Tech companies kept us guessing right up until the cusp of 2020 with some incredible new kit this year – seriously, it was like a new launch every week – so we thought it only prudent to do the same with the Stuff Gadget Awards 2019 and leave everything to absolute last moment.
The biggest prizes in consumer tech cover categories encompassing the cream of the crop from the past 12 months, from TV of the Year to Wearable of the Year and everything in between. Final judging from our expert panel of contributors was so fraught that things nearly descended into a lethal game of ‘rock paper scissors’ before we agreed on the winners. As tempting as it was to keep all the decisions to ourselves, we’re not lost on the fact you lot are great, and sometimes, just sometimes, you might not totally agree with us.
PREMIUM SMARTPHONE OF THE YEAR: APPLE IPHONE 11
For long, it was always ‘last year’s iPhone’ for Apple fans or those who wanted to give the ecosystem a go. It was the only sensible option in tax-heavy India where new and old iPhones have always demanded not just an arm and a leg, but a kidney as well. Kidney jokes aside, Apple broke this long standing tradition and made a new iPhone with the latest hardware accessible (not affordable) to the masses. But it’s not just pricing that wins the iPhone 11 brownie points; it’s also the package that gets you a fantastic camera and a crazy powerful chip with phenomenal battery life. This Android-beating iPhone has literally got everything right and makes you wonder whether the Pro iPhones make any sense.
- ONE PLUS 7T
- HUAWEI P30 PRO
- SAMSUNG GALAXY S10E
- SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10+
BUDGET SMARTPHONE OF THE YEAR: REDMI NOTE 8 PRO
There is nothing quite like flexing on people with expensive smartphone with your cut-price, budget device. And that is exactly what you can do with the Redmi Note 8 Pro. With this beast of a device, you get performance and premium that no other device can muster at this price point. And we here at Stuff absolutely love that. A big upgrade over the Note 7 Pro, Redmi’s latest can deliver processing power that’s enough to play games like Call of Duty: Mobile on ‘Very High’ settings, and it goes without saying that it manages to keep day to day tasks buttery smooth as well. Add an array of cameras into the mix that can take shots almost at par with some flagships and that leaves you with one extremely well-rounded device on a tight budget. The Note 8 Pro is the undisputed king of the budget segment.
- XIAOMI MI A3
- NOKIA 7.2
- SAMSUNG GALAXY A50
- MOTOROLA ONE VISION
APP OF THE YEAR: PIXELMATOR PHOTO
Modern digital darkrooms afford you plenty of control, but frankly, who has the time? This app has been trained on 20 million professional photos so it can do the work for you, fixing any snap with a tap. You might wear a sceptical expression on reading that. Fair enough – most automation of this sort is garbage. But with the odd exception, this app is astonishingly good at tweaking colours and making your pics look balanced and beautiful. And if you do prefer to be in the driving seat, a host of sliders and buttons will hurl you down an hours-deep rabbit-hole of transforming even the most basic image into a masterpiece.
- NANOSTUDIO 2
TELEVISION OF THE YEAR: SONY A9G OLED
The best things in life may be free, but if you want the best in make-believe life, you gotta pay top money for it. Yes, the Sony Bravia A9G isn’t going to set Flipkart charts on fire, but it will scorch your retinas with a picture that is second to none. It uses Sony’s top-end X1 Ultimate processor that does sorcery on the video quality and an audio system that uses the screen itself as a speaker! There’s voice control for those too lazy to press keys on a remote, but the real reason to spend a fortune on this OLED is because it’s currently as close to being in the studio as possible! The Sony won’t disappoint you or the family.
- VU PIXELIGHT
- LG C8 OLED TV
- PHILIPS 6700 SERIES
- MI LED TV 4X PRO
STREAMING SERVICE OF THE YEAR: SPOTIFY
After many years of VPN-induced anxiety, Indian music lovers finally welcomed Spotify to India, officially. Launched in the middle of the night to an army of hushed influencers, by daybreak, it was trending on every platform and Spotify proved that it was worth the wait. Both free and premium plans were lapped up by waiting audiences and Spotify later added Family and Lite plans for joint accounts or mobile-only use. It has the competition beaten when it comes to song recommendation and discovery, and while we aren’t too fond of its interface vis-a-vis Apple Music, at least it offers 320kbps streaming, which is the best for any commercial platform that isn’t Tidal.
- YOUTUBE (MUSIC+ PREMIUM)
- APPLE TV+
- AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
CAR OF THE YEAR: JAGUAR XE
Having been the underdog for way too long, the facelifted Jaguar XE upped the luxury quotient significantly, thrusting it to the top of our wishlist this year. Sure, there were faster and better cars, but either with a heavier price tag or too one-dimensional to be the perfect everyday fun machine we all crave. The XE may be the baby Jag, but this new version gets all the big boy toys like Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, built-in hotspot and even an AI-based driver detection system that configures the car to your preferences depending on who has unlocked the car! But all of that fades in comparison to the smile it brings to your face when you drive it. Utter perfection when it comes to ride and handling balance, it manages to edge the Germans off the cliff this time and deserves this win on pure merit.
- BMW M5
- KIA SELTOS
- AUDI A6
- JEEP COMPASS TRAILHAWK
- MERCEDES S63 COUPE AMG
WEARABLE OF THE YEAR: APPLE WATCH SERIES 5
Improving upon Watch S4 must’ve been tough indeed but Apple managed to squeeze out a couple of must-haves in the refreshed Series 5. Always-on display and built-in compass were the new headlining feature but even smaller updates like the Noise app and Cycle tracking for women were worthwhile additions in making this the most rounded smart-wearable on the planet. The ECG functionality finally made it to India too and with WatchOS6, it truly emerged as an independent device and one that hasn’t left our wrist.
- XIAOMI MI BAND 4
- BOSE FRAMES
- GALAXY WATCH LTE
- HUAWEI WATCH GT 2
LAPTOP OF THE YEAR: APPLE MACBOOK PRO 16"
As a workhorse, the MacBook Pro has few rivals in our books. And if you fancy the idea of a laptop without any anti-virus bloatware on it, then there’s only one — the silvery one with a bitten apple logo. The 16in version is better in every area than its predecessor and while it could still do with some extras, the massive battery, the powerful CPU and the ease of MacOS makes it worth it. With six speakers to please you while working on that large Retina powered by an Intel i9 with up to 64 gigs of RAM, 8TB storage and an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M to support almost anything you throw at it, this has to be the laptop that grabs the cake. You earned this one too, Apple!
- HP SPECTRE X360
- ALIENWARE AREA 51M
- ASUS ZENBOOK PRO DUO UX581
- DELL LATITUDE 7400
APPLIANCE OF THE YEAR: DYSON V11 ABSOLUTE PRO
If you’re looking for the best dust buster, then you shouldn’t settle for anything besides the absolute best. Although similar to the V10 in looks and built, the V11 Absolute Pro is a shiny upgraded version of the V10 with an LCD screen fitted at the back of the filter case, perfectly in view at all times while using the machine. This refined piece of machinery spins at a mind-numbing 1,25,000 RPM and deep cleans every nook and cranny of your house like no bai can. Your house is party-ready at all times; it even gives you solace from those nasty pet hair. The perfect marriage of form and functionality, the V11 is one cleaning equipment that deserves a seat at the big boys’ table rather than being hidden in the janitor’s closet.
- GODREJ QUBE
- DYSON PURE HOT+COOL
- MI SMART WATER PURIFIER
- PHILIPS EASYTOUCH PLUS
HEADPHONES OF THE YEAR: APPLE AIRPODS PRO
2019 truly became the year of the true-wireless stereo earphones. It also got its own abbreviation (TWS) and every brand scampered to get one out before the holiday season began. But it was Apple who dominated people’s ear canals with their trademark white pods. The AirPods Pro were launched without much fanfare but became an instant hit as the Apple fanboys rejoiced at a longstanding wish fulfilled. It also turned up the magic by including class-leading active noise cancellation and sound quality in a package the size of a peanut! They truly are feats of engineering and they still manage to fit with their carry case in the coin pocket of your jeans. Sold?
- BOSE NOISE CANCELLING 700
- BOWERS & WILKINS P9 SIGNATURE
- SOUNDMAGIC E11C
- B&O H9I
TABLET/ PORTABLE OF THE YEAR: APPLE IPAD PRO
Apple might have single handedly saved the tablets from extinction in 2019 with software alone. We’re talking about laptop-replacing prowess, and it’s all thanks to iPadOS. Now with USB file support, multi-window workflow and Apple Sidecar, we finally get to use an iPad at its full potential. Not to mention the 120Hz Pro display is still racking up some serious geek love and with the attention to colour accuracy and brightness, it treads the fine line between work, play and entertainment. Even if it’s a little more than a year old, we don’t think any other tablet comes close after this slick software transformation, and you might not too without a healthy bank balance.
- SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S6
- APPLE IPAD (OCT 2019)
- SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S5E
- APPLE IPAD MINI
MOBILE GAME OF THE YEAR: COD: MOBILE
Call of Duty: Mobile’s claim to fame is clearly its Frontline mode: 10 players, 2 teams, the first team that gets 50 kills wins. The short, sweet and simple Frontline mode is what attracts many to the mobile installment of the Call of Duty franchise. The games are much shorter than the mass-consumed PUBG: Mobile’s Battle Royale which kind of makes Frontline’s shorter duration more attractive to just pick up, jump in and get out when you’re done with it. There’s also constant updates, classic multiplayer maps to get your hands dirty, iconic Call of Duty characters and a 100-player Battle Royale mode for the PUBG wale. Tencent’s newest offering is going to stay a hit for a while.
- SKY: CHILDREN OF LIGHT
- SAYONARA WILD HEARTS
- PIGEON WINGS STRIKE
GAMING GADGET OF THE YEAR: AUDEZE MOBIUS
These are not your typical planar magnetic headphones from Audeze; instead, these subtle-looking gaming headphones add 3D audio to the mix and will put anything you call a ‘gaming headphone’ to shame. The Mobius delivers crazy good, precision 3D audio, turning you from a spectator to a character in your game, letting you hear everything from the footsteps coming from behind you to the bullets zipping past you in the battlefield. Audio aside, the Mobius will let your mates hear you loud and clear in a game of PUBG. It features a detachable mic that brings out the mids and will make you sound like... well… you, instead of a miniature version of yourself.
- OCULUS QUEST
- NINTENDO SWITCH LITE
- ASUS ROG 2
- NUBIA RED MAGIC 3S
GAME OF THE YEAR: RESIDENT EVIL 2
The fact that the reimagining of a 21-year-old title has won this award might seem to indicate a slow year for games. But Resident Evil 2 is so much more than a remake. Capcom rebuilt its PS classic from the ground up using RE7’s RE engine, replacing the old static camera angles with a modern third-person over-the-shoulder view. It looks and feels fantastic, without sacrificing any of the original’s unbearable tension and jump scares. Whether you’re scribbling down codes to help you with a puzzle, kneecapping zombies or just running as fast as your legs will allow (note: not very fast) from the nightmarish Mr X, Resident Evil 2 is never less than a thrill ride.
- COD MODERN WARFARE
- SUPER MARIO MAKER 2
- STAR WARS JEDI: FALLEN ORDER
- SEKIRO: SHADOWS DIE TWICE
GAMING LAPTOP OF THE YEAR: DELL ALIENWARE M15
The Alien has landed on the top of this list and for good reason. The Alienware M15 will simply make you turn your nose up to other gaming laptops. Whether it’s the premium design language, which by the way garnered a lot of love and respect at the Stuff HQ, or the mind-blowing OLED 4K screen. There’s no other gaming laptop that can do what the M15 has - it’s premium quality in every aspect of gaming. All of that and it doesn’t come with a gym membership. The M15 borrows everything good from the fantastic and modular Area 51m, except its back-breaking weight. That’s an A+ in our books.
- ASUS ROG G GA 502
- MSI GS 75 9SG
- ASUS TUF FX705 DT
- HP OMEN 15
HI - FI GADGET OF THE YEAR: AMAZON ECHO STUDIO
The Amazon Echo family of products might be growing at a rapid pace and while some of them are pushing the boundaries of reasoning, there’s the Studio which also pushes the sonic envelope. It has a total of five drivers that create a rather impressive sonic landscape and, even without AmazonHD service and its Dolby Atmos mixes, the Studio sounds head and shoulders better than the others in the fray. Bass is rich and the highs sparkle without being too forward or in your face, making for a pleasant listening experience no matter where you put the Studio. Add an ever-growing list of Echo skills and it becomes the best sounding speaker in the best smart-home ecosystem of all.
- KEF LSX
- B&W FORMATION WEDGE
- NAIM MU-SO 2ND GEN
- UE WONDERBOOM 2
SMART HOME GADGET OF THE YEAR: AMAZON ECHO SHOW 5
She appeared in the toilet, in the microwave and, thanks to the Echo Frames, sitting on our faces too. Yes, this was the year Alexa got everywhere – but when it comes to controlling smart home devices, it’s the Echo Show 5 that’s on discerning worktops. A smaller version of its 10in namesake and a rival to Google’s Nest Hub, Lenovo’s Smart Clock and, whether it was meant to be or not, Amazon’s own Echo Spot, the Echo 5’s feature set and low price point make it the Echo Dot of smart displays. The shrunken screen fits into our lives more easily but still lets us fall back on a visual interface when Alexa isn’t enough. For sheer value, this is the best of the smart displays.
- XIAOMI SMART BULB
- GOOGLE NEST MINI
- ASUS LYRA VOICE
- TP-LINK TAPO
SYSTEM CAMERA OF THE YEAR: FUJIFILM X-T30
2019 was the year mirrorless cameras went mainstream and began digging a shallow grave for the dear old DSLR. And standing there, shovel in hand, is the X-T30. Panasonic and Sony might be bigger mirrorless players, while Canon and Nikon have finally got serious, but the X-T30 is a stark reminder of how well Fuji goes about its business. Image quality is superb and it’s designed to give you plenty of control at your fingertips, all with a sub-₹1,00,000 price tag. The competition between this and the similarly priced Sony’s is tough, but the Fuji eeks out a lead thanks to its 40+ lens options and more approachable dial layout.
- SONY A7R III
- FUJIFILM X-T3
- CANON EOS RP
- NIKON Z6
ACTION CAMERA OF THE YEAR: GOPRO HERO8 BLACK
The action camera that steps outside its circle of expertise. The GoPro Hero8 Black is not a full fledged vlogging camera, but it’s getting there with its mods. And if you still wish to jump off moving airplanes rather than showing the world how your breakfast and #OOTD looked, it’s got you covered through and through. Compared to past year’s Hero7 Black, the upgrades are incremental but the refinement over the years have given us the most stable action camera known to mankind. Tiny software smarts borrowed from competition help too. The absent DJI Osmo Action is missing the action here in India, but make no mistake, Hero8 Black deserves this place irrespective of that.
- GOPRO MAX
- DJI MAVIC 2 PRO
INNOVATION OF THE YEAR: SAMSUNG GALAXY FOLD
Regardless of your background in Origami, Samsung introduced the concept of folding and unfolding things just for sheer pleasure of it, and we realised that we like it. A lot! Fusing enough hardware to give three regular smartphones a run for their money, the Galaxy Fold ventured into uncharted territory, got its face scratched by people trying to peel off its skin and came back stronger. As the first mass-produced folding phone sold in India, it paved the way for the future of phone design and what you could use it for. Multitasking, video editing and gaming took on a whole new meaning, but at the heart of it, it was just a really cool device that everyone wanted a piece of. Sure, it’s not perfect and reeks of first gen teething issues like a visible crease down the middle and an oddly-placed camera notch that takes the Mickey out of watching full-screen videos, but as a sneak peek into the future, it did a fab job of making a boy out of any man. Two Galaxies in one The 7.3in folding screen is almost a phablet, but the Fold is also useable as an everyday phone with the 4.6in cover screen that runs full Android OS and works like a regular phone.
- GOOGLE STADIA
- BOSE FRAMES
- ASUS ZENBOOK PRO DUO UX 581 GV
- DYSON AIRWRAP
GADGET OF THE YEAR: APPLE IPHONE 11 PRO
Nope! No popping cameras, 5G or folding screens here — Apple doesn’t give in to gimmicks as easily. They not only (finally) caught up with the Android gang (logically), but also left them far behind where they will (probably) never catch up as easily (or again). Tim and co. seem to have been cooking up on iPhone X’s success ensuring that the 11 pro excels in every department imagined. Right from the phenomenal A13 brain to the best-in-class cams, and from the mind-blowing new Night Mode and Deep Fusion to the practical battery life (ah - finally!), or even binge-watching-ready HDR10 Dolby Vision display with Dolby Atmos speakers — this shiny triple-camera smoothie performs just as a ₹1 lakh+ smartphone should.
- DELL ALIENWARE AREA 51M
- DYSON HOT + COOL
- VU 100