The best tech in the world
The ‘gadget of the year’ award is always the most hotly contested award category and for good reason. It’s all-encompassing, showing off the greatest gadgets in the world today. The breadth of kit on show proves that technology has seeped into every crevice of our lives - from communication to fashion, from fitness to capturing perfect moments.
2015 will go down as a historic year for gadgets. Over the past 12 months, new categories have been made, while familiar product lines from the biggest and best companies have been refined and revolutionised.
While our judges - and you, the good reader - do the difficult job of choosing the best tech thing around, here’s a handy list of what makes up the Gadget of the Year category.
These devices are at the top of their class and offer something that’s unique in the tech world. Whether this is design, usability or just sheer awesomeness, they are all deserving of the best gadget crown.
But, as always, there can be only one...
Apple’s definitely made the smartwatch appeal to the mainstream in a way Pebble and Android Wear didn’t. The Watch is really nicely crafted, and elements like being able to send digital sketches to friends are fun, if not necessary.
The issue is that it doesn’t do a huge amount right now. Sure, you’re buying into potential, but we can’t help feeling that the next version will be much better, with more sensors and a longer battery life. When that will be is hard to gauge (there’s no indication Apple’s bringing out a Watch with the same regularity as the iPhone) so you might be waiting a while.
Take the plunge and splash the cash, and you’ll find you’ve got something you’ll love to tinker with day after day - plus you’ll be pulling your phone out of your pocket a lot less. But the Apple Watch is luxury over necessity - there’s a lot to like, but nothing to love.
Read our Apple Watch review
Vote for the Apple Watch in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015
Apple iPad 2
The iPad Air 2 is the best tablet ever created - and that's not us getting excited over an Apple product for the sake of it.
From the amazing engineering that got it so thin and yet still feel premium, to the A8X chip which has given the tablet more grunt than anything else out there, we just love playing with it.
With iOS 8.1 on board, some of the bugs with the new OS have been fixed and the ability to reply to messages within other apps is a real boon. The battery life is more than acceptable, the camera has been upgraded, and the screen upgrades genuinely make viewing web pages or videos on-the-go a joy. The price is even comparable to the rest of the market.
The only gripe we have really is that while the middle option has doubled from 32GB last year to 64GB at the same price point this year, the entry-level model remains at 16GB.
But make no mistake: Apple has created a masterpiece in the tablet market here. Once again, we're struggling to work out how it's going to better itself next time around.
Read our Apple iPad Air 2 review
Vote for the Apple iPad Air 2 in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015
HTC One M9
The HTC One M9 is a phone that embodies the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mantra. Taking all the best bits from last year’s all-conquering One M8, HTC clearly reckons what people want is the same thing again… only better.
It’s given it a darn good go: packing the industry’s new chipset du jour in the ultra-powerful, octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, slipping in 3GB of RAM, tossing away the misunderstood Ultrapixel camera, and even raising the size of the battery to boot. On paper, at least, this is a phone with the power to rule the world again.
The HTC One M9 is a phone that takes the design heritage, DNA and all the other good bits of last year’s phone and, well, does them again. It’s again shown the rest of the competition how to make a premium smartphone, and if it can iron out some of the wrinkles around battery and speed, it’s another great phone – but the competition is catching up quickly.
HTC has merely polished last year’s model without adding much new – a very good phone, but not brilliant.
Read our HTC One M9 review
Vote for the HTC One M9 in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015
Fitbit Charge HR
The Fitbit Charge HR is a decent mix of accurate step-counting and a rather curious counting of everything else, in a stylish and discreet band. With an app and background ecosystem, it does an excellent job of making fitness "fun", or at least more fun than vomiting after doing shuttle runs under the watchful eye of the drill sergeant from 'An Office and a Gentleman' or 'Full Metal Jacket'.
The Fitbit Charge HR looks good, does its core job well and has a battery that lasts just long enough to not be annoying. The app is great, it syncs quickly and reliably, and is more sophisticated than a lot of other bands. It's also more useful and less riddled with things that are hugely frustrating.
Fitness bands are on the whole imperfect, but luckily the Fitbit Surge HR is a step in the right direction.
Read our Fitbit Charge HR review
Vote for the Fitbit Charge HR in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015
Garmin Forerunner 920XT
The 920XT is one of the best watches Garmin has ever produced, and shoves in a fantastic amount of technology considering it's got such a strong battery life. The sheer variety of options mean that you can't really fault this device for anything once you've bitten the bullet and shelled out for it.
Even if it's something a little more left field that you want to track, the 920XT lets you customise so much that you'll easily find a way to monitor it. If you have the budget and just like running with it, the easy-to-view interface and generally fast GPS lock make it a must-have.
Ah, the issue of cost. It's not cheap, so you'll really need to want it, or have very generous loved ones, when your birthday rolls around. If you can afford it, buy it. The Garmin 920XT delivers on nearly all fronts, and while it's larger in the size stakes than some rivals, you're getting a lot of technology in there.
Read our Garmin 920XT review
Vote for the Garmin 920XT in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge boasts the world's first dual curved display, making it unique – but is that enough to prise the cash out of your wallet?
It shares a lot of similarities with its brother, the Galaxy S6: both handsets sport the same punchy octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, choice of 32GB, 64GB or 128GB internal storage, and an impressive 16MP rear camera. The curved display will certainly turn heads, but it comes at a cost.
Aside from the beautiful design, the S6 Edge doesn't provide anything extra over the Galaxy S6 – which is £100 cheaper. Those of us who are less flush will know to look for the best value.
The Galaxy S6 is the better buy it you're looking for an all-round powerhouse, but if you have the extra money and fancy owning a phone your can wave in the face of your iPhone-owning chums, the Edge and has the ability to turn them green with envy.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge review
Vote for the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015
Samsung Gear VR
Virtual reality 2.0 is still in its toddler phase, which means all of Gear VR's tech could become outdated fast. This will be the year we'll (probably) see the consumer edition of Oculus Rift, but moving this from the margins of the hardcore PC gamers and into the mainstream will be another challenge entirely.
That's where Samsung comes in; open it up to other handsets and a device like this could offer everyday people the opportunity to try VR, and that's awesome.
Right now it feels like a box of neat gimmicks and "experiences", and it shows that virtual reality still has some way to go. But even as just a demo of what's to come, Gear VR is a fantastic showcase for this flourishing medium.
It's hard not to get excited about, even if most non-Note 4 owners probably won't want to buy it.
Read our Samsung Gear VR review
Vote for the Samsung Gear VR in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Enthusiast photographers tend to shoot a bit of everything and they need a versatile camera that can cope with a wide range of subjects and conditions.
The EOS 7D Mark II's weatherproofing means that it can be used in harsher conditions than all of Canon's other current SLRs apart from the pro-level EOS-1DX. Its autofocus system can get moving subjects sharp quickly, and keep them sharp as they move around the frame or towards/away from the camera.
The metering system with its new 150,000-pixel RGB and infrared sensor is also extremely capable and delivers correctly exposed images in a wide range of conditions.
All things considered, the 7D Mark II is Canon's best APS-C format model to date. It's not often that we recommend making a direct upgrade from the model immediately proceeding a camera, but this case is an exception. The 7D Mark II makes a great upgrade from the original 7D.
Read our Canon EOS 7D Mark II review
Vote for the Canon EOS 7D Mark II in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015
GoPro Hero4 Black
Despite increasing competition from rivals, the GoPro is still the definitive action cam, and the Hero4 Black produces broadcast-quality video at a price even casual adventure fans can afford.
The Hero4 Black is tough, adaptable and shoots really high quality video. The control interface has been improved over previous versions and it's now a lot easier to use – it's steady improvement like this that makes a great product, not just headline-making new features.
Having said that, the ability to shoot 4K video at 30fps is an important step forward, but it's the ability to shoot full HD at 120fps that's perhaps the most amazing advance.
Extreme sports enthusiasts will love the out-of-the-box usability. You charge it, fix it on, record, upload it and you're done. Those who want more can delve into the settings to make the most of the new frame rates and resolutions, and creatives will love the versatility that features like ProTune promise.
Read our GoPro Hero4 Black review
Vote for the GoPro Hero4 Black in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015
DJI Phantom 3 Pro
The Phantom 3 Pro is an incredibly capable drone. The battery life is impressive, it's a breeze to fly and it's unbelievably quick. The camera is also very good and capable of capturing stunningly detailed images.
When it comes to cost, the DJI Phantom 3 Pro is pricey, but you can now get the Standard for £649. While that's not exactly pocket money, if you're after a near-pro-grade airborne camera, this represents excellent value in our opinion. It also brings it into the realms of something you could consider a big boy's toy.
The Advanced and Pro Models (which are better, obviously) are probably only of interest to would-be professional videographers and photographers. The Standard, however, is great fun to mess about with and gives excellent results when you want to do some serious aeriel photography.
Read our DJI Phantom 3 review
Vote for the DJI Phantom 3 in the Gadget of the Year category in the T3 Awards 2015