Talking Tech's 10 Favorite Gadgets of 2018

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It's time, once again, for our annual picks for the top 10 favorite tech gadgets of 2018.

First a quick caveat. We didn’t see every product released — but we did see, touch and feel a lot of them. Several of the ones mentioned here I went out and bought after I reviewed them — others I lusted after.

Let's work our way from 10 to 1.

10: Rugged 4 TB Drive
Unlike smartphones, which hit ridiculous prices in 2018, many topping $1,000, you’ve got to love what LaCie is selling you for a portable, rugged hard drive. I picked up a 4 terabyte external drive for $150. Yes, $150! Two years ago, these drives were 1 TB at best for the same price, and now I’ve got four times as much room. Love it.

No. 9: Lume Cube Air
You probably haven’t heard of it. It’s a little continuous light that can attach to your smartphone via magnet and give you way more people pleasing light for photos than the lousy flash from the phone. At $70 this is a steal for night and party shots.

The screen of an Amazon Fire TV Edition smart television.
(Photo: Amazon)

No. 8: The Amazon Fire TV Edition
These TVs from Toshiba and Best Buy are aimed at cord cutters, with Alexa voice control and a more visual menu than you get from and, again, a consumer bargain. Average price is $300 for a 42-inch set — on Black Friday they were giving them away for just over $100. Wow.

Sonos Beam sitting beneath a TV
Sonos Beam. (Photo: Sonos)

No. 7: Sonos Beam
Because no TV should be subjected to the lousy, tinny sound from the teeny speakers of any new TV, we give the nod to the Sonos Beam. It’s a smaller soundbar in size, but with big sound, and affordable at $400.

USA TODAY's Edward C. Baig and son Sam waves to Jefferson Graham during a video chat on the Facebook Portal device
USA TODAY's Edward C. Baig and son Sam waves to Jefferson Graham during a video chat on the Facebook Portal device (Photo: Jefferson Graham)

No. 6: The Facebook Portal
Savvy Talking Tech readers will be scratching their heads. Wait a minute, didn’t you call the video chat device the Turkey of the year? Yes, and I also said the higher resolution video chat was so good, I’d put it on my best of list. The rest of the features don't impress me much, however.

The Pixel 3 displayed in black.
The new Google Pixel 3. (Photo: Verizon)

No. 5: Google Pixel 3
Apple released 3 new iPhones this year with slight iterations over previous models and nothing much to offer beyond a slightly bigger screen. Google upgraded its Pixel phone with a superior camera that can do amazing things in the dark, and even just improve basic shots in great light. I can’t believe a smartphone camera can be this good.

A user checks his Apple Watch
A user checks his Apple Watch (Photo: Apple)

No. 4: Apple Watch series 4
In 2015, I also called the Watch a turkey, but I’ve got to hand it to Tim Cook and Co. They didn’t give up, they refined it, made the password bugging less naggy, ditched the hype about the worthless apps, enlarged the screen into a work of colorful art, and added useful health features like ECG monitoring and calling 911 if you fall down and don’t respond.

No. 3: Sony A7III
The pro level camera I bought this year was the $1,999 Sony A7III, also an iteration of previous Sony models, but unlike Apple, where the newest models get more expensive, we saw many of the features of the $4,000 Sony A9 come down to the A7, like super fast shooting 10 frames a second, low light in high resolution and a super light body.

New GoPro Hero 7 camera
New GoPro Hero 7 camera (Photo: GoPro)

No. 2: GoPro Hero 7 Black
For years, GoPro has been trying to get the small camera right. Believe it or not, this year it finally got there, with a $400 camera that finally eliminated the shakes that were all over footage from surfboards, bike helmets and the like.

How small is the Google Home Hub? So tiny that the Amazon Echo dwarfs it, and Mr. Jinx the cat towers over it.
How small is the Google Home Hub? So tiny that the Amazon Echo dwarfs it, and Mr. Jinx the cat towers over it. (Photo: Jefferson Graham)

And No. 1: Google Home Hub
No surprise to Talking Tech readers and listeners, as I’ve flagged this, but the honor goes to Google and the Home Hub, the video version of the Google Home connected speaker.

The combination of the Google Assistant, smarter and chattier than Amazon’s Alexa, the YouTube library of music videos, TV clips and food recipes, the ability to watch TV (via YouTube TV) or listen to podcasts and get your Google features like calendar, commutes and weather in visual form, was a huge winner. Only negative: the 7-inch screen is way too small. Here’s to the 15-inch version in 2019. OK, Google?

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