The Best Products of 2016

It's been a pretty typical year for PCMag's dedicated staff of editors and reviewers, testing and rating a veritable mountain of products. As you'd expect, the vast majority of those products are just okay, and there are always a few that are just the pits. Thankfully, however, the tech industry also provides these nerds with some genuinely fantastic specimens to rave about.

Once again, we're narrowing down those fantastic products to one list. You might think that's easy, but sometimes a couple of great devices conquer a category. It might be worth a tie, but we put the thumbscrews to the staff until they pick the one and only, the very best contender in that arena, the gladiator that stands above all the rest.

For 2016, we've got 100 devices or services across 16 categories. 88 of them have earned our coveted Editors' Choice Award. To be included, the review had to be published by PCMag between November 1, 2015 and today. Ratings on the majority of products here are 4 or 4.5 stars, but there are eight stand-outs that managed to snag a perfect 5 stars, a true rarity in PC Labs.

So, prepare your holiday shopping list with a look at the very best products we've reviewed this year.


MIDRANGE DESKTOP Velocity Micro Vector Z35 Starting Configuration Price: $1,079The Velocity Micro Vector Z35 is an ideal midrange desktop, with a well-made, easy-access case, and the power and versatility to serve as a home office PC, media center, or gaming rig. Without going overboard on price, you get a good everyday computer that has more-than-sufficient gaming performance, too.

BUDGET DESKTOP Shuttle XPC Nano Starting Configuration Price: $279The Shuttle XPC Nano ultra-small-form-factor desktop PC is an inexpensive and highly appealing choice if you want to connect a PC to a TV, have a desire to tinker, or both. This hard-to-beat combination of size, price, and feature set is your best bet for a super space-saver.

ALL-IN-ONE/TOUCH-SCREEN DESKTOP Digital Storm Aura Starting Configuration Price: $1,999The Digital Storm Aura is a pricey but innovative all-in-one gaming PC that delivers excellent performance, many customization options, and full upgradability. Its huge curved screen and fast internal components should appeal to those who don't want to build their own system, but want to be able to tinker.

BUSINESS/WORKSTATION DESKTOP Dell Precision Tower 3000 Series (3620) Starting Configuration Price: $629Configured with a consumer-class Core i7 processor, the Dell Precision Tower 3000 Series (3620) is a professional desktop that performs just as well as a Xeon-powered one on most tasks, but costs thousands less. It's even more affordable at lower configurations, with plenty of options available to suit your needs.

GAMING DESKTOP Falcon Northwest Talon (2016) Starting Configuration Price: $1,771Though more conservatively designed than other top-tier gaming desktops, the Falcon Northwest Talon has impressive hardware at the highest configurations that helps it drive VR and 4K gaming smoother and faster than the competition. It looks and feels high-end without appearing gaudy or aesthetically loud, and has performance to match.

STICK PC Intel Compute Stick (Core m3) Starting Configuration Price: $129Powered by a Core m3 processor, Intel's Compute Stick excels as a fully functional Windows PC that fits in your pocket and uses a TV as a display. It can be used nearly anywhere, and is perfect for a low-powered setup you might need to tear down and move quickly.


ULTRAPORTABLE LAPTOP New Razer Blade Stealth (Late 2016) Starting Configuration Price: $999.99Super sleek, delivering top-notch performance and battery life, and loaded with useful extras, the Kaby Lake CPU–equipped New Razer Blade Stealth ultraportable laptop is even better than its highly rated predecessor. An added plus: You can hook it up to the Razer Core external graphics processor.

DESKTOP-REPLACEMENT LAPTOP Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series (3558) Starting Configuration Price: $229.99The Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series (3558) is a capable desktop-replacement laptop with solid specs, plenty of storage, and long battery life—all for less than $350. It's priced like a no-frills laptop, but it still has a touch screen, a 1TB hard drive, and almost 9 hours of battery life.

BUDGET LAPTOP Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series (3162) Starting Configuration Price: $179.99The $180 Dell Inspiron 11 (3162) is a competent performer with all the basic features and functionality you want in a budget ultraportable laptop, plus 64-bit Windows 10, long battery life, and a sturdy build. It's our top choice for basic Windows PCs.

BUSINESS LAPTOP Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Starting Configuration Price: $1,394.10The ThinkPad X1 Yoga draws from the best aspects of our favorite Lenovo business laptops, offering a slim convertible design, a comfortable keyboard, long battery life, and enough ports and features to help you stay productive at the office or on the road.

GAMING LAPTOP HP Omen 17 Starting Configuration Price: $1,299The HP Omen 17 brings Nvidia's Pascal graphics, a 4K display, plenty of storage, excellent performance, and even a slim and appealing design to the midrange price tier, making it a good large-screen gaming laptop that is also a good value.

CHROMEBOOK Acer Chromebook 14 Starting Configuration Price: $279.99The Acer Chromebook 14 gives you most of the features and quality you need from a basic laptop, plus extra niceties like a metal body and almost 12 hours of battery life. It's an excellent choice if all your data and apps exist in the cloud.

CONVERTIBLE-HYBRID LAPTOP HP Spectre x360 13-w023dx Starting Configuration Price: $1,049Thanks to its 7th Generation Intel Core processor, the 13-inch HP Spectre x360 is a powerful, high-end convertible-hybrid laptop that delivers strong performance and outstanding battery life for its price.

Tablets & Ebook Readers

BUDGET TABLET Amazon Fire HD 8 $89.99The under-$100 tablet market is full of shaved edges and cut corners. Amazon's Fire HD8 media tablet keeps things durable, clear, and simple, with the company's now well-known interface offering easy access to a range of Amazon content and apps. Loud speakers and dual-band Wi-Fi make sure you can stay connected for watching, reading, or surfing the Web.

MIDRANGE TABLET Nvidia Shield Tablet K1 $199.99The Shield K1 offered the best Android value we saw this year, thanks to its screaming-fast (and sadly rare) Nvidia processor. With long battery life and a surprisingly low price, Nvidia's tablet outpaced the competition not only on gaming, but on productivity per dollar.

HIGH-END TABLET Apple iPad Pro 9.7 Inch $599.99Apple's iPad Pro, when paired with Apple's Pencil accessory, is a creator's dream. The sharp screen has a wide color gamut, loud speakers deliver rich sound, the fast processor offers responsive performance, and iOS offers plenty of painting, drawing and, note-taking apps. While it doesn't close the "pro" app gap with Windows, it's the best high-end tablet this year.

EBOOK READER Amazon Kindle $79.99Amazon's least-expensive ebook reader improves performance at an entry-level price. The design is more rounded than last year's model, and Bluetooth support lets you listen to audiobooks on wireless headphones. While we prefer the Kindle Paperwhite (which wasn't updated this year), this entry-level Kindle has far wider appeal than the more exotic, expensive readers released in 2016.

Mobile Devices

PHONE Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge $792The Galaxy S7 Edge set the agenda for 2016, and it's still a stunner almost a year after its launch. Its dual-edge design fits a 5.5-inch, super-high-res screen into the smallest body possible; it backed up that design with a fast processor and an industry-leading camera. The S7 Edge is the best-performing, best-looking phone and the star of the year.

CELLULAR NETWORK Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Verizon won our Fastest Mobile Network award this year for combining speedy performance with excellent nationwide coverage. While T-Mobile is catching up swiftly, Verizon keeps pushing the envelope by adding new technologies like 3x carrier aggregation and 4x4 MIMO across its broad-ranging network. Verizon is also racing to be the first to 5G next year, with plans to offer a wireless home broadband service.

WI-FI HOTSPOT AT&T Unite Explore $199.99The AT&T Unite Explore shows why you want a hotspot, rather than just using the one on your phone. It has the latest modem, a huge battery, external antenna ports, and a rugged, waterproof body. It will keep you connected anywhere and everywhere your phone won't typically work. That's what more hotspots should be doing.

BLUETOOTH HEADSET Plantronics Voyager 5200 $119.99The Plantronics Voyager series has long been the Bluetooth headset for people serious about their Bluetooth headsets. The latest model pairs to phones via NFC or Bluetooth, connects to multiple devices, takes voice dictation, has terrific range, and delivers great noise cancellation. It's by far the best choice for mission-critical mobile calls.

SMARTWATCH Apple Watch Series 2 $369Apple's hugely ambitious smartwatch is the closest we've come to a true smartwatch-fitness tracker hybrid yet. It's waterproof and has built-in GPS for swim and run tracking, but it also has an unusually fast processor and rich OS that links to a wide range of apps on iPhones. With Android Wear looking lost this year, Apple leads on the full-featured smartwatch front.

Digital Health & Fitness

FITNESS TRACKER Fitbit Charge 2 $149.95The Fitbit Charge 2 counts your steps, tracks your sleep, and alerts you to incoming phone calls and text messages. It also continuously monitors your heart rate, and with a phone, utilizes GPS to track outdoor activity. It even helps you get up out of your chair and breathe easier. Runners and workout fiends can tap into the biggest fitness tracking community around thanks to the reliable, robust Fitbit app.

FITNESS APP Strava (for iPhone) $6 per monthRunners and cyclists who thrive on competition love Strava, as it pits you against other users who've run and biked the same routes. Finding competition is easy thanks to the huge user base, and the app does a great job working with a variety of Bluetooth and ANT+ devices. It's a strong tracking app for noncompetitors with accurate GPS mapping and records for distance, time, speed; there is even manual tracking for swimmers.

SMART SCALE QardioBase Smart Scale $149.99One of the best-looking bathroom scales you can get for your home, the QardioBase Smart Scale is also one of the smartest and easiest to use. With it, you can track your weight, body fat, body mass index, muscle mass, and water and bone composition. There's even a mode that can track your weight throughout a pregnancy. For the health conscious, it's a fantastic choice.

Smart Home

VOICE ASSISTANT Amazon Echo Dot $49.99The Echo Dot is the easiest way to add Alexa, Amazon's handy and always-listening voice assistant, to your home. A compact Bluetooth speaker, it works fine on its own, but you can connect it to your own favorite speaker if you really want to pump up the jams. It replaces the original model from earlier this year, and it sounds better, picks up voice commands more easily, and costs much less.

CONNECTED HUB Wink Hub 2 $99The Wink Hub 2 not only offers more memory, better network support, and a sleeker design than its predecessor, it adds Bluetooth, enhanced security, and a simplified guided setup and pairing procedure. Moreover, it supports more wireless protocols than any hub around, making it the best we've tested.

LIGHTING Philips Hue White $14.95If you want to check out connected lighting without taking out a second mortgage, the Philips Hue White offers the best balance of features, support, and versatility for the most price. True, it requires a hub like the Philips Hue Bridge, but for $14.95, you get a soft white light that dims and integrates with If This Then That (IFTTT). Simply put, the Hue White is the best way to upgrade your home to smart lighting on a budget.

THERMOSTAT Ecobee3 Smart WiFi Thermostat $229You usually don't think of Wi-Fi thermostats as stylish, but that's what the Ecobee3 is. With a sleek and attractive design, you can control temperatures of multiple rooms in your home from anywhere with your iOS or Android phone (and from your PC via the Web), without ruining the décor.

SECURITY CAMERA Nest Cam Outdoor $199If you're looking for a security camera with sharp 1080p video, crisp night vision, and a motion detection system wrapped in a stylish weatherproof design, go for the Nest Cam Outdoor. It comes bundled with an extra-long ruggedized power cord and a magnetic mounting plate, so it's easy to install. You also get push notifications, two-way audio, and an excellent app. You'll need an outdoor outlet and a Nest Aware subscription to take full advantage of its features, but it's the best outdoor surveillance system you can buy now.

DOOR LOCK August Smart Lock HomeKit Enabled $229The Apple HomeKit-enabled August Smart Lock watches anyone entering and leaving your home via your smartphone. It's a cinch to install, and it offers all the latest technologies, including voice activation, geofencing, and an IFTTT channel that allows it to trigger other devices.

APPLIANCE Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker with SmartChef Technology $399.99With the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker there's no need to babysit a grill. Simply program the smoker from a mobile app on your smartphone, hit a button, and sit back until your food's ready. The price is a bit high, but it produces perfectly smoked fish, meat, nuts, and more while freeing up your time.

TVs & Home Theater

BUDGET TV TCL 55UP130 $649.99If you want to jump into 4K but don't want to break the bank, TCL's UP130 series offers a pretty good picture at a low price. It's powered by Roku TV, so it's got plenty of connected apps and services, too.

HIGH-END HDTV LG OLED65B6P $2999.99Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology continues to produce the best possible picture in flat-panel TVs, and LG's OLEDB6P series is the most affordable HDR 4K OLED of the bunch.

MEDIA HUB Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Remote $39.99Amazon's new Fire TV Stick has a lower price than before and comes with a microphone-equipped voice remote out of the box, so you can use Alexa on your TV. It's one of the best deals out there in streaming media hubs.

SOUNDBAR Sony HT-NT5 $799.99The Sony HT-NT5 soundbar puts out powerful audio thanks to its wireless subwoofer, and its HDMI ports can pass 4K video straight through to your TV. It's also equipped with Google Cast, so you can stream music to it just like a Chromecast Audio.


HEADPHONES Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature $899.99The price is steep, but Bowers & Wilkins' P9 Signature headphones offer some of the best sound you can get for under four digits. They also have an appropriately luxurious feel, and come with some very useful accessories.

BUDGET HEADPHONES Coloud No. 16 $39.95You don't need to break the bank to get great audio. The Coloud No.16 is a set of on-ear headphones with a balanced, high-quality sound that belies its low price, and has a comfortable fit to boot.

EARPHONES 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones $99.991More's Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones (in-canal earphones, actually) come with a load of eartips to ensure a comfortable fit, and sound better than many earphones that cost twice the price.

BUDGET EARPHONES 808 Audio Ear Canz $39.99Powerful, bass-filled sound in a waterproof design makes the exercise-oriented 808 Audio Ear Canz a very appealing set of earphones, even before you look at the low price tag. The Canz comes with plenty of eartip and fin options to make sure they fit perfectly as well.

The Best Products of 2016

WIRELESS HEADPHONES/EARPHONES Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 $199.99Plantronics packs balanced sound and active noise cancellation into a comfortable, wireless set of over-ear headphones. If you want better noise canceling, be prepared to pay twice as much.

WIRELESS SPEAKER Vifa Oslo $549This big Bluetooth speaker comes straight from Denmark with an attractive design and a powerful sound. It's Scandinavian audio engineering and style at its best.

BUDGET WIRELESS SPEAKER JBL Clip 2 $59.99This little speaker is small, waterproof, and puts out an impressive amount of sound for its size. Why's it called the Clip 2? Because it has a handy clip on it and it's JBL's second take on an award-winning formula.


COMPACT CAMERA Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II $699.99Canon made some tweaks to its first 1-inch sensor camera, making the G7 X Mark II a stronger option than its predecessor. It's by no means a budget option (smartphones have killed those off for the most part), but it will run circles around any phone thanks to its large 20MP image sensor, wide-aperture 24-100mm zoom lens, and fast autofocus system. You can still Instagram with it—built-in Wi-Fi beams photos to your phone with ease.

MIRRORLESS CAMERA Sony Alpha 6300 $999.99, body onlyMany shoppers still associate SLR with top quality, but mirrorless cameras have gotten better and better, surpassing more traditional cameras in many ways. The Sony Alpha 6300 shoots 24MP images at 11.1fps while keeping moving targets in focus, has a crisp built-in EVF, and can record video at 4K quality. It's also priced aggressively, costing less than other cameras that offer similar features.

BRIDGE CAMERA Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III $1,599.99A $1,700 fixed-lens camera is, on paper, a tough sell. When it's as good and versatile as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III, it's a purchase you won't regret making. Built around the flexible 1-inch sensor format, the 20MP RX10 III has a fixed zoom lens that is impeccably sharp, and covers an extreme 24-600mm range. It's a perfect travel camera, good enough to tackle almost any shot. It supports 4K video capture and extreme slow motion at 1080p.

D-SLR Nikon D500 $1,995.95, body onlyThe D500 is our hands-down favorite camera of 2016. It's the first true pro-grade Advanced Photo System type-C (APS-C) SLR from Nikon since the D300S. It shoots and tracks subjects at 10fps, is built tough with an all-weather design, records 4K video with clean HDMI output, has one of the best viewfinders in its class, and offers a focus system that covers almost the entire width of the frame.

LENS Olympus M.Zuiko ED 300mm f4.0 IS PRO $2,499.99Sports and wildlife photographers go to the Micro Four Thirds system for its compact size and longer effective reach (due to a sensor size that's slightly smaller than APS-C). The Olympus M.Zuiko ED 300mm f4.0 IS PRO covers the same field of view as a 600mm lens matched to a full-frame system, but is notably smaller and lighter than any 600mm prime on the market. It's also incredibly sharp, sealed against dust and moisture, and offers a stabilization system that keeps handheld shots as crisp as possible.

CAMCORDER GoPro Hero5 Black $399.99The GoPro Hero5 Black isn't that much different from last year's Hero4 Black when it comes to video features—it still records footage at up to 4K quality at 30fps, with faster frame rates available when shooting 1080p and 720p. But now it's waterproof without an external case, offers an on-board touch-enabled viewfinder, and sells for $100 less

DRONE DJI Phantom 4 $1,399The DJI Phantom family has long been our favorite consumer drone series. This year's model takes everything that got it there and makes it better. It's sleeker, faster, and includes forward-facing obstacle detection sensors. They'll stop you from running your quadcopter into a tree or wall. It's also easy to fly, with an intuitive remote control and a companion smartphone app that allows navigation to a location simply by tapping on the screen. If you want a drone, the Phantom 4 is the best we've ever tested.

Car Tech

Android Auto When it comes to phones, Apple has long held an advantage over Google in the app department. When it comes to cars, however, the tables are turned. Android Auto, Google's phone-based infotainment system, has more than three times as many apps as Apple's CarPlay. Not only that, Android Auto has a major advantage in the form of Google Maps. It's better than almost any built-in infotainment system we've tested, and a no-brainer for Android users with a compatible vehicle.

Gaming Gear & Games

GAME CONSOLE Microsoft Xbox One S $399.99The newer, smaller Xbox One S features a lower price tag (or a bigger hard drive, for a bit more) and a streamlined, power brick-less design. It also plays Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, so you can watch your favorite 4K HDR films without buying a separate player.

VR HEADSET Sony PlayStation VR $399.99Sony's PlayStation VR is the most affordable and comfortable of the tethered virtual reality headsets we've tested. Just as important, it already has a strong collection of interesting games and VR experiences, making a better case for use of the technology than the competition. It offers the best combination of accessibility, content, and power you'll find.

PORTABLE GAMING DEVICE New Nintendo 3DS $199.99Nintendo has reigned as the king of handheld gaming systems for decades, and the New Nintendo 3DS continues the trend. It features vastly improved 3D over the original, an analog control nub, and additional shoulder buttons for even more gameplay options. It supports the huge library of 3DS, DS, and Virtual Console games.

GAMING MONITOR ViewSonic XG2700-4K $619.99 The well-equipped ViewSonic XG2700-4K is a 27-inch gaming monitor that uses AMD's FreeSync anti-tearing technology and an In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel to deliver ultra-smooth gaming performance and rich, accurate colors.

GAMING HEADSET Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tournament Headset $199.99While it's pricey, the Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tournament offers some of the best sound quality and comfort we've experienced in a wired gaming headset. It's an excellent headset that justifies its premium price.

PC GAME StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void $39.99Boasting brilliant, real-time strategy gameplay, a noob-friendly co-op mode, and a varied single-player campaign, StarCraft II is both a fantastic conclusion to Blizzard's five-year saga and a great entry point into one of the most complex, but satisfying, strategy games ever made. It's a towering achievement.

MICROSOFT XBOX ONE GAME Forza Horizon 3 $59.99Crafting a racing game that deftly rides the line between pure arcade action and hardcore simulation is an extremely difficult task, as a developer risks alienating fans of both play styles. Playground Games managed to pull it off once again with Forza Horizon 3. The Australian setting gives the development team a cool box of toys to play with, as Oz's climate and beautifully rugged landscape mix well with the series' trademark open-world exploration and reckless driving.

NINTENDO WII U GAME XenoBlade Chronicles X $59.99Xenoblade Chronicles came to the Nintendo Wii years ago and didn't hit particularly hard. Now, we have Xenoblade Chronicles X. It plays a lot like the original, but it feels bigger and looks better. The extensive number of systems in the game is intimidating, and it's very much a classic JRPG-style time sink, but it offers an epic adventure.

SONY PLAYSTATION GAME Madden NFL 17 $59.99 EA Sports has a multiyear success story in Madden NFL, but the company needs to keep improving it or risk losing the loyal fan base. Fortunately, Madden NFL 17 doesn't disappoint. It boasts gameplay improvements that enhance the ball-carrier experience, excellent presentation, and realistic ball physics that makes play more realistic and exciting.

ANDROID GAME Small World 2 (for Android) $6.99Board game fans have tolerated the tyranny of Risk—a terrible game—for far too long. Thankfully, a wave of new games for mobile platforms have changed the hobby. Small World 2 is a stunning mobile adaptation of a fun and fast-paced game of fantasy conquest that pits you against your opponents in a game of whimsical warfare.

IPHONE GAME Reigns (for iPhone) $2.99Like an unholy spawn of high fantasy, retro-gaming, and Tinder, Reigns is the autocrat simulator you've been awaiting. If you like swiping left or right to find a mate, you'll love ruling a nation in this medieval adventure game. Its simple premise hides a complicated storyline and surprisingly deep play.

PC Peripherals

MONITOR Dell UltraSharp 24 InfinityEdge Monitor U2417H $349.99Dell's feature-loaded UltraSharp 24 InfinityEdge Monitor U2417H delivers accurate colors, crisp grayscale reproduction, and wide viewing angles. It's a sleek and stylish mainstream monitor that won't stress your utility bill or your bank account.

KEYBOARD Logitech G610 Orion Brown $119.99Although it packs few fancy features, Logitech's G610 Orion Brown keyboard delivers simple, reliable performance that mechanical keyboard enthusiasts will appreciate.

MOUSE Evoluent VerticalMouse C Right Wired $89.95The Evoluent VerticalMouse C Right Wired is a stylish update to a comfortable and highly customizable ergonomic mouse. It might even make you a vertical mouse convert.

EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE Seagate Backup Plus Portable Drive $149.99The Seagate Backup Plus Portable Drive gives you 4TB of speedy storage you can take with you, as well as a personal cloud, all for a very reasonable price.

Printers, Scanners & Projectors

ALL-IN-ONE PRINTER Epson WorkForce Pro WF-6590 $549.99The Epson WorkForce Pro WF-6590 is Epson's flagship color inkjet all-in-one printer. Between its blazing speed, solid output quality, low running costs, wide range of connectivity choices, and enough paper capacity for heavy-duty printing, it can go head to head with color lasers and beat them at their own game.

INKJET PRINTER HP PageWide Pro 552dw Printer $699The HP PageWide Pro 552dw Printer is a formidable color inkjet printer for heavy-duty use in a small office. Thanks to the company's PageWide technology, which features a print head that spans the full width of a page, it's extraordinarily speedy, and delivers laser-class text and graphics.

LASER PRINTER HP LaserJet Pro M501dn $549.98The HP LaserJet Pro M501dn is a fine choice as a mono laser printer to anchor a small office. It provides a winning combination of good speed, high-quality output, humongous standard paper capacity, competitive running costs, PostScript and other printer drivers, and password-protected printing.

PHOTO PRINTER Canon Selphy CP1200 Wireless Compact Photo Printer $109.99The Canon Selphy CP1200 Wireless Compact Photo Printer is the printer to take to events requiring snapshots on the spot. It can't print larger than 4 by 6, but it has a range of connection choices, low price and printing costs, and support for an optional battery.

3D PRINTER MakerBot Replicator+ $2,499The MakerBot Replicator+ improves on its predecessor with a larger build volume, an increase in speed, and a redesigned frame. It supports MakerBot's new Tough PLA filament, and its software includes workflow solutions for businesses.

SCANNER Epson FastFoto FF-640 $649.99The Epson FastFoto FF-640 is a like document scanner tweaked to scan photos at high speed and resolution without damaging the originals. It's best for archiving large quantities of old photos; it can even scan text from the back of a print, too.

PROJECTOR Epson PowerLite 580 XGA 3LCD Projector $1,299As an ultra-short-throw projector, the Epson PowerLite 580 XGA 3LCD Projector can sit just a few inches from the screen and still give you a large, bright image. This XGA (1,024-by-768) business projector has excellent data-image quality and passable video, as well as loud, decent-quality audio.


BUDGET ROUTER D-Link AC1200 Wi-Fi Router (DIR-842) $59.99With the D-Link AC1200 Wi-Fi Router (DIR-842), you don't have to spend a lot to cover your home with effective dual-band wireless networking. This router delivers solid throughput, has four wired LAN ports, plenty of management settings, and is a breeze to install.

HIGH-END ROUTER D-Link AC5300 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-895L/R) $379.99The D-Link AC5300 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (DIR-895L/R) is a slick-looking tri-band router that delivers some of the fastest scores we've seen in throughput and file transfer tests, and is fully loaded with all the latest 802.11ac features including beamforming, band switching, and 4×4 data streaming.

HOME WI-FI SYSTEM Netgear Orbi High-Performance AC3000 Tri-Band Wi-Fi System (RBK50) $399.99Meant for larger spaces, the Netgear Orbi RBK50 is a capable Wi-Fi system that delivers speedy wireless networking to all areas of your home. It's a snap to install, it offers plenty of wired LAN ports, and is MU-MIMO ready.

NETWORK-ATTACHED STORAGE Netgear ReadyNAS 202 $298.99The Netgear ReadyNAS 202 is a speedy consumer/SOHO network-attached storage (NAS) device that gives you access to your documents, music, photos, and videos whether you're at home or away. It's a simple way to get a personal cloud setup.

Software & Internet

OPERATING SYSTEM Windows 10 $119.99Microsoft has taken the clear lead in desktop operating systems with Windows 10. It's the first with full-touch and pen support, voice-enabled digital assistant in the form of Cortana, biometric face and fingerprint sign-on with Hello, and Continuum support that lets the OS morph between desktop, tablet, and smartphone form factors. Those innovations aside, the operating system is also smoother than it's ever been, with little conveniences everywhere (like in the File Explorer's Quick Access section) and includes a robust notification panel called Action Center.

MOBILE OPERATING SYSTEM iOS 10 Free The latest version of Apple's mobile operating system is a smart refinement of an already mature platform to keep it relevant. iOS 10 introduces style and usability tweaks to key parts of Apple's mobile operating system, and relaunches the Messages app as a platform and ecosystem for stickers and integrated apps. Best of all, the OS and its updates are available without meddling from manufacturers or carriers.

WEB BROWSER Mozilla Firefox Free The Web is a bigger and more complex place than many realize, and browsers are more than just windows onto it. Firefox offers a fast, compatible browser with the best set of tools for consuming today's Web: Its Reader View strips away all the ads and clutter so you can focus on a Web article. Its Private Browsing mode with Tracking Protection is the only one that not only hides your Internet session from others with access to the computer, but from websites that track everything you do. Sharing pages to social networks takes but a click of a button, and extensions make it far more customizable than the rest.

UTILITY Iolo System Mechanic $49.95If your PC isn't booting or loading applications at the same pace as when you first unboxed it, download Iolo System Mechanic. This excellent tune-up utility dramatically improves your PC's performance by defragging the hard drive, repairing Windows's troublesome Registry, and tweaking CPU and RAM usage in real time. With version 15, Iolo System Mechanic includes Windows 10-specific privacy tools to safeguard personal information.

PRODUCTIVITY Sanebox $7 per month SaneBox is the best thing to happen to email. It turns your inbox back into the inbox it was meant to be by weeding out unimportant messages. The service provides additional features that let you snooze emails, track when people don't reply, and more. It's easy to use, highly customizable, and indispensable for anyone suffering email overload.

ONLINE BACKUP IDrive Free-$69.50 per yearIDrive is the Swiss Army Knife of online backup services: It not only provides automatic uploading of files to its secure servers for offsite protection of your precious data, but also syncing, archiving, and file sharing. The generous annual plan that costs $69.50 gets you a whopping 1TB of online storage space for an unlimited number of computers and devices.

CLOUD STORAGE & SYNC Google DriveThe tech trinity of Apple, Google, and Microsoft all now offer robust cloud storage and syncing services that include online productivity apps for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. But Google has been at the game longest, with the most capable coediting and sharing capabilities. What's more, it's the cheapest: You get 15GB of storage free, and documents you create in its Web apps don't count against that.

PERSONAL FINANCE SERVICE Mint.comMint is the best personal finance software available. It's free and ad-supported, but even the ads bring value to this fantastic tool for keeping an eye on your money. It offers highly automated personal finance tracking, works with all major (and some minor) US and Canadian banks. If you finally have decided to get your personal finances in order and create a viable budget, you owe it to yourself to sign up for a account.

EDUCATION/LEARNING Duolingo (for iPhone) FreeAmong mobile language apps, Duolingo can't be beat. This free service uses a stylish and colorful interface to put language learners at ease, and offers a variety of bite-sized lessons to work on daily. With Duolingo, it's easy to add "learn a new language" to your morning routine. New in-app chat functionality lets you try your hand at short, casual conversations with a bot.

PHOTO EDITING Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC $9.99 per monthThose who are serious about digital photography turn to one application to import, organize, fix, and share their work: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. While it lacks Photoshop's more illustration-focused features and complicated layer editing, it offers everything in Photoshop that photographers need. Its best-in-class keyword tagging is now joined by face recognition to organize photos by persons included. Adjustment brushes let you enhance just those parts of an image that need it.

VIDEO EDITING Corel VideoStudio Ultimate X9 $99.99Corel often plays second fiddle to Adobe when it comes to media-editing software, but for consumer hobbyists who want to do the most with their video footage, VideoStudio Pro is unparalleled. Motion-tracking, multi-cam, stop-motion, and freeze-frame effects are a cinch in the program. It's extensible with plug-ins from industry-leading firms like NewBlue. Audio options are also rich, and as a bonus, you get a capable screen recorder.

VIDEO STREAMING SERVICE Netflix $7.99 per monthIf your goal is to cut the cord, a Netflix account is a great place to start, thanks to its reasonable price, large collection of TV and movies, and growing stable of critically acclaimed original content. It is the most flexible and content rich streaming provider in an increasingly competitive market. Whatever services you decide to use, always subscribe to them in addition to a Netflix account.

MUSIC STREAMING SERVICE Slacker Radio Free, with premium options starting at $3.99 per month.Slacker Radio began life as the human-curated alternative to the pioneering Pandora, but the service has expanded to include news and weather updates, live ESPN radio, entertaining lifestyles channels, and well-conceived themed stations sure to delight music fans. The desktop streaming version lacks the lyrics found in its mobile apps, and has some mildly annoying social media integration, but apart from that it's a top-notch, well-rounded service that showcases what a streaming music platform should be in 2016.

WEBSITE BUILDER Wix Free to $25 per monthAmong the scads of site-builder DIY services out there, Wix offers the best combination of ease and customizability. Choose from over 500 great-looking templates to start, or have the service use Wix Artificial Design Intelligence to whip-up a custom site based on your assets and needs. Plans range from a free, ad-supported option to full-blown commerce sites with custom domains and Web stores.

WEB HOSTING SERVICE HostGator Starting at $10.95 per monthEvery business needs a website, and for that you need a Web hosting service. The feature-packed HostGator boasts wallet-friendly prices, and it offers plenty of tools to novice and advanced Webmasters. HostGator has quality dedicated and virtual private server (VPS) server packages, but its shared plans help it stands out from the very crowded Web hosting pack.

ANDROID APP Facebook Messenger (for Android) FreeFacebook Messenger is an excellent mobile chat client that connects you to the billion-plus Facebook users from your smartphone or the PC. It's a complete package, offering text, voice, video, payments, and now secure, secret messaging. On Android, it offers special features like the unfairly maligned Chat Heads and the ability to function as a complete replacement for your stock SMS app.

IPHONE APP Microsoft Outlook (for iPhone) FreeCombining multiple email account capability, customizable swipe actions, and a nuisance-saving Focused inbox view, Outlook for iPhone has become the best email option on Apple's smartphone. The app is not just for email: Buttons in Outlook easily switch you among calendar, contact, and document views as well.


ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2017) $59.99 per year for three licenses The independent antivirus testing labs routinely give Kaspersky Anti-Virus their very highest scores, across the board, and our own testing shows that it's among the very best at detecting phishing sites. Its many bonus features include an on-screen keyboard to foil keyloggers and a vulnerability scanner to fix security holes.

SECURITY SUITE Symantec Norton Security Premium (2017) $89.99 per year for 10 licenses A Symantec Norton Security Premium subscription lets you install protection on up to 10 Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS devices. In addition to an excellent antivirus and a broad collection of top-notch security features, it comes with an advanced backup system and 25GB of hosted online storage for your backups.

PASSWORD MANAGER LastPass 4.0 Premium $12 per yearDespite its low price, LastPass 4.0 Premium goes above and beyond the basics of password management. Advanced two-factor authentication, automatic password changing, secure password sharing with individuals or groups, and the ability to designate an inheritor for your passwords are among its many outstanding features.

PARENTAL CONTROL & MONITORING Kaspersky Safe Kids $14.99 per yearKaspersky Safe Kids lets parents configure parental control rules for each child online and apply those rules to every device the child uses, with no limit on the number of children or devices. The iOS edition is more capable than most competitors. It's our current Editors' Choice for iOS parental control.

VPN SERVICE NordVPN $8 per monthNordVPN is a powerful yet unintimidating VPN service that can easily secure your online activities. With a friendly interface, NordVPN easily provides a variety of advanced features such as specialized servers for BitTorrent, high-speed video streaming, and accessing the Tor anonymization network. It also offers a robust collection of servers across the globe, ensuring a trusted connection is always close by. The NordVPN app is also our EC winner for mobile VPN.

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