A ton of new tech came flying at us again in 2019. But weeding out the minor upgrades and the products that aren’t ready for prime time from the stuff that’s actually worth your hard-earned money is what CNET’s all about. Our team kicked the tires on a lot of new products, and a bunch of those ended up in our roundups of the most interesting things. But only the most significant ones got a full review from our writers, editors and tech experts. And of those, only the cream of the crop earned our Editors’ Choice.
For 2019, we named 44 products as Editors’ Choice winners. These are the ones we recommend as the best products for the most users. In all of the most important categories in tech, we’ve worked hard to give you clear buying advice by designating a best product to buy. In some categories, we picked a best budget product and a best high-end product. In a handful of categories, we picked more than one product, because there were a couple of outstanding choices. And if there was no product we felt comfortable recommending in a category, then we didn’t make a pick.
So let’s break down these 2019 Editors’ Choice selections by the five big categories in consumer tech, including a nod to our top picks in each one.
Despite what you may have heard about phones getting boring, there was a lot of movement in the mobile category in 2019. We especially liked the progress made in battery life and cameras — and the fact that companies got more aggressive about lowering prices. So which phones were the best? We love the Motorola Moto G7 as a great budget phone for under $300 in the U.S. At the other end of the spectrum, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 is the high-end champ for its mix of style and substance. And in the middle, the Apple iPhone 11 delivers a lot of great upgrades and even drops the price from last year’s iPhone XR — a first for Apple.
Here are our other Editors’ Choice selections, including smart watches and wireless earbuds, in the rough chronological order in which they were named:
• OnePlus 7 Pro (phone)
• Samsung Galaxy A50 (phone)
• Google Pixel 3A (phone)
• Apple Watch Series 5 (smart watch)
• Fitbit Versa 2 (activity tracker)
• Apple AirPods Pro (wireless earbuds)
• Jabra Elite 75t (wireless earbuds)
• Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 (wireless earbuds)
Two TVs stole the show for 2019. Following up on last year’s big success, the TCL 6-Series improved image quality and color, and runs circles around the other TVs at its price. That’s our budget pick. For high-end TVs, the LG OLED B9 delivers contrast and viewing angles that none of the other TVs can match, according to CNET’s TV guru David Katzmaier.
The other leading products in this category were:
• Vizio SB36512-F6 (sound bar)
• Apple TV 4K streaming device)
• Roku Streaming Stick Plus (streaming device)
• Onkyo TX-NR696 (audio receiver)
• Sony WH-1000XM3 (over-the-ear headphones)
Our two favorite laptops of the year were the HP Spectre x360 13 and the Microsoft Surface Pro 7. The HP Spectre x360 is a classy two-in-one that can do it all, has a battery that can last all day and might be the best-looking Windows laptop that money can buy. The Surface Pro 7 is a familiar friend that remains the best tablet-centric laptop on the market. The 2019 model adds USB-C and Wi-Fi 6.
The other Editors’ Choice picks in the computing category — which includes tablets, cameras, games consoles, VR headsets and more — were:
• Dell XPS 13 (laptop)
• Oculus Quest (VR headset)
• Apple iPad 10.2-inch (tablet)
• Sega Genesis Mini (gaming console)
• GoPro Hero 8 Black (action camera)
• Dell G5 15 (gaming laptop)
• Acer Aspire 5 (laptop)
• Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XA (laptop)
• Nintendo Switch V2 (gaming console)
• Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (e-reader)
There were a zillion new smart home products again this year, but you can’t have a smart home without great Wi-Fi. The new Google Nest Wifi stood out as a mesh router system that can give your Wi-Fi a big upgrade with its top speeds, easy setup and extenders that now come in a choice of three colors. Another smart home product we loved in 2019 was the Wyze Cam. For less than $30, this security camera competes with $200 cameras, and even lets you do local recording and avoid a cloud subscription. Keep an eye on Seattle-based Wyze, which is focused on bringing more affordable smart home gear to market.
Our other Editors’ Choice picks for smart home gear were:
• Cree BR30 Floodlight LED
• Ecobee Smart Thermostat
• Google Nest Hub
• Wyze Bulb (smart light bulb)
• Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
• Google Nest Mini
• Arlo Pro 3 (security camera)
• Amazon Echo Show 8
Software, apps and services
Finally, in a year when services took center stage in tech, two new services stood out from the crowd, especially because of their aggressive pricing. For $4.99 a month, Apple Arcade brought a library of over 100 games to iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV . One of the best features is being able to download all of the games and play them offline. There are a lot of fun indie games to get started, but we’re looking forward to seeing some of the big titles that are due out in 2020.
For $6.99 a month, Disney Plus launched with a massive library of popular movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars. There’s also original content, led by the instant hit “The Mandalorian.” This Star Wars show has arguably been better than any of the recent Star Wars movies. And let’s be honest, Baby Yoda isn’t the hero that 2019 deserves, but he’s definitely the hero that we needed.
Our other two 2019 selections in this category were:
• YouTube TV
• Sling TV
Be ready for a lot more picks in software, apps and services in 2020 — especially as the tech industry continues to focus on services and interesting new products such as the HBO Max launch next year.