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As a writer focused on consumer tech, I get a slew of products to use and review each year. In 2023, the number stands at around 75, which includes smartphones – both foldable and slab ones, headphones, speakers, soundbars, e-readers, and more, alongside a bunch of accessories, which takes the count to over 100. But these 10 devices stood out for me.
This list of my top 10 favorite devices of 2023 is not based on particularly value-for-money or strong spec-sheet propositions but various other factors. Some are here because they made my life easier while I was working remotely out of different timezones, while others helped me capture memorable frames. And for the time when I was home, a few of these audio products set the tone for fun parties. Here are my favorite devices I used in 2023.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Samsung’s 10x zoom has been a part of the Galaxy S-series for a while now, but it was only the Galaxy S23 Ultra that made me use it more often because of the top-notch quality. I carried the early 2023 Samsung flagship on my first international trip to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, and I’m glad that I did.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra cameras helped me capture vivid, sharp and detailed photos. From portraits of my friends to 10x zoom on faraway waves crashing into the rocks, the Samsung phone delivered great shots. And when I had noone to click my photos at the beach, the S Pen doubled as a shutter button, so I could place the phone on the bench, be in the beach frame, and press the stylus button to click touristy shots. I like the Galaxy S23 Ultra for the versatile camera setup, S Pen and good battery life.
Xiaomi 13 Pro
The Xiaomi 13 Pro was the easiest phone to click great portrait shots on. I didn’t need to do much other than pointing the camera at my subject and tapping on the shutter button, which would give me a good-looking portrait photo. I took a long overdue family vacation in July, and got some memorable shots from it. My cousins were pleasantly surprised by the results.
The Xiaomi 13 Pro also made me think about my framing of the photos – not because it clicked poor images in certain scenarios but I wanted to do justice to the camera setup available on my phone. I started giving myself a split second before clicking a photo, and added more black-and-white shots to my gallery. The Xiaomi 13 Pro was my favorite phone to click portrait photos in 2023.
Boox Tab Ultra C
The Boox Tab Ultra C is a color E Ink tablet that has been my go-to reading device for a while now. I’ve used Kindle devices for reading but the Boox tablet is unlike others because it runs full-fledged Android. Unlike the Amazon Kindle, I’m not limited by the software just because I’m on an E Ink screen. I can read whichever article online or scroll through X (formerly Twitter). This is the easiest display to read on in direct sunlight – something I definitely need for winter mornings in my balcony.
The Boox Tab Ultra C is accompanied by a solid design and an even better keyboard case. It offers a soft touch exterior finish that makes it look like a diary. But I’m more impressed by the keys that give a good tactile feedback and have a subtle inward curve on them for a more comfortable typing experience. This is one of the nicest keyboards I’ve used on a tablet case. Pair it with the stylus, and you have an all-rounder. The Tab Ultra C is my favorite device right now for reading and note-taking.
Nomad Aluminum Apple Watch Band
There aren’t many accessories that make a three-year-old product look extravagant. The Nomad Aluminum Apple Watch Band is one such rare accessory. Whenever I club it with my 1st-gen Apple Watch SE 44mm, I get compliments on how good the smartwatch looks on my hand.
It might be expensive but Nomad packs an adjustment tool right in the box, so you don’t need to go to watch retailers to get the lugs adjusted. I’m not a smartwatch person, and prefer to wear my Seiko or Tissot watches to formal outings but if there’s one band that makes me wear an Apple Watch with a suit, it’s the Nomad Aluminum Band.
Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L
I’ve travelled to seven countries in the past nine months, and my go-to backpack has been from Peak Design. Their Travel Backpack 30L offers enough space for essentials and more for some extra stuff that you buy on your adventures. It’s got plenty of pockets – from the small ones for earbuds to big compartments meant for laptops and tablets.
The Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L is rugged and expandable with easy to grab handles on the back and sides. I carry at least three phones, a laptop, plenty of everyday requirements like my shaving kit, a 50ml perfume, a few wires, my Bose Quietcomfort 45 headphones and a GoPro action camera to almost every trip. And it lets me stay organized, despite adding more stuff when I go on a shopping spree.
The OnePlus Open changed what you can expect from book-style foldables for the better. As I wrote in my review, the OnePlus foldable phone does three things right simultaneously (design-wise), which no other foldable phone has been able to achieve yet. It’s got a close to slab phone-like 20:9 aspect ratio cover display, near to no crease and a solid hinge.
Unlike Google and Samsung, OnePlus also offered its best cameras yet on its most expensive smartphone. And the camera quality has only improved with updates. Apart from the hardware, the OnePlus Open also redefined how I interact with a big screen, thanks to the Open Canvas multitasking implementation. It’s the best foldable phone you can buy right now.
GoPro Hero 12 Black
The GoPro Hero 12 Black has helped me get some amazing shots that wouldn’t have been possible with a phone camera. On my first ever speedboat ride, the 2023 GoPro action camera helped me get some crazy shots. The addition of better HDR, GP-Log and the ability to shoot in 8:7 aspect ratio makes the Hero 12 Black one of the best GoPro upgrades in the recent past.
The 8:7 aspect ratio is important because there are times when I’d like my videos to be in 9:16 for Instagram stories but I shot them in 4:3. However, that’s not an issue anymore because shooting in 8:7 allows me to crop the shots the way I like – horizontal or vertical, within the Quik app. I’ve also been using the Insta360 Go 3 because of its more compact nature but the Hero 12 Black remans one of my favorite devices I’ve used this year.
Focal Bathys headphones
The Focal Bathys are an expensive pair of wireless headphones but I loved using them for two reasons – comfort and sound signature. The ANC isn’t the best but there’s plenty to like here. Plus, I prefer buttons to touch controls, and the Bathys have a lot of them – which takes a bit of getting used to.
The bass doesn’t overpower the mids but that’s not to say that there’s not enough oomph. The Focal Bathys offer details throughout the frequency spectrum, and don’t get too sharp in the highs. The big earcups are comfortable for long durations, which you’d want because these headphones last up to 30 hours on a single charge. They are big to travel with but I can adjust with the side for the sound quality and comfort.
JMGO N1 Ultra 4K projector
The JMGO N1 Ultra has been in my living room, and has almost replaced my TV. These days, I only turn my TV on if I’m watching something during the day. In the evening or at night, the N1 Ultra is my default choice because of the excellent picture quality. The built-in swivel gimbal system adds to the easy-to-setup-and-use experience.
While I wish I could watch Netflix on the JMGO N1 Ultra (it doesn’t support Netflix), it can go up to 150 inches with 4000 lumens of brightness for supported content. I liked watching the Indian Premier League, ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, and regularly watch past concerts of my favorite band, Strings on it. I’ve plugged in my Marshall Stanmore 2 speaker for better sound quality, and love using it.
Sony WH-CH720N wireless headphones
The Sony WH-1000XM5 are a great pair of ANC headphones without a doubt, but the Sony WH-CH720N was a surprise that I wasn’t expecting. This pair of headphones pack a sound quality (despite only supporting AAC (iPhones) and SBC (Android) audio codecs) that is close to the XM4 in a design that’s light and comfortable on the head.
From my review, “The Sony CH720N aren’t bass heavy like the XB series but there’s good amount of attention for the lower frequencies to not make you miss the flavor of a beat. The vocals are clear and treble response is on the higher side – but still pleasant, and not uncomfortable.” These are the best value-for-money headphones in the segment.
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus – The Ambeo Plus soundbar simplifies the process of setting up a home theater system. You don’t need to deal with multiple speakers, wires, or their placement because it offers a 7.1.4 channel setup. This consists of nine drivers, including seven full-range speakers and two 4-inch subwoofers that translate to an amazing audio experience.
Boox Palma – I like the Boox Palma more than my Kindle. It’s not in my backpack because I’m sold on the bigscreen of the Tab Ultra C but the Palma is unlike any other E Ink reader out there. It’s got an ultrafast refresh rate that’s top-class for an ePaper display, loud speakers, and a phone-like reading experience with excellent battery life. I’m not limited to reading Kindle books or any other software because it runs Android. It’s one of the best small e-readers you can buy right now.
JMGO N1 projector – While the JMGO N1 Ultra sits in my living room, the more affordable N1 projector has replaced the TV in my bedroom. It doesn’t get as bright or sharp as the N1 Ultra but it’s enough to enjoy winter night movies while I rest in my cozy blanket. It features a similar gimbal design that makes the projector easy to place at whatever angle you like.
Honor Magic V2 – The Honor Magic V2 changed the game by being lighter than the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It’s the slimmest book-style inward folding phone, and more comfortable to hold in the hand than the OnePlus Open. But it’s not available globally yet, and is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2024.
Enabot Ebo X home robot – The Ebo X is the first home robot that I’ve used for a long duration. It features a gorgeous design with a pop up camera, which can be used to monitor the house when you’re out. I like how it looks and balances on its two wheels. It can act as a smart speaker and robot guardian with fall detection feature. It’s like a smart speaker, security camera and a robot pet packed into one. It’s an adorable tiny robot.
I also liked the Apple iPhone 15 Pro this year, which has been one of the better year-on-year upgrades from Apple. I like the camera improvements including the HDR and addition of the feature that lets me change focus of portrait shots in Photos. I love the fact that it’s now lighter than ever with a more ergonomic design. My only qualm with the 2023 Apple flagship is the battery life, which hasn’t been great on 5G.
2023 was amazing for all kinds of gadgets. From phones to audio to smart home, I got to experience a wide range of devices that added valuable use cases to my lifestyle. Some forced me to click better photos, while others took my entertainment experience to the next level. I look forward to many more such devices in 2024.