Around this time each year, the editors at PCWorld and TechHive gather to recognize the best new tech products—the hardware, software, gadgets, and devices that had the biggest impact on the world. The process starts out casually enough, because editors get to name their favorites from their respective beats, and everything is included in the first pass.
But passions rise when the time comes to winnow what inevitably becomes a very long list to just 100 new products. There’s a fervent back and forth as the editors make their cases as to why their product should remain on the list—and someone else’s should be whacked. Staff alliances form and dissolve as editors strategize how they’ll win the day for their picks.
A list with 100 computers, smartphones, printers, cloud services, and other great products inexorably emerges over the course of a few weeks. But that’s only half the battle, because the editors must now decide the order of importance that each product holds. That came together surprisingly quickly this year—at least for the top 10 products. As for the other 90; well, let’s just say the list was settled only after great deliberation.
And here, without further ado, are our picks for the 100 best products of 2012:
1. Windows 8 Professional (operating system)
With its biggest OS rollout since Windows 95, Microsoft seeks to embrace all things computing with a one-size-fits-all operating system. Love or hate the new Start screen and app storefront, look beyond those polarizing elements, and you’ll find substantial performance improvements, numerous updates to critical features, and a largely successful effort to retain compatibility with desktop applications while also fulfilling the needs of mobile apps. Windows 8 has already spawned new designs and all sorts of hardware experiments. This bold step forward won’t appeal to old-schoolers, but its sleek, modern look just might win over a new generation of users that Microsoft must attract to remain relevant.
2. Apple iPad, 3rd Generation (tablet)
We’ve listed the third-gen iPad here because it had the biggest impact on the tablet market—it was the first to feature Apple’s high-resolution Retina display. But if you want to buy a full-size iPad now, get the fourth-gen model: It has a faster processor, better Wi-Fi capabilities, and improved LTE circuitry.
3. Maingear Alpha (all-in-one PC)
The Alpha might be a butt-ugly beast, but its massive chassis accommodates a GeForce GTX 680 video card, a Core i7-3770K CPU, and up to 32GB of memory. You can play today’s triple-A game titles, and upgrade every major component to play tomorrow’s attractions, too. Simply put, the Alpha offers unprecedented performance and upgrade flexibility for an all-in-one PC.
4. Vizio CT14-A2 (laptop)
Vizio’s rookie laptop effort has a sleek, minimalist design, with big keys that deliver great tactile feedback, and a fabulous 14-inch, 1600-by-900-pixel LCD in a package that weighs just 3.4 pounds. If you’re looking for a capable Ultrabook, you can’t go wrong with this little gem.
5. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (e-reader)
The Paperwhite’s best feature is the integrated light that brightly and evenly illuminates the page, even in daylight. But Amazon has made other improvements to its e-reader: The E Ink display boasts higher resolution, the fonts are better, and the underlying software has been significantly overhauled.
6. Samsung Galaxy S III (Android smartphone)
You don’t get to be the best-selling Android phone by being average, and the Galaxy S III definitely has what it takes to move ahead of the Android pack. With a speedy processor, an eye-catching display, and loads of attractive features, it’s our favorite smartphone of 2012.
Intel brings its 22nm fabrication process to the mass market. Though these CPUs sip power, they pack a big performance punch. Desktop systems idling at under 70 watts and laptops delivering 8-hour battery life are practically commonplace now. Ivy Bridge sets a new standard for performance per watt.
8. Panasonic Smart Viera VT50 HDTVs
When it comes to big-screen HDTVs, plasma technology still delivers the best price/performance ratio. Panasonic has practically defined the state of the art in plasma, and the VT50 series is the company’s best, delivering top-notch image quality, THX certification, comprehensive calibration controls, and a bevy of online services.
9. Asus RT-AC66U (router)
Ready to make the leap to the fledgling 802.11ac standard? Asus has the fastest router with the most features, including a cloud-storage service that allows you to sync files on any device, and provides remote access to any PC on your network.
10. Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 (laptop)
This laptop does it all, without breaking your budget or your back. Packing a quad-core processor, a Geforce GTX 660M GPU, and a 15.6-inch, 1080p LCD into a 6.2-pound chassis, this well-balanced system can handle digital media editing—and PC gaming, too.
11. Microsoft Surface RT (tablet)
As Maxwell Smart might have said, the Surface RT misses our top-10 by that much. That’s no surprise, considering that this is Microsoft’s rookie effort at building a retail computer; it’s number 11 because the Surface has successfully redefined what a tablet can be.
12. Audioengine 5+ (speaker system)
The original 5 system was one of the best near-field, powered studio monitors we’d ever heard. The new 5+ is every bit as splendid, thanks to the dual 50-watt Class AB monolithic amplifiers driving the 5-inch Kevlar woofers and 0.79-inch silk-dome tweeters. Absolutely superb.
13. Amazon Kindle Fire HD (tablet)
Amazon vastly improved its tablet user experience, rendering this 16GB model even more suitable for consuming content from Amazon’s vast digital storefront. More important, the company is selling the Kindle Fire HD at an incredibly low price for a tablet with an expensive optically bonded display.
14. Google Nexus 7 (Android tablet)
We saw plenty of cheap Android tablets in 2012, but not one that was a worthy contender for this list. Then along came Google’s Nexus 7, which brought top-flight performance, features, and great design to an inexpensive tablet—along with a lovely, optically bonded display, too.
15. Falcon Northwest Tiki (mini-gaming PC)
It’s small, quiet and extremely fast—especially with games. This is no budget box; rather, it’s a polished, purpose-built tiny gaming system. The heavily overclocked Ivy Bridge processor, a fast SSD and a GeForce GTX 680 videocard combine to make this the fastest system of its size.
16. Adobe Creative Suite 6 (artistic software)
This suite is full of technological triumphs, from its support for GPU acceleration in Photoshop CS6 and Premiere Pro CS6, to Dreamweaver CS6’s ability to output smartphone apps for almost any mobile operating system by transferring their production to the cloud.
17. Sony Tap 20 (tablet/laptop hybrid)
A luggable all-in-one with a 20-inch, 10-point multitouch display that runs on either AC or battery power, this could be the perfect family PC. Or is it a humongous family tablet? Either way, it shows that Windows 8 is inspiring PC manufacturers to innovate.
18. Raspberry Pi (basic Linux PC)
Conceived as a tool that would encourage students to learn how to program long before they entered college, the low, low price tag on this Linux-powered computer also makes it the perfect platform for hobbyists interested in building experimental projects. Raspberry Pi is like a digital blank slate.
19. Dell UltraSharp U2713HM (display)
This big little monitor delivers the same number of pixels as a 30-inch model in a more affordable 27-inch package. An LED-backlit IPS panel boasting accurate color, excellent uniformity, and wide viewing angles, it’s an excellent choice for both PC and Mac users, even without a Thunderbolt connector.
20. Jawbone Big Jambox (speaker)
Your mobile device might be the center of your entertainment universe, but we’ve yet to see a phone or tablet equipped with phenomenal speakers. The Big Jambox pairs wirelessly with Bluetooth-enabled iOS and Android devices, pumps out impressive bass, and has the battery life to withstand long jam sessions.
21. Olympus OM-D E-M5 (digital camera)
Most mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras are designed as “step-up” cameras for the point-and-shoot crowd, but the Olympus OM-D E-M5 has the mettle to compete with full-fledged Digital SLRs. We appreciate its fast focusing speed, terrific image quality, and appealingly retro aesthetic.
22. Apple iPhone 5 (smartphone)
It’s the best iPhone yet, improving on its predecessors with features such as LTE connectivity, an improved camera, and a larger screen. It might not have the best map program, as you may have heard, but we have no doubt that the iPhone 5 is still one of the best smartphones of 2012.
23. Stardock Start8 (Windows 8 add-on)
Many early Windows 8 adopters complain about the lack of a Start Menu. Stardock, known for desktop customization software Fences and ObjectDock, responded with Start8, an inexpensive utility that adds a StartMenu to the new OS and allows you to disable the new hot corners to make your transition less jarring.
24. Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display (laptop)
Apple’s flagship laptop delivers stunning performance and effortless portability. This was not only the fastest overall Mac we’ve ever tested, but its spectacular IPS screen with 2880 by 1800 pixel resolution reveals so much detail that even desktop icons become something to marvel over.
25. Kickstarter (website)
We’re recognizing this three-year-old crowd-funding site because it opened the crowd-funding floodgates in 2012. Marquee products such as the Pebble E-Paper Watch and the Ouya game console raised millions, demonstrating that Kickstarter isn’t just for amateurs and side projects; it’s changing the way new products get funded.
26. B&N Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight (e-reader)
Thoughtful design and an ethereal yet effective built-in reading light make this e-reader one of the best you can buy. It’s also the most flexible, with a MicroSD card slot on board. And unlike Amazon, B&N doesn’t charge extra for an AC adapter.
27. Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Gaming Keyboard
This is easily the best mechanical gaming keyboard we’ve tested this year. It’s durable, useful, and just plain satisfying to use, whether you’re playing games or powering through email. If you haven’t upgraded to a fully mechanical keyboard yet, this is the one to buy.
28. Western Digital MyBook Thunderbolt Duo (storage device)
If you need a lot of storage right at your desktop, and your computer is equipped with a Thunderbolt port, take a long look at WD’s Thunderbolt MyBook Duo. This dual-drive device is available in 4-, 6-, and 8TB configurations with a blistering-fast Thunderbolt interface.
29. Linksys WUMC710 Media Connector (wireless bridge)
Most 802.11ac router manufacturers expect consumers to buy two of their routers and configure one as a bridge. That’s an expensive and unnecessarily complicated solution. Linksys was a little late to the 802.11ac party, but it arrived with the absolute best product for the client side.
30. Lenovo IdeaCentre A720 (all-in-one PC)
Squeezing the A720’s guts into a base the size of a small pizza box allowed Lenovo to flatten the 27-inch, 10-point multitouch display to less than one-inch thick. What’s more, you can lay the articulated display completely flat and use the computer like a giant stationary tablet.
31. Sonos Sub (wireless subwoofer)
Craving a milkshake? Eat some ice cream, drink some milk, play your favorite funk on a Sonos multi-room audio system, and stand next to the Sub. The dual Class D amps and two force-canceling speakers in this 36-pound networked subwoofer will do the rest. Yeah, we dig it.
32. MicroExpress MicroFlex 37B (desktop PC)
It’s not pretty, but this model’s utilitarian looks disguise a balanced, high-performance PC that’s both a speedy general-purpose system and a decent gaming rig. Credit the fast Ivy Bridge CPU, Radeon HD 7850 GPU, SSD, Blu-ray drive, and 16GB of RAM, all in a package that costs less than $1300.
33. Mass Effect 3 (video game)
This conclusion to one of the most ambitious gaming trilogies ever created isn’t perfect. Indeed, the abbreviated, nonsensical ending ignited a firestorm of criticism from series fans. Nevertheless, the strong voice acting and action sequences propel the game forward at a satisfyingly breakneck pace.
34. D-Link DCS-5222L (IP security camera)
IP cameras are great for monitoring your home, but configuring one for remote access is a pain in the neck. D-Link’s Cloud Camera line makes it easy. The DCS-5222L is a pan/tilt model with LED lighting for night viewing, a MicroSD card slot, and two-way audio.
35. HP ZR2440w (display)
This 24-inch desktop monitor has it all: A 1920-by-1200-pixel IPS panel that produces brilliant images with wide viewing angles, an easy-to-adjust stand that can pivot to portrait mode, a four-port USB hub, and an energy-saving LED backlight. It can connect to your computer via DVI, DisplayPort, DVI, or HDMI.
36. Sony Bloggie Live MHS-TS55 (camcorder)
Burning up your smartphone’s battery shooting impromptu videos? Maybe it’s time to move up to a dedicated device. The Bloggie Live is the most versatile pocket camcorder around, delivering wireless streaming, peer-to-peer sharing, and image resolution on a par with today’s top phone cameras.
37. Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 (GPU)
If you find the size and power consumption of AMD’s Radeon HD 7970 objectionable, this Nvidia GPU blends the high performance of the company’s Kepler architecture with the terrific efficiency of its earlier Fermi design to deliver a well-balanced powerhouse that’s suited to both gaming and GPU-compute applications.
38. Angry Birds Space (video game)
Quick review for the 0.00002 percent of the population that hasn’t played Rovio’s Angry Birds: You shoot birds at pigs. In-game physics are one of the game’s best attributes, so it was a brilliant idea to move the game’s environment into space and add gravity puzzles.
39. Instagram (digital photo app)
Love it or loathe it, Instagram has driven plenty of interest in phone photography. This free app for iOS and Android devices makes it incredibly easy to apply creative filters and borders to your photos and then share them with friends and family via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
40. Arcam rPAC (DAC and headphone amp)
This device connects to your computer via USB, sounds spectacular (for its price), is built like a tank, supports high-resolution files, and incorporates a high-quality headphone amplifier to make even power-hungry headphones sing.
41. AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition (GPU)
AMD made a few tweaks to the reference design it originally released in December 2011. This single-GPU card now overpowers Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 680 in most of our benchmarks. It’s still too big and consumes too much juice, but we’ll accept the trade-off.
42. Adobe Lightroom 4.2 (photo-editing software)
Few developers add new features to a top-shelf product and then slice the product’s price tag in half, but that’s what Adobe did with Lightroom. Notable new tools include photo categorization by geolocation, the ability to output photos using self-publishing books, and easier-to-use filters. Lightroom 4.2 is no small upgrade.
43. Asus RT-N66U (wireless router)
Hey, we get it. Not everyone is ready to embrace a draft networking standard. If you need a new router, but want to stick with the tried-and-true 802.11n, there’s no better model than the dual-band Asus RT-N66U. When it comes to performance and features, nothing else comes close.
44. Velodyne vPulse (earbuds)
Loudspeaker aficionados will be familiar with Velodyne’s high-end subwoofers—speakers designed solely to reproduce very low frequencies. So it should come as no surprise that the vPulse delivers plenty of low-end oomph. But these buds are more than bass monsters—they deliver a detailed midrange performance and crisp highs, too.
45. Vizio CA27-A1 (all-in-one PC)
Vizio entered the desktop PC market with this stylish all-in-one that delivered a Worldbench 7 score of 122 (that is, 22 percent faster than our baseline system), thanks to a Core i5 CPU, a discrete Nvidia GPU, and a 32GB SSD cache. Extras include a multitouchpad instead of a mouse.
46. Apple iPod touch—5th generation (digital media player)
No other digital media player has managed to knock the iPod off its perch. Now, it’s more than a media player: It’s also a very good digital camera, camcorder, handheld gaming device, and, when connected to a Wi-Fi network, a personal digital assistant (Siri).
47. Astro A50 Wireless Headset (gaming headset)
This is the best wireless gaming headset we’ve heard this year, thanks to impeccable design and Astro’s decision to use KleerNet wireless technology. The A50 works with both PCs and gaming consoles, it sounds great, and it’s comfortable enough to wear during marathon entertainment sessions.
48. Apple iPad Mini (tablet)
While it lacks a Retina display, Apple’s smallish tablet is a joy to use, delivering a higher resolution than the first two generations of iPads. It would rank much higher on our list if its price were closer to that of the Nexus 7.
49. Google Hangouts (video-chat service)
Yes, this free video-chat service debuted in late last year, but it really took off in 2012. It supports up to 10 callers equipped with browsers, webcams, and Google+ accounts. It’s a fun way to connect with friends, and it’s a fabulous workplace collaboration tool. Participants can share a screen and view joint presentations.
50. Alienware M17x-R4 (gaming laptop)
This luggable laptop is just the ticket for LAN parties and dorm rooms. It’s no Ultrabook, tipping the scales at 11-plus pounds, but it packs the fastest mobile GPU available; a gorgeous 17-inch, 1080p display; and a great keyboard. It runs current-generation PC games with nary a hiccup.
51. Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover (iPad keyboard)
If you have an iPad, you need a cover. And if you intend to do serious work on that iPad, you need a real keyboard. Logitech fills both needs with one slick device that adds just 12 ounces to the weight of a bare iPad.
52. The Walking Dead (video game)
This adventure game—set in a zombie apocalypse where players must make difficult choices—is easily one of the best games of 2012. Based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels, the first season of this game consists of five downloadable episodes that can be completed in 2 to 3 hours each.
53. Vivint Home Automation (home control/security system)
The era of the smart home is dawning, and Vivint is one reason why: Sign a $69-per-month contract and you get a sophisticated home security and automation system (alarm, electronic door lock, door/window sensors, lighting controls, an IP camera, and a programmable thermostat) installed for just $199.
54. Sensible Vision Fast Access (facial-recognition software)
Stop memorizing passwords. Show your mug to your smartphone, tablet, or PC, instead. This facial-recognition software will then require you to identify a secret symbol to gain access to secure apps and websites. That two-factor authentication will foil efforts to fool the software with a photograph or video.
55. Libratone Zipp (wireless speaker)
Boasting an attractive industrial design, a simple setup process, and clever AirPlay and PlayDirect implementations (it can create its own Wi-Fi network), the battery-powered Libratone Zipp is easy to recommend as a multiroom speaker system. If you want a portable AirPlay speaker, this is an excellent choice.
56. Vizio M3D470KD (HDTV)
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better HDTV of this size for less than $1000. This 47-inch, LED edge-lit, passive 3D model offers very good image quality, a built-in Wi-Fi network adapter, a keyboard-equipped remote, and a comprehensive collection of Internet apps and service. Plus, you get four pairs of 3D glasses included.
57. AT&T U-verse (broadband Internet service)
Major infrastructure improvements typically occur in the denser populations of cities. So we’re tipping our hat to AT&T for deploying fiber-to-the-node in at least some rural areas to deliver its U-verse broadband Internet service. It’s not as fast as cable, but it’s almost twice as fast as conventional DSL service.
58. Turntable.FM (online music service)
This online service graced our Top 100 last year. When we heard the company had a mobile app, we fell in love all over again. The social music service works perfectly on the go, and it’s fun to DJ while riding the bus. Play on, party people!
59. Netgear NeoTV Max (media streamer)
The year 2012 wasn’t a big one for new media streamers, but the NeoTV Max is a honey. It can stream nearly anything over your network (with the exception of DVD and Blu-ray ISO images); plus, you can send audio and video to your TV from any laptop outfitted with Intel’s WiDi technology.
60. Scrivener for Windows (word processor/project organizer)
Few writers can brain-dump an entire novel or research proposal straight into a word processor. Scrivener for Windows, a PC version of the popular Mac program, helps you organize your ideas and notes. You can switch between corkboard, outline, and continuous-flow “scrivening” views to see how your opus is shaping up.
61. ADT Pulse Premier (home control/security system)
ADT’s home security and automation system is almost as good as Vivint’s; plus, ADT will install in-wall lighting controls if you prefer. The company added electronic door locks, a new touch-screen control panel, and more advanced cameras, too. ADT’s up-front costs are higher, but its contracts are shorter.
62. Intuit QuickBooks Pro (accounting software)
Woe to the small-business owner who doesn’t balance the ledger. QuickBooks isn’t the most powerful software for the task, but it’s very easy for novices to set up and use. If it doesn’t handle a function you need, a third-party add-on probably does.
63. Epson WorkForce WP-4540 (multifunction printer)
This fast, capable, business-minded inkjet multifunction is a leader among the new generation of no-regrets inkjets for the office. The best-balanced among many strong contenders, it brings swift performance, spiffy output quality, and a whopping 580 sheets of standard input. Ink is cheap, too. Low-end color lasers should be worried.
64. Lytro Light-Field Camera (digital camera)
Despite a few usability hiccups in its first-generation camera, Lytro’s core technology is truly groundbreaking. This tube-like camera lets you shoot photos quickly and decide where to focus (and refocus) later. Lytro’s manual shutter control, added via a free firmware update, delivers even more fun tricks.
65. Microsoft Type Cover (tablet keyboard)
If you decide to take the plunge into Microsoft’s Surface (pun intended), spend the extra ten bucks to buy the Type Cover. It’s a tad thicker than the less-expensive Touch Cover, but this keyboard has authentic keys that deliver genuine tactile feedback. Your fingertips will thank you.
66. Western Digital My Passport 2TB (portable hard drive)
Cloud storage is great—until you can’t access the cloud. When you need to take a lot of data on the go, Western Digital’s biggest My Passport drive packs two terabytes into a 2.5-inch chassis, and it draws all its power over a USB connection.
67. Pinterest (online social sharing service)
“Pinning” entered the lexicon in 2012 as Pinterest users built online pinboards to collect, organize, and share everything interesting they found on the Web. The versatility of this service—you can also use it for event planning and building shopping lists—rendered Pinterest the fastest-growing website to date.
68. Maingear Shift Super Stock (desktop PC)
Maingear pulled out all the stops to build this super-powered PC, which tore through our benchmarks to generate a Worldbench 7 score of 205—105 percent faster than our baseline. The top-shelf components in this rig should keep any gamer satisfied for a least a couple of years.
69. Panasonic HC-V700M (camcorder)
Here’s an easy-to-use compact camcorder that shoots great video. The built-in video light and flash work exceptionally well, capturing clean, crisp video and still shots from as far as 10 feet. Colors appear realistic with little or no oversaturation, and with hardly any blurring during fast pans.
70. Sony XQD S Series (memory card)
Speed is key for some photographers, and the Sony XQD S Series delivers that in spades, with read and write transfer speeds of up to 168 MBps. That’s faster than any high-end CompactFlash card. Nikon is an early adopter, supporting XQD in its Nikon D4.
71. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (video game)
If you think turn-based strategy is too old-school, you’re missing a nail-biter of a gaming experience. Firaxis makes the classic genre feel brand new: The game rewards patience and strategic thinking while you build up your forces to repel an alien invasion.
72. V-Moda VAMP (DAC and headphone amp)
Don’t buy the iPhone 5! This audiophile DAC, headphone amp, supplemental battery, and case is compatible only with the iPhone 4/4S. It connects to the iPhone’s docking port, taps its digital audio output, and upsamples that signal before converting it to analog and amplifying it. Expensive? Oh yeah. Worth it? Hell yeah!
73. Synology DiskStation 712+ (network-attached storage)
This NAS box lets you start small and scale up. It has only two drive bays, but you can add two or five more by connecting it to Synology’s DX213 or DX513, respectively. A great NAS for both home and business.
74. Microsoft Sculpt Touch Mouse (computer mouse)
Windows 8’s emphasis on touch controls will change how you use your computer. If you’re not ready to invest in a touchscreen display, Microsoft’s Sculpt Mouse has a touch-sensitive strip in its middle mouse button that can move the cursor up and down and left to right.
75. Lowes Iris (home control/security system)
If you’re interested in home security automation without paying for central-office monitoring, take a look at Lowes’ Iris system. This DIY package is reasonably priced, exceptionally well thought out, and very easy to install. The best kit comes with a local alarm; door, window, and motion sensors; a thermostat; and basic lighting controls.
76. Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 (webcam)
Webcams that deliver video at 1080p resolution are a dime a dozen. What separates Logitech’s C920 from the crowd is its ability to support Skype HD video calls at 1080p, too. This well-designed, well-engineered webcam also has a versatile mounting clip that keeps it securely fastened to your display.
77. Asus Xonar Essence One (DAC and headphone amp)
Asus bills this device as a USB DAC and headphone amp, but it’s much more than that. Yes, it will drive even 600-ohm headphones, but it also boasts balanced XLR outputs so you can connect it to the finest analog amplifiers. It is an exquisite piece of gear.
78. HP Officejet 150 Mobile All-in-One Printer (printer)
This is the first truly portable inkjet multifunction, squeezing a sheet-fed scanner into its compact form and including a full battery for on-the-go usage. It’s neither fast nor cheap, but its printing and scanning are top-notch. Bluetooth connectivity lets you print from mobile phones and tablets.
79. Razer Naga Expert MMO Gaming Mouse (computer mouse)
Playing World of Warcraft with an ordinary mouse after playing with the Razer Naga will feel like bringing a banana to a knife fight. The 17 programmable buttons under one hand leaves the other hand free to concentrate on using your QWERTY keyboard’s WASD keys to move within the game world.
80. Hero Academy (video game)
Robot Entertainment’s turn-based, board-like game of swords and magic requires at least two players; but if you tire of waiting for your opponent(s) to move, you can start independent games with other partners and play them all simultaneously. Outwit your opponents through brute force or calculated strikes.
81. Sony Handycam HDR-PJ760V (camcorder)
Falling squarely between the consumer and prosumer worlds, this camcorder performs like a champ. It boasts extraordinary ability to produce crisp videos in challenging shooting situations, and the optical image stabilization works phenomenally well. Auto-focus struggles occasionally, but color accuracy stays spot-on.
82. Damn Small Linux (operating system)
We saw a flurry of new Linux distros in 2012, but DSL is particularly notable because of its size. This operating system will run on older computers that would collapse under the weight of Windows or any other mainstream OS. As such, it can breathe new life into old hardware.
83. Axis P1344 (IP video camera)
Small-business owners looking for professional-quality video surveillance will appreciate the features Axis delivers with its model P1344 IP camera: This model delivers precision optics, true HDTV resolution, and h.264 video encoding. And with power-over-ethernet support, you’ll need just one low-voltage cable to set it up.
84. Stardock Multiplicity 2.0 (multisystem-control software)
Software doing the work of hardware almost never satisfies, but here’s an exception: The free version of Multiplicity 2.0 lets you control two computers using a single mouse and keyboard every bit as effectively as an expensive USB keyboard/mouse switch. Spring for the paid version ($40), and you can control up to nine computers.
85. Apple TV (media streamer)
This third-gen Apple TV sports a new processor capable of playing video at 1080p, but the real star of the show is the new software update that will run on the older 720p Apple TV, too. If you like AirPlay and the iTunes store, this is the video streamer to buy.
86. Dishonored (video game)
An epic departure from the typical computer game, Dishonored is set in a steampunk universe where technology and supernatural powers coexist. You play the part of a bodyguard-turned-assassin who must overcome being framed for the murder of the empress you were guarding.
87. Lexar 128GB Professional 1000x CompactFlash (memory card)
It’s not every year that you get both a noteworthy bump in performance and a doubling of maximum capacity. Lexar’s Professional 1000x line pulled it off. The card—which is also available in 16-, 32-, and 64GB capacities—writes at 150 MBps.
88. Sanebox (email filtering service)
Most programs don’t prioritize email; it just shows up, with equal weight given to emergencies and uninteresting retail pitches. Sanebox shows only your most important email, shunting lower-priority missives to folders such as “SaneArchive” and “SaneLater.” This cloud-based service works with any IMAP email, and it’s surprisingly good at guessing what you want to see.
89. Rikomagic MK802 (micro PC)
It costs three times as much as the Raspberry Pi, but the MK802 is more of a complete PC (including an enclosure), in contrast with the Raspberry Pi’s bare circuit board. While it carries Android branding, it’s capable of running any Linux distro, and it can output 1080p video via HDMI.
90. Telenav Scout (navigation app)
Anyone in the market for a better alternative to the navigation software that came with their phone—and we know who you are—should give this app a try. It provides excellent turn-by-turn navigation that takes real-time traffic conditions into account. Scout runs on Android, as well as iOS.
91. Apple Earpods (earbuds)
Products bearing the Apple logo typically bear a hefty price premium, so we’re delighted that these high-quality earbuds cost just $29. They deliver very good acoustic performance for the money, they’re very comfortable to wear, and they have an inline mic and remote control compatible with Apple’s hardware.
92. Cinemagram (app)
A body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it. This free app is such a force—at least when it comes to digital photos. Select any area of a still image and the Cinemagram app will animate it with always interesting, sometimes mind-boggling, and occasionally creepy results.
93. Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid (750GB internal hard drive)
By marrying an 8GB SSD with a midsize hard drive, the Momentus XT delivers some of the speed of an SSD with the superior capacity of a mechanical drive. This is a highly recommended laptop upgrade; for desktops, we recommend using a discrete SSD with a second mechanical drive.
94. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 (digital camera)
With a sensor nearly three times larger than most of its competition, a lens with a maximum aperture of F1.8, and manual controls for both stills and 1080p/60fps video, the RX100 is the king of the compact-camera crop (unless you count Sony’s full-frame-sensor RX1, priced at a wallet-busting $2800).
95. Brother MFC-J4510DW (printer)
This printer’s innovative design finally gives Brother a reason to say “follow me,” instead of “me, too.” A wider print head prints more of the page at one time, accelerating performance, while a wider paper path allows paper sizes up to 11 by 17 inches. Best of all, this printer uses low-price inks.
96. rtpMIDI (music software)
Yes, this choice is a little esoteric, as it’s designed for musicians. If you fall into that category, this software is worthy of your attention. Updated in September, rtpMIDI lets you control MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) devices (including other computers running MIDI software) with a networked PC or even an iPad.
97. Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB (TV tuner/adapter)
Anything a DVR can do, a PC can do better. If you’re a cable subscriber, connect this box to your service and to your PC and you can program it to record up to four TV programs simultaneously, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime.
98. V-moda Crossfade M-80 (r2) (headphones)
Few headphones can match the Crossfade M-80 for its deft combination of great sound quality, rock-solid construction, extended-listening comfort, and stunning looks—especially the White Pearl version. It even offers surprisingly good noise isolation for an on-ear headphone, and the interchangeable cables keep the in-line microphone near your mouth, with the in-line remote lower for easy access.
99. Sony PS3 Pulse Wireless Headset (gaming headset)
Not prepared to drop $300 for the Astro A50? Check out this alternative. Compatible with both the PC and Sony’s PS3 game console, the Pulse sounds terrific and remains comfortable during long gaming sessions. When used with the PS3, BassImpact technology vibrates the headset to provide tactile feedback.
100. Pinball Arcade (video game)
Whether you’re a pinball wizard or you’ve never heard of these classic amusements, you owe it to yourself to check out these faithful reproductions on your smartphone or, better yet, your tablet. The physics alone are absolutely mind-blowing. The ad-supported games are free; most ad-free versions can be purchased for just $3.