The Hottest Gadgets Reviewed

The best e-reader? The best tablet? The best smartphone? The reviews are in from Engadget users, and the answers may surprise you.

Here’s a roundup of the must-haves and the maybe-nots, from the online tech site Engadget, which offers an annual compilation all things “e.” Everything from smartphones to your kids’ game system comes with a bewildering array of pluses and minuses—not to mention some high price tags.

In various categories, the best is followed by a couple of not-as-best choices.

In e-readers, the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013) took the top spot. There is not much difference from the previous year’s model, but an improved front light and software tweaks improve an already great reading experience.

Other e-readers are:

  • Kobo Aura HD. Packed with features for the “power reader,” including a 6.8-inch display and “robust” internal storage. Unfortunately, it also comes with a stiff price and a hard-to-hold form.
  • Barnes & Noble Nook Glowlight. The best Nook so far yet still burdened with the microSD slot, physical page-turn buttons and the contoured back.

For laptops and hybrids, readers overwhelmingly chose the Microsoft Surface Pro 2. They cited its faster performance and the longer battery life than its predecessor, but said its heft makes it a better notebook than a tablet. Other popular laptops are:

  • Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display. At $400 less than the 2012 model, a better, speedier deal with better graphics, good battery life and thinner, lighter body.
  • Google Chromebook Pixel. A $1,300 price, perhaps not worth it unless you live on the Web.

The most popular smartphone, surprisingly, was not Apple’s iPhone 5s but the Motorola Moto X. Readers said it doesn’t compete with heavyweights like the Galaxy S 4 and the HTC One, but after enhancements and the addition of Moto Maker customization, it truly is “a phone for the people.” The other top phones are:

  • iPhone 5s. Apple continues to improve on its iconic line. Same body as its predecessor but “packs in enough upgrades to appeal to hardcore and casual users” alike. Still, “only the most forward-looking Android power users will find incentive to switch.”
  • HTC One. A top-shelf smartphone boasting a unibody aluminum shell, a gorgeous display and a fast processor. One of the best phones this year.
  • Samsung Galaxy S 4. Worth considering if you’re due for an upgrade from an older Samsung device.

Another surprise, Apple’s iPad didn’t win most-wanted tablet. That spot went to the Google Nexus 7, which cost-conscious readers called “an obscene value,” as they weighed features against cost. Other tablets are:

  • Amazon Kindle Fire HDX. Advanced users might scoff at somewhat limited capabilities, but the display has gorgeous color accuracy.
  • iPad mini. An inexpensive way to join Apple’s tablet family but costlier than similar competition. Shrunken version of its powerful bigger sibling.
  • iPad Air. Best Apple tablet reviewed but hard to justify when iPad mini now offers nearly the same experience for less.
  • Microsoft Surface 2. Hamstrung by shortcomings of its OS and inability to run traditional desktop apps.