2016 is an exceptional year for me and my blog. I published 144 articles, averaging 12 posts per month. I reviewed almost 40 headphones and earphones, 5 speakers, around 20 smartphones and tablets, 15 wearables, 11 cameras, and 5 cars. Every single product tested and written by me, Chester Tan. I must be one of the few individual Singapore tech gadget bloggers (not under any media publishing establishment) who reviews products without revenue. I am extremely proud to continue offering my unbiased opinions on consumer electronic products and I welcome collaborations or content syndication.
Every year, The Straits Times Digital Awards celebrates the best gadgets and games and awards them with Editors’ Choice and Readers’ Choice. The 2017 edition is now on and voting ends in 18 Jan 2017. To encourage voting, there are 61 prizes to be won.
What are the best products I have reviewed in 2016? Here are my choices:
This is one of the toughest category due to the various sub-categories and price points. ST breaks them down to Best Smartphone, Best Phablet, Best Smartphone Camera. And here’s my take. The best overall smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, because it offers the best technological features found in a smartphone: great camera, unique curved screen design, smooth UI, good battery management.
I am using the LG G5, and I am completely in love with the ultra wide angle camera, something that no other smartphones can offer. That makes LG G5 a valuable smartphone to me. It’s not perfect, though. The battery life is poor and the display suffers from screen burn-in.
If you want a smartphone below S$500, I would recommend ASUS Zenfone 3. I recently tried Xiaomi Redmi 3S which is below S$200. While I have had poor experience with Xiaomi, the new UI comes with interesting features like Dual Apps and Second Space. I guess there is no harm investing on a S$200 smartphone.
Best Compact Camera
Among the 5, I only managed to test the Canon G7 X Mark II and Sony RX100 V. I have to give credit to Sony for delivering such a technologically-advanced compact camera with amazing processing speed, which allows it to capture 24 frames per second of full-resolution still images with continuous aufo-focus tracking, as well as up to 1000 fps high-frame rate video recording. If you do not need that level of wizardry, the Canon G7 X Mark II works sufficiently well and at a more palatable price.
Best Fitness Tracker
This is an easy choice for me. The best fitness tracker is the one I ended up buying – Samsung Gear Fit2. I love it for its full-colour display with the size of an activity tracker. It offers me the best of both worlds – a fitness tracker that I can wear the entire day and night, and a smartwatch with nice watch face to notify me of events and messages from my smartphone.
Smartwatch innovation has gone stagnant. The honours could have gone to Pebble if not for its recent demise. Android Wear fails to win my vote, so I’m going to give in to Samsung Gear S3, given my prior experience with Samsung Gear S2. The Garmin Fenix Chronos is actually a lot more feature-packed, but at a price point beyond the regular consumers.
Best Home Networking Solution
There may be ample literature on the technical comparison among these routers, but based on my personal experience with D-Link DIR-895L and TP-Link Archer AC5400, I find the DIR-895L performs better in real life. Yet, it still fails to improve my master bedroom wireless bandwidth, until I added the D-Link DAP-1860 Wi-Fi Range Extender. Alternatively, use Powerline Extender like TP-Link TL-WPA8730. You see where I’m going with this? There is no one product that delivers the full solution.
Best In-Ear Headphones
The list above already included 2 of my top favourite earphones: Beoplay H5 and Jaybird Freedom. My vote goes to Jaybird because it is just so versatile. Wear it for sports or for fashion, over-ear or under-ear, heavy bass or bright treble. The audio quality is versatile and should make most consumers happy.
Best Over-Ear Headphones
Of the above list, I have reviewed the Bose QC35, Klipsch Reference On-Ear Headphones II, Sony MDR-1000X. Two other consumer-grade headphones I want to add on are V-MODA Crossfade Wireless, Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2.
The problem with headphones and earphones are that they are highly subjective. True story: one of my colleagues thought the Bose QC35 was unsatisfactory, while my wife is thoroughly impressed. Everyone has their own listening preference: be it stronger bass, clearer vocals, or brighter treble. So if you ask me which headphones I would listen, my answer would be Klipsch Reference On-Ear Headphones II, because it is comfortable, sufficient passive noise isolation, and audio tuning that allows extended enjoyment. Having said that, the headphones that offers the most exciting sound signature with the most features goes to Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2. As for the best ANC headphones, Sony MDR-1000X wins due to more features, but if you only need ANC, then Bose QC35 is still the one to get.
Best Wireless Speakers
This year, I only reviewed 5 speakers, and the one that impresses me most from design to sound and price is Beoplay A1. But I have to say that Creative SB Roar series continue to offer the best bang for the buck, so even though I have not reviewed any of their products this year, I will still recommend. Support local brand!
Favourite Product: Sennheiser HE1
My favourite product I have reviewed happened to be the one I reviewed for the shortest time, but is brief enough for me to make it a favourite. It is none other than the best headphones system in the world, the Sennheiser HE1.
Favourite Agency: Brand Cellar
Most of the time, the brand appointed PR agencies reach out to me to offer support and assistance, as well as extra benefits to product influencers like myself. The agency that I feel is the most personable and responsive is Brand Cellar, who manages brand communications like LG, Beats, Mophie, Paradigm, Onkyo, TaoKaeNoi. They did an excellent job in supporting my interests in LG Electronics products. They even send a cake on my birthday!
Favourite Brand: ASUS
Some brands do their own internal communications or product launches. ASUS is one of them, and has won my vote as my favourite brand for their responsiveness and quality of interaction. Having an in-house communication team does have benefits.
Favourite Online Store: GearBest
I have been shopping at GearBest for the past 3 years. GearBest has been highly supportive of my site and frequently send products to me for my review. I make sure I choose the products with the most interest for my readers. Over the months, some of the products that generate loads of interest include a waterproof fitness band, a very affordable 4K action camera.