Looking back at 2018, it's been a year filled with gadgets. There have been a number of amazing devices that were launched across different categories, that have been real stand-outs in a packed year.
Gaming saw a strong focus this year — in part because it helps set the benchmark for future technology. Augmented and Virtual Reality's killer applications seem to be games right now, but once more people buy in, you can imagine watching movies with friends around the world, or making use of the sense of presence for better teleconferencing.
As a couple of entries in the list show, 2018 is also an excellent year because it has removed the barrier to entry for some great gadgets. Whether it's the Mi TV or the new iPad, powerful, good-looking gadgets are getting cheaper and getting cutting edge tech into as many hands as possible. Here are our personal picks, in no particular order. All prices are as listed online at the date of publishing, and could have changed when you read this.
1. Oculus Go
VR has been slowly advancing but there are a couple of constraints that have kept it from catching fire just yet. Phone-based VR systems require a very high-end (and expensive) phone to deliver the kind of quality you want, and then you're at the mercy of your phone's battery. PC-based systems on the other hand are still incredibly expensive, complicated to use, and cumbersome with lots of cables everywhere.
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Because of this, some people are starting to have second thoughts about its potential. The Oculus Go hasn't officially launched in India, but you can buy it on Amazon, and it's a standalone VR headset. Just put it on and 'Go'. Oculus is going to launch the Oculus Quest next year which will take things to the next level, but it's going to be twice as expensive, so the Oculus Go remains an important bridge device for at least another year.
Price: Rs 21,673
2. ROG Phone
The newly launched ROG Phone, a gaming smartphone from Asus, is an interesting device that is a striking powerhouse which immediately stands out as well. While it might not do so well on a showing of the best smartphones thanks to a high price, this phone is fairly unique. It comes at a time when smartphones as a category have mostly plateaued, along with a few other gaming smartphones such as the Black Shark from Xiaomi, and the Razor Phone.
Like the other two, it's software has been streamlined for gaming, and comes with an ecosystem of accessories to make gaming better. There's a special port on the side, which you can connect a fan to, in order to prevent overheating, while a new system of "hair-triggers" allows you to turn your phone itself into a gaming controller with trigger buttons. There's a lot of interesting innovation here, and expect to see it trickle down to lower priced phones in 2019.
Price: Rs 69,999
3. DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
Drones have been getting smarter, faster, more powerful, and with longer flight time steadily, and right now the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is probably the pinnacle of the category. The sleek looking quadcopter can shoot 4K resolution video, or take burst-photos at 12-megapixels, good enough for professional use.
The Mavic 2 Zoom weighs less than a kilo, and it can climb at 5mps (18kmph), and cruise (without wind) at 72kmph, at a max height of 6kms. It can fly for a full half hour at a time, and it's simply packed with features. You can buy additional batteries if you're a professional, allowing you to plan shoots with ease, but even if you're a hobbyist, there's a lot of potential for this kind of gadget, although of course, it doesn't come cheap. Future iterations will no doubt become more affordable, but this is still firmly for the pros and the serious hobbyists.
Price: Rs 1,63,899
4. Pixel by Google
The Pixel phones by Google have gained a bit of a reputation of being more camera than phone, explaining why the newest generation doesn't make it to our list of the best phones of 2018. The phone is on the list here though, not because it's a great phone, but because it brings new software features that are amazing enough that it's worth taking note. Hopefully, Google will extend some of these beyond its own devices, and make Android better as a whole.
In particular, we have to highlight the new camera software on the Google Pixel phones, which uses software to brighten up even the darkest scenes without filling them with noise or losing focus, and allows the phone to deliver pictures — with a single camera on the back — that other brands have taken to using a profusion of cameras for now.
That's not all though! Google has also made its software so smart that you can now use it to screen calls for you. Considering that the vast majority of calls many of us get are from telemarketers, letting Google answer the phone to decide if it's important enough sounds very tempting. At the same time, Duplex allows the Google Assistant to call up shops for you and book appointments, make reservations, and more. Right now, in India you can only use the camera features, but over time the others will also make their presence felt.
Price: Rs 66,500
5. iPad 2018
Apple launched two new iPad Pro models just a couple of months ago, and these are extremely impressive tablets. For many people, these will be the only computers that you need to own. But our pick would be the sixth generation iPad, which is available now for less than most mid-range smartphones—a far cry from the Pros which can easily run past a lakh once you've got the right accessories.
The 2018-iPad launched in March, and it's a sleek 9.7-inch tablet that unfortunately does not come with the Face Unlock feature and all-screen design of the new Pros. What it does bring though, is support for the first-generation Apple Pencil, which launched with the earlier models of the iPad Pro.
At the same time, it's a power-packed machine which can handle just about every task. Pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard and you've got a reliable workhorse on which you can type out your reports, work on sheets and presentations, and send long emails. The large screen is great for watching movies or reading books and comics, although we wish it had been able to borrow the iPad's speakers, and the battery life will not let you down. At the same time, it's small and portable enough to take everywhere. In short, it's the one device you simply must have.
Price: Rs 23,999
6. Dyson Pure Cool
The air purifier has become a must-have device, especially if you're living in Delhi but honestly it's needed no matter where in India you stay. The category, which was non-existent a few years ago, is now very crowded with devices, but there are some great picks you can go for, and none stands out quite like the Dyson Pure Cool.
This is one of the more expensive air purifiers on the market, but it's also the only one that is actually good looking—this can honestly serve as a conversation piece—and it's also effective, and packed with smarts.
The amazing design and the user friendliness of the Dyson is matched by the customer service the brand delivers—it's relatively new to the India market so there's a lot of enthusiasm right now, and we can only hope that this remains the case even a couple of years down the line.
Air purifiers start from under Rs 10,000 now and if you're looking for the best value for money we might make a different suggestion, but if budget is not a concern, this is the one we would pick.
Price: Rs 44,900
7. Mi TV 4
Everything is getting smarter, including our televisions. Although most of us might already have a device like the Chromecast from Google, or an Amazon Fire TV Stick, today most television makers are also building smart systems so you can launch your favorite streaming services without any add-ons.
There are a lot of options on the market, but most were still priced at around Rs 1 lakh. The few exceptions were often boxy, with slow and unreliable interfaces, and clunky remotes. Until the Xiaomi Mi TV 4 launched in India. This 4K 55-inch LED TV which comes with a smart interface designed in Bengaluru is sleek, stylish, and has a good looking display. But what was amazing about it was the price—at just Rs 44,999, it was one of the best looking deals on the market. By bringing the price down so drastically, Xiaomi wants to disrupt the television market the way it changed smartphones, and it's taken a strong first step.
Price: Rs 44,999
8. Echo Spot
Although the Echo Spot launched internationally near the end of 2017, Amazon's smart "speaker" with a display officially came to India in April this year. The Echo Spot is a small speaker with a round display on the front, which is powered by its Alexa AI technology. You can ask it questions, have it read out a bedtime story, or call you a cab.
All of this works pretty well, but the real selling point is home-automation, a nascent category in India that's being spurred on by both Google and Amazon as the two tech giants try to establish a customer base for their voice activated assistants. The Echo spot has a display which allows it to do a few things that the other voice-only models can't do, such as show you a clock, make a video call, or see weather updates. It doesn't sound like much, actually adds a lot of value in day to day usage.
Price: Rs 10,999
9. Syska Smart Light
Although a number of companies, from Philips to Xiaomi, have launched smart bulbs, most of these are pretty expensive, and require you to purchase a costly hub to control them as well. Earlier this year though, Indian manufacturer Syska launched its smart LED light bulb that, while still expensive, is relatively competitive, and it doesn't need a hub, just your home Wi-Fi. The bulbs are compatible with both Alexa and Google Home, so you can easily set them up and control them by voice.
What would you want a "smart" bulb for? There could be a number of different reasons, from setting up a bulb that automatically switches on in the morning to augment your alarm, or setting mood lighting over the course of the day, or simply to do fun things—like a Bengaluru-based startup that has its bulbs flash blue every time a new order is placed, for example.
Price: Rs 1,599
10. Nintendo Labo Toy Con
Who could have imagined that the most exciting new device to be launched in 2018 would be a cardboard box? Yet Nintendo, which first delivered a knockout punch with the Nintendo Switch, and then launched a string of excellent first-party titles such as Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, did it again this year, launching something unexpected, whimsical, and surprisingly deep.
The Labo is a series of DIY kits made out of cardboard that you have to assemble, which work with the Nintendo Switch. Using a variety of sensors on the Switch and its detachable Joy-Con controllers, the Labo enables a number of unique uses, such as building a playable piano, or a cardboard backpack you put on to control a giant robot on the television, walking around and beating up your enemies with actual punches. A word of warning for Indian readers—the kits don't come cheap, and you'll save around Rs 10,00 if you know someone who is traveling from the US and can put a copy in their suitcase.
Price: Rs 14,500