Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Pickr’s Best Picks: The best tech of 2023

As another year ends, we’re looking back at our favourite gadgets from all year. What won a Pickr Best Pick in 2023?

Technology covers a lot of areas, and as the year finishes, it’s time to check out what technology impressed us. While some gadgets didn’t grab us all that much, others managed to show us that companies are pushing their gear in new ways, making them better, faster, and more value driven.

We check out a lot of gear in the space of a year, with nearly 100 reviews published in the past year and hundreds of articles, and some of it was more impressive than others.

We’ve already checked out the Best Phones for the year, and now it’s time to delve into the best of the best for technology.

From headphones to speakers to computers, wearables, accessories, and more, Pickr’s Best Tech of 2023 covers many a gadget. What scored our best tech this year? Find out below.

Best headphones: Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones and Sennheiser HD25

As usual, we’ll start our best tech picks with a category we spend a lot of time in: sound. More specifically, personal sound, with headphones that help you hear music the way it’s intended in any environment.

And we have two picks for 2023 covering a pair of excellent wireless noise cancelling headphones and a pair of excellent wired headphones, with options for people who love both.

On the one hand, there’s the stunning Bose Quiet Comfort Ultra which deliver some of the best noise cancellation around and support for spatial beyond merely owning an iPhone and using Apple Music.

Meanwhile, on the other hand, Sennheiser’s HD 25 deliver one of the finest audio experiences ever. Granted, the latter of these is corded, but they’re practically audiophile bliss.

Sony’s WH-1000XM5 are still excellent, as are last year’s Focal Bathys, but our choice was difficult this year, simply because of how strong both the Bose and Sennheiser headphones were.

Best value headphones: Sony WH-CH720N

Saving money on a pair of noise cancelling headphones became much easier this year, as active noise cancellation tech trickled to more price points.

Under $300 became just that much easier to buy for with Sony’s WH-CH720N, a pair of headphones with a mediocre name but surprisingly decent sound, ANC, and value, making it our winner for value in the headphones category.

Best earphones: Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-gen

If you prefer yourself a pair of truly wireless in-ears with great sound and noise cancellation, you have a lot to choose from.

In terms of the best of the best, we’re giving it to the Bose Quiet Comfort Ultra Earbuds and keeping the Apple AirPods Pro 2nd-gen as part of the winners for the second year in a row.

This year, there’s strong competition in this category, too. Sony’s WF-1000XM5 joined the excellent choices, as did the fantastic Technics AZ80.

However, Bose and Apple edged out the competition by providing some of the best noise cancellation and support for more widely used spatial audio, something Apple offers on the iPhone while Bose offers on every platform. Sony offers that tech, too, but it only works with its 360 Reality Audio platform which is much rarer.

Best value earphones: Soundcore Liberty 4 NC

How much you spend on a pair of earphones matters, and so we have a special category for that. Last year, Anker’s audio brand Soundcore took that title with the Space A40, and this year a new pair of its noise canceling earphones has done it again, too.

If you’re more in the mood to spend less than the typical $400 price point, Soundcore’s Liberty 4 NC delivers a surprisingly solid sound, decent noise cancellation, and a nice app, too. It’s a package well worth thinking about if you’re in the mood to save money on great noise cancelling earphones.

Best speaker: Sonos Move 2 and Apple HomePod 2nd-gen

Sharing audio is best with a speaker, and we have two favourites for speakers this year: a portable speaker from Sonos and a less portable option from Apple.

The portable Sonos Move 2 is one of the company’s biggest, providing up to 24 hours of sound in a water-resistant design, marrying excellent sound and support for multi-room in one of the better speakers we saw all year.

Back in the home, Apple’s 2nd-gen HomePod delivers excellent sound with the ability to auto-optimise itself, and works with spatial audio in movies via Apple TV and music via Apple Music. One is great, but two are simply superb, and deliver a lovely music and movie experience in a compact, albeit wired design.

Best smart speaker/display: Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (5th-gen)

Smart speakers and displays seem to be a little stuck at the moment, with feature sets not exactly advancing. As such, we’re leaving our favourite smart speaker in the best position this year, thanks in part to what it offers for the $100 price point.

You can actually pick up an Echo Dot for less than $100 if you look, and Amazon’s Alexa app is improving regularly, which seems to work with routines in many ways better than Google, which falters more often in our experience.

It’s still not perfect, and American owners of an Echo seem to get more — particularly in regards to the smart display — but if you wanted to start with a basic smart speaker, the Echo Dot delivers a good combination of sound, smarts, and even the time and weather, making things just that little bit easier.

Best computer: Apple MacBook Pro 16 inch M3 and Asus ROG Ally

Computers this year were very much same-samey in most areas this year, but two stood out.

One was fast — really fast — with Apple’s M3 Max MacBook Pro 16 the fastest computer we’d ever seen, delivering more speed and performance than just about anything else out there. Content creators, video editors, sound engineers and composers, programmers, engineers, data scientists, and anyone with a need for raw performance will be impressed, as it’s just about the best portable computer around, available in both a 14 and 16 inch design.

Over on the Windows side, we’re particularly enamoured with what’s happening with mobile gaming. Devices that remake a Windows PC like a Nintendo Switch have grabbed us and won’t let go, and we are totally fine with that.

While a Valve Steam Deck isn’t officially offered in Australia, we loved the Asus equivalent in the ROG Ally so much that it gets our award. Faster than you’d expect and with a design that delivers, the AMD-powered ROG Ally is a fantastic portable PC made for gamers going anywhere.

Best tablet: Apple iPad Pro M2

Tablets seemed a bit stuck this year, though, what with zero updates to any iPad and only a handful of updates to Android tablets, minor as they were. Google also offered the Pixel Tablet, but it wasn’t a grand slam, either.

As such, we’re giving the Best Tablet nod to what is currently the best tablet, the M2 iPad Pro. We expect this range will probably see an update to the Apple M3 chips in 2024, but right now, the M2 model is the best tab around.

Given the updates supporting Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for the iPad this year, it’s gradually becoming a laptop replacement. Kinda sorta. Now it just needs Xcode, Apple.

Best wearable: Apple Watch Ultra 2

Wearables didn’t exactly set the world on fire this year, though there were some upgrades. Samsung had something new, as did Google, but the best wearable for us is the one that offers the best combination of tech and battery life, as well as a durable design, and that’s found in the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

It may well be a smartwatch with a high price, but it’s one that feels solid, well-designed, and doesn’t hold you back.

Best home tech: Withings Body Comp

Next up is one of our favourite gadgets for the home: a scale.

The Withings Body Comp isn’t your standard humble bathroom scale, but rather something more interesting, able to give you a more complete picture of your health simply by standing on it.

Since using it, we’ve found we’re a little more excited about checking our weight, and no longer dread the experience. That’s just one more reason to consider a smart scale, and it’s our home tech choice for the year.

Best power bank: Anker Nano Power Bank

A new category for us this year, the sheer number of different battery recharge power packs we’re seeing puts us in the right position to judge them.

And judge them we have, with Anker getting a handy design in the Nano Power Bank, a compact little power block that comes with a USB-C charger on the cord capable of working for both charging the pack and charging devices, and has a little battery monitor to give you a visible indication to how much life is left.

Best accessory: Journey Alti Desk Mat

Accessories are an excellent category to our Best Picks round up, and we’re seeing quite a few lately, whether it’s a charging bedside stand or something else.

However, it’s something else that grabbed us this year: a desk mat.

We know, it’s a touch unorthodox, but so is the Journey Alti desk mat. An Australian design, it’s a gadget that finds a way to clean up your desk by giving you a place for your keyboard and mouse, a place for stray documents, and even a place to charge a phone and pair of earphones. It’s clever and useful, and worthy of a Best Pick.

Best surprise: HP Spectre Fold

We like to be surprised, and this year, something definitely did that, though the price didn’t so much surprise as it did bewilder and shock.

Foldable phones have been well and truly established, but foldable PCs are only gradually becoming a thing, and HP showed just what is possible with the Spectre Foldable.

A combination between tablet, laptop, and desktop, the Spectre Fold is a clever mix that needs a bit of a spec upgrade and a much better price. However, it’s a surprisingly good setup the works well, and if both the spec and price were better across the board, we could see more people using it.

Best music service: Apple Music

It’s also another year where Apple Music seems to deliver the best value music service around. Granted, the Voice plan disappeared and the cost of monthly music went up, but subscribers still get the most for the price, including lossy and lossless music alike, spatial Dolby Atmos, DJ sets, a dedicated classical app, and more.

Spotify uses its data better and this year added an AI DJ and audiobook support, but we think Apple’s music package is still better value overall.

Best video service: Prime Video

In a year where every video service went up in price and providers started culling and removing even new titles from their catalogue with a level of disdain for viewers, we wanted more from our services. We’re paying for them, after all.

So this year, we’re giving Amazon the Best Video Service nod for one reason: you get more than just a decent video service.

We like what Amazon has added, with some great catalogue improvements that are bolstering it all, but there’s more, too. Prime subscribers will get some free reading on Kindle, some free music on Amazon, some free monthly games on Amazon Gaming, and priority delivery on Amazon shopping. You may even find the odd discount here and there, as well.

We still think Disney and Netflix have the better catalogue offerings, but during a time when everything is seemingly costing more, Amazon offers one of the least expensive monthly video services for $10 monthly, and you get 4K video and a little bit more. That counts.

Best gaming service: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Finally, our favourite video game service is from Xbox, which while it has increased in price this year, feels like the better bet for gamers, whether they own an Xbox or not.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gives you a buffet of games on PC and Xbox, and if you don’t have either, you can choose to use a virtual Xbox in the cloud on your phone, tablet, computer, or TV.

Sony’s PlayStation equivalent misses out on the virtual console in Australia, otherwise it would have easily been a contender.

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