The December/January 2020 issue of WiFi HiFi Magazine included our top 100 tech picks for 2019. And to devise this list, each member of the team submitted their favourite gear of the year. Here are Steve Makris' top product picks of 2019.
Nikon CoolPix 1000 125X Zoom Camera
The Nikon Coolpix 1000 offers unprecedented shooting range so you never miss a shot. I was taken aback the first time I used it. It's huge and heavier than some DSLRs, but a closeup of a singular flower or the crater-sharp moon from your backyard is only a click away. All that glass is designed for users who want to go beyond the best camera phones. The essentials are there, including 4K Ultra HD video with stereo sound, quality RAW shooting, sharp 3.2" vari-angle LCD, bright electronic viewfinder, acceptable Dynamic extra Fine Zoom to 6000mm, and Super Lapse mode for compiling single frames over time, into movies. The most important buttons are well placed, like the snapback feature, my favourite for quickly un-zooming to re-orient from a long zoom. There's room to grow with accessories like dot sight, an external flash or strobe, microphone, and remote. $1,170
Galanck Galuchon Urban Rucksack
This is the most unusual backpack you will ever see. When I first saw it at the Michelin Movin'on sustainability conference in Montreal earlier this year, it looked like an old-fashioned paper bag with straps. Silly me. The rollback design of the Rucksack, which hails from the Paris-based company, is full of surprises. It's equipped with LED lights in the front and real shoulder straps, powered by an included portable battery. It works with Google Maps when you are walking or biking, vibrating and lighting up for right or left turns, and even breaking. Traffic will not miss you with this bag and you don't have to use your arms to signal. I like how the shoulder straps naturally lock the rear flap down keeping pickpockets away. High quality with immaculate stitching, it comes in two sizes and several colours. Starts at $190
Compared to cheap foam earplugs, designed to block all sounds, I prefer a good pair of universal-fit (aka musician-style) earplugs like these, which provide a much better listening experience, allowing you to hear music and voices at a safer level. They rate high in many reviews for their simplicity and long-wearing comfort. The earplugs come with six pairs of tips to fit nearly every ear shape. I found they have the right amount of sound suppression without sounding muffled. The Loops stay in place through dance moves and workouts and have a discreet design that doesn't protrude from your ear. A zippered carrying pouch tiny enough to fit in the smallest jeans pocket is included. $76
Huawei P30 Pro Smartphone
The Huawei P30 Pro is my choice for travelling, anywhere. Partner Leica experts armed the phone with the widest choice of camera lenses in market today: 10MP, 20MP, and 40MP rear and 32MP selfie sensors use AI for the sharpest super wide angle, normal zoom range, and extended 5X optical and indistinguishable Hybrid 10X zoom. All are tack sharp. Zoom performance comes from Leica engineers using a periscope-like prism which re-directs light 90 degrees in the thin body through a stack of lenses to a 10MP photo sensor. It zooms to 50X with increasing image degradation. I now travel worldwide with only one P30 Pro, leaving my large digital camera and lens-laden bag behind unless there's good reason for the best magazine quality photos. It's the first camera phone to shoot the Milky Way with minimal grain, and its Night mode has yet to be surpassed. $1,200
Samsung Galaxy Note10+ Smartphone
The Galaxy Note series has been my working phone since 2012, thanks to the awesome S Pen stylus. It's pricey but the efficiency, ability to write, scribble, and accurately navigate full websites makes the Pen invaluable. It also gives my finger a rest! The Note10+ is appealing to a wider audience. Now the S Pen is like a magic wand with 6-axis gesturing for taking pictures, changing camera settings, controlling YouTube, Spotify, and more upcoming apps. Zoom, edit, and change your handwriting and save to popular document formats including Word. Scan an object with the DepthVision lens by walking around it and saving is as a 3D file. I like AI-assisted "zooming in," with the audio recording in movies matching the zoomed image. The S Pen also lets you create an AR video of a real person while drawing symbols around them that follow the subject's movements. $1,500
Zendure SuperTank 27,000 mAh Portable Charger
My quest for "more than enough" portable battery chargers is over. This 27,000 mAh portable charger is on steroids. It can handle all charging duties (four at a time) for phones (up to six charge-ups), tablets, iPads and Nintendo Switch, and also features Dual USB-C ports up to 100W to charge two laptops at once, like two MacBook Pros. To be exact, at 26,800mAh (99.2Wh) it's TSA approved as an airline carry-on. It features four USB outputs, accurate digital LED display, X-Charge low-power charging mode, pass-through charging, multi-protection safety system, and a one-hour recharge time using the optional 100W USB-C Wall Charger, which is worth getting. It's tough and durable but be warned: this is not a pocket charger - it's heavy to carry around, but totally worth it. US$192
Starkey Livio AI Hearing Aids
My hearing with these is much better and natural without the tinny sound that I often experienced with competitor products. I like using the app (iPhone or Android) for fine tuning hearing in restaurants, concerts, or libraries. The kicker? It remembers settings. An accelerometer measures your steps and even knows if you fall, alerting pre-programmed contacts. It scores your well-being by how often you carry conversations with others to prevent the known "falling out of society" symptom for the hard of hearing. Need adjustments? Send a secure request from your phone to your local Starkey specialist and get a prompt return to update them. I converse in foreign countries using the translator feature: when someone speaks to me in Italian, the translation plays back through my hearing aids. Unlike competitors, these have a media audio mode for listening to distortion-free media. Coming soon, a heart monitor! $4,000 ea.
Soul Electronics ST-XS 2 Wireless Earbuds
Few wireless earbuds can match the performance, smart design, and functionality of these earbuds. The audio range is impressive, allowing me to even hear singers take a breath between lyrics, something few do. And the bass is to die for. They use Bluetooth 5.0 which means automatic synching with your phone when you take them out of their small case, which offers 25 more charging hours in addition to the five hours of on-the-go listening. I love the Transparent Audio mode which makes you aware of your surroundings when desired. The cleverly molded ear hooks and tips, many sizes included, keep these puppies gently secure in your ears, and the IPX7 rating lets you sweat it out in the rain. The small portable charging box uses USB type-C technology to provide up to four times faster charging. $96
Spot X Satellite Two-Way Satellite Messenger With Bluetooth
If you or a friend are planning a trip in places void of cell phone connectivity, it's smart to take along a GPS-enabled device for emergencies. The SPOT X Two-Way Satellite Messenger allows you to text with driends or after an emergency S.O.S. alert, providing more detailed information to rescuers. I had fun posting my position from Santa Monica beach with maps on Twitter. It looks and types like the traditional BlackBerry so the pre-programmed messages to friends or family saves time. Using GPS, the Spot X can guide pre-determined walks in the wild, even keep bread crumbs along your route. I find the addition of Bluetooth in the latest model useful as it allows my phone to communicate with the Spot X directly when setting up messages and phone contacts instead of going the manual way. It's tough and runs several days when active. $350
FinessCity Titanium Spork Travel Cutlery
Tech can be simple and smart. The Titanium Spork scores on both points, combining the duties of a spoon and fork in one tough utensil that has a bottle opener on the other end. It's 100% pure Titanium, which puts my mind at ease knowing its hypoallergenic and thus unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. It comes with a case, too. $16
Adonit PhotoGrip For Phones
These convert any smartphone to a camera with a sure grip, tripod screw mount, and removable Bluetooth shutter button, and throw in a carry pouch and small tripod. They easily slip on and off with a secure fit. Essentially, they leave my other hand free to hang on to stuff or change screen settings. Nice! They come in two flavours. The bulkier PhotoGrip Qi ($80) has a built-in re-chargeable 3,000 mAh battery for wirelessly topping off your phone; while the smaller PhotoGrip ($53) is sans battery but includes a small stylus for any phone, tucked in its handle. Both include a built-in tripod thread and stand vertical for quick selfies. I use both on my phones and appreciate the security of having a good one-handed grip in my picture-taking adventures.
Photoshop for iPad
The power of software shines in the recently released Photoshop for iPad. Adobe has laboured for years on getting Photoshop, the choice of serious photographers and designers, to work on the iPad OS. I tried it on a 6th Gen iPad (it runs faster on the iPad Pro) and was surprised how snappy it was opening files with hundreds of layers. Now you can start a project on your Mac or Windows desktops then keep working on your way to work on your iPad using your finger or the Apple Pencil. Admittedly, this iPad version is missing some features from the full desktop versions, like working with RAW files, but Adobe plans to send monthly updates. Included free in Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription service with full (all apps) or only Photoshop/Lightroom plans starting at US$10/mo.
Mitsubishi 2019 Outlander PHEV Plug-In Hybrid 4WD SUV
I test-drove this high-tech car for low-tech drivers this past summer, and it delivers on its promise: a superb balancing act between its under-carriage 12kWh lithium-ion battery and the efficient 2.0 L MIVEC gasoline engine. It's the best of both worlds. The PHEV with independently powered front and rear wheels for impressive stability automatically chooses among several driving modes depending on your needs, from 100% driving on battery for 35km around town to combinations of power (more gas) versus battery life. I liked being able to choose between Battery SAVE mode, maintaining the current battery charge level, or Battery CHARGE using the gas engine powered generator to keep the battery topped up. It cost me less than a buck of electricity to charge an empty battery overnight on a regular home outlet. My 1,000km drive through cities, towns, and mountains averaged 3.7 L /100 km! $43,498