Familiar names dominate The Straits Times Digital Awards 2017

Familiar names dominated The Straits Times Digital Awards, which included new categories this year

Once again, Apple turned out to be the biggest winner at The Straits Times Digital Awards.

The Cupertino tech giant took home seven awards last year. This year, it garnered five awards. Four of those were Readers' Choice awards decided by ST readers in an online poll last month.

The Straits Times editorial team awarded the coveted Best Smartphone Editor's Choice prize to the Apple iPhone 7.

Canoncame in second to Apple with four awards.

It showed that it is still the most popular camera brand by sweeping the Readers' Choice award in three camera categories.

Asus, Samsung and Bang & Olufsen (B&O) each garnered three of the awards.

Asus dominated the Ultrabook category, winning both Editor's Choice and Readers' Choice.

B&O took home half of the six available awards in three audio categories, while Samsung won the editorial team's hearts with the great smartphone camera in its Galaxy S7 edge. We also picked Samsung's Gear S3 as the winner in the smartwatch category.

A total of 110 products and games were nominated in 20 categories. This year, we introduced new categories, including Best Smart TV and Best Wireless Router, to reflect the rising importance of the Internet of Things. Here is the full list of the winners.


Smartphone

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: APPLE

Apple iPhone 7

Apple has shown once again that it is king in the smartphone arena, despite some questionable choices in the latest iteration of its iPhone.

It has one of the best cameras in the market, is blazingly fast and smooth out of the box and has the best integration of software and hardware in a mobile device.

The loss of the headphone jack and criticisms that it felt like an incremental upgrade rather than a new iPhone didn't stop users from snapping it up when it was launched, which is a testament to the iPhone's staying power.

OTHER FINALISTS

• HTC 10

• Huawei P9

• LG G5

• Samsung Galaxy S7

READERS' CHOICE:

Apple iPhone 7

64.5% of total votes


Phablet

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: LG

LG V20

LG's V20 packed a whole host of features in its 5.7-inch body which gave it the edge over the other phablets.

Its specs are a dream list for power users: Snapdragon 820 processor, two rear cameras, dual SIM card slots, Hi-Fi audio playback and a removable battery.

Its dual-camera set-up can shoot ultra-wide-angle shots, which look great on the V20's vibrant and colourful quad-HD quantum display screen. It is also the mobile phone of choice for audiophiles, thanks to its four digital-to-analog convertors, which allows it to play high-resolution music and drive Hi-Fi headphones.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Huawei Mate 9

• Lenovo Phab Pro 2

• Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

READERS' CHOICE:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

60.3% of total votes


Smartphone camera

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: SAMSUNG

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

We had a hard time trying to decide which smartphone has the best camera. All the finalists here are pretty impressive.

But in the end, we decided to go with Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. It might not have a dual-lens camera like some of the finalists here, but it produces still images with superb edge-to-edge sharpness and great dynamic range.

Nightscene photos are equally well rendered. With selfies, you get smooth skin and sharp details. For most situations, the S7 edge takes the crown.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Huawei Mate 9

• LG V20

• Sony Xperia XZ

READERS' CHOICE:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

57.8% of total votes


Gaming laptop

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: DELL

Alienware 17

Gaming laptops got a significant performance boost last year with the launch of Nvidia's GTX 10-Series graphics chips. Our Editor's Choice pick is powered by one of these chips, though the laptop did not produce the best frame rates.

Instead, it was the eye-tracking technology on the Alienware 17 that caught our fancy. This promising feature lets you use your eyes to wake up the laptop, move the mouse cursor and target enemies in supported games.

The Alienware 17 was not too shabby either in games - its GTX 1070 chip is good enough for virtual reality titles. Alienware also did a good job of slimming down the laptop while retaining the flavour of its distinctive design. Our readers concurred with us, as they, too, picked the Alienware 17.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Acer Predator 15

• Aftershock S-15

• Asus ROG Strix GL502

• MSI GT83VR 6RF Titan SLI

READERS' CHOICE:

Alienware 17

24.4% of total votes


Ultrabook

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: ASUS

Asus ZenBook 3

PC makers last year continued to push the portability envelope with increasingly thin ultrabooks. Both the Acer Swift 7 and the HP Spectre were incredibly slim and, surprisingly, had very decent battery life too.

Another surprise was the Razer Blade Stealth. The gaming hardware maker's first ultrabook was a solid effort, with a trademark multi-coloured keyboard backlight.

But our pick, as well as that of our readers, was the stylish Asus ZenBook 3. While it may seem to be inspired by the Apple MacBook, the ZenBook 3 comes in a classy shade of blue.

It is extremely well-built with premium materials. Its battery life was relatively good too.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Acer Swift 7

• HP Spectre

• Lenovo Ideapad 710S

• Razer Blade Stealth

READERS' CHOICE:

Asus ZenBook 3

35.7% of total votes


Hybrid laptop

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: HP

HP Spectre x360

Hybrid or 2-in-1 laptops offer unmatched versatility with their ability to switch between various usage modes. This year's models are thinner and lighter and, hence, more usable than before.

Notably, three of the finalists are modelled after the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and come with separate keyboard docks. Lenovo's Yoga Book also deserves a mention here for its innovative note-taking feature that digitises your handwritten notes in real time.

However, our pick, the HP Spectre x360, uses a flexible hinge. It may not be as light as some of its rivals, but its performance and battery life were top-notch.

Our readers plumped for the Asus Transformer 3 Pro, which improves slightly on the Surface, and comes in at a lower price point.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Acer Switch Alpha 12

• Lenovo Yoga Book

• Samsung Galaxy TabPro S

READERS' CHOICE:

Asus Transformer 3 Pro

27.4% of total votes


Business laptop

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: LENOVO

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Last year's top business laptops often resemble premium consumer ultrabooks.

But they offer more features, from built-in hardware encryption to fingerprint sensors.

In fact, our winner, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, weighs less than 13-inch ultrabooks, despite having a larger 14-inch screen.

Its space-grade carbon fibre chassis is also designed to withstand shocks and spills.

Coupled with its comfortable keyboard and good battery life, the X1 Carbon is everything you'd need to be productive on the go.

Lenovo seems to be the go-to business laptop brand for our readers. The X1 Carbon won the Readers' Choice award, which was snagged by the Lenovo ThinkPad X250 in the previous edition.

OTHER FINALISTS

• AsusPro B8430U

• Dell Latitude 13 7000 Series

• HP EliteBook Folio

• Toshiba Portege Z30-C

READERS' CHOICE:

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

30.1% of total votes


Compact camera

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: SONY

Sony Cyber-shot RX100 V

The Sony Cyber-shot RX100 series has won two iterations of this category in the past.

But it has not repeated the feat in the past two years. This year, the fifth version of RX100 impressed us again.

It might have the same 20.1-megapixel 1-inch image sensor and 24-70mm f/1.8-f/2.8 as its predecessor, but it has 315 phase-detection autofocusing (AF) points.

And it possesses super-fast AF speed and a humongous shooting buffer that puts some DSLR cameras to shame.

Coupled with a built-in electronic viewfinder and compact pocketable body, it really is the complete compact camera.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Fujifilm X70

• Leica X-U

• Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10

READERS' CHOICE:

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II

35.6% of total votes


Mirrorless camera

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: FUJIFILM

Fujifilm X-Pro2

This year's mirrorless camera category sees an amazing line-up of finalists.

Canon finally got mirrorless right with the EOS M5, while Sony continued to impress with the speedy a6300.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a superb camera that is unfortunately laden with a hefty price tag.

However, in terms of design, feel and image quality, we prefer the Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro2. So it became a fight between the two Fujifilms that have the same image sensor and performance.

In the end, the X-Pro2 won our hearts with its rangefinder-like styling and handling.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Fujifilm X-T2

• Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

• Sony a6300

READERS' CHOICE:

Canon EOS M5

41.0% of total votes


DSLR camera

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: PENTAX

Pentax K-1

Last year was an Olympic Games year, so we saw the introduction of two superb flagship full-frame DSLR camera in the form of Canon EOS 1D X Mark II and Nikon D5.

Canon further upped the ante with the fourth version of its remarkable EOS 5D series. The Nikon D500 would have won the APS-C interchangeable lens category, but this category is no more.

In the end, the DSLR camera that Pentaxians have been waiting for clinched the prize. The Pentax K-1 is simply the best value-for-money full-frame DSLR camera you can buy now, with its fantastic image quality, quick operation, weather-resistant build and affordable price tag.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Canon EOS 1D X Mark II

• Nikon D5

• Nikon D500

READERS' CHOICE:

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

35.2% of total votes


Game

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: BLIZZARD ENTERTAINMENT

Overwatch

Blizzard Entertainment's colourful, frenetic multiplayer first-person shooter is easy to pick up, yet becomes strategically satisfying the more you master it.

Each character has its own distinct play style and every match is different, which keeps players coming back for more.

Constant updates to the game, which add new heroes, maps and game types, also give Overwatch an enduring longevity which ensures it'll still be played years down the road.

The other game nominees were masters of story-telling and gameplay in their own right.

However, it is Overwatch that gets play of the game for its replayability and mass-market appeal.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Battlefield 1

• Civilization VI

• Dark Souls III

• Final Fantasy XV

• Forza Horizon 3

• Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

• Watch Dogs 2

• XCOM 2

READERS' CHOICE:

Pokemon Go

21.9% of total votes


Local game

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: WITCHING HOUR STUDIOS

Masquerada: Songs And Shadows

Singapore's own Witching Hour Studios proves that local games can succeed on a global level.

The Venetian-themed role-playing game won praise for its strong story-telling, creative world-building and compelling gameplay.

The game's high production value, with voice acting from industry luminaries like Jennifer Hale and Matthew Mercer, also breathed life and fleshed out a cast of memorable characters.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Dark Dot

• Legends Of Callasia

• Rocketbirds 2

• Slashy Hero

• Spacejacked

• Stellar Stars

• Valiant Force

• WickLands

READERS' CHOICE:

ArmaGallant: Decks Of Destiny

17.3% of total votes


Fitness tracker

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: FITBIT

Fitbit Charge 2

Five fitness trackers impressed us last year. The Tomtom Touch is able to measure and track your body fat and muscle composition, while the Fitbit Blaze is a fitness watch that doubles as a smartwatch.

The Garmin Vivosmart HR does practically everything you expect from a fitness tracker, except for its mediocre looks. The Samsung Gear Fit2 even has built-in GPS, but its lack of iOS support dropped it down a notch.

In the end, Fitbit Charge 2 is the most well-rounded fitness tracker with its good looks, deadly accuracy in heart-rate, sleep and steps tracking, as well as automatic workout tracking.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Garmin Vivosmart HR

• Fitbit Blaze

• Samsung Gear Fit2

• Tomtom Touch

READERS' CHOICE:

Fitbit Charge 2

39.9% of total votes


Smartwatch

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: SAMSUNG

Samsung Gear S3

The smartwatch is becoming crowded, with more entries last year. Timepiece giant Casio finally released its first modern smartwatch with the outdoor-oriented WSD-F10, while Asus continues with the affordable route in the ZenWatch 3.

On the other hand, Garmin went for the upscale market with a gorgeous but expensive smartwatch that doubles as a GPS running watch in Fenix Chronos.

Meanwhile, Samsung and Apple both incorporated built-in GPS into their latest smartwatches. While the Apple Watch Series 2 has better water resistance, Samsung Gear S3 won us over with its better looks and support for both Android and iOS.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Asus ZenWatch 3

• Casio WSD-F10

• Garmin Fenix Chronos

READERS' CHOICE:

Apple Watch Series 2

58.9% of total votes


Smart TV

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: LG

LG Signature Oled G6

The buzzword for last year's television sets was High Dynamic Range (HDR), a feature that lets supported models display a wider and richer range of colours.

All the finalists support HDR to a varying extent, with the more expensive models generally implementing it better.

In addition, all but one of these television sets use the LCD technology. Our pick is the Oled-based LG Signature G6 for its deep blacks that are unmatched by its rivals, and for its ultra-slim design.

The other contenders here also offer excellent picture quality and rank among the best LCD TV sets in the market.

The Samsung KS9000 Series 9, which won our Readers' Choice award resoundingly, arguably has the best user interface.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Panasonic LED TV VIERA TH-65DX900S

• Philips 4K Ultra Slim TV powered by Android TV 65PUT7101

• Sony X93D 4K HDR with Android TV 219

READERS' CHOICE:

Samsung 65" SUHD 4K Curved Smart TV KS9000 Series 9

45.3% of total votes


Printer

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: HP

HP OfficeJet Pro 8720 All-in-One

Printers for the home and small office are not exactly hotbeds for innovation.

But they do not shy away from clever features either.

Take the HP OfficeJet Pro 8720 All-in-One, which has a design that puts your printouts below the scanning bed, and not at the side. This reduces the printer's footprint and ensures that the printouts do not land on the floor.

This HP printer also stood out from the others with its modern touch-based interface.

The companion mobile app is equally sleek and easy to use, making mobile printing less of a hassle.

Among its rivals, the Canon Maxify MB5470, which took home the Readers' Choice award, probably comes the closest to matching the HP with its features, performance and ease of use.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Epson L605 Ink Tank System Printer

• Fuji Xerox DocuPrint CP315 dw

• HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile All-in-One 241

READERS' CHOICE:

Canon Maxify MB5470

24.4% of total votes


Wireless router

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: LINKSYS

Linksys EA9500 Max-stream AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit Router

Last year's top routers came packed with plenty of features that will probably be overkill for most consumers. For instance, the MU-MIMO feature on these routers improves the wireless performance of newer smartphones and a handful of laptops.

We also saw the first Wi-Fi system to arrive in Singapore. With its satellite unit, the Netgear Orbi offers more comprehensive coverage than a single router. However, it is not as fast as our pick, the Linksys EA9500.

This model produced the best performance among the finalists, has a sleek and responsive user interface, and includes a useful mobile app.

While its rivals, like the Readers' Choice winner D-Link DIR-895L, offer similar high-end features, they are not as easy to use.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Netgear Nighthawk X10 Smart WiFi Router

• Netgear Orbi Wi-Fi System

• TP-Link AC5400 Wireless Tri-Band MU-MIMO Gigabit Router

READERS' CHOICE:

D-Link DIR-895L AC5300 MU-MIMO Ultra Wi-Fi Router

33.5% of total votes


In-ear earphones

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: BEYERDYNAMIC

Beyerdynamic iDX 200 iE

Audio is deeply personal, as each person prefers a different sound than others. With that in mind, all of our finalists are well-rounded earphones for a variety of use, but with their own unique character that appeals to different audiences.

The iDX 200 iE won us over with its clean, clear and very balanced sound, which makes it versatile and able to do well with any music genre you throw at it.

We also like its great build quality. Its titanium-alloy casing can put up with a lot of jostling around, and feels great and comfortable in the ears.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Bose SoundSport

• Jaybird Freedom

• Onkyo E700M

READERS' CHOICE:

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H5

31.6% of total votes


Over-ear headphones

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: BOSE

Bose QuietComfort 35

It was a tight contest between the feature-packed MDR-1000x, travel-friendly PXC 550, stylish Solo3 Wireless and luxurious Reference On-Ear Headphone II.

Ultimately, the sheer comfort and stellar noise-cancellation of the Bose QuietComfort 35 won out for us.

The QuietComfort 35 are light and cushy enough to remain comfortable for hours on end. And all music sounds sweeter when enveloped in a cloud of silence, which the QuietComfort 35 excels at.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Beats Solo3 Wireless

• Klipsch Reference On-Ear Headphone II

• Sennheiser PXC 550

• Sony MDR-1000x

READERS' CHOICE:

Bose QuietComfort 35

31.5% of total votes


Wireless speakers

EDITOR'S CHOICE:


PHOTO: BANG & OLUFSEN

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A1

All five nominees check the right boxes for what we want in wireless speakers, including portability, sound quality and ease of use.

However, Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay A1 took the prize because it not only sounds great, but looks great as well. Its stylish, circular, space-age looks make it quite the home decor piece, while letting it blast music in all directions.

It packs a very robust punch as well, despite its size.

Music across the spectrum, from the rumbles of the bass to the crystal clarity of the highs, are all reproduced faithfully.

OTHER FINALISTS

• Creative iRoar Go

• JBL Pulse 2

• Razer Leviathan Mini

• Sony SRS-HG1 h.ear go

READERS' CHOICE:

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A1

28.6% of total votes

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Top tech gear 2016'. Print Edition | Subscribe