We like to think there is more to life at TrustedReviews than playing with the best technology money can buy, but when it comes to awards season, it’s hard to remember what that is, and that’s because we’re just as excited about consumer electronics as you are.
Since November 2009, a wide range of products have come out which have impressed us and provided a glimpse of the shape of things to come. We’ve seen innovations in almost all the categories we cover with digital cameras and mobile phones leading the charge. This year has also seen the birth of a new sector in the form of the tablet, while pioneering technologies of the last couple of years like e-book readers have now gone mainstream.
This year’s awards presented some tough choices, so as well as thrashing it out amongst ourselves in the office, we also threw it open to you to tell us what you thought were the best products of 2010. And the results certainly make for interesting reading!
If there’s one thing more annoying than awards ceremonies, though, it’s long intros. We know you want to find out who walks away empty handed, and who picks up a coveted “Trusty”. That will never catch on, so without further ado, we present the TrustedReviews Awards 2010.
(centre)TrustedReviews Awards 2010(/centre)
Laptops Award 2010
Televisions and Projectors Awards 2010
Digital Camera Award 2010
- Best Budget Compact Digital Camera
- Best Advanced Compact Digital Camera
- Best DSLR and System Cameras
Camcorder Award 2010
- Best Budget Camcorder
- Best Overall Camcorder
Home Cinema Award 2010
- Best Blu-ray Player
- Best Surround Sound Product
- Best Headphone Product
- Best Home Audio Product
- Best Portable Media Player
Mobile Phone Award 2010
Sat-Nav Award 2010
- Best Sat-Nav
- Best Mobile Sat-Nav Application
Computers Award 2010
- Best PC
- Best PC Component
Printer Award 2010
- Best Photo Printer
- Best Home Office Printer
- Best Workgroup Printer
- Best Budget Printer
- Best Software
TrustedReviews Product Of The Year 2010
- Product of the Year
- Readers’ Choice: Product of the Year
- Readers’ Choice: Company of the Year
Laptops continue their steady progress towards dominating the PC market, but in many ways haven’t changed too much from their counterparts a year ago. The most influential and exciting launch in 2010 was probably that of the Intel Mobile Core i3 and i5. These brought the newer architecture to a budget price point, where before the high-end Core i7 – initially only found in expensive gaming-oriented laptops such as the Toshiba Qosmio X500-10T – reigned alone.
Unfortunately, AMD is still not a strong player in performance mobile CPUs, though its Athlon II Neo CPU (beating at the heart of the Dell Inspiron M101z, for one) is doing a good job in the netbook and ultra-portable notebook segment.
Speaking of gaming, graphics is probably where the biggest breakthrough this year has occurred, with powerful DirectX 11 solutions finally making their way into the mobile sector. The AMD Mobility Radeon HD5870, which we first came across in the Asus G73Jh, finally allows you to play a decent game of Crysis at an acceptable resolution – a first for a single-card solution. On Nvidia’s side, meanwhile, there’s now the DirectX 11 GeForce GTX 480M, which also enables you to run the latest games at something approaching their best.
On the general graphics front Optimus is also becoming more popular, as we recently saw in the MacBook Pro. It provides power when you need it and longer battery life when you don’t, and it (or an equivalent) is the way we hope all laptops will go eventually.
Unfortunately, we’re not seeing the same progress with storage: while many (high-end) desktop PCs now come with SSDs, in laptops these are still very much the exception rather than the rule. Admittedly this is largely because space limitations mean you can’t usually install an SSD for a main drive with a secondary 2.5in hard drive for storage, but we wonder how many people would be willing to sacrifice space for speed.
Connectivity will likely be the next biggest evolution, with USB 3.0 already starting to make its way into some of the newer laptops and netbooks. We can only hope it will replace USB 2.0 across the board.
Probably the most original development in laptops this year was the long-awaited introduction of non-X86 compatible hardware, but unfortunately one of the more promising examples, the Toshiba AC100, failed to really impress. It will be interesting to see how, if at all, the increasing popularity of tablets and netbooks affects the laptop market.
1st Place: Bowers & Wilkins MM-1
With an elegantly understated design – and all the more attractive for it – the Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 speakers make up for their relative lack of physical presence with audio reproduction that truly impresses. The key to this is the USB connection to your computer; the MM-1 speakers don’t require a high end sound card to sing – they handle the decoding and output of your audio on-board. Better still, if you have a decent pair of headphones you can use the MM-1’s internal DAC and amplifier to drive them, so you can appreciate quality audio from your computer without annoying the neighbours.
2nd Place: Logitech Squeezebox Touch
With its attractive design, intuitive, user-friendly user interface and comprehensive format support, it is no wonder the Logitech Squeezebox Touch impressed us. Whether you use the internal DAC and amplifier, or simply employ the streaming abilities of this device, it makes accessing music stored in one location in your home and playing it in another, an absolute breeze. You can even stream music from online services such as Napster. All told, the Squeezbox is a realistic alternative to a much pricier Sonos system, and that’s high praise indeed.
View Latest Deals for Logitech Squeezebox Touch – UK readers
3rd Place: Philips MCi900
Crazy though it may sound, we could almost be persuaded to part with £900 just because of the good looks of the Philips MCi900 all-in-one system. The design isn’t just a success because of the aesthetics, though – those speakers sound as fantastic as they appear. Whether from CD, a USB drive, the system’s local storage or from a network storage device, the MCi900 will give your music the treatment it deserves. Add in the MCi900’s media-streaming capabilities and its excellent format support and it is clear why we were so enamoured with this system.
View Latest Deals for Philips MCi900 – UK readers
1st Place: Apple iPod touch
What can we say about the iPod touch that hasn’t already been said? We all know it has a great interface, that the App Store is home to an huge array of quality applications and that the Retina Display is a beautiful thing to behold. The addition of a camera to this generation iPod touch wasn’t a surprise and, FaceTime excepted, it’s of little use for more than the occasional quick snapshot or video, but its presence is yet another on the long list of features that keep the iPod touch at the head of a class of one.
2nd Place: Apple iPod nano
In many ways this generation of iPod nano is a regression. It has a smaller display, doesn’t support video playback and no longer has a camera. However, where some will lament the lessened feature set, others will appreciate the size reduction and re-focussed emphasis on making the nano live up to its name and intended purpose as a highly portable player. You’ll be paying a premium for the blissfully intuitive touchscreen interface and elegant hardware design, but if you can afford it, the iPod nano is more than a step ahead of the competition.
3rd Place: Archos 5
When we looked at it all the way back in January the Archos 5 Internet Tablet was close to brilliance, but fell short thanks to dodgy firmware. Since then, however, Archos’ engineers have worked hard to fix the device’s ailments and now the system is an altogether more attractive proposition. Its 4.8in display is a good size for watching video on the go and extensive audio and video codec support means you won’t struggle to get files to play.
Satellite navigation has experienced two major trends in 2010: the arrival of competitors to TomTom’s groundbreaking LIVE services, and the resurgence of the smartphone app as a viable alternative. The two trends are not so far apart, either, as data connectivity is central to them both.
With LIVE services, data connectivity was added to sat-nav devices which were previously passive. TomTom pioneered this idea at the end of 2008, providing facilities like the more regularly updated HD Traffic service and Google Local Search. The former is the most sophisticated system yet for routing you round jams as they emerge, and the latter provides a valuable, freely searchable extension to traditional Points of Interest.
Now, however, Garmin, Motorola and Navigon have added data connectivity to some of their high-end models, and even included extra features TomTom doesn’t yet offer. Motorola takes a particularly novel approach with its Motonav TN550 and TN760t. Instead of having mobile data connectivity built in, these devices piggyback on your phone, but without using tethering. They place small phone calls to retrieve the necessary data, which means the services can be used with any Bluetooth-equipped mobile, and also in areas where cellular data coverage is poor.
Of the new features TomTom LIVE doesn’t offer, the most eye-catching is the flight status update ability. This won’t be something you use every day, unless you drive a taxi on the airport run, but will be useful if you do need to make flights a few times a year. However, no sat-nav maker has managed to outdo the TomTom HD Traffic, which remains the best reason to have a LIVE-enabled navigation device.
If you own a powerful smartphone, however, you already have a data-enabled device in your pocket. So, in theory, you don’t even need the maps installed locally on the device – you can download the latest versions when required. In our opinion, this strategy is as flawed as any pure cloud-computing strategy, as you’re unable to use this kind of service when out of data range.
Despite this, on-demand sat-nav services such as Google Maps Navigation and Telmap5 now provide a very respectable service when data is sufficient, and the former of these is even available for free with Android-based handsets. So you won’t even need to pay for capable navigation. Nevertheless, you’re still better off with locally stored maps if you want a dependable service, particularly when travelling. So two of our three contenders this year will work whether or not you have data coverage.
1st Place: TomTom GO 1000 LIVE
TomTom’s LIVE was the first and remains the best data-enabled sat-nav service. But the competition was undercutting it on price, so TomTom has kept the target moving with the GO 1000 LIVE. Coinciding with its release, the price of a LIVE subscription has been halved across all its range. The 1000 also freshens the design of the device itself, including a very convenient magnetic screen mount, and sports an overhauled interface which is easier to get around. The biggest innovation is the routing, however. All possible routes between positions have been pre-calculated and stored on the device, so even if you’re travelling thousands of miles, you’ll be ready to travel in a few seconds. Overall, the TomTom GO 1000 LIVE is the king of sat-navs.
View Latest Deals for TomTom GO 1000 LIVE – UK readers
2nd Place: Garmin nuvi 1690
Of the pretenders to TomTom’s thrown, Garmin’s nuvi 1690 is the most accomplished. Although TomTom has now matched the year of service included with the 1690, it hasn’t matched the price. So although the Garmin nuvi 1690 still relies exclusively on the less effective traditional TMC traffic service, it’s an extremely accomplished and great value sat-nav.
3rd Place: Mio Navman Spirit 500
Although not a data-enabled device, the Spirit 500 includes RDS-TMC traffic and an improved version of the Navman Spirit interface. One of the most impressive features is the free keyword search, enabling you to search for streets and POIs across an entire country without needing to know the town they’re located in. Best of all, the Mio Navman Spirit now costs just over £100, making it excellent value.
1st Place: Nokia Ovi Maps
Nokia was one of the pioneers of the smartphone concept. Although its fire has been stolen by other options since then, there’s one area where Nokia handsets can still stand proud: Ovi Maps. This fully-featured sat-nav app is entirely free for compatible devices, and includes all the traditional features such as a POI database. Best of all, you can download the maps and store them locally, avoiding data charges when roaming internationally and any problems with coverage at home. Maps are extensive too, and even include Russia and parts of Africa. Like most things involving Symbian, the Ovi Maps interface is rather clunky. But in this case the weight of features still makes this a major reason to choose a Nokia.
2nd Place: Google Maps Navigation
Although the worry of data coverage means you wouldn’t want to make this your sole navigation tool if you travel regularly or for business, it’s still an amazing utility for Android users. With great map coverage (roaming charges permitting) and decent features, this zero-cost option could be Google’s wave of the future.
3rd Place: TomTom for iPhone
TomTom for iPhone is the only traditional third-party app to make it into our awards listing this year. Whilst many smartphone sat-nav apps are only viable for occasional use, TomTom’s software has most of the features of its standalone devices. Best of all, you can bolt on HD Traffic for just £3.49 a month, which will easily pay for itself if you have a rush hour commute to contend with. TomTom for iPhone may be expensive, particularly if you opt for the bespoke screen mount, but it’s a smartphone sat-nav option you could use every day.
Apart from the long-awaited release of USB 3.0, it hasn’t been the most exciting year in PCs, but then it’s not a market where great change is either expected or required.
With laptops becoming ever more popular and consoles nibbling away at the PC games market, it might be true that full tower cases weighing more than the average bank safe (we’re looking at you, Cyberpower Infinity i7 Phoenix are becoming less common. However, we did see some significant evolution in two main sectors: all-in-one (AIO) and small form factor (SFF) PCs.
Though they left out quite a few features, the refreshed iMacs did at least bring the most stylish AIO on par with the average desktop PC. Additionally, ever more brands are getting into the AIO game with Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, MSI and Samsung (to name but a few) all either debuting their models or refreshing existing lines.
SFF PCs are also becoming increasingly popular. While Shuttle might not dominate the way it once did, with Silverstone’s mini-ITX SUGO 07 case (which housed the award-winning Cyberpower Infinity Game Qube) delivering non-proprietary enthusiast hardware in a smaller than ever package, and Gigabyte’s Mini ITX GA-H55N-USB3 motherboard (first seen in the DinoPC Carnivore) bringing cutting-edge features like USB 3.0 to the tiny form factor, you no longer have to make significant performance compromises in order to go small.
On the other hand, if gaming is not what you’re after then tiny systems such as the ASRock Core 100HT-BD and the slim, sleek Zotac ZBOX Blu-ray give you everything you need for productivity and home cinema in tidy, portable little boxes. Overall, mini-ITX and small computing in general is facing a bright future.
Things have been somewhat quiet on the component front, with last year’s Intel’s Core i7 still the performance processor of choice and AMD’s 5970 still the most powerful graphics solution around.
USB 3.0 is becoming a standard feature even on budget motherboards, and thanks to prices which are finally in reach of the average consumer, SSDs are gradually replacing traditional moving parts hard drives as the boot device of choice. Other than this we’ve seen Nvidia make a bit of a comeback with its GeForce GTX 460 graphics cards, and AMD pushing six-core processors into the budget arena.
With new-generation CPUs and GPUs launching within a matter of months though, next year promises to be far more exciting.
1st Place: Cyberpower Infinity Game Qube
This tiny and attractive mini-ITX PC isn’t short on power or features. In fact, you would be forgiven for wondering how so much goodness is stuffed into so diminutive a case. With a water-cooled, overclocked CPU and the latest generation nVidia graphics, it’s more than up to most games, runs quietly, and is great value to boot; proof positive that bigger isn’t always better.
2nd Place: ASRock Core 100HT-BD
If you’re after a great-value HTPC, this is one of the smallest and best-built systems around. It runs quietly enough not to be distracting, and what it lacks in looks it more than makes up for in features, including USB 3.0, Blu-ray and iPhone remote functionality.
View Latest Deals for ASRock 100HT – UK readers
3rd Place: Apple iMac 21.5in (2010)
Still the most attractive all-in-one computer going, if you can’t afford or lack the room for its 27in cousin, this is a great introduction to Apple’s OS X. It may not be the most ergonomic or feature-rich machine around, but in ease of use, build quality and sheer style it knows no parallel.
1st Place: SteelSeries Xai
If you like your gaming mouse to have interchangeable weights or loads of buttons this isn’t the mouse for you, but for ambidextrous gamers and purists this streamlined rodent is an excellent choice. Its comfortable, ergonomic shape lies beautifully in the hand, its tracking performance is flawless, and despite its minimalist approach SteelSeries has made the Xai eminently customisable.
2nd Place: Nvidia GeForce GTX 460
Nvidia has faced an uphill struggle against AMD’s superior Radeon cards, but with the latest GF104 revision of its Fermi architecture in the shape of the GTX 460, it has produced a serious competitor. With a sub-£200 price point, full support for DirectX 11, CUDA and 3D Vision, this is the best-value gaming card to have come out this year.
3rd Place: ASRock 890FX Deluxe3
ASRock’s enthusiast AMD motherboard takes things to the next level by being stuffed with features for the money. It stands out from the crowd mainly for being the first to implement dual USB 3.0 controllers to give double the ports of any competing offering, and doesn’t leave you wanting on any front.
1st Place: Dell UltraSharp U2410
Dell first popularized Full HD, quality non-TN panels with consumers thanks to its original UltraSharp 2405FPW, and is looking to regain that crown with the U2410. An industrial but attractive design, excellent adjustability, more connections than you could shake a very long stick at, and factory-calibrated image quality that’s at the top of its league thanks to an H-IPS panel, it certainly gets our vote.
View Latest Deals for Dell Ultrasharp U2410 – USA readers
2nd Place: NEC MultiSync EA231WMi
Not everyone can afford to spend over £400 on a good, adjustable monitor. For those that want the image quality benefits IPS brings to the table but can do without the fancy extras, NEC’s display costs considerably less but doesn’t cut corners where it counts.
3rd Place: Samsung SyncMaster F2080
With this sPVA-based display, Samsung brought superior panel technology, build quality and ergonomics to a price-point lower than anyone has any right to expect, meaning that even those on a very tight budget can afford a monitor that’s a cut above.
View Latest Deals for Samsung SyncMaster F2010 – UK readers
1st Place: Kodak ESP 3250
With a huge TV campaign extolling low print costs, it’s hard not to notice Kodak’s range of all-in-one printers. The ESP 3250 stands out because its purchase price is also low. If TCO is as important to you as good print quality on plain and photo papers, this is an excellent choice.
2nd Place: Canon i-SENSYS LBP3010
This is a cheap laser printer for personal correspondence, which does what it says on the box. Some neat design features separate it from the crowd, but its print quality and relatively low running costs are what really make the difference.
View Latest Deals for Canon i-SENSYS LBP3010 – UK readers
3rd Place: HP Officejet J4500 Wireless
A SOHO all-in-one for under £100 with an Automatic Document Feeder for multi-page documents and fax facilities for quick document transfer is good value on any list. This printer also includes the simplicity of a wireless connection, making it an easy winner.
Office 2010, and the Mac equivalent, set new heights for Microsoft’s all-conquering productivity suite this year. This year’s releases were slicker, faster and easier to use than ever, and each application was crammed full of useful new features and UI tweaks. What’s more, the £70 or so Microsoft is charging for the Home and Student edition is nothing less than a bargain.
2nd Place: Apple iOS 4
Multitasking, folders, and a unified and threaded mailbox were just some of the reasons for iPhone owners to upgrade their software or even their handset. Though iOS 4 couldn’t improve the image quality of the camera on existing devices, Apple did add a digital zoom. True, iOS 4 on iPhone 3G performance left a lot to be desired, but for the 3GS it was a significant enhancement.
3rd Place: Adobe Lightroom 3
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 is an astonishingly versatile and capable program, packed with advanced features and clever details, and a real one-stop-shop for all your photo management and processing needs. It’s more than just a cosmetic upgrade of the previous version too; it is faster, easier to use, has many new features and big improvements to existing ones. If you’re a professional or keen amateur photographer and you haven’t tried it already, do yourself a massive favour and download the trial version from Adobe’s website right away.
Microsoft may have had mixed fortunes over the years with its Windows products but one area it has consistently held a lead in is its office productivity software, and the latest version of Office is its best yet. Office 2007 may have debuted the ribbon-style interface but it’s in the 2010/2011 package that it has really come into its own. Meanwhile, a huge number of extras have been added, making it the slickest, fastest and easiest to use software of its kind. The fully fledged package may still be very pricey but for £70-odd you can get Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote and at that price it really is a must-buy!
2nd Place: HTC Desire HD
While tablets may be getting many of today’s headlines, it’s still the smartphone that is at the forefront of most people’s tech-buying minds. Top of that most illustrious pile currently sits the HTC Desire HD. It’s packed to the gunnels with features, sports an enormous 4.3in touchscreen, is well built, and has a fetching minimalist design. If you don’t mind your phone’s big it’s the one to get.
View Latest Contract Deals for HTC Desire HD – UK readers
3rd Place: Amazon Kindle 3
The Amazon Kindle may not be a revolutionary device and it’s not even in a product sector large enough to warrant a separate category in our awards. However, one thing is clear, if you like reading, this product is a gnat’s whisker away from a must-have (if you’ve already got a large book collection, there’s little point buying them all again). For just £149 you get a well made e-book reader that is slimmer and lighter than all but the shortest of novellas, can store thousands of books, and whose battery lasts weeks. What’s more, for no extra cost you can download new books, magazines, and newspapers from anywhere around the world. You can even use its inbuilt 3G connection to browse the web for free.
Honourable Mention: Apple iPad
When we reviewed the Apple iPad back in May we felt it didn’t really offer enough for us to recommend anyone actually buy one. Yes, it provided an intriguing way of interacting with your digital world that was just that bit more accessible than using a laptop. For instance, passing it round to look at family photos is that much more enjoyable than on a laptop or phone, while the potential for reading digital magazines has given the whole publishing industry cause for celebration. However, those few reasons alone to our minds came nowhere near to justifying the cost.
Nonetheless, it seems that many, many people have been convinced by the iPad’s charms and it would be remiss of us not to admit that Apple has done something special by almost single handedly creating a new hardware segment. Do we think the tablet market will last? Will devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab take off on the back of Apple’s success? Or will the whole market just wither and disappear once the novelty wears off? Only time will tell.
Your voice is important to us, and that’s why encouraged you to be heard in this year’s Awards. Thousands of you chose what you thought to be the defining product of 2010 from our shortlist. Unsurprisingly, quite a few of the top-ranking products are mobile phones, and the top spot was hotly contested. In fact, we nearly ended up with a draw: second place was only three votes away from your winning choice.
Anyway, without further ado, here are the products that made it into the top ten and one honourable mention.
1st Place: Apple iPad
While we didn’t think the iPad was quite good enough to deserve an award when we reviewed it in May, there’s no denying that it has been a bit of a game-changer. Tablets had been done before, but never with looks this stylish and a screen this good, nor an interface quite so slick and easy. It’s fair to say that Apple’s slate single-handedly sparked a revival in tablets, with competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Tab and ViewSonic ViewPad 10 now coming to market.
2nd Place: HTC Desire
We called HTC’s aptly-named Desire “a truly wondrous smartphone”, and apparently you agree, with it missing out on 1st place by the narrowest of margins. Thanks to its clear and bright AMOLED display, comfortable shape and size, and HTC’s custom Sense overlay to take off Android’s rough edges, it sat at the top of the smartphone food-chain for quite some time – and is still one of the best ones going.
3rd Place: iPhone 4
Evolution rather than revolution and not without its faults, the iPhone 4 is nonetheless Apple’s most desirable device yet. It sports a stunning, high-resolution IPS display, one of the fastest processors around and a design that isn’t the most comfortable to hold but looks absolutely gorgeous. It also benefits from more apps and accessories than any other phone.
4th Place: Samsung Galaxy S
The best specifications of any smartphone, but lacking the feel and interface to make the most of it. Nevertheless a worthy contender.
5th Place: Sony Vaio Z Series
A seductively thin and light powerhouse that oozes style. An amazing laptop if you can afford it.
6th Place: Sony NEX-5
Taking interchangeable lens cameras to a whole new level, with a large sensor, articulated screen and amazing build quality, for an affordable price.
7th Place: Alienware M11x
The smallest gaming laptop that deserves the title.
8th Place: Google Maps Navigation
Comprehensive and, best of all, free! This Android app is a must-have.
9th Place: Nokia Ovi Maps
Nokia’s answer to Google Maps is slick and polished.
10th Place: Panasonic P50VT20
Quite simply the most accomplished 3D TV available, and its 2D pictures aren’t half bad either.
Honourable Mention: Onkyo TX-SR608
There may be better AV receivers out there, but pound for pound, non can match this superb Onkyo.
1st Place: Onkyo TX-SR608
Like last year’s overall winner, the magnificent TX-NR906, the TX-SR608 packs in as many features as possible while keeping the price competitive. The result? One of the best-value AV receivers around, boasting five 3D-ready HDMI v1.4 inputs, THX Select Plus 2 certification, decoding for every audio format under the sun and much smoother sound quality than previous Onkyo amps.
2nd Place: Monitor Audio Apex
With jaw-dropping looks, extraordinary build quality and some of the sweetest sound quality we’ve heard all year, the Apex 5.1 speaker system easily deserves a place on our awards shortlist. Yes it’s pricey, but it justifies every single penny with its spine-tingling reproduction of Blu-ray soundtracks and music.
3rd Place: LG HB965TZ
LG really pushed the boat out with this sensational all-in-one Blu-ray system, which is gorgeously styled and packed with all the features found on the company’s excellent Blu-ray decks. Best of all sound quality is above and beyond what you’d normally expect from a single-box system, making it one of the most complete models on the market.
View Latest Deals for LG HB965TZ – UK readers
1st Place: Sony BDP-S570
This superb player scoops top spot because it blends an all-encompassing feature list with spellbinding performance for a reasonable price. It’s the deck that has it all – built-in Wi-Fi, extensive format support, DLNA media streaming, built-in BD Live memory, 3D compatibility, SACD playback and the superb BRAVIA Internet Video service, which brings an unrivalled amount of web content into your living room.
2nd Place: Samsung BD-C6900
As Samsung’s first 3D Blu-ray player, the BD-C6900 is a landmark in itself. But it has many more tricks up its sleeve, such as built-in Wi-Fi, network media streaming and Internet@TV, which boasts applications like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. And naturally for a Samsung product, it’s gorgeous on the outside too.
3rd Place: LG BD570
LG’s latest 2D deck is another great-value, feature-packed affair, equipped with built-in Wi-Fi and DLNA streaming, plus it supports all of the key digital media formats, including MKV. Top that off with crisp, assured hi-def pictures and a sub-£200 price tag and you’ve got yourself a bargain.
The past 12 months have seen innovations aplenty in the home cinema market, but 2010 will mostly be remembered as the year when the industry decided that two dimensions were no longer enough – true cinematic nirvana can only be achieved, it seems, by adding a third.
Yes, 3D has dominated the home cinema landscape this year, with big name brands like Sony, Panasonic, LG and Samsung throwing their hats into the ring (straight towards the camera, probably) with a slew of highly impressive 3D-capable TVs and Blu-ray players. There still aren’t many discs to choose from, but with Sky launching its 3D channel earlier this month and a steady stream of 3D cinema releases ripe for a Blu-ray conversion, the future is looking bright for the technology.
That said, 3D is still a rich man’s plaything, with TVs and players commanding hefty price tags – and that’s even before you’ve factored in the cost of extra glasses, which are only compatible with the set they’re designed for, we hasten to add. For buyers who have only just got their head round HD, it’s a hell of a lot to take in…
In the Blu-ray player market, 3D has obviously been the headline feature and models like the Samsung BD-C6900, the Panasonic DMP-BDT100 and the Sony BDP-S570 have impressed, not only with their ability to deliver deep, layered images but also with features like DLNA network streaming and access to Internet services, which expand content beyond the confines of physical media.
Platforms like BRAVIA Internet Video, Internet@TV, Viera Cast and Net Cast deliver a growing amount of on-demand content to your TV, and most of the latest players can do so over a wireless web connection too. Although these aren’t new, 2010 has seen them turn from fun gimmicks into genuinely compelling features.
The arrival of 3D has had a knock-on effect on the AV receiver market too, as its reliance on HDMI v1.4 means that consumers have to upgrade if they want to enjoy 3D pictures and HD audio at the same time. All the audio big hitters like Onkyo, Denon, Yamaha and Pioneer have added 3D support, as well as delivering more of that superb sound quality we love them for. This has been complemented by a generally high standard in the home cinema speaker market, with brands like Monitor Audio, Crystal Acoustics and Teufel delivering the goods yet again.
And last but not least, 2010 saw the introduction of Freeview HD, which offers free high-definition TV through a rooftop aerial without any pricey subscription fees to worry about. Even though it hasn’t yet been rolled out to all parts of the UK, there’s already a wide range of Freeview HD products on the market, including TVs, twin-tuner PVRs and receivers – not to mention a range of superb Blu-ray/HDD combis from Panasonic.
1st Place: Sony Vaio Z Series
What is the ultimate laptop? Well, it needs to be fast enough to replace a desktop, small and light enough to be taken out for the day, and have a battery life of at least five hours. Enter the Sony VAIO Z Series. This 13-inch laptop makes a MacBook Pro look like a toy. Its screen is magnificent, its speed is blistering and it weighs little more than 1.5kg. Case closed.
View Latest Deals for Sony VAIO Z series – USA readers
2nd Place: HP Pavilion dm4
For the money, the HP Pavilion dm4 offers unrivalled design, sophistication and performance. Its Core i5 processor gives it desktop replacement levels of performance, albeit without the gaming prowess. Battery life in excess of six hours is a more than adequate tonic, though.
View Latest Deals for HP Pavilion dm4 – USA readers
3rd Place: Alienware M11x
Easily the most innovative laptop released this year, the M11x has a unique claim as the only ultra-portable gaming laptop in the world. Its 11.6-inch screen and sub-2kg weight indeed makes it very portable, while switchable graphics and low-voltage processing means you can play games and enjoy all-day battery life.
1st Place: Acer Aspire D260
Acer went back to basics with the D260. It’s slim, light, and has excellent battery life: all the things you’d expect of a netbook. More importantly, the price is right. Unlike so many of the netbooks released this year, the D260 retails closer to £250 than £300, and is far better value for it.
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2nd Place: Samsung N130
Also going back to basics is Samsung with its N130. This actually uses a first generation Intel Atom processor, and is basic as it comes where features are concerned. However, while lacking in extras, the N130 is certainly one of the most stylish, most durable and best value netbooks we saw all year.
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3rd Place: Dell Inspiron M101z
Okay, we admit it, in the strictest sense of the word the M101z isn’t a netbook. However, in its simplest configuration, it costs just £379 and will trounce any pure netbook for only a little more outlay. Go for a more expensive dual-core version and you’ve got an outstanding student laptop, and a perfect tonic to the fact that there have been precious few outstanding netbooks this year .
1st Place: Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch
Not the cheapest, that much is certain, but the 15-inch MacBook Pro is unrivalled among desktop replacements. The turning point was Apple’s introduction of switchable graphics. Now the Pro can do all the video editing and intensive productivity tasks when at home, and has enough battery life to be used out and about as well. Outstanding design is just another fringe benefit.
2nd Place: Samsung R780
If you want a bit of everything, and don’t want to break the bank, the R780 delivers. Its large 17.3-inch screen is great to work on, and under the hood it has the power to deal with day-to-day tasks and then play games into the small hours. It possesses a little bit of style too, but most important of all though is its affordable price.
3rd Place: HP Pavilion dv6-2113sa
It might not be the most fashionable laptop on the block, but we didn’t encounter a better value machine than the dv6-2113sa all year. Its AMD dual-core processor, while not quite a match for Intel equivalents, is more than capable and it has enough graphics grunt for a little gaming. Throw in a 500GB hard drive, an excellent keyboard and eye-catching design, and the £500 price tag looks oh-so-tempting.
This year has arguably been the most revolutionary in the TV world since HD made its first stride towards world domination. Why? Two reasons: 3D and Freeview HD.
Regarding 3D, the jury remains out on whether the public really want it; we’re hardly alone in having doubts about how many ‘ordinary folk’ will feel tempted to don a pair of chunky glasses to watch their TVs. Especially when those glasses cost around £100 a pair, making the 3D deal painfully expensive for anyone with a kid or two.
What hasn’t helped 3D’s cause either, is that all the 3D TVs we’ve seen so far have suffered with a phenomenon known as crosstalk, where you see ghostly echoes of well-defined objects appearing to either side of the correct ‘central’ image element. This has proved distracting and tiring on all the LCD 3D TVs we’ve seen – which is why no 3D LCD TVs have featured in our top threes this year. Here’s hoping they up their game for 2011.
The only TVs that have suppressed crosstalk sufficiently to make 3D look truly convincing are the Panasonic VT20 range and the LG 47LD950. However, since the latter uses resolution-reducing side-by-side 3D technology, it’s fallen to Panasonic – in conjunction with Sky’s recently launched 3D channel while we await more Blu-rays – to keep the 3D flag flying.
So far, as the mass rather than early adopter market is concerned, it’s arguably Freeview HD that’s really affected most of our reader’s TV lives. Since the service started broadcasting just before Christmas 2009, Freeview HD tuners have already become an almost standard TV feature. This is, of course, a hugely significant development. For it finally, truly, brings HD to the masses – especially as Freeview HD tuners are being integrated into new TVs while adding seemingly very little to their cost. It’s a pity it’s going to take until 2012 for Freeview HD to be available across the whole UK, but even so it’s clear that Freeview HD’s arrival completes the HD revolution.
Other areas showing large improvements this year are LED lighting technologies and online content services. This latter feature is likely to become a major battle ground through 2011.
Turning to projectors, it has been a rather quiet year, at least at the mainstream end of the market, with most ‘innovation’ being based around crazily cheap pricing rather than new technology. The growth of LED lighting has been the biggest technical development, leading both to a splurge of new pocket-sized models, and the arrival of one or two outstanding high-end home cinema models with LED lamps reckoned to last the full lifetime of the projector.
The end of 2010 and early 2011 looks set to be a much more interesting period for projectors thanks to 3D and new LCD tech – watch this space.
Without further ado, let’s get down to the fun business of picking the finest TVs and projectors that have come through our doors since last November.
1st Place: Panasonic TX-P42G20
Plasma may still be losing the PR battle against its LCD rival, but it continues to help Panasonic turn out great TVs. This is especially true with the outstandingly good value P42G20, which somehow manages to combine twin Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners, online capabilities, lots of picture flexibility and outstanding picture quality with a remarkably affordable price. Gamers will love it too, thanks to its immensely fast response time.
View Latest Deals for Panasonic Viera TX-P42G20 – UK readers
2nd Place: Samsung LE40C650
It’s arguably not been a vintage year by Samsung standards, with its 3D sets failing to set the pace. But this mid-range model is right up there with the brand’s finest moments, boasting a huge feature list – including a superb online service – and one of the best CCFL picture performances. It’s elegantly designed too. But what really elevates it into our top three is its price; we’ve found it going for under £650 on numerous websites, which really is peanuts for what’s on offer.
3rd Place: Sony KDL-40EX503
This was the first Freeview HD TV we ever tested – and it’s a testament to what a great TV it is that it’s still comfortably made our top three despite the arrival of so many other Freeview HD equipped TVs since. Helping it continue to stand out from the crowd are its really excellent pictures, newly aggressive pricing, and class-leading online platform.
View Latest Deals for Sony Bravia KDL-40EX503 – UK readers
1st Place: Panasonic TX-P50VT20
The only TVs we’ve seen so far this year that have delivered truly enjoyable and convincing 3D pictures have been Panasonic’s plasmas. LCD supporters can point to more detail and brightness in their 3D images, but the bottom line is that Panasonic’s plasma 3D TVs, like the outstanding P50VT20, don’t suffer nearly as badly as the LCD TVs with crosstalk (double ghosting) when watching 3D material. Wrapping the P50VT20’s immense appeal up is its also-excellent 2D performance and surprisingly aggressive pricing.
2nd Place: LG 47LE8900
LG has had a really hit and miss 2009-2010, but the 47in 47LE8900 is a real highlight that bodes well for the Korean brand in 2011. It manages to combine edge LED levels of skinny design with direct LED technology with local dimming; the former trick delivers lovely aesthetics, while the latter produces really outstanding picture quality that emphatically puts to bed any remaining doubts anyone might have had that LG isn’t capable of being a true A-List brand.
View Latest Deals for LG Infinia 47LE8900 – UK readers
3rd Place: Philips 32PFL9705H
We considered not including the Philips 32PFL9705H in our top three for this section simply because it’s so expensive for a 32in TV. But in the end it just didn’t seem right not to honour what is comfortably the finest 32in TV we’ve ever seen, with its superb build quality, huge feature count, immensely powerful picture processing engine, excellent online functionality, and above all peerless AV performance – which includes, refreshingly, terrific sound quality.
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1st Place: JVC DLA-HD950
JVC continues to dominate the upper mid-range of the home cinema projection scene, to the point where we agonised for an age over which model in its range to pick for our top three. In the end, while we highly commend the brand’s £3k HD550 to people on a reasonably tight budget, the HD950 offers so much extra quality that we just found it impossible to resist. In fact, at £5,000 it’s an absolute stone-cold home cinema bargain.
2nd Place: Epson EH-TW4400
Although a definite step down in quality from Epson’s terrific TW5500, reviewed in the last quarter of 2009, the much more affordable TW4400 is still a truly outstanding projector, with crisp, contrast-rich, colourful, noise-free and dynamic pictures that comfortably fit in with Epson’s apparent obsession with reminding us all that LCD technology is still more than capable of delivering an exceptional home cinema performance.
View Latest Deals for Epson EH-TW4400 – UK readers
3rd Place: Sim2 MICO 50
As well as producing another dose of the astonishing picture quality that’s pretty much become a Sim2 trademark these days, the MICO 50 hits our top three despite its far from mainstream price on account of its pioneering spirit. The reason is that it uses LED lighting to illuminate its pictures, enabling it to use less power than conventional projectors, while also meaning you very likely will never have to change its bulb throughout its entire lifetime. Brilliant. In very sense.
2010 has been a game-changing year for digital cameras. It has seen a blurring of lines between previously long-established categories, and the rise of entirely new types of camera that offer greater portability, versatility and creative potential than ever before. Features such as HD video and stereo sound recording have become commonplace rather than rarities, and the headlong rush to ever higher sensor resolutions seems to have slowed and in some cases reversed as both manufacturers and the buying public come to realise there’s more to image quality than just megapixels. Lens quality has at last become a major selling point, with several cameras now offering fast f/2 lenses, and 24mm wide-angle is fast becoming the standard for zoom lenses.
The most significant event of 2010 has been the explosive growth in the Compact System Camera market, with second-generation models from Panasonic and Olympus, as well as extremely impressive debut models from Ricoh, Samsung and especially Sony, and rumours of imminent launches in this category from Nikon and Canon, among others. The new Compact System Cameras have completely overshadowed traditional digital SLRs in the system camera category this year, and look set to do the same next year too.
2010 has been something of a slow year for digital SLRs. There have been a couple of significant new models, such as the Canon EOS 550D and several new additions to Sony’s ever-growing Alpha range. Unfortunately some major new launches including the Nikon D3100, Sony A55 and Canon EOS 60D arrived too late in the year for our 2010 awards, but they’re sure to be important models for the year ahead.
Another category that has seen a lot of activity this year is the long-zoom compact or “travel camera”. All of the main manufacturers now have models in this category, with some of the high-end ones sporting features such as full HD video, built-in GPS location and manual exposure controls. Highlights from the year include the Samsung WB650, Panasonic TZ10, Fuji F80 and Sony HX5, to name but a few. This is another area that is sure to see further developments over the next twelve months.
Meanwhile the rest of the digital camera market has seen slow but steady progress. There have been a lot of good mid-range and budget cameras launched this year, with stand-out models from Samsung, Casio and Panasonic, while the luxury compact market has seen impressive new models from big brands such as Nikon and Canon, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of its market-leading IXUS line with some great new models. Again, these were launched too late to feature in this year’s awards, but look out for reviews soon.
Anyway, enough with the introduction; let’s move right along and take a look at the best digital cameras from 2010. With so much variety in the camera market at the moment we could probably have chosen six different categories, but in the end we narrowed it down to just three; budget compacts, advanced compacts, and system cameras.
1st Place: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS10
Panasonic is best known for its expensive high-end cameras such as the TZ series of long-zoom compacts and FX series of luxury ultra-compacts, as well as the FZ super-zoom cameras and the G-Micro range of compact system cameras. However its range extends to a number of budget models too, and the pick of the bunch is the outstanding FS10. It offers 12-megapixel resolution, a 4x zoom 28-140mm lens, HD video and optical image stabilisation, with excellent performance and decent image quality. The slim and compact body is all metal and finished to Panasonic’s usual high standard, and looks a lot more expensive than it really is. In fact, it can now be had for around £100, having dropped in price by nearly £40 since first reviewed. Value for money doesn’t get much better than this.
View Latest Deals for Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS10 – UK readers
2nd Place: Samsung ST70
About seven years ago Samsung set out to carve itself a bigger share of the digital camera market, and has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. It is now one of the major manufacturers, challenging established brands such as Canon, Sony and Panasonic in the compact camera market. The secret of its success is its ability to produce high-quality cameras and market them at knock-down prices, and a prime example of this is the ST70. With a slim and stylish all-metal body, a good quality 5x zoom lens, a 14.2-megapixel sensor, excellent performance and outstanding value for money it is the epitome of the good budget compact, and a worth winner of an award in this category.
3rd Place: Casio Exilim EX-Z550
Casio is one of the longest-established digital camera manufacturers, and has a well-earned reputation for innovation and value for money. The Exilim EX-Z550 is the latest in a long line of quality ultra-compacts, and offers many features not often found at its budget price point. A 4x zoom lens with 26mm wide angle, sensor-shift image stabilisation, and great easy-to-use interface and HD video, all wrapped in an attractive all-metal body in a range of colours make the Z550 a lot of camera for the money.
1st Place: Canon PowerShot S95
Canon launched the S90 last year as a response to Panasonic’s multi-award-winning Lumix LX3, and managed to secure 3rd place in our 2009 awards for its efforts. This year Canon has improved on an already excellent design to bring us the new PowerShot S95 advanced compact. Using the same 1/1.7-inch 10-megapixel CCD sensor and DIGIC 4 processor as Canon’s flagship PowerShot G12, combined with an extremely high quality f/2.0 3.8x zoom lens, the S95 has arguably the best image quality of any current pocket compact, while its versatile control interface offers the creative capabilities demanded by photography enthusiasts. Performance, features, handling and build quality are all up to Canon’s usual high standard. It may be expensive at nearly £400, but the S95 is a worthy winner of our top award in this category.
2nd place: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Following a classic like the Lumix LX3 was never going to be easy, but Panasonic has taken the sensible approach and made only minor improvements to the winning formula. Additions include an optional electronic viewfinder, an improved control interface and a longer zoom range, up to 3.8x from 2.5x. Internally, it sports an improved 10MP sensor, a new image processor and an upgraded image stabilisation system. The improvement is small, but pays off in faster performance and greater versatility. It only loses out to the S95 on high-ISO image noise.
3rd Place: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5
If you’re looking for one camera that can do everything, look no further than the Sony HX5. For well under £300 it offers a 10x optical zoom equivalent to 25-250mm, a high-speed 10.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and 1080i HD video recording with stereo audio, all controlled by a slick touch-screen interface with optional manual exposure control and a range of creative options. Build quality and handling are superb, and image quality is among the best in its class.
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Over the last year, high definition video has moved entirely out of the realm of early adoption, and now even a number of pocket models offer HD. Lucky then that the next big thing is already here, and that’s 3D video.
However, it’s still very much at the first stage. Panasonic has released the first credible 3D camcorder for the rich semi-pro or enthusiast, the HDC-SDT750, and you can pick up a cheap 3D shooter in the shape of the Aiptek 3D i2. However, with its early teething problems, we’re not quite ready yet to recommend this format.
So HD remains the format of choice if you want the best camcorder currently on the market. It’s also now the format of choice if you’re on a budget as well. There has been little change in recording formats, with AVCHD remaining the most widespread option, although more general MP4 has also found favour. This is because one of this year’s developments, 50p Full HD shooting, is not supported by AVCHD. So camcorders wishing to offer this option have had to look elsewhere.
The continually falling price of Flash memory has meant that there are signs of this storage format taking over, although there are still plenty of models using hard disks, which offer greater capacity.
With the core camcorder features remaining relatively static, competition has moved onto other areas. In particular, image stabilisation technology has improved. Now many higher-end camcorders offer more than one choice of stabilisation, tracking different frequencies and axes. So whether you’re shooting whilst walking, recording from a moving vehicle, or simply trying to get a solid shot when operating handheld at full zoom, the top models from the likes of Panasonic and Canon are more likely than ever to keep your footage stable.
Another feature gaining in popularity is the Advanced or Intelligent zoom, which is a happy halfway house between purely optical and digital telephoto. Whilst the former physically moves the lenses to zoom in, the latter just blows up the frame digitally, resulting in a loss of resolution. But many recent camcorder models have sensors with more pixels than is required for Full HD. So you can crop into the sensor area to provide a zoom that doesn’t lose resolution, although it can reduce low-light sensitivity.
Overall, though, the last year has been one in which camcorder pricing has returned to the direction we have come to expect for all devices containing semiconductors: down. At the beginning of 2009, the weakness of the pound and general recession problems meant that camcorder pricing actually went up slightly. But now you can buy a decent Full HD model for as little as £230, and our high-end choice is still under £800. So this Christmas you can seriously consider high definition video making, even if 3D isn’t quite there yet.
1st Place: Samsung HMX-R10
Samsung’s camcorders were known primarily for their value, but more recently the company has been concentrating on quality as well. The HMX-R10 costs considerably less than £300, but still offers Full HD shooting, plus a handful of fun features. There’s time lapse recording, so you can watch your grass grow, and slow-motion where footage is recorded at up to 500 frames/sec but played back at the normal 25 frames/sec. With decent performance even in low light, the HMX-R10 gives you a lot of camcorder quality for the money.
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2nd Place: Panasonic HDC-SD60
Although the impressively low price of Samsung’s HMX-R10 wins it this year’s top Value accolade, Panasonic’s HDC-SD60 provides more features for just a little more money. It offers plenty of manual controls via its touch screen LCD, and an upgraded sensor compared to Panasonic’s previous generation gives improved image quality. It can’t quite match the keen price of this year’s Samsung winner, but if you have a little more to spend the HDC-SD60, or one of its 60-series siblings, are worthy of the extra cash.
3rd Place: JVC PICSIO GC-FM2
The pocket Internet camcorder has carved out a new niche for itself, which has lasted longer than many predicted. Nevertheless, JVC is the only mainstream camcorder manufacturer to take the concept seriously. With the PICSIO GC-FM2, JVC has produced the best example of the genre yet, with more features available via its touch screen and better image quality than other pocket Internet competitors. It is relatively pricey, but worth it if you want a little more than just point and shoot.
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1st Place: Panasonic HDC-TM700
.For the second year running, Panasonic grabs the top spot, and for most of the same reasons as before. The TM700 offers a comprehensive range of manual controls and enthusiast features, the pinnacle of which is the lens ring. You also get essentials like a standard-sized accessory shoe and microphone input. However, it also has some novel features, chief amongst which are the ability to shoot Full HD at 50 progressive frames a second, and a powerful new image stabilisation mode. With super image quality, the TM700 is a potent package for the discerning enthusiast or semi-pro.
2nd Place: Canon LEGRIA HF S21
Although trumped by this year’s overall winner, Canon’s latest high-end LEGRIA still offers awesome performance and features. Image quality is on par with the best current models, and the control knob next to the lens provides easy access to manual controls. However, it’s not quite as flexible as a lens ring, the accessory shoe is Canon’s proprietary version, and the HF S21 is also more expensive than our number one choice for 2010.
3rd Place: JVC Everio GZ-HM1
JVC hasn’t always bothered with the semi-professional end of the camcorder market, but the GZ-HM1 is a very commendable re-entry. With excellent image quality, a control knob similar to Canon’s LEGRIA HF S21, 64GB of internal memory, a standard accessory shoe, and a price just over £800, the GZ-HM1 is more an equal second to Canon than a bronze medal contender.
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Our Company of the Year awards was chosen from a selection of manufacturers who made the products featuring in our Awards. Unlike the Product of the Year 2010 votes however, there was a clear winner, with considerable margins between second and third place. We admit to some surprise regarding the champion here, but that’s what Readers’ choice is all about!
1st Place: HTC
Thanks no doubt in large part to the popularity of its Desire, which nearly won your Product of the Year top choice, Taiwan-based HTC is your favourite manufacturer. With gorgeous devices like the aluminium-clad Legend, it has certainly gone to greater efforts than most to make the smartphone lust-worthy. Crucially, its phones weren’t just pretty on the outside, but thanks to its Sense skin also attractive in use. It reigns supreme in the top spot here, with nearly a quarter of all votes.
2nd Place: Apple
With the incredible popularity of devices like the iPad and iPhone 4, it was almost inevitable that Apple would be in the top three, and with just under 20 percent of your votes it’s a solid second. Admittedly you pay premium prices, but then its products are consistently well-built, stunning to behold and work like a charm. How many other companies can say that?
3rd Place: Google
Its ubiquity is such that its name is synonymous with Internet searching and with its Chrome browser steadily eating away at the competition, the company that ‘does no evil’ is also a dominant player in the mobile phone market thanks to its Android OS. Google’s products are generally free, easy to use and very powerful, so it’s no wonder you rather like it.
Samsung, Microsoft, Panasonic and Sony received the majority of the remaining votes between them.
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