Gear of the year: TechRadar's top tech from 2012

31st Dec 2012 | 10:00

Gear of the year: TechRadar's top tech from 2012

All the hottest hits and techiest toys from the last 12 months

I've been the reviews editor on TechRadar for a few years now but I don't think I can remember a year quite as exciting as 2012. I think it's been one of the greatest years in consumer tech we've ever seen. It may even be the greatest.

That might sound like hyperbole but think about it for a second there, internet, and you'll see that it's true - for the consumer tech enthusiast, 2012 has been a solid stream of uninterrupted success.

The smartphone market is more exciting and innovative today than it has ever been in its history. There are excellent products at all price ranges instead of just right at the very top. We've got Ultra HD, Smart and 3D TVs breaking through televisual barriers we didn't even know existed a few years ago.

Ultrabooks and Macbooks are pushing mobile computing into a new age of super-slim and super-awesome.

We've finally got access to decent Android tablets for well under £200/$200. Cameras are now internet connected and run Android apps for quick-sharing of your snaps. Windows 8 is ushering in a new age of touchscreen computers of all shapes and sizes.

And while many of the biggest tech companies on the planet are struggling financially, as far as the products go we're in the richest age of technological life-enhancement since 1950s America.

So to celebrate that, here's a list of all the best gear we've tested this year. All best in class products in all our major channels - ladies and gents, we give you: the class of 2012.

Samsung Galaxy S3 review

Samsung Galaxy S3

best in class

Best in class: Smartphone
Released: July 2012

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the best smartphone on the planet. There are those that will take issue with that statement and point feverishly at an iPhone 5 or hoist an HTC One X up the flagpole of futility, but the S3 has topped our list of best phones for a while now and it's going to take something very special to topple it. It's got every kind of feature we could ask for and more, and raises the bar in terms of what consumers should be expecting from battery life, processor speed and media management. It's simply the best.

Read: Samsung Galaxy S3 review

orange san diego

Orange San Diego

best in class

Best in class: Budget phone
Released: June 2012

The Orange San Diego has got Intel inside. Dong! Dong ding dong ding! It's not the biggest, fastest or cheapest phone out there, but it is a well-featured performer at an excellent price point. Intel is a name you're going to see more and more in the world of mobile, with 2013 and 2014 very important years on its roadmap. But despite this being the first Intel phone to go on sale in Europe, it's still excellent. So if you're looking at the more pricey Nokia Lumia 800, Sony Xperia P or even HTC One S then it is worth checking out the San Diego and possibly sparing yourself some cash.

Read: Orange San Diego review

ipad mini

Apple iPad mini

best in class

Best in class: Tablet
Released: November 2012

You didn't see this one coming, did you? OK, if you've read Gareth's iPad mini review you probably did see it coming. And if you're half asleep and not with us: we've named an iPad as the best tablet, but it's not the iPad 4, it's the smaller, less powerful, non-Retina iPad mini. Yeah. Wahh? Well it's because we reckon the iPad mini really does add an extra dimension to the iOS world and the slim size and lightness are much bigger benefits than many would give them credit for. It offers better value for money, sits more pleasantly in the hand and can handle all the tasks you want many times better than you'd expect. It's a more versatile product and offers a better compromise between performance, price and portability than any iPad to date.

Read: iPad mini review

nexus 7

Google Nexus 7

best in class

Best in class: Budget tablet
Released: September 2012

The affordable seven-incher really came of age in 2012, and alongside the iPad mini above, Google's Nexus 7 leads the line. It's major competitors are Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Nook HD as similarly priced budget Android options. But the Nexus 7 rules the roost. It offers lovely stock Android Jelly Bean, a decent display and responsive control. And what's more, you're not trapped inside a shop window like you are with the Amazon/B&N options. If you're after a 7-inch Android tablet, there really is only one option and it's the Google Nexus 7.

Read: Google Nexus 7 review

dell xps 12

Dell XPS 13

best in class

Best in class: Ultrabook
Released: March 2012

We fancy the Dell XPS 13. It's very good looking indeed and there is no better Ultrabook out there right now, and it's not cheap. But if you're looking for a bitch-ass Windows 8 laptop to kick lumps out of a MacBook Pro, this badboy's your huckleberry. It packs Core i5/i7 CPU, 4GB memory, 256GB SSD. And despite the 13-inch display, the footprint of this thing is actually similar to an 11-inch laptop so we reckon you'll be surprised at how compact the chassis actually is. Of course, it's not touchscreen, which might be cause for concern. 2013 is going to be a year absolutely jam packed full of touchscreen Windows 8 devices, so there's some food for thought if you're wondering whether now is the time to upgrade.

Read: Dell XPS 13 review

hp g6

HP Pavilion G6

best in class

Best in class: Mainstream laptop
Released: July 2012

As budget laptops go, there are plenty of products we could pick as a favourite. But we've gone for the HP G6 for its all-round performance and generous price. You get a decent CPU and dedicated AMD graphics power which means it'll see you through most computing tasks with competence. Unlike Intel based laptops, the on-board graphics combine with the dedicated card to create a dual graphics setup, and this really helps in Windows, when photo editing, and on the web. The only drawback here is in build quality. It may be a meaty machine on the inside, but on the outside it's a bit of an ugly duckling.

Read: HP Pavilion G6 review

fuji x10

Fuji FinePix X10

best in class

Best in class: Compact camera
Released: Late 2011

The Fuji X10 is our favourite compact camera of the year and absolutely deserves the honour of being named Best in Class. Just as it did with the FinePix X100, Fuji managed to make a camera in the X10 that not only looks the part, but delivers on image quality and handling too. The well-constructed metal body is robust, easy to use and looks very smart. Image quality is as good as any high-end compact camera can deliver at the moment, especially if the EXR modes are used to their strengths, though the zoom is limited and battery life is a little short if we're being picky. It's a little pricey, but it's worth every penny.

Read:Fuji X10 review

nikon d800

Nikon D800

best in class

Best in class: DSLR
Released: March 2012

For those interested in stepping up to a full-frame camera, the D800 represents a cracking investment. You get pretty much all of the best features of the Nikon D4 in a more compact and lighter body, with a much higher pixel count for just shy of half of the price. You'll find that the D800 isn't just a triumph of numbers and that the 35.3MP sensor actually delivers on its promise – capturing bags of detail. The surprise bonus is that noise is very well controlled and the dynamic range is very impressive indeed.

Read:Nikon D800 review

panasonic g5

Panasonic Lumix G5

best in class

Best in class: Compact System Camera
Released: July 2012

We had to include a CSC in our list, and featuring a newly designed 16 million pixel digital sensor and the latest Venus Engine VII processor, Panasonic's G5 delivers images which are cleaner and freer of noise than we've seen before on a G series camera. Purchasing the camera as a twin lens kit, with the new ultra-portable 45-150mm lens would arguably make this the ultimate holiday combination.

Read: Panasonic G5 review

sony hx8 tv

Sony Bravia HX853

best in class

Best in class: 3D TV
Released: May 2012

There really isn't any overstating the potential importance of the KDL-46HX853 to Sony right now. For in one single leap its stunning picture performance takes the struggling Japanese giant from near-zero to all-conquering hero - an achievement made all the more remarkable when you consider that this outstanding TV is being delivered at a more aggressive price than the usually ultra-competitive Korean brands are offering on their range equivalents. To sum all this up, with the KDL-46HX853 Sony isn't just back, it's back with a vengeance. It's the best TV of the year.

Read: Sony KDL-46HX853 review

ipod touch 5th generation

iPod touch 5th Generation

best in class

Best in class: Portable media player
Released: November 2012

It's been a couple of years since we saw a new iPod touch and it was worth the wait. The new iPod touch 5th Generation has the same 4-inch 16:9 Retina Display as the iPhone 5 so as you'd imagine it's stunning and delicious. With its bigger display and new iSight camera it's certainly the best iPod touch ever. There's simply nothing else out there that comes close to the iPod touch. Nothing.

Read:iPod touch 5th Generation review

tomtom start 60

TomTom Start 60

best in class

Best in class: Sat nav
Released: June 2012

The TomTom Start 60 Europe is easily one of the best sat navs we've reviewed. The large screen, clear navigation and accuracy of the maps makes it a joy to use. The voice navigation, complete with spoken street names, is calm and clear, and it's easy to switch to a different voice if you're not happy. It's also available for a decent price. You just need to work out if you need any LIVE features like traffic and speed cameras - those things aren't available here.

Read: TomTom Start 60 review

amd radeon 7870

AMD Radeon HD 7870

best in class

Best in class: Graphics card
Released: March 2012

It's not the most powerful graphics card out there by any means. But what the HD 7870 does do is offer the perfect balance of power between sheer grunt and price. When we first reviewed it, we gave it 4/5 because it was a little expensive. Six months later though, the price has come down £100 and at around £150 it offers dazzling value for money. It'll play any top PC game on high settings at any resolution, and costs a fraction of the amount you'd pay for some of the other cards out there. For gamers on a midrange budget, this is the card to pick up this Christmas.

Read:AMD Radeon HD 7870 review

bdt320

Panasonic DMP-BDT320

best in class

Best in class: Blu-ray player
Released: March 2012

Stuffed with techy toys integrated into the Wi-Fi-powered Viera Connect service, the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 handles a plethora of digital files and indulges - albeit in a somewhat muddy manner - in DLNA home networking. A super-slim Blu-ray player that needs only Wi-Fi to perform a host of tricks, the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 boasts excellent 2D and 3D Blu-ray coupled with reference-level DVD upscaling. This makes for a deck that has few flaws. Whether or not the inclusion of a trackpad-style remote control makes this slightly slimmer deck a worthy upgrade from its little brother, the DMP-BDT220, is doubtful. But as a standalone Blu-ray proposition, the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 is a top-notch all-rounder that oozes class.

Read: Panasonic DMP-BDT320 review

Best in Class laptops computing mobile phones
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