By David Nield
Welcome to the T3 Awards together with Three
It's our favourite time of year again: T3 Awards 2017 together with Three time. We've partnered with Three to bring you the very best in gadgets, gizmos and tech from the past 12 months - all the stuff that we've seen and absolutely loved, in other words.
As usual, in the 11th year of the awards we're mixing categories that readers have voted for together with ones that our esteemed panel of judges has deliberated over. Click or tap through the next few slides to see the very best in tech.
We'd also like to extend our thanks to our sponsors this year as well - Three, Omni Capital, Kodak, Encrypt.me, Gear4 and Freeview Play.
Brand of the Year in association with Digital Spy - Nintendo
It's been quite a year for Nintendo, as it reinvented gaming once again with the Nintendo Switch as well as treating us to an updated handheld console too, the Nintendo 2DS XL. Add in the mobile games as well and it's been hit after hit for the Japanese company.
We described the 2DS XL as "gimmickless perfection" and the Nintendo Switch as a device that "knocks it out of the park" so it's no surprise that T3 readers voted for Nintendo as Brand of the Year. We're looking forward to seeing what Nintendo has in store for 2018.
Retailer of the Year sponsored by Omni Capital - Amazon
For many of us, Amazon will be the first name that springs to mind when it comes to online retail, and the store that seems to stock everything has been a strong performer in 2017 once again. We roped in your help with this one, so you've given Amazon this honour.
Amazon battled competition from the likes of Carphone Warehouse, Currys PC World, eBuyer, John Lewis, Maplin and Richer Sounds to become retailer of the year, and the quality of that shortlist shows just how popular Amazon remains with online shoppers.
Innovation of the Year sponsored by Kodak PixPro - Amazon Echo
Not many devices can claim to have completely changed the tech landscape, but that's certainly the case with the Amazon Echo. It's such a useful device that Google, Apple, Microsoft and just about everyone else is now launching their own versions of the Echo.
The smart speaker has thousands of skills so its name, so you can do everything from getting a weather forecast to calling a cab through a few simple voice commands. The Echo is proof that smart homes don't have to be complicated and technical after all.
Luxury Tech of the Year - Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Shape
One glance at the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Shape and you know this is a classy bit of tech that's worth our luxury tech award - you not only get superior sound from a wall of these wireless speakers, you get something that looks like a piece of modern art too.
You need at least six of these tessellating speakers, amplifiers and dampeners to create a full BeoSound Shape system, but you can add many more on top of that as needed. Bang & Olufsen beat competitors including Tag Heuer, Range Rover and Leica to nab this award.
Best VPN in association with TechRadar Pro - IPVanish
Getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN) program up and running on your computer is useful for all kinds of reasons, from keeping your data safe from wireless hackers to making sure you're not revealing more about your browsing habits than you'd like.
If you decide that a VPN is indeed for you then you've got a host of packages to pick from, but you need to choose carefully, and pick a service that's fast, professional, reliable and secure - which sounds exactly like IPVanish, our judges' pick for the best VPN for 2017.
Best Video Streaming Service sponsored by Freeview Play - Netflix
Streaming services have completely transformed the way we consume movies and television shows, and at the vanguard of the revolution has been Netflix, a worthy winner for our video streaming service of the year, and still innovating in areas like 4K content.
Not only has Netflix expanded into more territories and remained a rock-solid, inexpensive streaming service anyone can use this year, it's also produced some fantastic original content, including Stranger Things and The Crown. Binge-watching never felt so good.
Best TV - Sony A1
There's no shortage of decent TVs out there at the moment but we have to take our hats off to Sony and its A1 set - this 4K-enabled beauty not only displays a beautiful image for whatever you're watching, it also looks absolutely gorgeous and more like a giant tablet.
Sony was up against Panasonic, LG, Samsung, Philips and Loewe in this category, so for the A1 to get the nod from our judges, you know it's a special bit of kit. The OLED set supports 4K resolutions and HDR output, and has Android TV powering its smart features.
Best TV Platform - BT TV YouView 4K
As with the actual TVs themselves, there's plenty of choice for smart boxes you can stick under your set of choice, but our 2017 award for TV platform goes to the BT TV YouView 4K service and box. It has absolutely everything the modern-day TV viewer could ask for.
Among its key features you've got that Ultra HD or 4K resolution mentioned in the name, plus recent upgrades to the audio and the interface. As much as we love some of its rivals in TV, like Sky Q and Virgin TV, for the 2017 T3 Awards it's BT's offering that gets the nod.
Best TV Audio Product - Q Acoustics M3
A stellar TV picture is no good without top-quality audio to go along with it, and that's exactly what the Q Acoustics M3 provides, beating off stiff competition from the likes of Bose, Sonos, Samsung, Bowers & Wilkins, Audio Technica and BeoPlay to get this prize.
Take a look at the specs list or any review of the Q Acoustics M3 soundbar and you'll quickly see why it was our number one choice - it's a great all-rounder for music and movies, it can connect to any device via Bluetooth, and it's also competitively priced.
Best Bluetooth Headphones (over/on-ear) - Sony MDR-1000X
Another very strong category this year, but Sony's MDR-1000X pair of headphones just pipped the other contenders at the post for our Bluetooth over on on-ear choice: they sound great (obviously), they're light and comfy, and they're superb at cancelling noise.
For a very decent price you get yourself a premium set of headphones that will tailor the sounds you hear to suit your head shape, and even adapt the audio output depending on whether or not you're wearing glasses. Stick these on and you'll quick agree with our pick.
Best Wi-Fi / Multi-Room Speaker - Denon Heos 7 HS2
What do you want from a multi-room speaker setup? You want top-quality audio performance, you want speed and reliability, and as an added bonus you want some stylish looks for your speaker as well, all of which Denon's flagship provides in spades.
We love the looks of the Heos 7 HS2, we love the immersive wall of sound it creates from its diminutive frame, and we love the straightforward app and simple setup that goes along with the hardware. You can't do any better for your wireless speakers in 2017.
Best Hi-Fi product - Yamaha WX-AD10
If you're after an affordable upgrade to your home music system - the best improvement in audio quality at the lowest price - then our pick of a rather large bunch is Yamaha WX-AD10, a wireless streaming DAC that plugs into your regular h-fi to transform its sound.
As well as pumping out your tunes in better quality, the DAC also supports Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz and other streaming services, as well as working with Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth to give you even more options. Plus, it's all simple to set up and straightforward to use.
Smart Home Product of the Year in association with Sky News Swipe - Amazon Echo
It's no exaggeration to say the Amazon Echo has almost single-handedly dragged us into the smart home age - at a time when smart home devices were difficult to work and even harder to get working together, the Echo came along and made everything seem easy.
While the idea of talking to a speaker seemed slightly odd to begin with, the concept has quickly caught on, and every major manufacturer in tech is looking to make an Echo of their own if they don't have one already. The Amazon Echo and Alexa, we salute you.
Best Connected Lighting - Philips Hue
Philips has been blazing a trail for smart lighting for a while now, but it continues to innovate and improve with its Hue range of products, and it's a worthy winner for our Best Connected Lighting award - a shining example of what all connected lights should aim for.
Whether it's the simple app operation, the broad range of bulbs and colours to pick from, or the way that Hue lights work with just about every other smart home platform out there, we're big fans of what Philips has done with Hue, and look forward to seeing more.
Best Connected Security sponsored by Encrypt.me - Netgear Arlo Pro
If you need some gear to keep an eye on your property and possessions then in 2017 we don't think you can do better than the Netgear Arlo Pro system, which ticks just about all the boxes you could think of when it comes to the smart security camera category.
It's wire-free (working on rechargeable batteries), it's waterproof, it gives you a wide 130-degree viewing angle, and it streams in full HD so you can tell exactly who's creeping up your garden path. It also features two-way audio, a night mode, and motion detection.
Best Connected Eco/Energy Product - Hive Active Heating
Congratulations to the Hive Active Heating system, which beat off some strong competition to nab our award for Best Connected Eco/Energy Product. Not only does it help you save money and energy, it also looks rather stylish as part of your smart home.
Of course the main selling point of Hive is being able to control your heating from afar and set up a series of timing events to heat your home when needed. We've been consistently impressed with the hardware and being kinder to the planet has never been so intuitive.
Best Fitness Wearable - Garmin Forerunner 935
Our pick for the best-of-the-best wearable for 2017 is the Garmin Forerunner 935. In a market where the Apple Watch and Android Wear grab most of the headlines, Garmin has been quietly carving out a niche for itself in robust, high performance wearable gear.
The Forerunner 935 specifically includes such premium features as on-board GPS (so you always know where you are even without your phone) and advanced heart rate tracking. Unlike many other smartwatches, it actually looks like something you'd want to wear too.
Best Laptop - HP Spectre 13
With so many great laptops on the market at the moment, it's almost impossible to pick a favourite, but we did it - and we went for the HP Spectre 13. As we said in our original review, it's sleek, it's beautiful, and it's powerful: everything you want from a laptop.
You can see from the photography that this laptop is a real looker but it also impresses with what's under the hood as well. It manages to combine lightness and thinness with a high-end Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM, enough for the most demanding of tasks.
Best Gaming PC - Razer Blade Stealth
You can't combine streamlined portability with heavy-duty gaming power can you? Well, apparently you can, if the Razer Blade Stealth is anything to go by - it's stupendous looks and equally impressive computing power make it our choice for the gaming PC of 2017.
On the outside it uses aircraft-grade aluminium, on the inside there's a 7th-gen Intel Core i7-7500U CPU, 16GB of dual-channel memory and a 1TB SSD. Despite the fantastic-looking 4K screen on this laptop, you can eke around seven hours out of it between charges too.
Best Camera in association with Digital Camera World - Sony A9
In such a crowded market you really need to stand out to be crowned the best camera of them all, and our judges are certain that the Sony A9 has what it takes to earn the honour in the T3 Awards - okay it's pricey, but you certainly get what you pay for in this case.
Among the many things that impress us about the Sony A9 are the incredibly quick tracking and autofocus system, a whopping 24-megapixel sensor system that pulls out amazing results, and all the different ways that users can customise the camera.
Best Mid-Range Phone in association with The Sun - Honor 9
Not everyone wants to drop a four-figure sum on a smartphone, and if you're shopping in the mid-range then our pick for the phone of the year is the unassuming Honor 9, which combines some rather decent specs and elegant looks with an unbeatable price.
In fact we called it "the bargain of the century" when it went on sale in June. In terms of specs it's not far off the more premium Huawei P10 in every respect, but in return for some slightly cheaper materials on the chassis you can save yourself a big chunk of cash.
Best Mobile Accessory - Gear4 Piccadilly
Your choice of accessories is almost as important as your choice of phone, and for our Best Mobile Accessory of the year we've gone for the Gear4 Piccadilly, a lightweight but robust case that will fit around any of the various iPhones released in the last couple of years.
So what made our judges consider the Gear4 Piccadilly a cut above the rest as far as mobile accessories go? Well, it has a scratch-resistant UV coating, plus some advanced drop and shock resistance tech, and it's available in a choice of great-looking colours.
Tech Personality - Johnny Ball
Science and tech enthusiast, instantly recognisable TV personality with a career spanning five decades, immediately likeable - there are plenty of reasons why Johnny Ball is a fine choice for our tech personality of the year, not least that he presented our 2016 awards.
We can't do justice to Johnny in just a few words here, but given his record as a comedian and an educator, we think this is one of the most fitting awards from the whole 2017 show. We know he's a huge fan of the Raspberry Pi among numerous other bits of gadgetry.
Tech Legend - Gary Numan
We don't easily give out the label of Tech Legend here at T3, but our judges and everyone else involved in the awards can honestly say it's well deserved in this case - our Tech Legend for 2017 is Gary Numan, musical innovator and a pioneer of electronic sounds.
With 20 albums and a glittering career behind him, the T3 Tech Legend award might not take pride of place on Gary's mantelpiece but we're happy to bestow the honour on him. And if you're too young to have heard Cars before, fire it up at your earliest opportunity.
Lifetime Achievement - Jonney Shih
Jonney Shih has been leading Asus since the 1990s, taking the company through all of the major changes we've seen in consumer tech since then, and earning respect for both his business acumen and his enthusiasm for just about anything Asus puts out into the world.
With such a strong and varied history behind him, Jonney is undoubtedly a worthy recipient of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement award, though we're sure we'll be hearing plenty from him in the future as Asus continues to push consumer electronics forward.
Phone of the Year sponsored by Gear4 - Samsung Galaxy S8
What is there left to say about the Samsung Galaxy S8? It took phone design to heights we didn't think possible, with its ultra-thin bezels at the top and bottom, that gorgeous Infinity Display AMOLED screen, and of course the traditional curved edges to the screen.
To be fair to Samsung's competitors there have been some excellent handsets launched this year (and no doubt we've got some more to come) but our judges are confident that the impressive Galaxy S8 represents the peak of what smartphones can be in 2017.
Gadget of the Year sponsored by Three - Amazon Echo
We'll admit that when the Amazon Echo first appeared on the scene we weren't too sure about talking to a speaker in our living room, but since then the gadget has grown and evolved to become one of the most important gizmos in consumer electronics today.
Part of that is due to the thousands of skills you can add to the Amazon Echo, so whether you want to listen to audiobooks or just get the correct calculation for your maths homework, the Echo can help. A fully deserved recipient for the Gadget of the Year prize.
Editor's Choice Award - Tile Slim
We're big fans of the Tile Slim, which is why we've decided to bestow our Editor's Choice Award on it. The most unobtrusive member of the Tile family, the Slim can attach to keys or fit in a wallet, and will save you plenty of time and anguish in tracking down lost stuff.
We restricted ourselves to gadgets costing less than £100 for this award, and at less than £20 online, you're certainly getting good value when you buy a Slim or two. Whether you want to keep track of your luggage or your mobile phone, the Tile Slim is invaluable.
Best Bluetooth Headphones (in-ear) - Optoma NuForce BE Sport3
If you need wireless headphones that fit inside your ear then you simply can't do better than the Optoma NuForce BE Sport3 for 2017 - they combine a svelte and stylish design with fantastic sound quality, and they're particularly suitable for running or cycling.
You can get about 8-10 hours of life between battery charges with these, which is very impressive for a wireless set, and you won't believe how light they are until you actually pick them up. This is another very competitive category, but one with a worthy winner.
Best Bluetooth Speaker - Cambridge Audio YoYo M
Bluetooth speakers are great for listening on the go when you want to hop from room to room, or beach to park, and the Cambridge Audio YoYo M turns everything up to 11 in terms of both the quality craftsmanship on offer here and the strength of the audio.
Not only does this speaker pack enough of a punch to really take you back, it doesn't distort sounds at higher volume levels, and is one of the best we've ever heard at producing a proper stereo effect when you combine two of these devices together.
Best Kitchen and Home Tech in association with T3 Home - AEG ComfortLift dishwasher
Tech continues to invade the kitchen and home, and the appliance we've most impressed with right now is the ComfortLift dishwasher from AEG. That'll be no surprise if you read our earlier coverage, where we called it "the current state of the art in dishwashing".
The ComfortLift offers excellent energy performance and of course makes all of your crockery and cutlery come out sparkling, but what really helps this model stand out from the crowd is that ComfortLift bottom drawer than makes loading and unloading a breeze.
Best Home Networking Tech - Google Wi-Fi
Mesh networking promises to banish Wi-Fi dead spots for good and we've been very impressed with just how easy Google Wi-Fi makes it - as you would expect from Google, both the hardware and software is clean and polished, and anyone can set it up.
In fact Google Wi-Fi makes home networking and internet access as simple as it should've been all along, and so we're very happy to give it our Best Home Networking Tech award for 2017. Let's just hope more companies bring out networking tech as intuitive as this.
Best Baby and Toddler Tech in association with T3 Baby - Philips Avent uGrow
If you're going to trust a piece of technology to watch over your baby then it needs to be reliable and work as advertised, and that's exactly what you get with the Philips Avent uGrow baby monitor, our pick for the best baby and toddler tech of the past 12 months.
Among the features that convinced us to go for this gadget rather than any other in the baby and toddler tech category were the way it can optimise video and audio quality, and even the ability to switch between 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi networks to always stay connected.
Best Smartwatch - Apple Watch Series 2
The Apple Watch Series 2 was a significant improvement over its predecessor and continued Apple's steady growth in the wearable space - it wasn't that much different to look at, but it brought with it a faster processor and on-board GPS for location tracking.
It also had better waterproofing than the first Apple Watch, and while it's just been replaced by the Apple Watch Series 3, there's no doubt in our minds that the Series 2 has been the smartwatch to beat for 2017. Anyone challenging Apple here should be worried.
Best Lifestyle Camera - Instax SQ10
For our lifestyle camera choice we've gone for the Instax SQ10, a wonderfully novel snapper than you can tell is different as soon as you take it out of the box (or out of your camera bag). It gives you the best of the new digital world and the old Polaroid one.
More precisely, it stores your snaps as digital images as well as giving you an instant printout at the same time, which means it's a blast for weddings and parties if not wildlife photography - you've got something physical that you can keep or give out straight away.
The Fun Award - Anki Overdrive Fast & Furious
For the Fun Award we like to pick something that's exactly that, and the Fast & Furious edition of Anki Overdrive fits the bill perfectly: it takes the central robot-car-racing idea behind the series and adds on a little extra Hollywood sparkle with this special edition.
It means you can race Dom Toretto's Ice Charger and Hobbs' MXT using your phone, and there's also a special Fast & Furious track piece included in the set as well. If you've never tried any of the Anki Overdrive experiences, you should - they fully deserve the fun label.
Car of the Year - Volvo XC60
You have to have something really special to pick up Car of the Year at the T3 Awards, and we can confidently say the Volvo XC60 is a worthy recipient of the prize, despite some very stiff competition from the likes of BMW, Toyota, Volkswagen, Audi, Ford and Land Rover.
So what made us pick out the Volvo XC60? It's stylish and it's versatile, for a start, and it improves on the pre-2017 version of the car, adding extras under the hood and inside the cabin. As far as spacious SUVs go right now, the Volvo XC60 is the one you should go for.
Best Gaming Accessory in association with GamesRadar+ - SteelSeries Arctis 7
Now there really are a lot of gaming accessories out there, but together with GamesRadar+ we found ourselves drawn to the compelling features of the SteelSeries Arctis 7. In our opinion you won't find a better gaming headset for your console or your PC than this.
As well as attractive looks and a decent price, the SteelSeries Arctis 7 excel in that crucial area of audio quality, so you can hear exactly what's happening all around you and make yourself heard at the same time. The set boasts rock-solid wireless connectivity too.