5 ugly-duckling electronic gadgets

When it comes to electronics, performance and ease of use trump style, so those are the attributes we test in our labs. But wouldn't you prefer a good-looking gadget to a plain-Jane or downright homely device that performs just as well?

With that in mind, we looked through the products we have in-house to find those that are, well, stylistically challenged, to put it kindly. But an interesting fact emerged. Although some staffers cringed at the design of the models below, others actually liked some of them. See what you think.

—Eileen McCooey

Neptune Pine smartwatch $300 (16GB); $450 (32GB)

Neptune says this smartwatch "makes a bold statement." That it does—but you decide exactly what it's saying! The Pine is bigger and squarer than most smartwatches we've seen, somewhat like a digital blood-pressure monitor, and it looks positively gargantuan on a woman's wrist. In fact, it'd look huge on anyone but an NFL player. If this appeals to your inner nerd, plan on rolling up your sleeves, because this wouldn't fit under anything but Seinfeld's infamous puffy shirt. We haven't tested the Neptune Pine so we can't comment on its performance, but nobody here was a fan of its appearance.

Google Glass (no longer available)

This once-much-hyped product has fallen out of the headlines in recent months. (Google has stopped selling Google Glass to consumers as it explores future options, but the company says "the journey" hasn't ended.) The design is polarizing, to say the least. Some consider it the ultimate in nerd chic, but others find it cumbersome and ultra-geeky. It can also be uncomfortable, especially when worn with prescription glasses. Our in-house expert had mixed feelings about its performance.

BlackBerry Passport smartphone (unlocked, $600 on Amazon.com)

This isn't what you'd call a sleek, shapely smartphone—not by a long shot. The latest BlackBerry, dubbed the Passport, is almost square, with a wide body that's hard to handle, especially with one hand. And it can be awkward to hold this blocky black slab up to the face for phone calls. The design, which includes a physical keyboard, is quite a departure from the all-screen phones that dominate the market today, and from the curves and colors that have become so popular. There are some advantages to the design, though, including that aforementioned keyboard as well as more screen real estate than other phones offer. The Passport did very well in our tests, overall, and stood out for its excellent display and battery life.

Ricoh WG-M1 camcorder (less than $200)

If you have a sense of déjà vu looking at this action cam, there's a reason for that. We included the WG-M1 in our recent blog on nice-looking products, lauding it for its colorful, futuristic design and macho swagger. Well, other staffers described it very differently when they nominated it for this week's roundup. They described it as bulky and much more "mechanical looking" than action cams like the smaller, sleeker GoPro and Sony HDR-AS100V. Clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder! There was no disagreement about performance, though; it's our top-rated action cam.

Blue Microphones Mo-Fi headphones ($350)

Here's another product that provoked a love-it-or-hate-it response. Several members of our team find the Mo-Fi design offputting. One described it as "alien" while another said it conjured up images of Dr. Who's Cybermen. However, others on our team loved its industrial chic. These headphones are certainly distinctive, much larger and more angular than most, with unusually shaped earcups. You'll have to decide whether the style works for you. It did very well overall in our tests, delivering very good sound quality with a warm character.

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