It’s been a mixed year for Gadgets. While there were a handful of “wow” products, there were also a higher than usual number of mediocre upgrades from major tech brands. Of the many products making our test bench this year, these stand out in their field.
When I reviewed this over the summer, I was so in love with it that I went out and bought one. Even with the inflated price in the Eurozone, this is by far the best general-purpose laptop of 2022 and the best you can buy for under €2,000. The Air M2 has been redesigned to look like a very slim MacBook Pro. That means a better keyboard, a better display, and a better engine. It also means a new Magsafe charging port (freeing up the other USB-C ports for other things) and a much better webcam for video conferencing. You now get a 13.6-inch screen instead of the older M1 model’s 13.3-inch display, thanks largely to thinner bezels. It’s also emphasized by a decent improvement in the actual quality of the display, which is now 25 per cent brighter than before. The motor performance is also increased thanks to Apple’s M2 processor, which knocks the pants off every Intel chip in a laptop under 2,000 euros. It’s so good that you really don’t need to buy the 16GB RAM version, an upgrade I’d typically recommend for a laptop you’ll be using for a few years. And then there’s the battery life, which is comfortably over 10 hours almost no matter what you’re doing – easily the best battery life on the market.
2. Best Phone – Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro (€649/€899)
While iPhone users will likely just go ahead and buy the latest iPhone 14, their extreme price hike in the eurozone coupled with arguably modest improvements over last year’s iPhone 13 crop has me looking elsewhere for 2022 standouts. Google’s Pixel 7 and 7 Pro are, for the money, pretty much the best flagship and flagship ‘lite’ smartphones you can buy right now. They are very powerful, beautifully designed, have great screens and include excellent all-round camera systems. They cost between 100 and 500 euros less than similarly positioned flagships. The reason I’ve nominated both models here is because of their relative suggestions. The 7 Pro is undoubtedly the more powerful phone, with a larger screen and an additional 5x zoom camera. But the Pixel 7, at $649, is just too good not to include. For most users it has almost everything that its more expensive brother has, including all the fancy software effects; Its 6.3-inch 90Hz display beats the iPhone 14’s 60Hz screen, and I prefer its flat display with no curved glass on the side over the Pixel 7 Pro’s curved-edge display.
3. Best Headphones – Sennheiser Momentum 4 (€349)
It takes something to rival Sony in its well-deserved spot as the industry-leading noise-cancelling headphone. But Sennheiser just nailed it this year with its wireless Momentum 4 overhead cans. They have great audio quality, very good noise cancellation, multipoint switching, and the longest battery life (up to a staggering 60 hours) of any noise-cancelling overhead headphones. They’re also very comfortable, which is almost as important as audio quality when you’re wearing them for long periods of time. Its wide headband has a small “fontanelle” cut-out on the inside of the bodice that contributes to a particularly comfortable effect. Sennheiser has also struck a good balance between ANC-friendly pressure from the earcups (which blocks more noise) and something that doesn’t cause any discomfort. Audio quality is among the best you can get from wireless noise-cancelling headphones, on par with Sony’s excellent (and slightly more expensive) WH-1000XM5. This includes aptX Adaptive, which lets you listen to “high definition” music from services like Tidal.
4. Best Buds – Google Pixel Buds Pro ($199)
It was a toss-up between those and Apple’s AirPods Pro 2. If they were priced the same, Apple’s buds (see review on Independent.ie) might come out on top. But at €100 cheaper I have to give up the latest buds from Google. They have great sound, excellent active noise cancellation and a really good fit. They also support multipoint switching, meaning it’s easier and faster to automatically switch from your phone to your laptop (or vice versa) without messing around with connection settings. The audio quality, which is an improvement over the last few Pixel Buds, is driven in part by the larger 11mm driver included here. However, there is no equalizer. So unless you’re particularly concerned about the sound, there’s not much you can do about it.
A close second would be Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, which at €239 are also a decent buy.
5. Best Smartwatch – Apple Watch Ultra ($999)
That was a tough call. While Apple’s Watch Ultra is arguably the best new all-around smartwatch out there, its price tag in the eurozone is so inflated that it’s almost eroding its appeal. That said, it’s quite a device. It has twice the battery life of a regular Apple Watch (up to five or six days if you put it on sleep mode, which still gives you most of the features), is very durable, has a larger, brighter screen, and additional features for Extreme sports and off-grid exploration. It firmly brings the Apple Watch into the world of more physically demanding pastimes like scuba diving and mountain climbing. And in Ireland it has far better everyday features for things like payments, music, tickets, streaming and calls than anything made by Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit, Coros, Google or the rest. It’s also competitive in fitness and health sensors. The Ultra’s 49mm display is significantly larger than the largest (45mm) on the Watch Series 8, making it easier to see and read things, especially outside in the sunshine, as the screen is twice as bright as anyone’s other Apple Watch. It has an additional programmable button on the side for faster one-press functionality, and its crown is larger and easier to turn.
6. Best Home Appliance – Bosch Unlimited 7 (€379)
While Dyson continues to make excellent rechargeable cordless vacuums, this one stole the thunder from the British brand in 2022. Bosch’s Unlimited 7 sucks just as well as the Dyson V12 (€500) or Dyson V15 (€600) but is significantly cheaper. quieter and has a longer battery life (via a second battery). It looks, feels and behaves like a much more premium machine than the price would suggest, with features like front-facing lights to illuminate particles and hair you’d otherwise miss. For the money, it’s the best battery cleaner I’ve ever tested.
The main unit is equipped with a flexible suction head with a second, smaller head for stairs and smaller spaces. At 2.9kg it’s pretty manageable, up and down stairs.
A big bonus is its noise level. Or rather, the lack of it. No need for noise-cancelling headphones or limiting vacuuming to business hours; You won’t freak anyone out sticking this on for a few minutes.
7. Best Smart Speaker – Amazon Echo Dot 5th Gen ($65)
Not many smart speakers were launched in 2022. Of those that have existed, Amazon’s Echo Dot (5th Gen) is clearly the standout. The small loudspeaker, which already sounded very decent, has improved again. It can also act as a WiFi extender if you use Amazon’s Eero mesh WiFi system. And as I’ve written many times before, small Echo Dots are ideal as a smart connection for older, larger, more powerful hi-fi systems sitting in an attic gathering dust: just connect the two with a simple 3.5mm audio cable. An additional ten gets you the version of the dot showing the time. A note: Amazon regularly sells its Echo speakers; At the time of writing this is available from amazon.co.uk for just under half the price.
8. Best Tablet – Apple iPad 10th Gen (from €599)
Although Apple has released several new iPad Pros this year, the new base iPad (10th generation) is the most notable and compelling model. It has a larger display, a much better webcam, USB-C, and a new keyboard accessory that puts it on par with an iPad Air or even the smaller iPad Pro. This is now basically an iPad that you can comfortably use as an effective, fairly powerful work or student laptop at a much less scary price point than an iPad Pro. The new shape mirrors the recently redesigned iPad Air, which is itself a close copy of the iPad Pro. That means you get a larger 10.9-inch display (like the iPad Air and Pro) and the angular bezel recognizable on these two premium devices. While there’s no Face ID (like the iPad Pro), it does have the same slim Touch ID button on the outer corner as the iPad Air.
If it weren’t for the Eurozone inflationary crisis that has sent all Apple products skyrocketing (priced from the dollar), this would be something of a bargain. As it is, at €599 it’s still a fair deal if you’re looking for something that can double as a home laptop with some work features.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/adrian-wecklers-top-tech-picks-of-2022-42203632.html Adrian Weckler’s top tech picks of 2022