Yes 2018 is almost over so it’s time for the Ausdroid team to individually reflect on the phones and gadgets that they judge to be the best this year.
For myself and my family, this was the year of smart speakers and smart devices.
We began the year with none, and now we’re used to commanding our Google home compatible speakers to play our favourite radio station, let us know the latest cricket score, control playback of Pocketcast podcasts etc.
I also procured a few Amazon Alexa speakers to keep track of that ecosystem and have found it useful as a command centre for controlling our smart gadgets e.g. “Alexa turn the TV on, Alexa turn the light off”.
Best Value for Money Smartphone
There have been a lot of good Android phones released during 2018 but my favourite remains the Nokia 7 Plus which was released early this year.
The Nokia 7 Plus runs the purest form of Android One, exactly as designed by Google.
Android One phones get guaranteed monthly security updates for 3 years and operating system updates for 2 years.
The Nokia 7 Plus has a 3,800mah battery which is amongst the largest available of any Android phone sold retail in Australia.
Many Australians have experienced years of low or no wage increases but this doesn’t mean they should miss out on quality mobile phone hardware and software experiences.
The current street price for the Nokia 7 Plus of $438 at Officeworks and JBHIFI is extremely good value for money.
Best Smart Speaker
My choice of best smart speaker the Sony SRS-XB501G is a late entry to the list as I only got access to the review unit in mid December and haven’t finished writing the review.
I wasn’t expecting to like this speaker but it’s capabilities surprised me and I think it will suit most people who aren’t audiophiles and only want one decent sounding affordable smart speaker in their kitchen or living area.
The SRS-XB501G contains 2.1 speakers (125mm subwoofer plus 2 x 45mm Satellites. It’s IP65 rated, portable or able to be powered from mains electricity, has Google Assistant and built in light effects you can turn on/off.
It’s fun, Wi-Fi enabled, Bluetooth, Chromecast, NFC, you can charge other USB C devices from it and it has a tripod mount. bout all that it’s missing is an AUX port and ethernet port which will not be an issue for most people.
My one caveat is that the default sound emphasises Bass too much. Once I connected it to the Sony Music Centre app on my phone and changed to ClearAudio+ the sound improved a lot.
The Sony SRS-XB501G has an RRP of $399 but the retail price is currently $269 at the Good Guys.
Best Smart Home Device
Until late this year smart wifi controllable power plugs sold in Australia cost $50-$60 each which was hard to justify when you might want to buy several of them.
First ALDI released a fairly chunky smart plug for $20, closely followed by Australian brand Mirabella which released a slimline smart plug for $29 and Bunnings followed soon after with the same design as Miraballa for $20.
All three brands can be controlled via Google, Alexa and IFTT. They use the same TUYA smart software so you can use the Tuya, Mirabella or Brilliant app to control a mixture of these brands plugs.
I have had a look at all of them. I won’t be using the ALDI’s smart plugs much because they’re too chunky and block the next power socket.
Mirabella had good tech support when I asked them some questions so I’m happy to suggest those. The Bunnings smart plug is the same design and $9 cheaper at present, I don’t know how good their support is.
Best Android TV
When I reviewed it recently I decided the Sony A9F OLED Android TV is the Bugatti Chiron of TV’s.
It looks magnificent and is made for people who desire a TV in which engineering has been taken to the max, with cost being irrelevant. If you’re the kind of person who has a cinema room in their home then this should be your choice of TV.
The A9F is fast, a word that I’ve never previously used to describe a Sony Android TV before. The general interface was so much faster than last year’s Sony Android TV models with no lag when moving around the menus and switching between home and apps.
The Sony A9F is currently retailing for the princely sum of $4500 for 55″ and $6000 for the 65″.
What are your favourite devices, accessories or gizmos for the year 2018? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Keep an eye out too for the “Best of 2018” stories from my Ausdroid colleagues as well.