Looking back, 2019 wasn’t the most compelling year for gadgets. Apple’s iPhone 11, even with its distinctive triple-lens camera, proved to only be a minor upgrade to last year’s model. As carriers began expanding 5G networks throughout the world, 5G phones are still limited in availability—not to mention expensive. And while both Amazon and Google released a slew of products meant to work with the voice assistants Alexa and Google Home, user trust has declined after leaked recordings from both tech giants raised privacy concerns.
Alas, we didn’t even get to celebrate the triumphant return of the foldable phone. Samsung finally launched its Samsung Galaxy Fold in September, after recalling all the test units it sent to members of the press due to a screen malfunction. But the phone remains a novelty item, too pricey and niche to catch on with mainstream consumers. At 7.3 inches when unfolded, the Galaxy Fold is slightly smaller than an iPad mini but larger than the iPhone XS Max—built for the mysterious buyer who wants something larger than a phone, smaller than a tablet, and has $2,000 to burn.
To be fair to the last year in the decade, 2019 did bring forth a much-improved Macbook Pro, more options for wireless earbuds, and new advancements in VR headsets. Few gadgets took us entirely by surprise, but many, like the Apple Watch 5, were well-executed improvements upon a solid older model. Here are our picks for the best gadgets of 2019:
The $399 Quest is the fourth consumer VR headset released by Oculus. The Facebook-owned company has had a long time to get it right, and that’s apparent in the standalone, completely wireless Quest. The headset doesn’t need a phone or PC to work, and weighs a relatively light 571 grams. The Quest is also an ideal headset for VR gaming. It includes six degrees of freedom tracking (6DoF), meaning that players have the freedom to move in multiple directions (up-down, forward-backward, and left-right). The Quest also has the ability to detect hand movements, and comes with dual hand controllers.
Sony’s sleek, noise-cancelling wireless earbuds are our top pick for an AirPods alternative. At $199, the earbuds are slightly pricier than Apple’s model, but also come with a few features that many will find worth it. The tips come in a range of sizes, allowing users to select the most comfortable fit. You can also adjust the level of noise cancellation, allowing you to keep an ear out for a ringing doorbell or crying baby.
2019 Macbook Pro
In many ways, Apple’s newest Macbook Pro is a laptop that should have been released five years ago. Gone is the widely reviled butterfly keyboard found in every model of Macbook since 2015, which was notorious for easily breaking and attracting dirt. Instead, the newest Pro returns to the classic “scissor-switch” keyboard. A larger display, brand new speakers, and an increased battery capacity that allows you to skip packing your charger for most long-haul flights seals the deal.
Apple Watch 5
Apple’s fifth generation wearable is a crowd pleaser. With its “always-on” display, the Apple Watch 5 functions well as both a smart watch and a dumb watch. The addition of a built-in compass makes the watch a great asset for hiking or other outdoor activities. It includes all the features that made the Series 4 such a great watch: ECG, the same processor, and 18 hours of battery life (though some Series 5 users have reported issues with battery life). At $399 for the base model, the Series 5 isn’t cheap. But for what is arguably the most feature-heavy wearable on the market (it can play podcasts, track your menstrual cycle, and guide you through meditation), the price will be worth it for many.
NVIDIA GeForce RTX Super Graphics Cards
NVIDIA released a trio of graphic cards this year that are a must-have for any PC gamer. The RTX 2060 Super ($399), RTX 2070 Super ($499) and the RTX 2080 Super ($699) are now NVIDIA’s flagship gaming graphics cards, packing in more memory and power than ever before. The RTX 2060 Super is around 15% faster than the RTX 2060 (released back in January). The RTX 2070 Super is roughly 8% faster and the RTX 2080 Super is 11% faster than their predecessors, both of which were released in 2018. At the same price as the older models (with the exception of the 2060 Super, which is $50 more than a standard 2060), the Super series is a relative bargain.