Is it really a year since we crowned the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 our Gadget of the year 2014? Apparently so, for what you see before you is the Stuff Gadget Awards 2015!
Pardon us for losing track of time, but the past 12 months have been such a dizzying whirlwind of wonderful gadgets in need of poking, wearing, watching, playing, driving and listening to, it’s little wonder we’ve struggled to keep the calendar up to date.
We’ve reviewed around 350 devices, apps and games this year, but only the best of those can be shortlisted for a Stuff Gadget Award, and only the very best of those can be category champions.
How do we choose a winner? We’re not just looking for the best – we’re looking for gear that defined the year, had the greatest impact on its category and will define it well into 2016.
And it’s not just what we think that counts: five of this year’s Award-winners were voted for by you, our readers.
But enough of the preamble. You want to know who’s won. So charge your glasses and limber up your clapping hands as we reveal the 25 winners of the Stuff Gadget Awards 2015!
Smartphone of the year: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
You might think our smartphone of the year would just be whatever has climbed to the summit of our Top Ten most recently, but when it comes to choosing the winner of a Stuff Award there’s much more to consider.
Sure, the regular S6 (let’s call it the S6 Flat) offers better value for money, but this is about being the best of the best no matter the cost – and the S6 Edge pushes boundaries (or at least curves them) as well as being technologically superior to anything the competition can throw at it. The S6 Edge is Stuff incarnate.
Tablet of the year: Apple iPad Mini 4
When you’re already number one there’s often little incentive to try any harder, and with Apple’s iPad sitting pretty atop our Tablets Top Ten since what seems like Roman times, the Cupertino crew could quite easily sit back and count its cash.
But in the absence of a new Air, this year’s iPad Mini (Apple’s fourth pared-down tab) with its improved screen, increased battery life and those iOS tweaks, is this year’s finest portable rectangle that won’t fit in your pocket. Hey, Apple, why not stop trying so hard and give the others a chance for once, eh?
RELATED › Apple iPad Mini 4 review
System camera of the year: Fujifilm X-T10
Ask a proper photographer what they actually look for in a picture and they won’t say anything about megapixels or autofocus points. There are things that are not so easily measured: colour, sharpness, composition. That’s why we love the X-T10: it just takes better pictures.
It’s sharp as a new tack and designed with manual dials in all the right places for quick, intuitive shooting. Thanks to an X-Trans sensor, it creates film-like pictures with rich, gorgeous colour. It costs less than some compacts but, pound for pound, this is the best camera we’ve ever used.
RELATED › Fujifilm X-T10 review
Compact camera of the year: Sony RX10 II
‘Bridge’ cameras, with their fixed, long-zoom lenses, aren’t cool. They’re for twitchers who want tight focus on a bullfinch (no, that’s not a euphemism) or National Trusters after a full-frame gargoyle (again, not slang for anything). So why are we so crazy for what looks like a pricey bridge camera?
For stills, the RX10 II simply leaves everything else standing, and it shoots video at 1000 frames a second. And we all know what that means.
RELATED › Sony RX10 II review
Smartwatch of the year: Apple Watch
Android fans like to grumble that Apple isn’t really an innovator, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. Fair enough, smartwatches existed before the Watch – but in typical Apple fashion, it elevated the form.
It’s a dashing little device, particularly with its higher-end band and material options, but it also had a head start on Android Wear in the apps department, with developers lining up to put their ideas on Apple’s shiny little wristputer. WatchOS 2 has taken things a step up, too. You don’t need a smartwatch, but the Apple Watch makes it hard not to want one.
RELATED › Apple Watch review
Car of the year: Volvo XC90 T8
Big, comfortable and flash they might be, but SUVs don’t tend to get us very excited. Volvo hasn’t got a reputation for thrills either (except when it raced estates in the British Touring Car Championship). In short, we’re as surprised as you are. But the XC90 T8 has a hybrid engine that’s super-fast and efficient, and enough gadgets to mean it’s a better driver than you are.
RELATED › Volvo XC90 T8 review
Smart home gadget of the year: Nest
It’s been a good year for the smart home. The Netatmo Welcome smartcam met us at the door, Ikea lamps charged our phones wirelessly, and the Amazon Echo gave us a glimpse of a voice-controlled, automated future.
But, ironically, smart heating is still the coolest thing in the robo-home. It saves you money, saves the planet and makes your place more comfortable, and nobody does it with as much style or intelligence as Nest.
TV of the year: LG 55EG960V
Bacon and eggs. Buzz and Woody. Neither of those partnerships can hold a candle to OLED and 4K. One the king of contrast and colour, the other the don of detail: together they create a picture so lush that real life looks dull.
You’ve got the smart TV experience of LG’s webOS too, complete with the 4K catalogues of Netflix and Amazon. Yes, it’s mighty expensive, but this beast of a TV is in a class of its own.
RELATED › LG 55EG960V review
TV Gadget of the year: Amazon Fire TV (2015)
There’s something about a plain black box. What’s going on in there? Amazon’s black box won’t give you eternal life or tell you how to make perfect fishcakes; it’s full of telly. But not just any old telly… 4K telly.
Hooked up to a suitably pixel-happy screen it’ll stream Ultra HD films and TV shows from Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, with spot-on voice search to help you find stuff. If your internet connection’s up to it, the Fire TV turns binge-watching into a genuinely luxurious experience.
RELATED › Amazon Fire TV (2015) review
App of the year: Google Photos
Sure, it offers free, unlimited backup for videos up to 1080p and pictures under 16MP (anything more will eat into a 15GB allocation), and that on its own would almost be enough… but it’s the AI assistance Google Photos uses to automatically sort your pictures by subject that tips it over into our utterly essential compartment.
We’ve seen the future – it’s got robo-helpers.
Innovation of the year: HTC Vive
Even for jaded gadget-fondlers like us, there is still the occasional moment when we realise we’re looking at something that could genuinely change the future. The Vive virtual reality headset developed by Valve (the Half-Life people) and HTC (the phone people) is the most incredible piece of tech we’ve seen this year.
The little pits on the surface are sensors that place you inside the virtual space, giving you the feeling that your actual body is inside a game. It’s a bit unnerving but also amazing. Try it the first chance you get.
RELATED › HTC Vive hands-on review
Streaming service of the year: Spotify
With Apple Music and Tidal launching attacks on its throne it’s been an uncertain year for Spotify, but the original streaming service looks stronger than ever.
Spotify Running automatically matches music to your pace, and Discover Weekly generates a bespoke playlist that helps you find new bands you’ll actually like. It takes more than just making music available to win at this game, and the Swedes continue to lead the way.
RELATED › Spotify review
Hi-fi gadget of the year: Sonos Play:5
For a loudspeaker, it’s ironic how quietly brilliant the Sonos Play:5 is. We’re not saying it won’t go to 11 – we’ve never heard such a spacious sound from a single box – but it just goes about its business, either as a lone ranger or as part of a multiroom system.
You can stand it up vertically but design-wise it’s hardly changed – and that’s no bad thing. Being able to add speakers into an existing setup is part of the Sonos charm and this is one to buy without a second thought.
RELATED › Sonos Play:5 review
Action camera of the year: DJI Phantom 3 Standard
We’ve been conditioned into thinking action cams are little boxes that sporty folk stick on their helmets. This entry-level drone changes all that. For not much more than a GoPro, you can buy a flying camera that takes superb aerial videos of your risky escapades, before automatically whizzing back to its landing spot.
Pro filmmakers will lust after DJI’s more expensive, 4K-capable siblings. But the Phantom 3 Standard will go down as the game-changer that let us mortals star in our very own Bond opening sequences.
RELATED › DJI Phantom 3 Standard review
Indie game of the year: Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
With its cosy pub, church, quaint cottages and local shop, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture‘s Yaughton is the most compellingly mundane post-apocalyptic world ever made: a cross between the deserted streets at the start of 28 Days Later and The Archers.
But what really sets it apart is the story that unfolds there. Discovering how the village came to be deserted is a memorable gaming experience.
RELATED › Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture review
Computer of the year: Apple MacBook
A laptop has to be pretty darn fancy to draw a phwoooar from the Stuff team, but that’s exactly the reaction we had to Apple’s latest technoblade.
It’s not the most sensible laptop you can buy, with its single USB-C port, or the most powerful, with its Core M chip. Nor, in fact, is it the best. But let’s be honest: it’s the one you want.
RELATED › Apple MacBook review
Health & fitness gadget of the year: Moov Now
Imagine that, last year, your target was to design a fitness gadget. You’d been realistic. Instead of a £700 smartwatch made of Venusian Beryllium, you’d said: “In 12 months’ time, I want my fitness gadget hero to be a lightweight, unobtrusive, sub-£100 device with at least six months of battery life. It should be able to provide coaching and metrics for several fitness disciplines, including swimming, so it needs to be waterproof.”
Now, after surprisingly little effort, the Moov Now is the result of your aspiration. Target achieved.
Tech toy of the year: Sphero BB-8
The idea of Star Wars toys coming to life is the stuff of recurring childhood dreams. Han would give you a lift to school in the Millennium Falcon. Chewie would roar in the face of those bullies. Luke would teach you how to tie your shoelaces using the Force. And you know what? Those dreams never really go away.
Praise the ghost of Obi-Wan, then, for Sphero’s BB-8. It’s a phone-controlled rolling droid from The Force Awakens, complete with magnetically secured head and AR ‘hologram’ message mode. You’d have to be on the Dark Side not to want one.
RELATED › Sphero BB-8 review
Headphones of the year: AKG Y50BT
Something funny happens when you take the wire off your headphones: they stop working. Well, unless they’ve got Bluetooth, but even then they rarely sound as good as their tethered counterparts. That’s what makes AKG’s wireless Y50BTs worthy of anybody’s ears.
Compared to their wired equivalent the difference is impossible to spot, and they won’t give you bonce fatigue. If they do run out of juice, you can plug in a cable and go old-skool – and with buttons on the earcup you can control your tunes without getting out your phone.
Kickstarter campaign of the year: Exploding Kittens (reader-voted)
This year’s crowdfunding picks included some gems, but Exploding Kittens is the only one to satisfy a combined craving for card games, kittens, explosions, laser beams and goats. On that basis, it’s no surprise you picked it as the winner. And it’s a deserved one.
It’s basically Uno for the Buzzfeed generation: essential for anyone who gets giddy at the thought of a pig-a-corn.
RELATED › Seven Kickstarter must-haves
Design of the year: Tesla Model X (reader-voted)
SUVs are often fairly dull function-mobiles, more concerned with seats and storage space than anything else, but Tesla has brought some much-needed flair with its seven-seater 4WD family wagon – with a 250-mile range, 155mph top speed, acceleration to 60mph in 3.2 seconds and the largest panoramic windscreen in production (#accidentalpartridge).
But let’s be honest, you just like the gullwing doors, don’t you?
Mobile game of the year: Crossy Road (reader-voted)
Crossy Road‘s endless riff features blocky creatures aiming to make it as far as possible before being flattened, drowned, or splattered across the front of the 09:36 to Painful Parkway. Often, playing with a character dramatically shakes things up, not least when Pac-Man and his spectral chums invade. We’re still playing a year later so, good choice, readers!
RELATED › The 35 best games on Android right now
Game of the year: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (reader-voted)
Sometimes it’s nice to find out that you, dear readers, are on the same page as us. So to know that your favourite game of 2015 is the same one that’s topped the Stuff.tv chart since its release makes us feel all fizzy in our fuzzy place.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt‘s quest is engaging, the characters memorable and fleshed out; and the world itself is utterly stunning but constantly intriguing. The time we’ve spent exploring it makes our trips to Destiny‘s universe look positively fleeting, but as far as we’re all concerned… time well spent.
RELATED › The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review
Readers’ gadget of the year: OnePlus 2 (reader-voted)
You’re a contrary lot, aren’t you? You could’ve picked something that anyone can walk into a shop and buy, such as the Apple Watch or the S6 Edge, but for the second year running you’ve gone for the invite-only phone.
But who can blame you? When the OnePlus 2 manages to outperform phones that’ll set you back twice as much cash, who wouldn’t consider joining the search for a golden ticket?
It looks great, it runs like a cheetah on a treadmill and its neatly customisable OxygenOS gives Google’s stock Android a run for its money. So, has anyone got a spare invite?
RELATED › OnePlus 2 review
Gadget of the year: Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
So here we are. The big one. In the end there could only be one winner of 2015’s Gadget of the year award: Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge.
It’s the smartphone that’s deviated from the standard black rectangle template we’ve been following since the launch of the original iPhone way back in 2007 – in a minor way, maybe, but one that indicates where phone design could go. Oh, and did we mention that it’s also the best phone you can buy?
Its flatter brother might represent better value for money, but if you want a gadget to show that you surf the cutting edge and only want the best, there’s really no other option.