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January 2nd 2013 10:15 am

gdgt Zeitgeist 2012, Part I: Best and Worst of the Year

Over the past year, we’ve scored well over a thousand gadgets. Most of those are good products, with gdgt Scores in the mid 70s to low 80s. These are gadgets you aren’t likely to be disappointed with if you get them, but they’re not likely to wow you either. But we also scored some truly great devices, with scores in the upper 80s and 90s, as well as some that were just awful, with scores as low as 50. As with all of the products we score, the gdgt Score for these is based on a combination of a critic scores, user scores and our own take on the product.

There aren’t a ton of surprises on the top-scored list. Apple launched some amazing products this year, including two Retina-display iPads and the iPhone 5, and those top the list. Despite losing market share to Samsung, HTC rolled out two great phones, which also made the list. And Nest came out with the second edition of its revolutionary learning thermostat.

At the bottom, We saw a number of disappointing products from companies like Sony, Toshiba and LG, which are often capable of much better things (one example: Sony produces two out of three of our Must-have cameras, along with our Must-have portable gaming console). In some cases, such as Sony’s dual-screen Tablet P and Google’s Nexus Q, these products represented creative attempts to rethink established categories. While we applaud these efforts, that doesn’t change the fact that these devices are just not very good.

This list also includes two Kickstarter-funded products, the Brydge keyboard and Hidden Radio speaker. These gadgets highlight one challenge of the Kickstarter model; while it makes it easy for anyone with a good idea to raise money to turn that idea into an actual device, it also shows just how difficult it is for a small manufacturer to maintain quality control and produce good, affordable products. As this model matures, we think we’ll see much better products come out of the Kickstarter funnel, and we look forward to buying them, and giving them appropriately high scores.

Let us know what you think, and come back later this week for more on the year in gadgets, including the runners-up for these lists!

Top-Scored Products (gdgt Score)

1. Apple iPad 4th-gen (97)
2. Apple iPhone 5 (96)
3. Nest Learning Thermostat 2nd-gen (95)
4. Apple Macbook Air 13-in (95)
5. Apple iMac 21.5-in (94)
6. HTC Droid DNA (93)
7. HTC One X+ (93)
8. Apple iPad mini (93)
9. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (92)
10. Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display 15-in (92)
11. Wacom Intuos5 Touch Medium (92)
12. Samsung Galaxy S III (92)
13. Apple iMac 27-in (91)
14. Fitbit Aria (90)
15. Nokia Lumia 900 (90)

Bottom-Scored Products

1. Sony Tablet P (50)
2. Google Nexus Q (56)
3. Brydge Keyboard (60)
4. Hidden Radio (60)
5. Toshiba Excite 10 LE (60)
6. Huawei Prism 3G (60)
7. LG Intuition (60)
8. LG Optimus L7 (62)
9. Sony PRS-T2 (63)
10. Sony SmartWatch (64)
11. Toshiba Excite 13 (64)
12. Logitech Cube (65)
13. Kobo Mini (65)
14. NuForce Cube (65)
15. ZTE Grand X (65)

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14 replies

How did a Thermostat get #3? Why is half the top 15 Apple products? Is this more about the wish list of the staff at GDGT? When this site was first founded, I was excited to see Ryan break away from Engadget because I was tired of the Apple garbage stories over there... but now I see this is more of the same (at least its not a full out alter of JOBS as Engadget was). I don't care about Apple computers. I've owned a few and disliked them all. Yet, I can't look at a Windows machine and compare it to other, because all of the recommended PCs they show on a device page are Apple products. FIX THIS SITE! I loved the podcast when that's all it was. I was sad when that went away. this is yet another example of how this site is slowly becoming less relevant.
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what is the best 10 in. Tablet under 250?
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Any 10" tablet under $250 wouldn't be worth it (at least, not at this time). as razor thin as the margins are, you would either get a crappy screen, garbage processor, anemic battery or (more likely) all of the above.
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I'm not aware of any 10" tablets in that price range. This might help you however: mostly­-tech.com­/2012­/10­/27­/who­-makes­-the­-best­-10­-t...
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I'm shocked the Sony Tablet P beat the Nexus Q in the race to the bottom!

That said, I agree with other comments on here... nothing about the iPhone 5 deserves a score of 96. I think this post says it better than I possibly can: gizmodo.com­/5973073­/an­-iphone­-lovers­-confession­-i­-...
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I had tried a Tablet P in the Sony Style store once, and it reeked of underlying hacks to split what Android wanted to be in a single screen into a dual display the hardware expected. Lags, dead areas, imperfect crops, etc. etc.. The *home screen* alone was a disaster.

As odd as the Nexus Q was, I think it actually did well what it was meant to do. Just, no one wanted to do what it did.
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The iPad ratings, while suspect, can at least be defended by "it's the best tablet on the market." IMO, the iPad is the best tablet currently for sale, however the rating is suspect because, 1. the gap is not as large as these scores indicate and 2. iPad is not a 97/100 product, no one other than a fanboy could say ANYTHING is.

The iPhone 5 rating however, is indefensible. Neither the critical, nor the user reviews support it. And while it can be argued that it is best for person X, the same can be said for a defunct PTT Nextel phone for a differnt group of people. It can not be rationally defended as clearly better overall than any number of other phones and to place it as such undermines the credibility of the site.
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I completely agree with your iPhone 5 comments. Consumer Reports recently said the iPhone 5 was the WORST of the top smartphones. They ranked it below the LG Optimus G and Samsung Galaxy Note II, as well as older phones like the Droid RAZR MAXX, Droid RAZR HD, Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One S. You can read more about this here in Henry Blodget's blog. www.businessinsider.com­/consumer­-reports­-iphone­-5­-...

- Rick
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For a second I tought I was at apple . com...
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This site is more biased towards Apple products than any of the dedicated Apple sites. Your ratings are a joke.
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I agree... you have to be made by apple to get to 90 or better... its a joke
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It'd be nice if the product names in the list linked to their gdgt pages, rather than just the top five + bottom three links in the sidebar.
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Agreed. I hadn't heard of a few of these products. I,d like to be able to click through directly to their gdgt product pages. That said, interesting list. I'm very interested to see what crowdsourced product is the first to crack the top 10!
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