Members of the WiFi HiFi editorial team selected our top 10 product picks for 2018, ranging from audio to video gear, mobile, gadgets, appliances, and more. Here are the 10 personal picks from Christine Persaud, editor-in-chief, in the areas of video, mobile, wearables, small appliances, and more.
Note: the products are listed in no particular order. Pricing may vary considerably based on the retailer, integrator, and/or time of year and special promotions.
Instant Pot 6 Quart Ultra 10-in-1 Multi-Cooker
I'm obsessed with this smart cooker, which I've been using all year to make dinners, and experiment with everything from oozing chocolate lava cakes, to homemade yogurt. It's a pressure cooker on steroids, able to cook meat, poultry, vegetables, starch, you name it, in a fraction of the time of a traditional pressure cooker. It's also a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, cake baker, and more. There are one-touch buttons, but trust me, you'll only use two: sauté and pressure cook. It saves time and is easy to use, but there's a learning curve - it's not the most intuitive device. $200, but there are other models (and sizes) from which to choose.
Fitbit Versa Smartwatch
The $250 Versa is a nice compromise between fitness tracker and smartwatch. In features, it's virtually identical to the Ionic (which made my 2017 list), including being waterproof and featuring 24/7 heart rate measurement and storage for music. But it's sleeker in design, and $100 less. What's missing? Built-in GPS and Fitbit Pay (the special edition version has it for an extra $50). I can live without both. The one drawback: battery life. It's rated at about four days, but I usually have to recharge mine twice a week, which is a drag for someone like me who's a stickler for constant steps and sleep tracking. That aside, it's a winner.
Tile Sport Bluetooth Tracker With Battery
The latest Tiles use easily replaceable coin cell batteries instead of having to be replaced when they die after about a year. You can attach them to a backpack, camera gear, onto a key ring (as I do), even slide one into a wallet. The app can "ring" a device and find keys that fell under the couch cushions, or that are in your other jacket or purse. If the item was accidentally left at the coffee shop, on your office desk, or you forgot them at the hotel, the worldwide network of Tile users can pinpoint the general location. Tiles work in reverse, too. I can't count how many times I've had to double-press my Tile's button to "ring" my phone so I could follow the sound and find where I left it in the house. $30-$40 ea., two-pack $70, four-pack $110.
iRobot Roomba i7 Robotic Vacuum
The Roomba i7 works with a Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal system that holds up to 30 bins worth of dirt so you don't have to empty it after every clean. Smart Mapping remembers your floor plan and customizes the clean. While the Clean Base is rather large, and the recommended distances for placement suggest that it's best suited to larger homes, the thought of literally not having to lift a finger to vacuum floors is far too tempting to resist! That's why this vacuum was a no-brainer for me to test out in 2019. I love both the ease of use, as well as the app connectivity: use the iRobot Home app to view reports and set it to clean, or Alexa or Google Assistant to initiate a clean by voice. $1,250 with the Clean Base; $20/pack of replacement dirt disposal bags.
Apple iPhone XR Smartphone
I finally upgraded my "ancient" iPhone 6s this year, and went with the XR, the lowest end model of the new trio, but a perfectly viable upgrade for those on a tighter budget. It's thicker and larger than the top-line XS, and has a slightly lower resolution LCD versus OLED screen. It also has one camera versus dual, which means it can only recognize people, not objects, in portrait mode (not a dealbreaker for me.) But it's a strong device that's a fraction of the cost of the XS and worlds ahead of older models with features like Face ID that eliminates the constant re-entering of passwords and passcodes. Opt for a funky colour; I went with boring black, but spice it up with fashionable cases. Starts at $1,29 outright.
Spigen Tough Armor, Case-Mate Karat iPhone XR Protective Cases
I couldn't choose between the case I love for daily use, and a fashionable option for nights out. The two-layered Spigen case ($20; left) offers shock-resistant protection via air cushion technology, yet it's still slim with good grip. A bonus? A convenient built-in kickstand for watching videos on flights. To add style, I switch to the Case-Mate Mother of Pearl Karat case ($60) with genuine Mother of Pearl pieces in the back that are reminiscent of a chic ‘50s handbag. The back doesn't offer as secure a grip, but I appreciate that I still get 10-foot drop protection. With both, you can charge the phone wirelessly through the case, great if you have a Qi-enabled wireless charger. Both are easy to put on and take off, but I wish they came with a screen protector, too.
Kano Coding Computer Kit
This computer for kids has a catch: before it can be used, kids have to put it together. Detailed instructions walk them through steps, with pictures and explanations of why each colour-coded part, including a memory card, HDMI cable, power plug, battery, power board, and so on, connects to the next, and how it works. The end product is a portable computer that runs on Raspberry Pi 3, with a 10.1" HD screen, speaker, wireless keyboard, sound sensor, and battery. Kids can enjoy STEM-based challenges, tutorials, and games that help them understand the basics of coding, do things like hack Minecraft, and surf the Web. I had tons of fun putting it together with my 6-year-old son. $130, or upgrade to the newest model with a touchscreen for $200 more.
Smaller than the previous generation Air, with improvements like a Retina display, Touch ID, faster processor, all-day battery, and more, it's no wonder I've been salivating over the new 13.3" MacBook Air since it was announced to update my 2014 model. USB ports are replaced with Type-C (just two), and the SD card slot has been eliminated. My choice, once I'm ready to take the plunge, will be the 13" in gold finish, with an upgrade to 16GB memory and a 512GB SSD storage (I can't justify the extra grand for 1.5TBs!) Sure, you can get a Windows-based computer with comparable specs for a fraction of the cost. But once you're part of the Apple ecosystem, it's hard to turn back. And the sleek look, feel, and operation of an Air just can't be beat. The base model starts at $1,499, but splurge for every bell and whistle you might want, since you can't upgrade later.
I don't take many selfies, but I've been in countless situations with family or friends where we've had to resort to awkward group selfies, or ask a random person to take a shot. This cute gadget is always in my purse as a backup. Wrap your smartphone around the stretchable rubber sides (it can even fit my iPhone XR's 6.1" screen with a case), stick the device to a surface like a wall or lamppost in portrait or landscape mode, activate the camera, and use the Bluetooth remote to trigger the shutter. With heavier phones or ones with heavier cases, in particular, be sure that it's securely stuck to the surface before walking away. You'll need to clean the adhesive pad after several uses to maintain optimal stickiness. $25; Bluetooth remote $10.
LG B8 OLED TV
I upgraded to the 2017 55" LG B7 OLED this year, but given its wonderfully lifelike picture, black blacks, and user-friendly webOS smart TV interface (though I typically use Apple TV or Bell Fibe to access services like Netflix), I wish I had gone straight to the 2018 model B8. That one has an updated version of the a7 intelligent processor, adds LG's ThinQ AI engine with voice control, and supports Dolby Atmos audio and 4K Cinema HDR. The B8 isn't a top-line model - those include the new a9 intelligent processor with improvements in noise reduction, sharpness, depth enhancement, and colour reproduction. But it's a compromise for price-conscious individuals like me that introduces you to glorious OLED technology. If you don't yet have a 4K source, content is up-scaled to look better than it would on a standard HDTV anyway, until you take the plunge. The 55" B8 (the 65" won't fit in our living room entertainment centre) is about $2,300 (on sale), and the 65", which I'd recommend if you have room for it, is $3,300.
*Pricing may vary considerably based on specific retailer deals.