10 top gadgets of 2019

As 2019 is winding down and we enter the holiday season, it’s time to look back at the best devices -- the ones that stood out in a crowded field. Some of the top picks are a bit surprising, others won’t be quite as shocking -- all are at the top of the gadget food chain.

1. Oculus Quest ($399)

A visitor tries a virtual reality helmet Oculus Quest during the Virtuality Paris 2019 show on November 21, 2019 in Paris, France - file photo.

A visitor tries a virtual reality helmet Oculus Quest during the Virtuality Paris 2019 show on November 21, 2019 in Paris, France - file photo. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the Oculus Quest, mostly because VR has fallen out of favor. Yet, new games like “Beat Saber” and “Vader Immortal” are outstanding, and the device does not require a high-end computer -- it is all self-contained.

2. Panasonic Lumix S1 Camera ($2,500)

My favorite high-end camera of the year snaps brilliantly clear photos at 24.2-megapixel in full-frame (which means the image is not cropped). The camera shoots in 4K video as well, and the shutter snaps fast photos. A big bonus: You can also take 96-megapixel fine art photos.

3. Apple AirPods Pro ($249)

My top pick for audio gear, the Apple AirPods Pro were a major leap forward in terms of audio fidelity. My music sounded clear and crisp, and the noise-canceling features work as advertised. A nice bonus is that the case can be charged wirelessly using a charging pad.

4. Tie: Google Pixelbook Go Laptop ($649) or the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Laptop ($1,000)

Laptops come in all shapes and sizes, but the Google Pixelbook Go is slim, trim, and powerful for basic tasks like writing and web browsing. The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is designed for higher-end apps and business users, lasts 17-hours on a charge and has a high-end webcam.

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5. Amazon Echo Auto ($35)

A surprise pick, the Amazon Echo Auto is a speakerphone for your car that also adds Amazon Alexa. You can ask the bot to play your favorite album or check the weather. In my tests, the device worked well even with road noise in the background, and it’s easy to install.

6. Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar Smartwatch ($1000)

Any smartwatch that lasts 21 days on a charge is worth considering. (Most models like the Apple Watch only last one day.) The Fenix 6x Solar is packed with features, including a heart-rate tracker and even a golf course tracker.

7. Wahoo Fitness KICKR Bike ($3,500)

Does the world need another fitness bike? Absolutely, if it is this high-end. The Wahoo KICKR Bike can adjust the grade of the bike as you ride. The virtual shifting tech can match the gear ratios, the number of gears, and more for the bike you normally use.

8. Apple iPhone 11 Pro ($999)

A surprise hit because of the long-lasting battery (in my tests, sometimes lasting two full days on a charge) and, also, the camera can shoot wide-angle, normal, or zoomed in with a quick screen press. It’s more durable now, too -- especially if you drop one in water.

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9. Tile Slim ($30)

The Tile Slim is thin enough to fit in a wallet, but the big news from 2019 is that the device now lasts for three years and has a wider 200-foot range. I use one to track the location of my wallet and, with the premium service, your phone will chime if someone steals your wallet.

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10. IKEA Symfonisk ($179)

Of all the Wi-Fi speakers I tested this last year, the IKEA Symfonisk was the best one. It sounds sublime, and the bonus is that it is also a lamp for the living room. I liked being able to sync multiple Sonos-powered speakers all around my house, too.