Though Consumer Reports recently tested more than 600 smartphones, tablets, TVs and more, only 10 standout products made the short list for performance and innovation.
The products from the list are:
Groundbreaking tablet: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (16GB, $500). The 10-inch Galaxy Note adds capabilities that no other tablet, not even the Apple iPad, currently offers. An excellent performer overall, it almost matches the superb battery life of the iPad and adds a memory-card slot that its rival lacks.
Apple’s best phone yet: iPhone 5 (16GB, $200). The iPhone 5 builds on its predecessors’ strengths and adds new features, putting it head and shoulders above previous iPhones. It has a bigger screen with excellent sharpness, a thinner profile, 4G access and an expanded role for Siri, the super voice assistant. Also, it’s the best phone camera Consumer Reports’ testers have seen yet. Requires a two-year contract.
Android champion: Samsung Galaxy S III (16GB, $100 to $200 with two-year contract). If any phone deserves to be dubbed an iPhone 5 killer, this is it. Flaunting an excellent screen that’s bigger (at 4.8 inches) than the iPhone 5’s, this Android model offers some features you can’t get on Apple’s phone. You can watch a video while doing other tasks on the desktop, for example, and the screen is smart enough not to time out when you’re looking at it.
Tip-top TV: Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT50 ($2,500). OK, it costs a bundle, but this 55-inch plasma is one of the best TVs Consumer Reports has ever tested. Deep, rich blacks and spot-on colors contribute to superb picture quality, and it has an unlimited viewing angle, plus very good 3-D performance and sound.
The Fire gets hotter: Amazon Kindle Fire HD (7-inch, 16 GB, from $210 with charger). Amazon’s top-of-the-line 7-inch tablet is one of the best for the price (though the new Barnes & Noble Nook tablets that just came out promise stiff competition). Videos look great on the HD display, and the screen is readable even in bright light.
The world’s smartest camera: Nikon Coolpix S800c ($350). This 16-megapixel, Wi-Fi- enabled point-and-shoot camera is the first that Consumer Reports has seen that runs Google’s Android operating system and the apps that go with it. The apps enable users to edit an image, quickly and easily post it on Facebook, and create a slideshow with music.
Loaded lightweight: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 ($650). You don’t have to lug around a big, heavy camera to get great photos. This 20-megapixel point-and-shoot weighs about 9 ounces — half as much as many models of this type — but doesn’t cut corners.
Excellence in a box: Samsung HT-E6730W ($800). This 7.1-channel system marries old-school vacuum tubes with digital amps to produce excellent sound, which is rare in Consumer Reports’ tests of home-theater-in-a-box systems. It comes with a 3-D capable Blu-ray player, wireless amplifiers for the rear surround speakers, Wi-Fi, an iPod dock and Samsung’s Smart TV platform.
First ultrawide TV: Vizio CinemaWide XVT3D580CM ($1,530). Cinephiles finally have a TV that displays flicks in all their wide-screen splendor. This 58-inch LED set is the first Consumer Reports has tested with an ultrawide, 21:9 display that mimics the shape of a movie theater screen.
Wi-Fi winner: Sonos Play:3 ($300). This compact stereo-speaker system is a great, easy way to enjoy music throughout the house. Pair it with the Sonos Bridge adapter and you can wirelessly access streaming Internet radio stations and music from a computer that’s on your Wi-Fi network.
2012, Consumers Union Inc.