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: you've also voted for your favourite gadgets and brands in the Readers' Choice Awards.
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 15 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?
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.
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.
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.
TV of the year: LG 55EG960T
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.