Testing out a lot of gadgets and gear is part of the job at Stuff. It could be argued that it is the job, given what this magazine is all about. Either way, 2023 has brought us some great, and not so great, gadgets.
We’re not haters, though. So instead of picking the gear misses of the year, the Stuff team has picked our favourite items, gadgets and gizmos that got us through the year.
Dan Grabham, Editor-in-Chief: Sonos Era 300
I guess in terms of time spent using 2023 gadgets, I’d have to choose either the USB-C AirPods Pro (which is really the 2022 ones with a new port, but they’re still brilliant) or the iPhone 15 Pro. It sounds so obvious, but it’s a superb flagship. And then there’s the OnePlus Open foldable, which I still absolutely love using.
But in terms of upping the game, I’m going to pick the Sonos Era 300 as my personal gadget of the year (the Era 100 is pretty good too). The Era 300 is really the next generation of premium Sonos speaker is here and it intros spatial audio support. It has a chunky price point but I think it’s worth every bit – the quality of the audio on offer is exceptional, especially when I tested it with Dolby Atmos tracks from Apple Music. The design is quite distinctive – it’s pinched in the centre like an hourglass due to the speaker arrangement internally. There are two woofers angled left and right as well as four tweeters – two to the side, one to the front and one upward firing to provide that all-important Dolby Atmos-ness.
In my review verdict I said it was “Unashamedly premium and unashamedly brilliant, this latest Sonos will bring a big smile to your face.” Over six months on and I couldn’t have put it better. And with Sonos headphones set to appear soon – 2024 should be a great year for Sonos, too.
Tom Morgan-Freelander, Deputy Editor: Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses
A quick glance at my social accounts suggests I’m not who Ray-Ban and Meta had in mind when they created the Smart Glasses. My last Instagram post was July, and my last Twitter (Sorry, X) post was even earlier. With the sincerest of apologies to Zuck, I can still count the number of Threads I’ve ever written on my fingers. And yet I can’t think of another gadget I’ve enjoyed more.
That’s largely down to me becoming a dad for the first time this year. Hands-free photos and filming videos from a first person perspective is a dream when you’ve a newborn in one hand and a toy/bottle/nappy/change of clothes in the other. Recording clips with a voice command feels dumb when you’re out in public, but the baby doesn’t judge me. I also love being able to listen to music or a podcast when out with the pushchair, while still being able to hear the baby and the road.
The privacy concerns raised in Stuff’s review don’t bother me much, because I’m not posting pictures of strangers online. The family WhatsApp group, on the other hand… My biggest issue is that it’s winter here in the UK, so I’ve got the narrowest of windows to actually use them. Still, whenever the sun is shining, they’re the first thing I reach for after the pushchair and my house keys.
Spencer Hart, Buying Guide Editor: Google Pixel 8
Picking my favourite gadget of 2023 is a difficult task, after all, I’ve used so many and don’t know where to start! This is the year I finally got an air fryer – the highly commendable Corsori Dual Blaze 6.4L – it totally revolutionised how I cook oven chips. I also finally got a decent pair of true wireless earbuds – the Montblanc MTB 03. I love their luxe design and excellent audio – they make long journeys and sleepless nights go much faster.
If cars count as gadgets, then the Rolls-Royce Spectre certainly stands out. It’s the most impressive electric car I’ve ever driven and marks an exciting new chapter for Rolls-Royce.
But if I had to pick one, standout gadget, it would have to be my Google Pixel 8. The latest Pixel phone is almost perfect in my eyes. I love the compact body, bright display, and simple software, but the best thing of all is, of course, the Pixel 8’s camera. Thanks to Google’s software it’s able to take some amazing pictures, and now, even if the first image you take isn’t any good, it comes with some powerful AI editing tools to fix it. Best Take is a lifesaver when it comes to taking pictures of my son and his cousins, and I love being able to remove distractions in the background with one tap. It’s easily the gadget I’ve used most in 2023, and I will probably continue to use in 2024… until the Pixel 9 is released.
Jack Needham, Features Editor: Urbanista Malibu solar speaker
If there was an equivalent of Spotify Wrapped for the gadgets I’ve tried out this year, then I’ll comfortably be in the top 10%. I’ve used robo-vacs to clean up after my puppy, and survived 7428km on a single power bank. I’ve pitted the Sony WF-1000XM5 buds and Apple AirPods Pro 2 against each other, kept my toes warm with PrimaLoft slippers, and hibernated with an Emma weighted blanket.
My pick for gadget of the year though is something quite simple, yet could be revolutionary (or, at least its tech can). The Urbanista Malibu is a portable solar speaker that never runs out juice. The Swedish audio company sees it as a world first, as it keeps itself alive through a Powerfoyle solar panel that can recharge in both outdoor and indoor light. Urbanista has already invested in this through the Pheonix true wireless in-ears and Los Angeles over-ear headphones, but nothing in 2023 has impressed me more than this innovative piece of tech.
Connor Jewiss, contributor: SwitchBot K10+
SwitchBot’s recently released K10+ is the smallest robo-vac currently on the market. 50% smaller than traditional robot vacuums, it offers up to 90% more cleaning efficiency since it can creep into tight corners. That’s rather perfect for someone that hates fiddling with different vacuum bits. But the K10+ isn’t just about size; it’s smart, too.
It features a LiDAR route algorithm for precise navigation. Plus, there’s a 4L base station that can hold debris for up to 70 days, ideal for those who’d rather not be involved in the daily grind of cleaning. Consider me one of those people.
The device supports four suction levels and uses a high-speed brushless motor to keep noise levels down, a bonus for apartment living. And that’s another box checked. But what impressed me most about the K10+ is how much of an upgrade it is from a “dumb” robo-vac. My previous robot hoover was a more basic Roomba, who seemed to enjoy spending time headbutting the skirting board. Being able to set a robot vacuum up that handles itself from start to end, and can follow a schedule, is what I’m dubbing cleaning bliss. Game-changer in this gaff.
Sam Kieldsen, contributor: DJI Mini 4 Pro
The UK is not a drone-friendly country in 2023. In what might be seen as an attempt to diverge from EU law for political reasons, the government has slapped peculiarly strict laws on the use of consumer drones that all but outlaw the use of anything over 250g in weight in any sort of public setting. Those wonderful Mavic and Air drones made by DJI? They can’t legally be flown closer than 50m to people (you and your mates don’t count, thankfully) or, more egregiously, within 150m of “residential, recreational, commercial and industrial sites”. Good luck finding a suitable permissible flying spot in any town or city in this crowded little island.
Thankfully, drones under 250g don’t fall under these laws, which is why my favourite gadget of the year is the DJI Mini 4 Pro: it’s a drone that us Britain-dwellers can actually use. And it’s DJI’s best little drone too, with a souped-up 48MP camera capable of capturing stunning 10-bit 4K aerial footage and, thanks to a new night mode, is even pretty good at grabbing clean clips after the sun has dipped below the horizon. It’s no exaggeration to say that the image quality here is as good as it gets from a wee drone, and getting the Mini 4 Pro up into the sky and finding new ways to look at my hometown from much closer than a big drone would allow has been a lot of fun.
The drone flies like a dream to boot, so those close flybys don’t come with a dose of will-I-crash anxiety. As the first Mini drone to come with full omnidirectional obstacle avoidance, it’s nigh-on impossible to clatter into something – even when it’s on the autopilot-esque ActiveTrack mode, following a moving target with zero input from you.
The best drone for UK residents? Undoubtedly. And a great piece of gadgetry all round.
Craig Grannell, contributor: Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Scale Arcade Cabinet
Arcade games are in my blood. I grew up during an era of mesmerising arcade cabinets with their blinking lights and strange noises, each one a window to a new and exciting experimental world.
Many of them were great, but Space Invaders was special: the first game I remember playing, while on holiday at some grey British seaside town. I wasn’t tall enough to see the screen, so my dad lifted me up – something he regretted when I turned out to be good at the game.
There’d be no such problems with Numskull’s shelf-friendly replica. Not just because I’m taller these days, but also because it’s much smaller: quarter-scale. Yet despite its diminutive form, this little cab is perfectly playable.
Moreover, it’s the closest you’ll get to the real thing without owning an original cab. It even accurately recreates the Pepper’s ghost effect that makes glowing invaders appear to eerily float before a looming red planet and sky full of stars.
So while there were plenty of amazing black rectangles and sound systems during 2023, and also a bunch of modern games consoles, my favourite gadget this year is ultimately a blast from the past. But what a blast.
Matt Tate, contributor: Steam OLED
I’ve been a bit of an OLED superfan since getting an original PlayStation Vita way back in 2012. I was overjoyed when Nintendo put an OLED display on its mid-gen Switch, and a tiny bit sad to be playing PC games on the otherwise great original Steam Deck’s LCD. You can tell where this is going, can’t you?
The Steam Deck OLED isn’t more powerful than the first-gen model. And if you didn’t like the original design, this revision won’t change your mind. But thanks to it’s really quite stunning 7.4in HDR OLED display, I’ve fallen in love with the Deck all over again, and I’m spending a dangerous amount of time hovering around Steam sales looking for new games that will really give it a workout.
I also love that Valve bumped the refresh rate up to 90Hz, which is definitely noticeable when I’m playing indie games that the Deck can handle at higher refresh rates. The Steam Deck was Stuff’s gadget of the year in 2022, and as far as I’m concerned Valve is picking up back-to-back wins. I just hope it figures out how to make the inevitable Steam Deck 2 a bit easier to hold.