This year, virtual reality (finally) invaded our living rooms, smarter assistants helped us do everything faster and wearables expanded way beyond watches to camera glasses and fitness trackers for your ears. 2016 was jam-packed with great new innovations, but also with upgrades that simply made our lives easier or more fun, including flagship phones that undercut the competition by hundreds of dollars and the first eye-popping OLED laptops.
Based on hundreds of hours of testing across dozens of categories, the staff at Tom's Guide handpicked this list of the 25 best tech products of the year.
I've walked through dungeons, crawled through vents in enemy bases and climbed Mount Everest — all from the comfort of my living room. But when I'm wearing the HTC Vive and walking around, it's like I've teleported into the game. Thanks to its room-mapping technology, I can literally take a walk on the virtual side, which, combined with the ability to reach out and touch objects, is a game changer in the VR space. It's the most comprehensive and immersive VR experience to date. The Vive is pricey, but worth the investment. — Sherri L. Smith
When people say they just want a solid phone that won't break the budget, the OnePlus 3T is the handset I recommend. Starting at $439, you get a whopping 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a superfast Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor. The all-aluminum body is a pleasure to touch, and the big, 5.5-inch AMOLED screen is vivid. And now that OnePlus has increased the battery life from 8.5 to 10.5 hours on its newest phone, it's easy to say that the OnePlus 3T is the best phone for the money. — Sam Rutherford
Although they're hard to get, Snap's Spectacles are a major step forward in wearables. These funky camera glasses make it easy to record 360-degree video to edit and share on Snapchat. Because Spectacles record circular video, you can play clips back in landscape or portrait mode. With its click-to-record interface and a spinning light that shows you're recording video, these specs sidestep the problems that doomed Google Glass. — Henry T. Casey
Despite strong competition from Apple, Google and LG, the 12-megapixel camera on Samsung's Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge ran the gauntlet in 2016, making it this year's best smartphone camera. With an aperture of f/1.7, Samsung's 12-MP shooter has the best low-light performance of any phone, and its patented dual-pixel tech delivers blindingly fast autofocus. Proving time and time again across a wide range of environments, if there's one camera you want in your pocket at all times, it's the one on the Galaxy S7. — Sam Rutherford
One of the best tech values of the year, the Echo Dot lets you do everything from cue up music and voice shop (that's a thing now) to ask questions and control smart home gadgets — all just by speaking. Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant is inside this handy little puck, which has a built-in speaker but is best enjoyed when connected to a higher-quality speaker. With more than 3,000 skills now in its arsenal, the Echo Dot will only get more versatile over time. — Mark Spoonauer
As impressive as Google's Pixel phones and Google Home smart speaker are, it's Google Assistant that gives those devices their smarts. You can use Google Assistant to unleash superpowers, such as playing video on your TV, controlling lights, booking dinner reservations, getting the day's headlines or finding out what appointments you have today. Amazon's Alexa has the jump on Google right now, but we expect Assistant to keep adding new capabilities well into 2017. — Philip Michaels
While Apple faced a backlash from creative pros for its new MacBook Pros with Touch Bar, Microsoft reinvented the desktop for that very same audience. The Surface Studio is an innovative all-in-one that packs a razor-thin, 28-inch display that you can fold down to use as a floating canvas with a pen. But the fun really starts when you add the optional Surface Dial, which presents a radial menu to easily toggle between tools and colors. It's pricey for the specs, but the Surface Studio will change the way you work for the better. — Mark Spoonauer