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PCMag's Best Products of the Year

Every year PC Magazine ( editors rank the best PCs, HDTVs, components, sites, and services. Plus: the products they are looking forward to next year, and which technologies are rising and falling.

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GOLD: Jawbone Era

Jawbone reinvented the Bluetooth headset when it added configurable "apps" last year. Now it pushes things even further forward with an accelerometer and dedicated application processor, enabling the Jawbone Era to potentially become anything from a game controller to a pedometer. Until that happens, you still have the best balance of design and performance on the market, in a handsome headset with terrific sound quality and noise cancellation.Sascha Segan

GOLD: Kodak i2600

As a heavy-duty scanner in a small office or workgroup, the Kodak i2600 is fast, has a whopping 75-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF), and a rated duty cycle of 4,000 sheets per day. Its three-row by 15-character LCD shows scan profile names as you scroll through the choices, a feature that makes it far easier to take advantage of one-button scanning than most scanners, which typically provide just numbers rather than names.Tony Hoffman

GOLD: LastPass 1.72

To protect your online privacy, you really should use strong passwords containing uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and punctuation. You should use a different password for every site, so a data breach at one site doesn't expose your other secure sites. But who can remember all of those passwords? With LastPass helping, you only need to remember one very strong master password. LastPass memorizes other passwords when you first use them and plays back your login credentials as needed. It can also fill in your personal data on Web forms. All of your information is thoroughly encrypted and stored online, so you can access it from multiple computers or smartphones. Best of all, it's free!NJR

GOLD: Lenovo ThinkPad T420s

Considering the technology crammed inside, the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s is an amazing feat of engineering. Inside its 14-inch frame are choice components, like a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2520M processor, a speedy hard drive, and a stunning 1,600-by-900 resolution display. It all combines with Lenovo's excellent user experience and still weighs less than four pounds.BW

GOLD: Lexmark X548dte

The Lexmark X548dte brings a raft of features to mid-sized businesses and workgroups. This color laser MFP offers a 900-sheet standard paper capacity, a 50-page duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF), a built-in hard drive, secure printing, and a sweet 7-inch color touch screen. It prints quickly, and its graphics and photo quality are both superb. The downside? Text quality is merely average for a laser printer, which is still fine for any need short of precision desktop publishing.TH

GOLD: LG Infinia 47LW5600

The LG Infinia 47LW5600 brings together everything you could want in an LED HDTV. Its picture is excellent, with deep blacks and very accurate colors. It has tons of networked features, all accessible through Wi-Fi with the included USB adapter. You get both a Wiimote-like remote control wand and a conventional remote, giving you much more control over Web services and apps. It's passive 3D, with four included pairs of glasses and the ability to use any cheap, filtered 3D glasses with the screen. Put it all together and you have a great HDTV for well under $2,000.Will Greenwald

GOLD: LG Super Multi N2A2 NAS

LG's Super Multi N2A2 NAS is a great network attached storage option for the home network. LG bundles in some really well-designed software to make setting up the device and joining it to a home network a breeze. The device houses dual hard drive and can be configured with RAID 0, 1, 1+ and JBOD, so it gives you data redundancy and fault-tolerance. A nice plus, the N2A2 runs quiet and cool. A host of features provide multiple usages beyond network file sharing. That includes Dynamic DNS for remote access, web camera surveillance, and compatibility with Bonjour and the Apple file system. Read/write performance surpasses many competing consumer NASes. While not an option for businesses that need enterprise features, LG's N2A2 is a great option for home users who want to share a sophisticated digital content library.SL

GOLD: LinkedIn

LinkedIn is positively invaluable for any career-minded person over the age of 20. The site, which launched in 2003, is the place where professionals stay connected. It's free to join, although some functions require a paid account. While some think of LinkedIn as a resource for the job huntand to that end, it does have a huge repository of job postingsit's really more like a hub of information about the lifelong connections you make with other professionals. LinkedIn gives you updated information on all those people with whom you might have otherwise lost touch. In a few seconds, you can find out where a former boss is working now, or track down updated contact information for your first mentor and explore his or her network. When you need a quick introduction to a new business partner, whether it's a specific person or anyone at a specific company, you can always turn to LinkedIn to see exactly which of your contacts can help you make the connection. It's also an indispensible way for other people, such as conference organizers looking for a speaker or potential customers/clients, to find you.Jill Duffy

GOLD: Microsoft Touch Mouse

Rivaling Apple's Magic Mouse in form and function, the Touch Mouse is optimized for Windows 7 and incorporates enough gestures and features to suit almost all your everyday needs. There's even a "Boss function" that allows you to swipe three fingers down to minimize all your windows, and possibly embarrassing content. Bottom line: This is the best touch mouse you can buy for the PC.Natalie Shoemaker

GOLD: Motorola Droid Bionic

Motorola's Droid Bionic was the first smartphone to combine 4G LTE with a dual-core processor. That means extreme Web speeds with no waiting, even when you're surfing Flash-enabled pages. The Bionic also features Motorola's unique Webtop mode, which lets you turn the phone into a desktop or laptop PC. (Both the Motorola Droid RAZR and Samsung Galaxy Nexus were released too late to be considered for this award.)SS


Developer Visual Concepts brings together several generations of basketball icons from various pro-hoops eras in NBA 2K12. The b-ball title not only plucks the best elements of NBA history, but delivers tight game play (with an incredible new post-up mechanic), life-like graphics, and excellent broadcast TV-style presentationan area where the game truly excels. For example, if two 90s teams face off (say the Ewing-led Knicks vs. the Jordan-led Bulls), the visuals become slightly washed out to give it a roughly 20-year-old look. Even better, if you pit two 60s-era teams (such as the West-led Lakers vs. the Russell-led Celtics), the game's visuals switch to grainy black and white footage, players don knee-high socks, and the announcers commentary suffers from slightly muffled audiojust like NBA broadcasts of that time. All of these little touches make NBA 2K12 feel very much like the flesh-and-blood NBA as seen over several decades of time, and an excellent substitute for a missing NBA season.Jeffrey L. Wilson


Though larger yet not as bright as similar lightweight WXGA projectors we've looked at, the 3LCD-based NEC NP-M260W's myriad connectivity options (including the ability to run presentations off of a USB thumb drive), fine image quality for both video and still images, and unusually good sound system more than make up for those two shortfalls. It sailed through our data image quality tests with only a couple of minor flaws, and did particularly well in our video testing in bringing out detail in dark areas.TH

GOLD: Netgear N750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (WNDR40...

Netgear's N750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (WNDR4000) delivered the highest throughput speeds yet tested in PCMag's lab at the 5 GHz band. It's dual-band and can support not only the latest wireless devices on the market, but legacy ones that remain in so many home networks. The N750 is designed to handle high-demand performance tasks like streaming video to multiple devices in a wireless network. With Netgear's recently introduced Genie app, the setup is straightforward and won't befuddle those with little to no experience installing wireless routers. Not only is the WNDR4000 a star performer, the strong feature set that includes guest networking, a bridge/repeater mode and Live Parental Controls courtesy of the OpenDNS cloud service, make the WNDR4000 a perfect router for any device-heavy and high Internet traffic home and small business network.Samara Lynn

GOLD: Nikon Coolpix S9100

Gone are the days when you had to opt for a large camera in order to get a big zoom. The 18x Nikon Coolpix S9100 isn't that much larger than your average point-and-shoot thanks to a lens that retracts into the camera when it's powered off. The 12-megapixel camera has a super-sharp 921k-dot LCD and can record video in 1080p resolution. The S9100 shoots in very low light, grabbing sharp, clean images through ISO 3200. Even though it doesn't have GPS, the S9100 was our favorite superzoom of 2011.JF

GOLD: Nikon D5100

Nikon's D5100 was our favorite D-SLR of the year. The 16-megapixel camera's articulating LCD is packed with 921,000 dots for extremely crisp image review and live view. It shoots clean images through ISO 6400 and can capture photos at three frames per second. Most impressively, the camera can autofocus while recording 1080p HD video. At $899 the camera isn't the cheapest, but its image quality, optical finder, and Nikkor optics make it an excellent value.JF

GOLD: Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo didn't set the world on fire with its new handheld, but it did introduce a remarkable twist on old, clunky technology. The 3DS uses a glasses-free 3D screen that provides surprising depth when looking at it with the right angle. Its launch lineup disappointed and its networked features are still a mishmash, but with great-looking graphics, a great design, backwards compatibility with both Nintendo DS and downloadable DSi games, along with a $70 price drop from its launch in March, it's a strong contender for your next handheld system.Will Greenwald

GOLD: Norton Internet Security 2012

The firewall in Norton Internet Security 2012 does its job without pestering the user. It blocks exploits better than the competition, and stands up to attack. Norton also detects the very newest phishing sites better than almost any other product. And of course, the suite includes the same powerful antivirus protection found in the standalone Norton AntiVirus 2012 (above). Norton's spam filter is quite accurate, with no false positives. Its Identity Safe component handles password management and can automatically fill Web forms. Despite this wealth of security features, the suite doesn't put a drag on system performance. Some suites excel in just a few areas; Norton's various components are consistently effective.NJR

GOLD: OCZ Vertex 3 (240GB)

Comparing the price-per-gigabyte profile of any given solid-state drive (SSD) with that of any given hard drive, it's clear that there's no such thing as an inexpensive SSD. But if you're determined to spend the money, the 240GB version of the Vertex 3 is the way to go. OCZ's flagship SSD is the fastest we've tested overall, and the hefty capacity of this model makes it something you can use as your primary system drive without hating yourself in the morning. The drive supports 6 Gbps SATA III data transfers, and promises maximum read speeds of 550 MBps and write speeds of up to 520 MBps. In our tests, it came closer to achieving those numbers than any other drives we've looked at. We're still not convinced SSDs are in any way economical enough to bother with unless you're working in an environment where speed is all you care about. But if you've decided an SSD is for you, we haven't found a better one than this.MM

GOLD: ooVoo (for Android)

ooVoo is a terrific video chat solution for Android devices, and it doesn't stop there. It also supports group video, voice calls, and instant messagingacross iOS, OS X, Android, and Windows. That's right. Not only do you get solid Android video calling, but you can now practically video chat with anyone. For all those reasons, ooVoo became our Editors' Choice for Android video chat apps, and PCMag's 2011 GOLD for best Android app. Like its biggest competitor (Skype), ooVoo is free. ooVoo isn't available for every Android device yet, but the company is working on support for additional smartphones and tabletsand we're looking forward to it. The more people who use ooVoo, the more valuable it is. In testing, voice calls were just as good as video calls, loud and clear, with the occasionally hint of delay. For free phone calls and free video calls ooVoo does a more than respectable job and is definitely better than any other video-call services we've seen for Android.Jill Duffy

GOLD: Optoma GT750E

The Optoma GT750E replaces the Editors' Choice Optoma GT720 gaming projector, adding a boost in brightness, better image quality, and goodies such as a second HDMI port and support for RF as well as DLP Link 3D glasses. It's built around a DLP engine with a native WXGA (1,280-by-800) resolution, so if you have a PS3 or Xbox, it can show 720p HD images without having to scale the image at all. It doesn't hurt that you can also use the GT750E as a data projector and even for watching an occasional movie.TH

GOLD: Optoma TW675UTi-3D

The Optoma TW675UTi-3D is the most capable ultra-short-throw interactive projector we've come across yet. It delivers an impressive balance of interactive capability, brightness, connectivity, and level of data and video image quality. It also offers 3D and, uniquely, lets you turn on the interactive and 3D modes at the same time. You can also mount this projector straight down to create an interactive table top.TH

GOLD: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3

If you're the type to take photos while climbing mountains, snorkeling, or engaging in any other extreme activity, a rugged camera is a necessity. The best we tested this year is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3, which will work even after being dropped from 6.6 feet, submerged in 40 feet of water, and frozen to 14 F. In addition to a GPS, the camera features a baromater and an altimeter, tagging each photo with your location, altitude, and the atmospheric pressure. A 4.6x zoom lens lets you frame the action perfectly, and it can capture clean images through ISO 1600 for shooting in less-than-ideal light.JF

GOLD: Plustek OpticBook 4800

The Plustek OpticBook 4800 makes the time-consuming chore of scanning book pages faster and easier than it would be on a standard, general-purpose flatbed. By letting the pages lay flat, it does better-quality scans, too. It's not as fast or easy as book scanners that put the book in a V-shaped cradle and then "scan" both facing pages at once by taking pictures with two digital cameras, but it's less expensive than most.TH

GOLD: Razer Black Widow Ultimate

The Razer Black Widow Ultimate is part of the mechanical gaming keyboard class. The typewriter-like clickety-clack noise may add toor annoyyour workday, but enthusiasts will know that its Cherry MX Blue key switch is one of the best. Your fingers won't tire out as quickly during long gaming sessions or an all-nighter study session. Touch typists and those who are regularly glued to their desks will delight in the Black Widow's typing experience and extra features. Razer's configuration software is also quite extensive, allowing you full reign over your keys and their functions.NS

GOLD: Samsung Galaxy S II

Yes, it's the Galaxy S II again. T-Mobile's model improves on the unlocked/AT&T version with even faster Internet speeds (at HSPA+ 42, truly 4G), a gigantic 4.5-inch screen and an even faster Qualcomm 1.5 Ghz processor. It's evensurprise!a very good voice phone. With this kind of power available, T-Mobile shouldn't fear being neglected by a certain fruit company.SS

GOLD: Skype 3.5 (for iPhone)

The strongest case for using Skype over another Internet-based phone service is that practically everyone else already uses it, too; there are more than 660 million users worldwide. Like social networks, peer-to-peer VoIP services become more valuable the more your friends, family, and business partners join. As a mobile app, Skype becomes a brilliant tool for staying connected with international connections without running up your phone bill. The iPhone app has a clean interface and not much of a learning curve, so anyone can pick it ip in minutes. You can talk as long as you want, and with multiple people at once. The app's quality is a little inconsistent, but that's partially because many factors go into supporting VoIP calls (signal strength, network, etc.). By and large, Skype is simple, easy to use, and widely adopted. No iPhone is complete without the Skype app.JD

GOLD: Sony Alpha NEX-C3

The image quality and performance delivered by the 16-megapixel NEX-C3 was once exclusive to D-SLR cameras. Sony's packed a large sensor into a compact body, coupled it with fast autofocus, 720p HD video capture, see-in-the-dark low-light performance, and added a large tilting rear LCD. It's not pocketable with the included 18-55mm lens, but if you opt for the kit with the 16mm pancake prime the svelte camera is almost small enough. At $649 it's hard not to love this camera, especially when you compare it to much larger D-SLRs.JF

GOLD: StumbleUpon (for iPad)

There are millions of sites on the World Wide Web, but there's no way to find all of the cool stuff that's out there due to the sheer volume. Fortunately, StumbleUpon helps you deep dive into the "hidden" Web with an iPad app that brings fresh content of interest to Apple's slate with just a tap of the "Stumble" button. The discovery service lets users find, ban, like, and share pages, video, and photos. StumbleUpon for iPad is well-designed, stable, and boasts an intuitive interface that surpasses the desktop version. It truly takes the chore out of finding fresh Web contenteven more so than bookmarking sites like Digg and Redditas it delivers content to your eyeballs with very little work on your part.JLW

GOLD: Thermaltake Chaser MK-I

Name a feature you're looking for in a case, and the Thermaltake Chaser MK-I has it: tons of 5.25- and 3.5-inch drive bays (ten in total); big fans for moving lots of air quietly, with speeds adjustable from one easy-to-reach location; two front-panel USB 3.0 ports that connect via motherboard headers; an integrated, external, hot-swappable drive bay; completely tool-free construction. There are even integrated motherboard standoffs, so you don't have to waste time installing them yourself, and a fold-down headphone hook on the side panel. Tack on a striking blue-and-blue design and a just-high-enough price and you've got an excellent chassis for housing a top-of-the-line gaming tower.Matthew Murray

GOLD: Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L

Addicted to 4G, but want it for all your mobile devices, not just your phone? Novatel Wireless's LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4510L delivers blazing performance that's in all likelihood faster than your home internet connection. It sports detailed battery life and signal strength indicators, and in our tests, it connected more reliably than competing devices. At $50 per month for 5GB, or $80 per month for 10GB, the MiFi 4510L is too limited to replace that home connection. But with speeds averaging 20 Mbps down and 7 Mbps up, it's our favorite mobile hotspot to date.Jamie Lendino

GOLD: Visioneer Mobility

The Visioneer Mobility isn't the first portable scanner that can scan without needing a PC at hand, but it is the first we've seen that lets you scan to a smartphone so you can preview the image on the spot. That, plus its high scores (for a portable scanner) for optical character recognition, document management, and business card management make it worthy of a close look if you need a scanner on the road.TH

GOLD: Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus

Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus is a brand-new product, sharing nothing with Webroot's previous antivirus software. Its behavior-based detection engine resides entirely in the cloud, and its designers wrote it from the ground up with small size and high efficiency in mind. The entire product would fit on a 3.5-inch diskette with room to spare. But small size isn't Webroot's only virtue. In PCMag's malware blocking tests it scored unprecedented perfect tens across the board; scores in our malware removal tests were very good. It installs in a flash, and a full scan takes just minutes. Admittedly, its cloud-based analysis can't function when there's no Internet connection, but since most malware enters the PC via that Internet connection this isn't such a bad thing. In any case, even when disconnected, the product tracks what processes are doing and analyzes their behaviors when the connection is restored. It's quite impressive.NJR

GOLD: WifiBuilder

WifiBuilder is an innovative, must-have utility for anyone who deploys or manages wireless networks. It's a hardware and software solution comprised of both the vendor's proprietary Profiler 24x Diagnostic software and Cisco Linksys' WRT400N router, which is used as a diagnostic access point. Although it may seem pricey, it's a requisite tool for WLAN professionals who perform wireless network site surveys. WifiBuilder can pinpoint RF interference in a wireless environment allowing network administrators to deploy WLANs optimized for performance. The interface gives wireless admins a window into the often frustrating-to-troubleshoot wireless world by performing detailed channel analysis, data recording and playback, as well as reporting. The software also comes with Figaro, a tool that allows changes to common AP settings like SSID, channel and security mode. While WifiBuilder is not a network discovery tool, it's great at what is doesfocusing completely on back channel information.SL

GOLD: Windows Live Hotmail 2011

This isn't your grandpa's Hotmail. The folks at Microsoft have taken updating their world-market-share-leading webmail service seriously, adding unrivaled tools for organizing and cleaning out inboxes and viewing active content. Sure, Gmail gets all the praise, but frankly, the emperor has no clothes on that one. The newest Hotmail outdoes Gmail by offering mail preview, a better conversation view implementation, better tools for tidying up that inbox and removing "graymail," or mail that's not spam but not a priority. The new Hotmail is fast (ten times faster, according to Microsoft) and integrates with online storage for photos and Office documents. It lets you view videos, photos, and docs right in the inbox. If you've moved to Gmail because your friends have told you it's the cool new choice, take another look at the current version of Hotmail. You'll be surprised.MM

Google Chrome 21

Free The newcomer among Web browsers holds onto its lead this year, with the most in HTML5 support and speed. Chrome's Instant features mean that sites can load before you even finish typing their addresses, and built-in Adobe Flash and PDF support mean you don't need to look around for plugins to make the Web work. A tight security strategy with sandboxing protects your computer, though some will have second thoughts on its privacy implications, with no built-in Do Not Track feature to date.MM

Google Chrome 27

Our speedy Editors' Choice browser made impressive strides in 2013, offering new support for WebRTC which lets the browser act like Skype, using your PC's camera and microphone for real-time communication. The search ad giant also added a new set of "app" capabilities, with new desktop widgets that actually run outside of the browser window. All this is added to the ever-increasing lead in HTML5 support, speed, and simplicity that distinguish Chrome.Michael Muchmore

Google Chrome 3

The overriding philosophy of Google's Chrome browser can be summed up in one word: speed. And we're not just talking about speediness during Web surfing, but also the speed at which new versions come out. Just over a year after the initial beta, we're already at Version 3and it remarkably improves on what was already chart-topping performance. Chrome 3 also makes the new tab page more customizable, tweaks the address-search bar, boosts support for HTML 5, and lets you dress the browser's windows in colorful themes.

Google Drive

Part office suite and part file-syncing service, Google Drive retains all the best features and core functionality of its predecessor, Google Docs, while also upping the ante on how much collaboration it enables. That it takes on Dropbox and Skydrive so well to sync files between computers and the cloud is almost just icing on the cake. It is one sweet package.Jill Duffy

Google Nexus 7

$199 and up Google's 7-inch tablet is an amazing value at $199, with a slim, elegant design, a fast processor, the latest Android OS, and a wider variety of available apps than competing 7-inch tablets. It's more powerful, more flexible, and more affordable than any other tablet in its class.SS

Gopro Hero3: Black Edition

Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Model: CHDHX-301
PartNumber: CHDHX-301
DECENT FEATURES of the GoPro HERO3 Black Edition Adventure Camera Wearable, mountable design Immersive, wide angle capture of your favorite activities Professional quality HD video and 12MP photos Built-in Wi-Fi enables remote control Included Wi-Fi Remote or live video preview and remote control on smartphones and tablets running the free GoPro app Rugged housing is waterproof to 197ft/60M and captures sharp images above and below water Compatible with all GoPro mounts for attaching to gear, body, helmets, vehicles and more Compatible with LCD Touch BacPac and second generation Battery BacPac Backwards compatible with older generation BacPacs Video looping Continuous photo Simultaneous photo video Protune, manual white balance controls and more What's Included HERO3 Black Edition Camera 197' / 60m Waterproof Housing Wi-Fi Remote Wi-Fi Remote Key Ring Remote Charging Cable Rechargeable Li-ion Battery QR Buckle, J-Hook, 3-way Pivot 1 Curved 1 Flat Adhesive Mount Assorted Mounts and Hardware The SPECS of the GoPro HERO3 Black Edition Adventure Camera Professional 4k Cinema 12/2.7k Cinema 30/1440p 48 fps/1080p 60 fps/960p 100 fps/720p 120 fps/WVGA 240 fps and more video capture 12MP photo capture with 30 fps burst Wi-Fi Built-In Wi-Fi Remote Compatible (included) GoPro App Compatible (FREE) Professional Low-Light Performance 197' / 60m Waterproof Housing Assorted mounts and hardware included for attaching to helmets, gear and more Single Unit: Dims 3.94 x 3.94 x 9.65" Single Unit: Dims 10 x 10 x 24.5 cm Inner Pack(6): Dims 9.06 x 13 x 10.8" Inner Pack(6): Dims 23 x 33 x 27.5 cm Single Unit: Weight 19.29 oz / 547 g This item is NOT eligible for High Altitude Rewards Point bonuses, Rewards Promotions, or Affiliate Cash Back. Please don't hate us. This product can only be shipped within the United States. Please don't hate us.
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