1 MP CMOS sensor with a 28-100mm equivalent F1.8-4.9 lens. While it’s an old model with 4 years under its belt and 4 successors since, the first generation RX100 is still a great option for those looking to dip their toes into the enthusiast compact camera market for the first time with respectable photo and video quality, a fast and bright wide angle lens, a decent sized LCD viewfinder, solid set of features and good battery life. Being an old model, means it has gone through some price cuts which is available right now for under $400 making it an even better option and an enticing first buy.
For those who are looking for better zooming capability than what typical 1-inch type compacts offer but don’t want to lose the form factor and portability, the Panasonic Lumix ZS100 is good middle ground but it does have a caveats however. With the ZS100, you get a 10x zoom, 25-250mm equivalent F2.8-5.9 lens paired with a 20.1MP CMOS sensor. For the added zooming capabilities, you get the tradeoff of a slower lens and generally softer images especially at longer zooms and narrower apertures. The sensor is still a great performer but not the best by today’s standard but nevertheless, most people will be happy with the ZS100’s good photo and 4k video output and the set of features it offers. The ZS100 is a good all-around performer and will satisfy most user’s needs and is a good choice as a travel zoom compact companion. It is available right now for under $700 at Amazon.
For the veteran enthusiasts out there, the Panasonic Lumix LX100 offer a 24 – 75mm equivalent fast and bright f/1.7 aperture wide angle lens paired with a large four thirds 13MP CMOS sensor. It has a rubberized grip for better one-handed operation and it has a great set of features including a hot shoe and shutter speed and exposure compensation dials; zoom lever; and buttons to access complete auto mode and special-effects filter selections at the top. It has both a 3″ LCD viewfinder and an electronic viewfinder at the back along with a thumb-operated button/dial control for direct access to ISO sensitivity, white balance, drive mode and autofocus-area settings. Two buttons for general menu settings and a quick menu setting depending on which mode you are at and three programmable buttons of your choosing. It is available right now for under $700 at Amazon.
You may have noticed that it is the same price as the ZS100 above but make no mistake, these two compacts cater to different users. The ZS100 offers greater 10x zooming at the cost of a lower quality lens and is a great option for travel photography while the LX100 with its admittedly limited 3.1x zoom has a brighter and faster lens and larger, higher quality sensor. The choice comes down to what you need, a good all-around performer with good zoom and good output at full auto which fits with travel photography or a more advanced compact with limited zoom but gives you greater manual control over your shots which can be versatile for different scenarios.
Note: All the products and pricing featured in this article came from Amazon unless otherwise stated and reflects so as of this writing. Please check links for any changes to pricing and availability.