Even by the relentless standards of tech innovation, 2018 has been quite the year. We’ve seen some incredible products launched in the past 12 months, from awesome laptops to must-have tablets, lust-worthy phones to brilliant fitness devices.
We’ve rounded up our top tech for the year below. If you’re lucky, Santa might just have left one of these under the tree for you.
If not, bypass the jolly fella entirely and treat yourself – after all, you’ve been good this year, right?
In this guide:
MacBook Air 13 (2018)
When it was first revealed, the MacBook Air was a real head-turner. Powerful, super-light and able to fit into an A4 envelope (as the adverts constantly told us), it genuinely felt innovative. And then….Apple seemed to forget about it for a few years.
Like many, we thought Apple had replaced the Air line with “the MacBook”, its even slimmer 12-inch cousin. While the Air had the occasional update since its first appearance in 2010, the design, and many of the internals, remained untouched.
The 2018 update to the Air changes everything – this is now the best consumer laptop Apple sells, and one of the best laptops on the market, period. Unless you need the power of a MacBook Pro, the 2018 MacBook Air is a slam-dunk for the model to go for.
Apple has finally ditched the outdated 5th gen processor for a modern 8th-gen, instead. Elsewhere, Apple graced the Air with a Retina screen, a smaller bezel, TouchID and an improved keyboard and trackpad.
If there’s one thing we’re not so hot on, it’s the larger price tag. But, the MacBook Air is still the cheapest model in Apple’s laptop line-up.
It leaves the 12-inch MacBook in a slightly odd position. It may be a shade slimmer, but it runs a slower processor, yet is more expensive than the Air. We’ll leave it to Apple to figure out its lineup. Meanwhile, it’s just good to feel excited about the MacBook Air again.
Apple MacBook Air
- Cheapest MacBook
- Long battery life
- Not as slim as the MacBook
- Limited ports
Google Pixel 3 XL
The best phone of 2018 doesn’t have an Apple or Samsung logo on it. No, it’s a big G that adorns the handset of the Google Pixel 3 XL.
Google has produced some nice tech this year, there’s no doubt, and we’ve enjoyed playing with its products at Tech.co Towers. The Google Pixel 3 XL is a standout, however. It manages to deliver a truly premium Android phone experience, plus some fantastic features (and only a few complaints).
The first thing to mention is the camera. It’s one of the best we’ve ever seen. Images are full of detail and color, and it can make the most bleary-eyed selfie look awesome. There’s also a very decent ‘group selfie’ mode, which does a great job of using a wide angle lens to capture you and your pals at once.
Then there’s the screen – a fantastic 6-inch OLED that just sings. Although, we do lament the large notch, which slightly ruins the effect. Let’s hope 2019 is the year we all ditch the notch for good.
Stacked up against the Samsung S9 and Apple iPhone XS Max, the Pixel 3 XL is 2018’s head-turner. A feature-packed phone with an excellent camera (as well as all the other stuff you’d expect from a high-end phone in 2018), it’s tough to beat.
Google Pixel 3 XL
- Incredible camera
- Fantastic screen
- Strong build
- The notch
While the Google Pixel 3 XL is our favorite phone of the year, it would be amiss not to mention the Samsung S9. An evolution rather than a revolution, but a beautiful device all the same.
A crystal-clear AMOLED screen that Samsung has managed to make almost bezel-less steals the show. Plus, the ergonomic design of the phone just begs you to pick it up and have a go.
Needless to say, the camera is top notch. It may not have the biggest megapixel count in the game, but who cares – the 12Mp rear camera delivers stunning photos.
The battery packs a punch, too. A single charge delivers, according to Samsung, 31 hours of talk time, 17 hours of video playback or 14 hours internet use. Wow.
Samsung has hinted that its successor, the S10, will be the real game changer, so we’re excited to see what the company delivers next year too.
Samsung Galaxy S9
- Ergonomic design
- Excellent screen quality
- Top quality camera
- Camera a tad too complex
- Bixby still not needed
Guess what? Apple has won the tablet wars for yet another year. It shouldn’t be too surprising – the original iPad in 2010 is single-handedly responsible for establishing tablets as a must-have device, and Apple has outpaced the competition at every turn.
With the Android tablet market dwindling, and Windows models feeling like a strange halfway house between laptop and tablet, Apple hasn’t reinvented the wheel to stay ahead. But, it has refined and polished it to the nth degree.
2018 saw some important additions the flagship iPad Pro models, including an all screen face, and the iconic home button being ditched for good. It also introduced FaceID, following the iPhone X’s lead. What makes this interesting is that the Pro range inevitable leads the charge in the iPad space, and these features trickle down to the standard model soon after. As an example, 2018’s 9.7 iPad was made compatible with the Apple Pencil, meaning that note-taking and doodling was no longer reserved for the fancy Pro models.
The iPad Pro was a stunning tablet in its own right, but the 2018 update elevates it considerably, with numerous improvements both inside and out.
Apple iPad Pro
- Most powerful iPad yet
- Large, stunning screen
- Pencil compatible
- Specs overkill for most
When it comes to ebook readers, there’s only one game in town, and it’s Amazon’s Kindle range. Ok, maybe it has some competition in the Kobo or Barnes & Noble Nook, but the Kindle line-up is without doubt the ebook reader of choice. And that’s no accident.
2018 saw Amazon release an updated version of its backlit Kindle, the Paperwhite. Like Apple’s 9.7 iPad, it took an already excellent product and turned it up to 11. In fact, Amazon may have been a little too generous, as the new additions to the Paperwhite have made its much more expensive Oasis stablemate seem almost obsolete.
So, what does your $129 get you? Well, first up, the Kindle Paperwhite is now waterproof, so you can finally take Jane Austen into the bath with you. It’s also brighter than the previous model, slimmer, and packs in extra storage space. Not only that, but it’s compatible with audio books too, providing you connect with bluetooth headphones or speaker.
For a mid-range device, it feels like a premium product, and it’s the ebook reader we think you should pick up.
- Anti-glare screen
- Touchscreen controls not for everyone
Fitbit Charge 3
With the new year on the horizon, it’s the time to start thinking about getting fit. I know what you’re thinking. It’s harrrrrrd. Well, good news – a fitness watch under the tree might just provide the help you need to get rid of those extra Christmas pounds.
Our pick of the bunch is the Fitbit Charge 3. In addition to all the stuff you’d expect a fitness tracker to do (measure heart rate, sleep cycles, calories burned and so on), it will also send calendar notifications and call notifications. It’s also water resistant to 50 meters, meaning that whatever your sport, the Fitbit fits.
With a decent seven-day battery life (depending on how active you are), you won’t have to recharge it every night, which is good news if you want to make use of its sleep tracking features. Yes, it’s a bit pricier than some other devices, but with the additional features, it’s worth the extra.
Fitbit Charge 3
- Water resistant to 50m
- Built-in smartwatch features
- Long battery life
- No on-board GPS
- No pressable buttons
Apple Watch Series 4
Apple makes our 2018 list for the third time with the latest Apple Watch, and it’s for a good reason. It doesn’t seem that long ago since Apple launched the first Watch, and now, it’s the number one watch manufacturer in the world.
The Series 4 is undoubtedly the most advanced Apple Watch yet, and offers several new functions. Apple has gone big on health this time around, introducing some excellent features for fitness fanatics. Perhaps the most impressive is the Watch’s ability to take an electrocardiogram any time, any where. This can be a great way to understand what your heart is doing, offering results that can be shared with your doctor.
It also caters to a more vulnerable market for the first time, being able to now detect if the wearer suffers a fall. If you’re inactive for a minute of more, Apple Watch will alert authorities and loved ones that you need assistance.
Of course, it’s also a fully-fledged fitness watch too, and has been approved by the FDA as a health device.
Apple Watch Series 4
- Big screen makes apps easy to use
- Thin design
- Lots of third party sports apps
- Not Android compatible (obviously)
Best in Gaming in 2018
2018 has been a banner year for gaming, and it’s hard to pick one standout title. That said, here are the games that have been keeping us busy this year:
Sony Playstation 4: Exclusives God of War and Spiderman kept Playstation fans happy this year, both offering up absorbing worlds, jaw-dropping graphics and immersive action sequences.
Sony PSVR: Proof that Sony is sticking by VR, platformer Astrobot provided an utterly charming world that saw you craning your neck to seek out your lost robot buddies.
Microsoft Xbox One: Xbox owners may not have the wealth of exclusives that other platforms offer, but racer Forza Horizon 4 served up one of the best driving game experiences of 2018. It also let you floss on top of a waterfall, so that’s something.
Nintendo Switch: It’s a toss up between two Nintendo classics for best Switch game of the year. Super Smash Bros Ultimate is the pinnacle of the fighting game series, offering an insane amount of content and a bulging roster, keeping players busy for years to come.
Pokemon Let’s Go provided fans with the home console Pokemon game they’d always wanted. By drawing heavily on the mobile Pokemon Go format, it’s also incredibly accessible for new players.
PC: While Red Dead Redemption 2 is available on other platforms, PC is undoubtedly the best place to play the ultimate wild west fantasy, and it’s made even more bittersweet by the fact that this is PC gamers’ first Red Dead game, as the last one was console-exclusive. It was worth the wait.
Everywhere: Fortnite is no doubt THE game of 2018, and part of its appeal is the fact that it’s available on pretty much everything. Developer Epic played it smart with the game, constantly introducing new features and content to the free game to maintain an unprecedented level of excitement. It doesn’t look like it will slow down in 2019, either.
Looking Ahead – 2019 in Tech
2018 has been pretty packed with interesting tech, but there’s no doubt that 2019 will offer up some surprises too.
So what can we expect? Well, there’s Samsung’s folding phone, which could revolutionize the mobile market, or flop spectuarly. Either way, finding out will be fun. Then, there’s the S10, which Samsung is promising will be a truly landmark phone. We’ve certainly read plenty of rumors about it (camera hidden behind the screen, haptic feedback, self healing), which if even half of it is true, should prove to be one heck of a device.
Then, there’s whatever Apple’s cooking up. We’ve heard rumors that the iPad Pro will be getting another overhaul, and possibly an onscreen fingerprint sensor. Then there’s the Mini, which is looking incredibly long in the tooth these days, and well overdue an update. As for the 2019 iPhonem where do Apple go from the XS Max? Rumors indicate that Apple may be offering up a triple lens camera, and potentially Apple pencil capability.
2019 will also be the year of 8K TVs hitting the headlines, if not our homes. It will be interesting to see what prices manufacturers pitch them at, and just what we’ll be watching on them. The dearth of available 8K content means it’s hard to recommend snapping up an 8K set anytime soon.
We may also see new games consoles revealed in the next 12 months. With Sony ditching E3 entirely, it seems the brand is working on something big. Once one new console drops, the others will surely follow, so prepare for those floodgates to open in 2019.