Honoring the best of the best in tech
This year marks the 8th edition of the annual HWM+HardwareZone.com Tech Awards, the tech industry's premier event where we recognize the best brands, products, and services.
A total of 33 Editor’s Choice and 44 Readers’ Choice awards were presented this year, in categories ranging from computers and consumer electronics to digital entertainment, communications, and services. Also presented are 4 Innovation awards (part of the Editor's Choice categories) to recognize innovative products and cutting-edge technologies that have emerged during the eligibility period.
- For the Editor's Choice awards, a total of 135 products introduced between January and December 2016 were shortlisted. After many months of evaluation by the HWM and HardwareZone.com editorial team, winners were chosen based on the performance, value, and quality of experience they brought to their users.
- In addition, voting for the 44 Readers’ Choice categories was opened to all readers of HWM, HardwareZone.com, and GameAxis.com. With over 210 brand nominations, it remains one of the most comprehensive brand recognition surveys in the industry.
This is also the second year the Tech Awards have included video gaming merit categories, presented in collaboration with GameAxis.com. In addition to the Best Gaming Console Brand and Best Gaming Publisher awards, a Best VR Gaming Gear category was made available for public voting for the first time. There are also six Editor’s Choice video gaming categories, namely Best PC Game, Best PlayStation 4 Game, Best Xbox One Game, Best Gaming Console, Best Online Game, and Game of the Year.
Without further ado, in this first of three comprehensive articles, let us first take a look at the detailed results of our Readers’ Choice polls from the nearly 190,000 votes cast.
Readers’ Choice Awards - Computing (Part 1)
Best CPU Brand - Intel
Qualcomm's Snapdragon SoCs and Apple's A series chips are in most mobile devices these days; but for desktops, they've mostly Intel inside. The second half of 2015 saw the arrival of the 6th-gen Core processor family, and these "Skylake" chips have become ever-present in Windows PCs since. That said, if you want the latest and greatest from chipzilla, it has got to be a CPU from the 7th-gen Core "Kaby Lake" series, which is fully unveiled earlier this year. Built using an improved 14nm process, while Kaby Lake is the first "optimization" example of Intel's new process-architecture-optimization strategy, it still achieves faster CPU clock speeds and higher turbo frequencies. A long-time winner of this Readers' Choice award, would AMD's upcoming Ryzen change anything this time next year? Exciting times ahead for the CPU scene this year!
Best Graphics Card Brand - ASUS
With half of the votes, this is the eight straight year ASUS has walked home with our Readers’ Choice award for Best Graphics Card Brand (i.e., ever since we started this industry recognition event). Once again, we think ASUS’ popularity boils down to its ability to churn out a wide range of graphics cards for both NVIDIA and AMD fans. Be it based on NVIDIA's newest GTX 1050, GTX 1060, GTX 1070, or GTX 1080 GPU, or based on AMD's RX 460 or RX 480 GPU, ASUS has them all. Not only because of the variety, but ASUS also has the knack of hammering out some of the best performing cards in the industry as witnessed in this NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 showdown. If ASUS keeps this up, there's a very high chance that its trophy collection for this category will go into double figures very soon.
Best Motherboard Brand - ASUS
What most of our readers like about ASUS’ graphics cards (variety, performance, reliability) also apply to the company’s motherboards. For example, in 2016, the company had an impressive line of Intel Z170 Skylake motherboards for high-end system builders, as well as a comprehensive line of H170 and B150 boards. And this year, the company has followed that up with a slew of Z270, H270, and B250 offerings, each of them further segmented into ASUS’ usual Prime, ROG, TUF, and Pro Gaming lines. In short, like graphics cards, if you need a motherboard, you're bound to find one that fits your needs from ASUS' stable.
Best PC Memory Brand - Corsair
With 33% of the votes, this is the first time Corsair has won the Readers' Choice award for Best PC Memory Brand. In fact, it managed to stop Kingston, which has made this category its own in the past six editions of our Tech Awards. A U.S. computer peripherals and hardware company, Corsair's Vengeance LED and Dominator Platinum Special Edition series of DDR4 memory modules are arguably some of the highest performing (and most fanciful) RAM you can get for your PCs. But PC RAM isn't the only thing it makes; Corsair's gaming input devices and PC cases have quite a following here as well. And now, the company is building its own gaming PCs.
Readers' Choice Awards - Computing (Part 2)
Best SSD Brand - Samsung
Samsung, which won our Readers’ Choice award for Best SSD Brand in the last two years, has once again managed to fend off SanDisk's challenge to retain its trophy, making it a three-peat. For the uninitiated, Samsung's consumers SSDs can be broadly divided into two categories: Pro and Evo. The Pro drives are for power-hungry enthusiasts, while the Evo drives are for mainstream users seeking something faster than your traditional mechanical HDDs. We've reviewed the current flagship 960 Pro and found it to (expectedly) offer blistering performance. But the real surprise is the 960 Evo, which we found to offer incredible performance for a TLC NAND-based SSD. Prefer an SSD that you can carry around with you? Then check out the Samsung Portable SSD T3.
Best External Storage Brand - WD
When it comes to HDDs, there’s no bigger brand than Seagate and Western Digital. In recent years, they’ve grown even bigger, with Seagate acquiring Samsung’s HDD business in 2011, and Western Digital acquiring Hitachi Global Storage Technologies in 2012. With a third of the votes, WD is once again the winner of this Best External Storage Brand category, with Seagate remaining in second place with 20%. For those who haven’t been keeping track, in mid-2015, WD redesigned its My Passport Ultra and My Passport for Mac series of portable HDDs. And last year, select models have gotten a 4TB option. More recently, WD has introduced Gold HDDs for use in data centers.
Besides traditional HDDs, WD is also investing in SSDs. In May 2016, it completed a deal to buy SanDisk for US$19 billion; and in late 2016, it released its first Blue and Green consumer SSDs. To round up its SSD storage strategy, just last month, WD launched the pre-order of its enthusiast-class WD Black PCIe M.2 SSD drives, which are expected to hit retail soon.
Best Removable Flash Storage Brand - SanDisk
Solid-state storage is the future, which explains why HDD giant Western Digital bought flash memory storage specialist SanDisk in a US$19 billion deal last year. With 54% of the votes, SanDisk is once again the winner of our Best Removable Flash Storage Brand award. And no wonder, be it high-capacity microSD cards, iPhone cases with built-in flash storage, flash drives that work on iPhones and iPads, or OTG flash storage that works on Android, SanDisk has made them all. More recently, SanDisk has set a new record with its prototype 1TB SD card.
Best NAS Brand - WD
Our NAS (network-attached storage) category has always been hotly contested, and this edition saw more than 14 brands competing. With 21% of the votes, WD is the winner this year. Last year's winner Synology has dropped to fourth place. For those not familiar with WD's offerings, the company's NAS portfolio consists of the My Cloud, My Cloud Pro, and My Cloud Expert series, with some of them configurable with up to 32TB of storage (using WD's own Red NAS drives, of course). Running My Cloud OS 3, you've complete control over your files and media; you can do things like create a media server with Plex and back up the network storage to a cloud service such as Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive. Perhaps banking on the "Cloud" branding is the right thing to do since it is quite the buzzword these days.
Readers’ Choice Awards - Computing (Part 3)
Best Inkjet Printer Brand - Canon
With 31% of the votes, Canon is once again our readers’ favorite inkjet printer brand. Last year, the maker of EOS cameras introduced the Pixma MG3070s, a super-affordable wireless multi-function printer, as well as their 2nd-gen Maxify business printers, the MB5170, MB5470, and iB4170. If you print a lot, Canon has also added new ink tank models in their Pixma Ink Efficient series, such as the Pixma G4000 that now does fax and has a 20-page ADF. A lot of our readers also voted for HP, which only lost out to Canon by a very small margin. For those interested, the U.S. company did a major revamp of their OfficeJet desktop and mobile printer lineups last year.
Best Laser/LED Printer Brand - Fuji Xerox
While Fuji Xerox didn't exactly launch a lot of consumer laser or S-LED printers last year (it did that in 2015), its mind share has remained high. With 31% of the votes, it managed to hold on to the trophy it won last year, beating the likes of Canon and HP. If you're looking for the latest SOHO and SMB-class printers from Fuji Xerox, the company did late last year launch the CP315 dw and CM315 z, the former a single-function model and the latter a multi-function model. Both print at a rate of 28ppm (mono and color) and support security protocols such as IPV6, IPSec, Secure HTTPs (SSL), and SNMPV3. Canon has new laser printers to show for last year too (for both big corporate offices and smaller offices); and HP also expanded its LaserJet lineup, which now includes a new family of affordable mobile-enabled laser models.
Best Wireless Networking Brand - ASUS
With almost half of all the votes, this is the fourth straight year ASUS has won our Best Wireless Networking Brand award. Like its motherboards and graphics cards, ASUS offers a lot of wireless routers. Whether it’s an AC5300 or AC3200 tri-band router, an AC3100 or AC2400 dual-band router, or a modest AC1900 router, you can bet that the Taiwanese manufacturer has one ready to sell you. And let's not forget that ASUS also makes a lot of other wireless networking equipment, from repeaters and pocket routers to media bridges and access points.
Best IP Camera Brand - D-Link
With 22% of the votes, D-Link is the inaugural winner of our Best IP Camera Brand award. For most of 2016, D-Link's best home IP camera was the DCS-2630L, a wireless-AC-capable camera that offers a full HD image with a 180-degree field of view. But now, there's one more option: the DCS-2530L. Like the DCS-2630L, the DCS-2530L offers a 1080p image quality and a 180-degree lens but in a smaller package, though it also drops wireless-AC support and the speaker that's found on its bigger sibling. If you don't need 1080p quality, there's the DCS-960L, which comes with wireless-AC support and a 180-degree field of view, but has its resolution capped at 720p. In second place is Netgear, maker of the Arlo cameras. Because they run on batteries, they're great if you want to build an un-tethered indoor or outdoor home security system.
Best PC Components Retailer (Singapore) - Fuwell
Sim Lim Square has always been the go-to place for DIY enthusiasts building their own systems, as this is the mall that gathers numerous PC components retailers under the same roof. (Sorry, Funan.) For the eighth consecutive year, our readers have voted Fuwell their favorite PC components retailer. Together with Cybermind, Best Bargain, and PC Themes, these four retailers already garnered more than half of our readers' votes.
Readers’ Choice Awards - Gaming
Best Gaming Graphics Processor Brand - NVIDIA
With a staggering 80% share of the votes, NVIDIA is once again the winner in this category. In May 2016, NVIDIA introduced the GeForce GTX 1080 (read: custom cards shootout) and GTX 1070, two screaming-fast GPUs built on its Pascal architecture. To recap, the former is faster than 2015's single-GPU champ, the GTX Titan X; and the latter is, well, basically a Titan X at less than half the price. The GeForce 10 series family has grown quite a bit since then, with additions such as the GTX 1060, GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1050, and of course, a new crazy powerful Titan X. And let's not forget about the GeForce 10 series mobile GPUs for notebooks, which unlike previous years have specs that match closely to their desktop counterparts. For AMD, its VR-ready Polaris stack comprises of the Radeon RX 480, RX 470, and RX 460, all of which target budget-conscious gamers who still need decent performance.
Best Gaming Monitor Brand - ASUS
With 30% of the votes, ASUS is our readers’ favorite gaming monitor brand. If you're looking for a big G-Sync-capable IPS monitor, there's the well regarded 27-inch ROG Swift PG279Q that's overclockable to 165Hz. Too big? Then consider the slightly more manageable 24-inch, full HD ROG Swift PG248Q, which also supports G-Sync and is overclockable to 180Hz. If you're going for the jugular, then it has to be the ROG Swift PG348Q, a 34-inch, 21:9 (3,440 x 1,440 pixels) curved behemoth. Samsung, which is increasingly bringing its quantum-dot tech to monitors, is second with 16% of the votes. Acer, which also has giant monitors to offer (read: 32-inch Predator XB321HK and 34-inch Predator X34), is third with 12%.
Best Gaming Keyboard and Mouse Brand - Razer
The contest for our Best Gaming Keyboard and Mouse Brand award involved more than 20 brands, but at the end of the day, the trophy went home with Razer. If you're a gamer, you'd have heard of Razer's BlackWidow series, which includes keyboards such as the BlackWidow X Chroma and the 2016 BlackWidow Ultimate. And in January this year, the company unveiled a new BlackWidow Chroma V2 that features a new switch type and detachable wrist rest. If you're shopping for a gaming mouse, 2016 saw the arrival of the entry-level Abyssus V2, which sports an ambidextrous design and a “true” 5,000 DPI optical sensor. And oh, did someone say gaming mouse mats?
Best Gaming Desktop PC Brand - Aftershock
With 36% of the votes, local outfit Aftershock PC is once again our readers’ favorite gaming desktop PC brand. To recap, the Ultracore is the company's flagship gaming PC. It supports a fully custom open loop liquid cooling setup, custom paint jobs, and course, you can deck it with premium gaming components, such as an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB card and an Intel Core i7-7700 CPU. You don't have to go so high end though; Aftershock's Hypergate mid tower, Tremor, and Zeal gaming rigs have all been recently updated with GeForce 10 series GPUs and Kaby Lake CPUs. Last year, the company also dipped its toes into the mini PC market with the Nano series, and worked with fiber broadband provider ViewQwest to offer a custom Boost PC for subscribers of the latter's 10Gbps Black plan.
Best Gaming Notebook Brand - Dell/Alienware
With 25% of the votes, Alienware (a subsidiary of Dell) is the winner of this category once again. Just this past October, the company refreshed its Alienware 13, 15, and 17 gaming notebooks with - no surprise - NVIDIA's 10 series graphics chips. The new notebooks sport redesigned hinges, and up to 20% reduction in size compared to their predecessors. Additionally, they pack a Windows Hello camera for use with Windows 10, though only the bigger Alienware 15 and 17 feature a new TactX keyboard that offers N-key rollover and up to 2.2mm key travel. Followed closely behind is Aftershock PC with 22% of the votes. The local custom PC maker also updated its notebook lineups with NVIDIA Pascal GPUs last year; and earlier this year, it announced a new entry-level MX series powered by Intel Kaby Lake CPUs.
(Editor's note: Like last year, this year's Tech Awards' video games merit categories are presented in collaboration with GameAxis.com. In addition to the usual Best Gaming Console and Best Gaming Publisher awards, we've a new VR Gaming Gear award this year.)
Best Gaming Console Brand - Sony
Once again, our readers have chosen Sony as their favorite gaming console maker. To recap, there are two PlayStation 4 consoles you can get at the moment: the PlayStation 4 Slim and PlayStation 4 Pro. At its name implies, the PlayStation 4 Slim is a slimmer and more energy-efficient update of the conventional PS4. On the other hand, the still-pretty-much-out-of-stock-everywhere PlayStation 4 Pro has a higher-clocked processor, a beefier GPU, and supports 4K gaming and HDR. Anything but PS4? Well, Microsoft's Xbox One S has hit retail recently as well, and Nintendo's Switch is set to launch soon on March 3rd (but can you stomach the price?).
Best Gaming Publisher - Nintendo
Maybe it's the effect of Super Mario Run for mobile (we'd like to think it's The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD for the Wii U), because our readers have this year voted Nintendo as their favorite gaming publisher. With 21% of the votes, the Japanese video game company managed to edge out last year's winner Activision Blizzard, which has gotten 18% of the votes this time round. Electronic Arts is a very close third with its 17% share.
Best VR Gaming Gear Brand - Sony
VR gaming is still in its early stages, but our readers already have their favorite. Sony, maker of the PlayStation VR headset, is the winner of this inaugural award with 33% of the votes. In second place is Facebook-owned Oculus VR, which makes the Oculus Rift. HTC, which quietly launched its Vive headset late last year is in fourth place with 11%. Surprisingly, Samsung is third. We can only posit Galaxy phone users like what they're seeing with the new Gear VR; not to mention this is still one of the more affordable ways to get into VR.
Readers' Choice Awards - Consumer Electronics (Part 1)
Best Business Notebook Brand - Lenovo
With 24% of the votes, the Best Business Notebook Brand award is once again won by Lenovo, currently the world’s largest PC maker and which shipped 56 million units last year, according to Gartner. Last year, we reviewed the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and found it to be the business notebook to beat. And in the near future, more X, L, and T series ThinkPads featuring Intel's Kaby Lake processors are expected to land on our shores. If your business needs are simple, check out this cool, traditional keyboard-less Yoga Book. Apple, with 20% of the votes, is in second place. Did the iPhone maker's aggressively redesigned 2016 MacBook Pros harm its chances this year?
Best 2-in-1 Notebook Brand - ASUS
Some call it notebook-tablet hybrids, some call it 2-in-1 notebooks. Whichever the case, such new form factor is only possible due to the multifaceted nature of Windows 10. A new category we created two years back to reflect this form factor trend, this award has been won by ASUS on both occasions. Well, you can call it a three-peat now, as ASUS is the winner yet again, this time with 33% of the votes. To recap, in 4Q last year, ASUS launched the Transformer 3 Pro, which features a kickstand and detachable Transformer Cover keyboard, to go head-on with Microsoft's Surface Pro 4. Looking for something decidedly more entry-level? There's the Transformer Book T101, a 10.1-inch machine that weighs just 580g without its keyboard. Microsoft, which didn't release any new Surface Pro device last year, is second with 26% of the votes. If you prefer Lenovo's devices, the Chinese company has new Yoga and Miix devices too.
Best Tablet Brand - Apple
With 53% of the votes, Apple’s iPad remains our readers’ most beloved tablet. Kudos to Apple, because its only new iPad in 2016 was the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. (The iPad Mini 4 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro were announced in September 2015.) Like the bigger iPad Pro, this 9.7-inch pro iPad supports the Apple Pencil that lets you write and draw fluidly like a real pencil, and it's still the only iOS device that has a True Tone Display that dynamically adjusts the white balance of the screen to adapt its color to your environment. That said, if you're considering an iPad now, we'd say wait, because Apple is widely expected to refresh its tablet lineup in the coming few months. And for what it's worth, second place Samsung, which launched a refreshed Galaxy Tab S2 and Tab A last year, apparently has a Galaxy Tab S3 on the horizon.
Best Compact Camera Brand - Canon
Good news, camera makers! According to CIPA, sales of digital cameras are improving. In fact, looking at December 2016 data, there's actually a year-on-year increase in net shipments. For this Readers’ Choice category, our winner is Canon, which garnered 28% of the votes. For the benefit of those not keeping track, the Japanese camera maker introduced quite a few compact cameras last year. We've the PowerShot G7 X Mark II and SX720 HS in early 2016, followed by the PowerShot SX620 HS with 25x zoom soon after. And barely into 2017, we already have the PowerShot G9 X Mark II and new IXUS cameras.
Best Interchangeable Lens Camera Brand - Canon
In a nutshell, interchangeable lens cameras refer to both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. After tabulating the votes, the winner is Canon with 32% of the votes. In second place is its long-time DSLR rival Nikon with 19%. To recap, 2016 saw the arrival of the EOS 80D for enthusiasts, the EOS 1300D for beginners, and the EOS 5D Mark IV for pros. And for its compact mirrorless EOS M family, we got a Rilakkuma edition of the EOS M10 in the middle of the 2016 and the top-of-the-line M5 later in the year. And sticking with its commitment to expand and prioritize the available EOS M camera and lens options, Canon has announced the new EOS M6 literally just a few days ago. Olympus, which most recent camera is the OM-D E-M1 Mark II, completes the top three.
Best Action Camera Brand - GoPro
With 40% of the votes, GoPro is the winner of our new Best Action Camera Brand award. The company's latest Hero action camera models are the Hero 5 Black and Hero 5 Session, both introduced in September 2016. Both action cams are waterproof up to 10m, capable of 4K video recording at 30 frames per second, and support USB-C connectivity. As the action cam market gets more crowded (and smartphones become more capable), GoPro has recently entered the drone market with its Karma Drone. In second place is ViDi, maker of the aptly-named ViDi LCD Action Camera, with 34% of the votes.
Readers' Choice Awards - Consumer Electronics (Part 2)
Best Smartwatch Brand - Apple
With nearly half of the votes, it's a comfortable win for Apple in this Best Smartwatch Brand category. This goes to show that consumers are happy with the newest Apple Watch lineup, which includes the water resistant and GPS-equipped Apple Watch Series 2, the Apple Watch Nike+, and the Apple Watch Edition with white ceramic case. In second place is Pebble, which recently confirmed that it is joining Fitbit and is issuing refunds to backers who haven't received their Pebble Core, Pebble Time 2, or Pebble 2. Samsung, which makes the sleek Gear S3 (including an LTE version) and tons of watch bands to go along with it, is in third place with 14% of the votes. And you know what, Samsung's smartwatches also work on iPhones. (Additional read: our 2017 smartwatch shootout.)
Best Activity Tracker Brand - Fitbit
While Apple Watch is the most successful smartwatch in the market today, we're glad that it didn’t spell the death of fitness trackers. In fact, Apple has pivoted the Watch's marketing message to focus more on its health and fitness features. Like last year, Fitbit is the runaway winner in this category, with 52% of the votes. Currently, Fitbit makes no less than seven activity-tracking devices, including the new HRM-capable Charge 2 and the slim Flex 2, the bangle-like Alta and the watch-like Blaze, as well as the Surge "super watch". In second place is Garmin, which recently unveiled an EZ-Link-compatible Vivosmart HR activity tracker.
Best Consumer Electronics Chain Store (Singapore) - Challenger
With 41% of the votes, IT and CE chain store Challenger has now won our Best CE Chain Store award for five consecutive years. And that's despite the closure of Funan, the mall in which Challenger was an anchor tenant. Harvey Norman (which opened a giant flagship outlet at Millenia Walk in late 2015 and followed that up with the Games Hub in 2016) and Courts complete the top three.
Best Electronics Shopping Portal (Singapore) - Qoo10
Did you know that Qoo10 is by Giosis, a joint venture company formed with eBay? The Giosis Group now operates seven localized online marketplaces in five countries, including Japan and Singapore, and has plans to expand into more Asian countries in the near future. With 28% of the votes, Qoo10 is the winner of our Best Electronics Shopping Portal (Singapore) award for the second straight year. Not far behind is Lazada, with 22%. (Protip: Have questions about Qoo10? You can seek the help of our forum members in this long and ongoing thread.)
Readers' Choice Awards - Consumer Electronics (Part 3)
Best TV Brand - Samsung
Having dominated the market for the past 11 years, we aren’t at all surprised that our readers have once again voted Samsung their favorite TV maker. Last year, the Korean manufacturer's strong 4K TV lineup was split into two camps: SUHD and UHD. The former comprises of the quantum dot-enhanced KS9800, KS9000, KS7500, and KS7000, while the latter is made up of the more traditional KU6500, KU6400, KU6300, and KU6000. That said, know that moving forward, Samsung’s quantum dot 4K LED-LCD TVs will be called “QLED” TVs. Enhanced with a new metal-coated quantum dot material and a re-engineered structure, these QLED TVs claim a brightness of up to 1,500 - 2,000 nits and DCI-P3 coverage of up to 99%. More importantly, Samsung promises 100% color volume regardless of brightness, something that OLED is still weak in at the moment. But other brands like LG, Panasonic, and Sony aren't resting on their laurels. With Panasonic and Sony now joining LG in making OLED TVs, Samsung has a big fight on its hands this year when it comes to the picture quality stakes.
Best Pay TV Service (Singapore) - StarHub TV
Mostly known for its cable TV services, StarHub also has something called StarHub TV on Fiber, which is its Internet TV service. In April 2016, StarHub brought Netflix to its fiber TV customers through their set-top boxes on channel 525. StarHub mobile and broadband customers also get to enjoy seamless streaming on their smart devices too, thanks to StarHub’s participation in the Netflix Open Connect program. But Netflix isn't the only content provider StarHub is working with: in June last year, StarHub announced the launch of the CatchPlay service on StarHub TV. Other notable launches include the Smithsonian HD channel in September, the Love Nature HD channel in November, and a dedicated Korean movie channel just this January.
Best Video Streaming Service Provider (Singapore) - Netflix
With a majority 62% of the votes, Netflix is our readers' favorite video streaming service and the first recipient of our Best Video Streaming Service Provider award. Really, what else can we say about Netflix that we haven't said before? Even Singtel and StarHub love Netflix! Frequent readers of HardwareZone will also know that Amazon's Prime Video has landed on our shores this past December; and we've just the article for those still deciding on which service to get. Don't like either of them? Then perhaps you should check out some of the smaller players, such as CatchPlay.
Best Business Projector Brand - Epson
Named the world’s number one selling projector brand for the last 15 years, this is the fourth year in a row our readers have voted Epson (20%) their favorite business projector brand. In August 2015, the company launched several affordable business-oriented models, including the EB-U04, which is a WUXGA 3LCD projector that costs just S$1,299. This and other models such as the EB-W04 have since become staples at tech shows, targeting smart shoppers looking for value-for-money business projectors. That said, know that Epson has in the past year adjusted its strategy to focus more on premium models. For example, the company's latest projector endeavors include the EB-G7000 series, which offers high brightness and 4K enhancements. There's also the EB-L1000 series of 3LCD laser projectors we saw in August last year, and the super-bright, 25,000-lumen EB-L25000U in October. In second place is NEC, which recently launched an MC series designed for classroom and office use.
Best Home Theater Projector Brand - Sony
With 30% of the votes, our readers have once again chosen Sony as their favorite home theater projector brand. Looking at its product lineup, perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise. For instance, we previewed the Sony VPL-VW5000ES SXRD 4K HDR home cinema projector early last year, and loved it so much until we knew of its S$84,000 price tag. Thankfully, Sony did release a (relatively) more wallet-friendly VPL-VW550ES later in the year. A 1,800-lumen beamer, the 4K-capable VW550ES has a powered zoom lens with support for lens shift, a 350,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, and is said to last up to 6,000 hours in Low mode. But if 4K isn't your cup of tea, Sony has a new full HD SXRD model in the form of the VPL-HW45ES. In second place is Epson, with 20% of the votes.
Readers' Choice Awards - Consumer Electronics (Part 4)
Best Headphones Brand - Klipsch
Featuring more than 30 brands, the headphones category is another hotly contested Readers’ Choice category. After tallying the votes, Klipsch is the winner this year with 37% of the votes, comfortably beating last year's and five-time winner Sennheiser (which is now in third place). To recap, Klipsch's flagship headphones are the Reference On-Ear, and a new version 2 was just announced this past December. Moving down the ladder, we've the Reference R6 On-Ear and Reference R6i On-Ear, the key difference being the latter having a remote control. Bose, maker of the excellent QC35 noise-canceling headphones, is second with 11%.
Best In-Ear Earphones Brand - Klipsch
Carrying the momentum from the headphones category, Klipsch is also the winner of our Best In-Ear Earphones Brand award, this time with a good 40% of the votes. To recap, the two-way, dual-armature-equipped X20i is the American company's flagship in-ears, followed by the X12i, XR8i, and X6i. And if you hate wires, the R6 has an Bluetooth in-ear version. Prefer something that's more resistant to moisture and sweat? Then take a look at the AS-5i and AW-4i. In second and third places are Bose and Sennheiser respectively.
Best Wireless Speakers Brand - Sonos
With 38% of the votes, the winner of our Best Wireless Speakers Brand award is Sonos, which is known for its smart speakers such as the Play:1 and Play:5. For the past year, Sonos has been working hard to add support for streaming music services. In October 2015, Amazon Music support officially arrived on Sonos speakers, and this was followed by Apple Music in February 2016. Voice control is another area of focus: in 2017, owners of Alexa-enabled devices such as the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot will be able to use the intelligent personal assistant to control their Sonos sound systems. Bose, which won this category last year, is second this year with 20% of the votes. Creative, which launched the iRoar Go and several Nuno and Muvo series speakers last year, is third.
Best Home Theater System Brand - Bose
With 31% of the votes, this is the seventh straight year our readers have voted Bose their favorite home theater system brand. Just this past November, Bose launched three all-new wireless home entertainment systems: the 5-speaker Lifestyle 650 and 600, and the SoundTouch 300. In a nutshell, the Lifestyle 650 and 600 support Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless music streaming, 4K video compatibility, and have six HDMI inputs. The Lifestyle 650's OmniJewel satellite speakers are made from a single piece of extruded aluminum and offer 360-degree output; while the Lifestyle 600's Jewel Cube speakers feature direct/reflecting technology, with precisely angled transducers inside each of them. On the other hand, the SoundTouch 300 is a soundbar system that also supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; and if you want more bass or more pronounced surround sound effects, you can add an additional bass module or a couple of rear surround speakers.
Readers' Choice Awards - Communications
Best Mainstream Smartphone Brand - Samsung
With 37% of the votes, Samsung is still our readers' favorite mainstream smartphone brand. For sure, 2016 was an eventful year for the Korean company: it started the year well with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, and followed both acts up brilliantly with the Galaxy Note 7. Alas, the Note 7 ended with a bang as it started catching fire, and as they say, the rest is history. (For those interested, Samsung concludes that aggressive battery design is to blame, and promises comprehensive measures to prevent such incidents from happening again.) While the new Galaxy A series phones are Samsung's first smartphones in 2017, it's clear all eyes would be on the upcoming Galaxy S8, which Samsung says would not be rushed after the Note 7 debacle. Coming in second is Xiaomi, purveyor of some very fine smartphones such as the Mi 5, Mi Note 2, and Mi Mix. And in third place is ASUS, maker of the ZenFone series, which includes the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Zoom, ZenFone 3 Max, and ZenFone 3 Deluxe - just to name a few.
Best Premium Smartphone Brand - Apple
With 57% of the votes, Apple is once again our readers' favorite premium smartphone maker. Unless you've just returned to civilization from the Amazon Jungle, you'll know all about the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, their two new matte black and jet black finishes, the dual-camera setup on the 5.5-inch model, the craze on launch day, and the fact that Apple has just made tons of money off them. With the "iPhone 8" later this year widely expected to feature an OLED display and support for wireless charging, it'd take a lot from the other brands to stop Apple's most important product from retaining this award next year.
Best Telco (Singapore) - Singtel
Singtel is still our readers’ favorite telco this year, garnering half of all the votes. Its overall position is still strong despite the presence of a new digital telco player, Circles.Life, which entered the market in mid 2016. We can't say the same for StarHub that seems to have lost footing since the previous year.
Meanwhile, Singtel's best moves last year include the new DataX3 mobile data add-on, the expansion of its ReadyRoam service to 26 countries, and its collaboration with fellow telcos M1 and StarHub on a universal mobile-based authentication platform. Singtel also launched Cast last year, which is an OTT video portal app that lets subscribers access on-demand video content while on the go. And Singtel Music, a music streaming service that doesn’t eat into your mobile data because you pay a flat discounted fee, now plays nice with Spotify, KKBOX, AMPed, MeRadio, and Tidal. For something more recent, Singtel has just upgraded its 4G network to support 450Mbps.
Best Fiber Broadband Service Provider (Singapore) - Singtel
Compared to fixed line and mobile telephone services, the fiber broadband market in Singapore is a lot more competitive due to the presence of more providers. (Case in point: WhizComms is the latest kid in town.) Still, Singtel has retained the award that it won for the past five years, with 33% of the votes this time round. To recap, in February 2016, Singtel announced a crazy-fast, S$189/month 10Gbps fiber broadband plan for hardcore users ready to make the jump. Of course, things have changed since then and Singtel isn't the only one with a 10Gbps plan; M1, SuperInternet, and ViewQwest also have their own 10Gbps plan. MyRepublic, which recently lost the right to become Singapore's fourth telco to TPG Telecom, is second with a pretty sizeable 27% of the votes. It has increased in mind share considerably since last year and it would be interesting to see how this scene pans out for the rest of 2017.