The past 12 months have been a whirlwind of impressive new gadgets and game-changing innovations.
The Stuff Gadget Awards recognises the gear that defined the year. It celebrates the best-performing, most desirable and most important product releases, covering gadgets, apps, web services, cars and more.
Awards winners aren't just the best products - they're the products that have had the greatest impact on the market, and the ones that are setting the agenda within their category for the year to come.
But you don't care about all that. You care about what's won. Let's get on with the show.
TABLET OF THE YEAR: APPLE iPAD AIR 2
Having been left behind in the race for smartphone superiority, Apple is determined not to let its tablet crown topple – and the iPad Air 2 is a pretty good way of holding it up.
The adjectives are the same: slimmer, lighter and, er, screenier, but as usual, the Air 2 is greater than the sum of its extremely lightweight parts.
New screen tech means it’s less reflective and easier to eyeball, making it better for everything from reading to movie-watching and editing, plus the addition of TouchID saves you seconds, which can be saved up over time and used to reply to Android fanboys on the internet. Here’s a sample response: the best has just got better.
READ MORE: Apple iPad Air 2 review
Headphones of the year: Sony MDR-EX650AP
While they’re technically made of brass, the goldish hue of Sony’s EX650s is rather apt for the year’s podium-topping headphones. Thankfully the brass construction doesn’t restrict your choice of tunes to Now That’s What I Call Trumpeting, but it does provide a weighty home for the 12mm drivers, which pump equally weighty sound into your ears.
A brilliant tonal balance, an expansive soundstage and a phone-friendly remote make these buds the ultimate upgrades, plus they’re more comfortable than a litter of puppies in a onesie.
Car of the Year: BMW i8
If Batman had been German, not only would he be called Fledermausmensch, he’d also drive a BMW i8 – not that gas-guzzling gun-tractor Bruce Wayne trundles around Gotham in.
Why? Well, just think of the national stereotype it fulfils. Thanks to its hybrid power, the i8 is ruthlessly efficient in propelling itself to a top speed of 160mph, plus it’s exactly what an eco-friendly Dark Knight would buy.
There are certainly greener motors out there, but none combine the sheer driving thrill of a supercar with the appetite of a family saloon.
READ MORE: BMW i8 review
Compact camera of the year: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III
If smartphones killed the compact camera then Sony never got the memo, because the RX100 III is the finest pocketable snapper we’ve ever seen. It doesn’t come cheap – but that’s because the raw materials it’s been built with aren’t exactly from the bargain bin.
The lens is nice and wide, it feels sturdy and solid in the hand, and the 1in, 20MP sensor is big enough to handle low-light situations far more capably than any phone. And all in a package that actually takes up less pocket than some of the latest gigantaphones.
READ MORE: Sony RX100 III review
Health and fitness gadget of the year: Jawbone Up24
Without the willpower to use them, fitness gadgets are about as useful as those unworn running shoes hiding under the bed. The beauty of Jawbone’s Bluetooth-equipped UP24 is that you don’t really need any willpower to use it: you just put it on and it gradually makes you feel guilty about not doing enough exercise.
It’s essentially a willpower generator. Seeing how lazy you are turned into numbers, graphs and cold, hard facts on your phone screen will do that. Fortunately, it alerts you to help you towards your daily goals, plus it’ll work with apps such as MyFitnessPal, Runkeeper and Withings. Oh, and it’s compatible with those trainers too. Just pair them with your legs.
READ MORE: Jawbone UP24 review
Smartwatch of the year: Motorola Moto 360
Ever since the Babylonians used the sundial to work out whether they were late for the afternoon battle with the Elamites, we’ve been using circles to tell the time. These days the only battles we face are against PPI calls and wasps in the pub garden but our favourite timekeepers are still the same shape (if a little easier to strap to your wrist). Oh, and they do a lot more too.
The Moto 360 was the first smartwatch to marry form with function, without looking like a prop from a ’90s sci-fi movie. So it’s a little chunky for some tastes and the battery life could be better, but the 360 was the first Android Wear smartwatch we didn’t want to take off, like, ever.
READ MORE: Motorola Moto 360 review
Tech toy of the year: DJI Phantom 2
You used to need your own helicopter or a long ladder to have a go at aerial photography – but that was before quadcopters such as the Phantom came along. Available in drone-only, Vision or Vision+ flavours, what sets the Phantom apart is how simple it is to fly. It stabilises itself, hovers in place if you take your hands off the controls and can find its way back to where it took off using GPS. The standard drone can mount an action cam, while the Vision lets you use a phone to stream a drone's-eye view from the 14MP camera (and the Vision+ adds a stabilising gimbal). Whichever model you opt for, for an introduction to the joys of 300-feet-high photography (and something that turns more heads in the park than a kickabout with Messi), it can't be beaten.
READ MORE: DJI Phantom Vision 2 review
System camera of the year: Sony A7r
This year, Sony achieved what camerafacturers have been aiming at for over a decade: a compact system camera that’s as good as a pro snapper. The A7R squeezes a full-frame, 36MP sensor into a palm-sized body, offering breathtaking image quality from something you can chuck (OK, place carefully) in a small bag.
With a superb electronic viewfinder and autofocus as quick on the draw as a hyperactive cowboy, it’s a joy to shoot with, and that massive sensor also turns light into silky-smooth 60fps 1080p movies. And if you’d rather keep it safely on a tripod, on-board Wi-Fi means it’ll pair with your phone to act as a remote viewfinder and shutter release.
READ MORE: Sony A7R review
TV of the year: Samsung UE55HU7500
While our phones have been Mensa-bothering Mastermind champs for years, it’s taken our TVs some time to wise up. But hung on the wall reciting Shakespeare soliloquies and doing some really hard sums is Samsung’s UE55HU7500: a handsome, high-performance 4K flatscreen that learns what you like to watch, so there’s no hiding your penchant for Lizard Lick Towing.
Sporting more holes than a golf course with a mole problem, this telly offers affordable 4K plus plenty of stuff to watch until the catalogue catches up.
READ MORE: Samsung UE55HU7500 review
App of the year: Uber
Uber's been in the news lately for a number of reasons – not all of them positive. But we're not here to judge them on their corporate ethos; just on the product they've produced.
The fact is, as apps go Uber is excellent. Just open it up and it’ll use GPS to find you. Not long after that, there’ll be a driver along to pick you up. It’s cheap too. And with more places being added all the time, it means an end to aimless wandering of foreign streets looking for a taxi rank, or getting ripped off by ‘tourist tax’. If only they could launch an Uber for bacon baps, we’d be at peak humanity.
Computer of the year: Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s a tablet! Or it’s a laptop. What is it? We’re still not sure but it’s called a Surface Pro 3.
The first proper hybrid of its kind, it’s got all the good bits of a laptop (power, keys and bigness) plus the best bits of a tablet (a decent touchscreen, portability and fun), and with hardly any of the bad bits of either (except perhaps the price).
Microsoft might not be able to decide whether the Surface Pro 3 is a laptop or a tablet, but there’s one thing we can all agree that it definitely is – and that’s totally brilliant.
READ MORE: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review
Hi-fi gadget of the year: Naim Mu-so
It might look a bit like somebody pushed over a robot’s gravestone but Naim’s Mu-so does anything but mark the death of hi-fi. Fundamentally it’s a wireless speaker, but it’s one with its sights set on audiophile excellence packed into one box.
The Mu-so can stream anything over Bluetooth, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, or from a NAS or computer via UPnP, plus there’s hi-res audio support if you go wired.
It sounds incredible and, with its heavy-duty heat sink and sci-fi-inspired control dial, looks like it was made in the same astral forge as the monolith in Kubrick’s 2001. It might not change the trajectory of the human race, but it’s changed how we feel about one-box hi-fi, and that’ll do.
READ MORE: Naim Mu-so review
Mobile game of the year: Monument Valley
If you like aimlessly moving coloured blobs around your screen it’s unlikely the brief but brilliant experience of Monument Valley will interest you, but in a world that’s normally about little more than tapping players for cash, this Escher-esque puzzler stands out like a perspective-warped thumb.
Conquer its optical illusions and guide the princess to the end of each level for one of the most memorable mobile gaming experiences in years. It’s not exactly difficult but sometimes it’s the journey rather than the destination that makes a trip worthwhile.
READ MORE: Monument Valley review
Smartphone of the year: Motorola Moto X
For so long it looked as if LG’s G3 had this one sewn up. But much like the G2 last year, Moto came out of nowhere with the rip-snorting 5.2in Moto X and blew everything else away.
After an under-the-radar stonker (the budget Moto G), Motorola ventured further down the alphabet and turned everything up to 10. A brilliant 1080p screen, overnight battery life, always-on voice control that actually works and some seriously nifty notification tricks make the Moto X stand out – and that’s before you customise your own on the Moto Maker website.
Some people think all Android phones are created equal, but the Moto X is proof that that’s far from the truth.
READ MORE: Motorola Moto X review
Gadget of the year 2014: Microsoft Surface Pro 3
In a year of five-star phone after five-star phone, we found ourselves looking elsewhere for 2014’s most important gadget. Sure, the Moto X and LG G3 are incredible, do-everything-but-make-your-bed mobiles, but they didn’t break as much new ground as the Pro 3 – a tablet that could make your laptop extinct.
Its powerful Intel Haswell chip offers more power than any tablet while doubling its battery life, its form is (quite literally) more flexible than a MacBook Air and it has a keyboard cover that’s actually a pleasure to use.
With Google and Apple working to catch up on ‘tablets for work’, the Pro 3’s combo of innovation and practicality make it a worthy Gadget of the Year.
READ MORE: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review
If you’d told us back in January that Microsoft would win our 2014 Gadget of the Year award, we’d have replied, “What, is it releasing the Xbox Two already?” Microsoft hadn't been known for creating the best gadgets in the world and nothing would have made us think that, after 11 months had elapsed, it would be.
With the Surface Pro 3, everything has changed. This device is a great tablet. It’s a great laptop. It isn’t a compromise, and that’s thanks to some impressive design and engineering ingenuity. The way the pliable-but-sturdy hinge works is utterly pleasing and ergonomic. The Intel Haswell internals are as powerful as those of many desktop computers, despite the fact the Surface isn’t much heftier than most large tablets. The Type keyboard actually allows you to type. You can do casual sofa surfing with the Pro 3, and you can also log in to a remote server and do your annual accounts.
If reports of an iPad Pro are to be believed, Apple’s seen the Surface Pro 3 template and wants a piece of the action. Who can blame it? A device that threatens to eat its laptop lunch before tucking into its tablet dessert needs to be competed with. Which means that, following the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft isn’t just a maker of great gadgets – it’s a trend-setter.
That’s got to be the story of the year.