Looking for the best technology of 2019? It’s been a big year, and easily Pickr’s biggest yet, but we’ve narrowed down our picks for 2019 to help you work out what’s worth your time and money.
There sure has been a lot of technology this year, and while this was easily Pickr’s biggest year yet, we’re not ending it until we’ve picked the best technology that we’ve seen year round.
From headphones in four classes to speakers, kids tech, and more, we’re looking at what impressed us through Pickr’s reviews in 2019.
Best headphones: Sony WH-1000XM3
Technically one of last year’s headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3 has yet to be surpassed as far as headphones go.
This year, we saw the Beats Solo Pro which would be our top pick for headphones specifically released this year, beating the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 which were good but were marginal improvements on the already solid QC35 II.
However, the best headphones in 2019 are still Sony’s from 2018, and that’s something worth pointing out in this roundup. Even though the Sony WH-1000XM3 aren’t technically the best noise cancelling headphones released in 2019, they’re still the best to date, until Sony gets into gear and announces the next model, the WH-1000XM4, or another company beats them considerably.
Best earphones: Sony WF-1000XM3
However there is a new pair of earphones from Sony that managed to impress us greatly, arriving in a slightly more compact approach to what the WH-1000XM3 delivered.
Unsurprisingly, they’re a continuation of that model number, arriving in the Sony WF-1000XM3, an in-ear approach that drops the bitrate support from 32-bit to 24-bit — which is still more than plenty for most — and delivers much the same warmth and approach to noise cancellation in a smaller body.
The headphone model is still way more capable, but if you’re after a tiny pair of noise cancelling earphones, the Sony WF-1000XM3 would be our pick. Apple’s AirPods Pro get close, so much that some will pick the AirPods Pro over the Sony model, but we feel the competition isn’t quite close enough. Plus Sony’s earphones work identically across Android and iOS, something the AirPods Pro can’t quite say.
Best fitness earphones: Beats Powerbeats Pro
Even though Beats didn’t win our favourite headphones this year, it made a dent on what we liked for fitness earphones. The Beats Powerbeats Pro is the company’s take on fitness-focused truly wireless earphones, with a design that wraps around the ear to hold on, and includes great sound and ambidextrous controls.
We’re not kidding about the sound, either. While the Beats you might know from the past was long focused on bass, the Beats of today delivers a sound that is actually more balanced, and means that regardless of what you listen to, it should sound pretty solid through the Beats earphones.
There’s also a solid battery life with up to nine hours per charge, and an app that supports Android, going beyond what Apple’s own earphones do by providing control support outside of the Apple phone world.
Best value earphones: BlueAnt Pump Air 2
The one thing all of these options have in common is the price, because they’re all over $200. If you don’t want to spend that much, it can seem like you don’t have as many options.
Australia’s BlueAnt thinks differently, and the BlueAnt Pump Air 2 wins Pickr’s best value earphone award for 2019. It’s not alone in offering wireless sound at a low cost, and both Audiofly and Skullcandy play in this category, among others. However BlueAnt’s Pump Air 2 feels like it hits that balance properly, offering tiny and lightweight earphones that certainly won’t break the bank.
Best smart speaker: Sonos Move
Wishing you had a smart speaker that not only packed a punch, but could also be taken out on the go like a standard Bluetooth speaker?
A little on the exy side, the Sonos Move sounds like what you’re looking for, delivering more volume and impact than the Sonos One, but with the same style of voice control for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and then with an extra feature: a battery for portability.
Wireless portability means one of two things, because at home, wireless makes it a highly portable Sonos multiroom speaker, which is a fantastic addition. However if you take it away from your home, it just becomes a standard Bluetooth speaker controlled by a phone. Either way, it’s about as versatile as modern speakers get, even if it’s a fair bit heavier, too.
Best smart display: Google Nest Hub Max
We’ve spent a bit of time staring at the Google Nest Hub Max, and while our review is almost complete, it’s easily our pick for best smart display of the year.
It’s been a year filled with smart displays, be they small like the Lenovo Smart Clock or the 5 inch Amazon Echo Show, or big like the 10 inch Nest Hub Max. However we think the Nest Hub Max is the one to look out for, delivering a big screen, support for Google Photos with some great analysis to link up your photos, a camera that can identify who is in front of it to change the calendar, and some great sound, too.
Best kids tech: Birde Smart Media Player
A new category for us, but one that will become more important for us as time goes on, we started playing more with kids tech this year because our little one turned two, and kids tech became important.
And this year, the kids technology that really worked wonders was an Australian gadget, the Birde Interactive Smart Player, a speaker that takes its instructions from NFC tags that work a little like discs. Your kids grab the right disc, press it against the Birde speaker, and the music kicks in.
In fact, it’s not just about music, but also TV control, with video able to be transmitted to your TV by way of a smart gadget. It’s a handy approach to getting kids to use technology in a fun and semi-educational way.
Best tablet or computer: Apple iPad 10.2
While some journalists will consider the 2019 iPad Mini to be the year’s best tablet, we’re actually of the mind that the new standard iPad is the one to look for.
Apple didn’t actually do much to the model, and more or less just left it the same hardware in a new size of screen, giving it the iPad Air display with the hardware of the 2018 iPad.
But it did make one notable change worth talking about: it added the physical keyboard connector to the package, which is important because it delivers fast typing without needing to use Bluetooth for an iPad.
Apple’s mistake on this whole thing is the price of the keyboard, which is nearly half that of the iPad itself. But if you do pick one up, the iPad 10.2 becomes a great entry-level tablet and portable computer that’s just as impressive as last year’s pick for best tablet in the Pickr Best Picks, yet with a keyboard, too.
Best wearable: Apple Watch Series 5
Even though we’re finishing writing off our Apple Watch review for the year, we can tell you that the year’s best wearable also happens to be the year’s best looking wearable that for some reason has some of the year’s weakest battery life.
While Samsung has easily beaten the battery life in the Apple Watch, the look and design of the Apple Watch feels like it nails every other wearable beautifully, and that’s thanks to the whole package.
When you’re using maps, you get a subtle bump to tell you of an event that’s coming. Phone calls and messages can be handled somewhat gracefully from the wearable. And the support for apps and music control is just a little more handy than pause-play-skip integration you get on other wearables, some of which doesn’t even work.
Apple does seriously need to work on its battery life, because while the Apple Watch Series 5 does come with an ambient mode, keeping it turned off means you can hit close to two days, compared with near a work week on the Galaxy Watch, and the full week for Fitbit’s Charge 3, another contender for the year.
Yet we keep coming back to that design, as the Apple Watch is just one lovely bit of tech. We only wish it wasn’t so dependent on working with just an Apple phone, because wearables shouldn’t be locked into one system.
Best entertainment gadget: Epson EF-100W
We haven’t reviewed as many TVs as we’d have liked this year, but of the few entertainment gadgets we checked out, few have been quite as impressive as Epson’s EF-100W.
While the EF-100W isn’t the best projector you’re going to come across — thanks in part to its HD-only resolution — it does deliver a laser projector that works in daylight in a body that is small. So small that it can be left on a bookshelf when it’s done, making it technology that becomes just part of the furniture when not in use, and that’s something we love.
Best accessory: Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charger
If you are very much part of the Apple phone and watch world, you’ll have read our blips about the iPhone and Apple Watch and just nodded your head without realising it: they’re great devices, and they need a great way to charge them.
Belkin’s Boost Up Wireless Charger for the iPhone and Apple Watch is that great charger you may be looking for, providing a stand for your bedside or desk that charges both, integrating a wireless charger for the iPhone (any wirelessly charging phone, for that matter) and an Apple Watch charger in the one design. There’s even a USB port out the back so you can still keep a Lightning plug connected and recharge those AirPods, or even another cable for another pair of headphones.
Best surprise of 2019: Bose Frames
One of the gadgets reviewed earlier in the year that missed out on a recommended status did so because of what it lacked. The Bose Frames are an intriguing take on where personal audio could be going, as it intercepts fashion.
While they lack replaceable lenses, need better controls, and you’ll wish the plug wasn’t proprietary given how mediocre the battery life is, the Bose Frames provide an interesting approach to taking sound on the go so that it becomes part of your person. And not just that, but they sound good.
Headphones with sunglasses have been done before, but not this well. They’re only really usable in daylight, limiting use somewhat, but these things sound great, and they’re a real surprise.
Best music service: Spotify
For the second year in a row, Spotify continues to hit its stride, delivering a versatile service that now works on smart speakers without needing a paid account.
Granted, you’ll get ads if you don’t pay for it, but that’s a lot better than the option of no music service whatsoever, something the other services may struggle with. Spotify is available on practically every smart speaker and display, and can be controlled remotely using the app. Even Sonos hasn’t worked that out for users of its devices yet.
Apple Music did get closer this year for being the best pick, helped by its web platform and support for music videos, but it seems to be playing catch-up to Spotify, and slowly. Add to that the lack of a year in review for Apple Music and the fact that artist stations can’t be downloaded like any other playlist, and you’ll have why we picked Spotify over Apple Music this year.
Best video service: Disney+
The newcomer to the video streaming battle is easily our favourite of the year, Disney+.
While it’s more skewed for families than any other service, thanks to all that Disney and Pixar goodness, the very fact that you get almost the entire library of titles, plus Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and quite a bit from Fox, too — including The Simpsons — makes the $9 per month cost more than worth it, especially since it bundles in 4K support, too.
Both Netflix and Stan are looking good, too, complete with plenty of originals, while Amazon Prime Video is gradually getting better, and Apple TV+ just doesn’t offer enough to compete. We think Disney+ is a clearly solid entry for 2019, and so it gets our vote.