Our 5 Favorite Products from 2013

April 8, 2014

2013 was a great year for technology innovation. Here are our five favorite gadgets and gizmos that whizzed and banged in all the best ways last year. 

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While it wasn’t the year of innovation we’ve come to expect from Apple, there was commendable evolutionary change to the brand’s existing product line, which is best seen in the iPad Air. Weighing only a pound, the Air features the same 9.7-inch Retina display as its predecessor yet feels shockingly compact in your hand. It also has the new 64-bit A7 chip for much faster performance—noticeable whether you're playing Candy Crush or perfecting your latest home video in the new iMovie. The bigger battery provides nearly 12 hours of typical use on a single charge. Bottom line: iPad Air is an impressive redesign to an already innovative product.

Initially launched through a Kickstarter campaign, the Pebble watch has grown into the first wearable device that actually delivers on its promise: A seamless notification experience that doesn’t force you to look at your phone every time it buzzes. Compatible with both Android phones and the iPhone®, it lets you see calls, emails, or texts without having to pull your phone out of your pocket. You can also easily glance at your next appointment, check on your phone’s battery level, note the forecast, change the music track and oh, yes, right… it also tells time. The real fun begins with Pebble apps whether you're timing your splits on a run or measuring the distance to the next golf hole.

Chromecast is thumb-sized device that functions as a digital TV receiver, much like Roku and the Apple TV, but at an even lower price point. Just seat the $35 product into an HDMI port on your TV and stream content to your TV. Chromecast lets you stream anything from Netflix and Hulu Plus to YouTube and Pandora. You can also share content directly from your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or computer through the Chrome browser via Wifi. And the device supports Google Play’s movies, TV shows and music. Our final answer? The Chromecast provides a reliable, low-cost digital TV receiver.

For the first time in more than seven years, Sony and Microsoft both released new video game consoles in 2013. To choose the Sony PlayStation 4 over Microsoft’s Xbox One or vice versa is a moot point as they share similarities. Sony positions the Playstation 4 as the ultimate system for hard-core gamers, featuring the Dualshock 4 controller with a built-in touchpad and a “Share” button to share triumphs with your friends. Meanwhile, Microsoft touts the Xbox One as the center of your home entertainment. A voice recognition feature lets you control your entertainment experience while the Kinect motion-sensor automatically detects who you are and loads up your profile. Final score: Both excellent gaming systems.

In 2013, Nest announced an API that will allow the Nest Thermostat to seamlessly integrate into other connected systems, with home automation company Control4 being the first API partner announced. They also announced the Nest Protect smoke alarm. Nest Protect not only incorporates state-of-the-art technology for smoke and carbon monoxide detection, it also notifies you via smartphone of any problem, whether it’s smoke or just a low battery. And if you accidently burned the toast, a simple wave of your hand in front of the sensor will silence the alarm temporarily. No smoke or mirrors here—great product all-around.