TechRadar's best gear of 2011
16th Dec 2011 | 10:43
The kit that has most impressed our reviewers this year
TechRadar's best gear of 2011
Every year, we review hundreds of bits of hardware here at TechRadar, and every year the standard gets better and better. The phones get more advanced, the PCs get faster and the TVs get a picture quality we never though possible.
Of course, it can be hard to follow all those reviews, especially when some products get so much hype, but turn out to be disappointing.
Well, we say the best kit always rises to the top, and the list below is definitely the cream of the crop. Our experts selected the products that stood out far above the rest, either because of having top features, excellent quality, a bargain price or all of the above, so you can be sure that this is the best kit of 2011.
Best LCD TV: Philips 46PFL9706H
This Philips set wins out for one very good reason: it produces quite possibly the best 2D pictures we've ever seen from an LCD TV. The Moth Eye filter and direct LED backlighting create an astonishingly good contrast ratio, and the Perfect Pixel HD processing engine helps to create truly beautiful images.
It's smart, too, with plenty of internet-connected features, and 3D support. We should stick in a special mention here for the Samsung UE60D8000, simply for its sheer wow factor. With an almost invisible bezel and impossibly slim form factor, it's as much a work of modern art as it is a television.
Read TechRadar's full Philips 46PFL9706H review
Best plasma TV: Panasonic TX-P55VT30B
Proving that 2011 was a hell of a year for TVs, we not only had the best LCD picture quality ever, but now the best plasma TV ever. This TV sits at the top of Panasonic's range, and it really shows. Images are bright and full of colour, with 3D images a vast improvement over previous plasma models. There's almost no crosstalk (ghosting) at all, meaning you can enjoy visually rich films at their very best.
Read TechRadar's full Panasonic TX-P55VT30B review
Best Blu-ray player: Panasonic DMP-BDT310
This top-of-the-range Panasonic Blu-ray player packs in an extraordinary feature list, including iPhone control, Skype functionality and 2D to 3D conversion, but also manages to produce excellent video performance with 2D or 3D content. And yet, somehow, it's also brilliantly easy to use. It's not cheap, but you get what you pay for and then some with this unit.
Read TechReadar's full Panasonic DMP-BDT310 review
Best compact system camera: Sony Alpha NEX-7
This camera might be pricey and oddly shaped, but its massive pixel count and the best EVF we've seen to date won us over. The tough, lightweight magnesium body helps too, and the manual controls and excellent video quality from the 24-megapixel sensor are ideal for professionals.
It's a close run thing with the Panasonic G3, though, which has an EVF and an articulated touchscreen to help capture images from all sorts of angles.
Read TechRadar's full Sony Alpha NEX-7 review
Best DSLR: Sony Alpha 77
OK, we admit that, strictly speaking, this isn't an SLR, because it has a fixed translucent mirror rather than a standard moving mirror, but to the average user it's the same thing. Well, apart from the fact that it has a phenomenal 12fps maximum continuous shooting rate, full-time autofocus in live view and video mode and an electronic viewfinder (EVF) in place of an optical viewfinder.
The EVF is the same one as in the NEX-7, and it comes as close to an optical unit as we've got yet, but it also shows a range of useful data. The icing on the cake is the A77's 24.3-megapixel sensor, which captures heaps of detail.
Read TechRadar's Hands on: Sony Alpha 77 review
Best compact camera: Canon PowerShot S100
Canon's S95 was one of the most popular compact cameras around, but the company has managed to improve on it with this model, primarily by updating the sensor technology to improve low light performance. Slight modifications to the body also make the S100 much more comfortable to hold and use one-handed that its predecessor, while raw shooting and manual control make this a top all rounder in a small package.
Read TechRadar's full Canon PowerShot S100 review
Best phone: Samsung Galaxy S2
The Samsung Galaxy S2 is here for one simple reason: it absolutely blew away the competition when it was released. It proved that you could have slim good looks and dual-core speed with a big, beautiful screen in one package.
Everything about it works brilliantly, from the obvious, such as the slick interface on the Super AMOLED Plus screen, to the little things, like the speed of the GPS. Samsung raised the bar for mobile phones massively the day the Galaxy S2 came out.
Read TechRadar's full Samsung Galaxy S2 review
Best tablet: Apple iPad 2
The tablet market has grown hugely since the original iPad renewed the world's interest in larger touchscreens, but the iPad 2 was where it really started to grow up. The criticism that tablets were for consumption, rather than creation, were blown away by the combination of dual-core power and apps such as GarageBand, Codify and ArtRage.
The iPad 2 is slicker, thinner and lighter than before, with great apps for absolutely anyone, making it the best tablet out there.
Read TechRadar's full Apple iPad 2 review
Best gaming product: Nintendo 3DS
When the 3DS first arrived, we were massively impressed with the hardware. The analogue Circle Pad feels easy to control, the 3D effect is immediately impressive, and the augmented reality games that are built in really showed off what you could do with the hardware.
But it suffered from a lack of high-quality games for most of 2011, which held it back. Now we've got the likes of Super Mario Land 3D and Mario Kart 7, we're reminded what an engrossing gaming experience the 3DS offers.
Read TechRadar's full Nintendo 3DS review
Best audio product: Atomic Floyd SuperDarts
There are two things you need to know about the SuperDarts: they are really quite expensive; and they sound absolutely amazing. There's no question about it – these headphones are brilliant, and if you can afford them, you should get them. Every nuance and piece of detail in your music will be picked out, and you'll just want to listen to everything anew. Even the Kevlar cables are superb, ensuring that you're not struggling with knots when you want to be listening to your music.
Read TechRadar's full Atomic Floyd SuperDarts review
Best sat nav: TomTom Go Live 825
TomTom already made the best sat-nav devices around, and yet this is even easier to use and more powerful. It's slick and polished in the extreme, with features such as spoken road names and signposting at motorway junctions. There are options for traffic and safety camera updates as well, making this the best sat-nav choice on the market.
Read TechRadar's full TomTom Go Live 825 review
Best ebook reader: Amazon Kindle 4
The latest Amazon Kindle is smaller and lighter than before, but also significantly cheaper. It feels much more mature when it comes to software, and the screen is the best it's ever been. The Kindle Store is still the best place for picking up ebooks, though we will say it's a shame there's no 3G option. That doesn't detract from this being a bona fide bargain.
Read TechRadar's full Amazon Kindle 4 review
More top gear of 2011
Best laptop: Apple MacBook Air 11-inch
The MacBook Air has had an incredible transformation over its life, going from a slower but lighter laptop offering to one of the speediest machines around. With Intel's Sandy Bridge processors powering it and an SSD providing the storage, it comes on from sleep almost instantly, yet offers a huge amount of battery life.
The addition of a Thunderbolt port even means that its relative lack of ports doesn't have to be an issue in the future. This is just an astonishingly fast and polished laptop for its diminutive size and weight.
Read TechRadar's full Apple MacBook Air review
Best desktop PC: Dell Inspiron One 2320
The Dell Inspiron One 2320 is one of the few PCs to really nail the middle ground between computer and media hub. The 23-inch, 1080p screen is great for watching movies on, and it comes with a remote control that lets you get away from the mouse and keyboard.
Conversely, it can also be controlled using its touchscreen. Even the speakers are pretty good for a standard all-in-one PC, and the whole thing can be wall-mounted. It's not a super-powerful gaming powerhouse, but this is a superb home PC for just about any user.
Read TechRadar's full Dell Inspiron One 2320 review
Best printer: HP Photosmart 7510
The Photosmart 7510 wins out here for getting the basics very, very right: it offers stellar printing quality at good speeds. It may not have the most comprehensive feature list, but it's easy to use thanks to it's touchscreen interface, offers double-sided printing and has ePrint and AirPrint functionality. If you want printing done right for a reasonable price, look no further.
Read TechRadar's full HP Photosmart 7510 review
Best processor: Intel Core i5 2500K
Astonishing performance. That's it. That's why the 15 2500K is here. In one move, Intel made its previous range of top-end chips look silly in comparison. It can be overclocked to an astonishing degree, features improved on-board graphics with a blisteringly fast Quick Sync Video feature for encoding video, and all at a mid-range price.
Read TechRadar's full Intel Core i5 2500K review
Best graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 580
You can't argue with raw power, and the GTX 580 has it coming out of every vent. It's the fastest single-GPU card out there, and for those who need to push some serious pixels, there's no better option. The price, admittedly, is a little on the steep side. Okay, quite a lot on the steep side. But for those looking for the best DirectX 11 performance possible, this is the card.
Read TechRadar's full Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 review
Best motherboard: ASRock Z68 Pro 3
This motherboard gets the nod because there's not better value option on the market. It may not be the most friendly for really serious overclockers, and it doesn't support multiple GPUs, but it doesn't skimp on the other high-end features, meaning this is the perfect board to put in a high-performance, low-cost machine.
Read TechRadar's ASRock Z68 Pro 3 review
Best monitor: Asus PA238Q
Normally, when we talk about a monitor with an IPS screen, LED backlighting, HDMI and DisplayPort support, a 100% sRGB gamut and a stand that's adjustable in all directions, we're talking about spending many hundreds of pounds. But this astonishing screen from Asus is just £250. There's been no slacking on the image quality at the price, making this a beautiful monitor that's a true bargain. This is as close to a perfect monitor as we've seen yet.
Read TechRadar's full Asus PA238Q review
Best SSD: OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
The key thing with this SSD is its use of the SandForce SF-2000 controller. Combined with OCZ's flash knowhow, it's capable producing double the speed of earlier drives in this SSD. Only a year ago, you could barely dream of speeds this fast, and though it's true you'll have to pay a big price for the performance, there's no doubting that this is drive to get is speed is your aim.
Read TechRadar's full OCZ Vertex 3 240GB review
Best RAM: G.Skill RipJaws-X 4GB
Though Intel's Sandy Bridge platform has reduced the importance of RAM overclocking, that doesn't mean it's a dead art. These sticks aren't just a bargain at around £50, they're also capable of some serious overclocking. There simply aren't any of the usual trade-offs with this 4GB set, making it the best RAM you can pick up for Sandy Bridge setups right now.
Read TechRadar's full G.Skill RipJaws-X 4GB review
Liked this? Then check out Tablets in 2012: what to expect
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