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Expert Reviews Awards 2018: The products of the year

The second half of 2018 is well underway, and we're celebrating by highlighting our favourite product launches over the past 12 months

We may only be midway through 2018, but the past year has played host to many tremendous launches across all manner of product categories, including phones, laptops, TVs, coffee machines and mattresses. There have been so many excellent products popping up over the past 12 months that we thought it best to show them all off in one handy place.

Below, you’ll find our pick of the very best products you can buy in 2018. In each product category we’ve awarded a winner, along with a “Highly Commended” award for the product we think deserves a special mention. The hugely experienced team of reviewers at Expert Reviews has sifted through hundreds of products to diligently choose the most deserving winners.

Expert Reviews Awards 2018: Product of the Year

Winner: OnePlus 6

OnePlus has produced a string of great smartphones since its inception back in 2013, but none of them has wowed us in quite the same way as the all-conquering OnePlus 6. This is a product that encapsulates all that has become great about OnePlus smartphones – fantastic design, fast performance and a great camera – and brings it home at a price that embarrasses the competition from big-name rivals. The OnePlus 6 is, essentially, all the smartphone anyone needs at a price that doesn’t break the bank. It was a simple choice for overall product of the year.

Highly commended: Dyson Cyclone V10

The Dyson Cyclone V10 is important not just because it’s a great cordless vacuum cleaner. It’s important because it’s good enough to replace your regular vacuum cleaner. This is, quite simply, a brilliant product: its powerful motor and suction path layout, bigger dust container and improved battery life ensure cleaning your floors is less of a chore than ever before. It might be expensive, but the Dyson Cyclone V10 is well worth the investment.

Innovation of the Year

Winner: Nintendo Labo

An utterly bonkers concept: Labo successfully proved that playfulness and innovation remains at the heart of Nintendo’s DNA. If you’d have told us 12 months ago that we’d be writing about what is – essentially – a set of cardboard construction kits for Nintendo’s Switch games console, well, we’d have pegged you as some sort of unhinged futurist. But Nintendo successfully pulled this off and then some. There’s simply nothing as innovative, or as outlandish, as Labo.

Premium Phone of the Year

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

Samsung’s smartphones continue to wow, year after year, and 2018 is no different. The Galaxy S9 Plus offers the usual bump in performance, features and refinement in looks, but adds some seriously cutting-edge camera tech on top of that. With an adaptive aperture on the main rear camera that opens to an incredibly bright f/1.5, and and a 2x optical zoom on the secondary shooter, it’s the most capable smartphone camera setup on the market.

Highly Commended: Huawei P20 Pro

The year 2018 will be remembered as the year of smartphone camera innovation, and Huawei has been right in the vanguard of this. Rather than focusing on aperture, though, Huawei has increased the number of cameras on the rear of its smartphone from two to three. It’s the only smartphone you can buy with three rear cameras, and it’s a remarkable photographic machine, capable of capturing amazing images in good light and bad. Oh, and it’s a great smartphone, too.

Mid-Range Phone of the Year

Winner: OnePlus 6

The fact the OnePlus 6 has also been crowned our favourite product of the year shows precisely how formidable this well-priced smartphone actually is. No other smartphone offers this much, and asks for so little in return. The OnePlus 6 is a perfect, shining example that you don’t need to spend top dollar for the latest and greatest phone, with the Shenzhen-based juggernaut resetting the benchmark once more.

Highly Commended: Honor 10

Our honourable (sorry) mention is the affordably priced and decently kitted out Honor 10. Building up quite a reputation, Honor’s latest mid-range phone is anything but a budget alternative: it’s a top-tier phone that successfully joins the ranks of the smartphone greats.

Best Value Phone of the Year

Winner: Motorola Moto G6

Motorola’s Moto G6 successfully carves a rich vein of form. If, like me, you aren’t keen on spending upwards of four figures on a new phone, the Moto G6 offers an alternative that doesn’t scrimp on specs and performs just as well as the other smartphone giants. The days of having to remortgage your home whenever you wanted to buy a new handset are finally long gone. Thank you Motorola.

Highly Commended: Honor 9 Lite

Honor is never afraid to flex its budget muscles, and the 9 Lite is certainly no exception. Fitted with an excellent 18:9 display and a superb set of cameras, Honor’s rivals are going to have to work hard to keep this smartphone down.

Laptop of the Year

Winner: Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

A hard-fought category, the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is the laptop that ultimately comes out on top. Dell’s latest is no ordinary large-screened laptop hybrid: it possesses all the hallmarks of unopposed success, and has the potential to alter the laptop market for future generations to come. Should you fork out the rather hefty sum for one, you’ll be rewarded with, quite simply, the best laptop on the market.

Highly Commended: Google Pixelbook

The Google Pixelbook, as we said in our review, is: “the Chromebook you’ll absolutely want to buy”. A highly persuasive alternative to the ultraportable laptop, the Pixelbook is Google’s best laptop yet: it’s fast, looks swish and is a sheer joy to use. What more do you want?

PC of the Year

Winner: Palicomp i5 Cosmos

There’s no shortage of quality gaming PCs around the £1,000 mark, but the i5 Cosmos proves triumphant on the strength of a couple of its specific components. First is the graphics card, an 8GB GeForce GTX 1070, which can handle 4K resolution in most games, and second is the 256GB SSD, a fiercely quick NVMe model rather than one of the slower SATA-based drives you normally see at this price.

Highly Commended: Lenovo IdeaCentre 620S

At £799, the funky-looking IdeaCentre 620S is both potent and well-priced – unlike a lot of mini PCs. An Intel Optane Memory drive ensures speedy everyday performance, and the discrete GeForce GTX 1050 Ti can handle most games at 1080p.

PC Component of the Year

Winner: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

With its eight cores, 16 threads and – despite both those things – a price below £300, the 2700X is a fitting champion of AMD’s second-gen Ryzen CPUs. It crushes its closest Intel rivals in heavily multithreaded tasks, and finally manages to close the gap on gaming performance too. There’s not a lot of overclocking headroom, but that’s only because the stock frequencies are so high to begin with.

Highly Commended: Samsung 860 Evo

For a few years now, Samsung’s consumer SSDs have been the best in the business, and 2018’s 860 Evo shows why: it pushes the absolute limits of the SATA interface’s speeds, even outdoing the more expensive 860 Pro in certain conditions.

PC Peripheral of the Year

Winner: Canon Pixma MG5750

No PC would be truly complete without a printer, and for just around £70, you can get yourself one of the best-value printers in the market. The Canon Pixma MG5750 is an all-in-one inkjet printer with Wi-Fi capabilities. It’s affordable, easy to run, delivers spectacular results and can scan, too. What more could you want?

Highly Commended: Logitech G Pro Headset

PC gaming headsets have come a long way, and now with eSports increasing in popularity, manufacturers have a greater focus on peripherals that appeal to competitive gamers. The Logitech G Pro is exactly that – a gaming headset with sublime audio quality and a near-perfect microphone for in-game calls. For less than £100, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something better – it’s the complete package and deserves plenty of praise.

TV of the Year

Winner: LG OLED77C8

Last year, LG’s OLED TVs conquered all-comers in the quest for the ultimate in 4K HDR image quality, and 2018’s upgraded C8 range of TVs are set to do it all over again. At just short of £8,000, the LG OLED77C8 is actually rather affordable by the standards of its 77in OLED TV rivals, but it’s the sheer vibrancy and dynamism of the images it produces that will leave you slack-jawed. With perfect blacks and astonishingly realistic colour reproduction, the C8’s OLED panel imbues even standard dynamic range content with a luminous HDR-like quality. If there’s a better TV right now, we’ve not seen it.

Highly Commended: Hisense H50N6800

If you’ve been lusting after a big-screen 4K HDR TV, but just don’t have a couple of thousand pounds going spare, then Hisense’s £579 H50N6800 is a breath of fresh air. It might not be able to make the most of HDR material in the way that far pricier TVs can, but the images it produces are far better than you have any right to expect at the price, and it’s a fantastic option for big-screen 4K gaming on the cheap. With prices dropping ever closer to the £400 mark, this is a budget TV tour de force.

Wearable of the Year

Winner: Garmin Vivoactive 3

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is a sports-orientated smartwatch that does it all. Not only does it have dedicated modes for running, cycling and swimming, but it’s also lightweight and comfortable, and has a battery that’ll keep going all week. There’s support for sensors too, meaning you can use it with an external chest-strap heart rate, and Garmin has added music playback in the updated and aptly named Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music.

Highly Commended: Apple Watch Series 3

Apple has always made great smartwatches, but it’s stepped things up a notch with the Watch Series 3. Along with with its much faster, more power-efficient W2 chipset, the Watch Series 3 adds an altimeter and, most notably, there’s now a cellular version. This means you can make calls, send and receive messages and even stream music while leaving your phone at home (providing you’re on EE).

Headphones of the Year

Winner: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose remains the top dog for active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones. The QuietComfort 35 II is the company’s second take on the vastly impressive QC35 range, adding a dedicated smart button to activate Google Assistant. Simply put, Bose has made the best ANC headphones that little bit smarter.

Highly Commended: Creative Outlier One

It’s easy to overlook a cheap set of earphones, but the Creative Outlier One are an incredible set of in-ears that everyone should have. At just £30, these don’t break the bank, and yet sound absolutely fantastic. They have an in-line mic with media controls, are IPX4 sweatproof and last around nine hours – making them perfect for workouts or your daily commute. The fact that Creative has squeezed in all these features and delivered earphones that sonically punch above their weight, make the Outlier One highly commendable.

Vacuum Cleaner of the Year

Winner: Dyson Cyclone V10

Dyson’s Cyclone V10 is, quite simply, the best cordless vacuum cleaner money can buy. With a redesigned motor, it has incredible cleaning power that’s vastly improved over its predecessor the V8, longer battery life and it’s fantastically light and easy to use. It’s so good it almost makes you look forward to cleaning the house.

Highly Commended: Neato Botvac D7 Connected

Neato’s robot vacuum cleaners have consistently impressed us here at Expert Reviews with their cleaning power and ability to get themselves around even the most cluttered home environments without getting stuck. The D7 Connected takes that up a level. With the ability to set virtual no-go areas in the accompanying app, laser-based navigation and long battery life, the Neato D7 sets the standard for robot vacuum cleaners in 2018.

Coffee Machine of the Year

Winner: Sage by Heston Blumental The Barista Touch

You wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a touchscreen on an espresso machine, but the Barista Touch dares to be different. If you’re daunted by the prospect of a fully manual espresso machine, then the Barista Touch holds your hand throughout every step of the process, and stakes out an almost-perfect middle ground between fully automatic bean-to-cup and manual espresso machines. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a connoisseur or just a keen coffee drinker, the Barista Touch delivers great coffee, shot after shot and cup after cup.

Highly commended: Melitta Caffeo Barista TS Smart

Imagine perfect lattes and cappuccinos at the touch of your smartphone screen. Melitta took its superb Barista TS bean-to-cup machine and elevated it to near-perfection with the addition of a variety of smart, connected features. You can tweak, alter and save your favourite recipes with the accompanying smartphone app, and the sheer quality of the coffee produced by the Melitta is beyond reproach. If you don’t have time or patience for the faff of a manual espresso machine, but you love superb-tasting coffee, then the Caffeo Barista TS Smart will be the best £999 you’ve ever spent.

Soundbar of the Year

Winner:  Samsung HW-MS650

Samsung has been consistently producing excellent soundbars for a while now, and the HW-MS650 is its finest all-rounder. It is one of those rarest of audio products: a TV speaker that’s neat, good looking and great sounding, all at the same time. It delivers crystal-clear mids and treble and thumping bass, all without the need for multiple boxes or a bulky subwoofer and, best of all, it combines that with a raft of connectivity and streaming options via Samsung’s excellent smartphone app. A worthy Product of the Year winner.

Highly Commended: Sky Soundbox

Sky isn’t the first company that springs to mind when it comes to soundbars or speakers, but in partnering with French audio specialist Devialet to produce the diminutive Sky Soundbox, it has well and truly laid down a marker. Able to produce a solidity of sound belying its compact dimensions, the Sky Soundbox is the best TV speaker you can buy for around £299 – the only catch is that you have to be a Sky customer to get that price.

Streaming Service of the Year

Winner: Netflix

This Californian super-streamer cannot be stopped! Year on year, Netflix has continued to dominate the video-streaming market – and 2018 is no different. Netflix offers its customers a huge range of TV shows, movies, and documentaries across every conceivable genre. As well as the usual blockbusters and big HBO shows, there’s an endless library of children’s entertainment, a constantly expanding supply of foreign films, and enough anime to give CrunchyRoll a run for its money. Better yet, you can download all this content for offline viewing, and can stream on your PC, console, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. You can even it control it with an Apple Watch.

The biggest pull for Netflix, the thing that sets it above all the rest, are its Originals. It has funded and released exclusive TV shows such as The Crown, Narcos, Stranger Things, and the multiple Marvel spin-offs. At the 2017 Academy Awards, the Netflix Original documentary Icarus won Best Documentary Feature. You can get all that and more for just £7.99 a month, or £9.99 for Ultra HD.

Highly Commended: Amazon Prime Video

Amazon is catching up quickly with Netflix, mind you. The online superstore now has its own movie and TV production house, Amazon Studios, and has made some critically acclaimed Prime Original like American Gods, The Man in the High Castle, as well as the hugely underrated Jean-Claude Van Johnson. It also has Top Gear. Sorry, we mean The Grand Tour. Like standard Netflix, it’s also £7.99 a month.

Streaming Hardware of the Year

Winner: Roku Streaming Stick+

The awkwardly named Roku Streaming Stick+ offers 4K and HDR10 streaming, something no other streaming stick can claim right now. Another huge benefit is that it gives you access to both Amazon Prime Video and Now TV, whereas the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Now TV Stick prevent users from streaming each others’ content. We also feel that the Roku has the most streamlined and easy-to-use interface of all the streaming sticks, making it perfect for those who love their TV but aren’t super tech-savvy.

Highly Commended: Amazon Fire TV Stick

While it doesn’t give users access to Now TV or 4K streaming, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is still exceptional value for money. It supports a wide range of apps, including Spotify and Plex, so it can be your one-stop shop for all home-entertainment needs. Then there’s the Amazon voice-controlled assistant, Alexa, which makes browsing and playing content easier than ever.

VPN of the Year

Winner: NordVPN

It’s neither the cheapest VPN nor the fastest, but NordVPN gives you the whole package: great features, strong security and excellent privacy protection. What’s more, it’s still great value if you sign up to pay annually – and connection speeds are always pretty good. It’s one of the few VPNs that can get past Netflix’s proxy-blocking systems, and it always goes the extra mile with options to safeguard your anonymity. Easily the best all-round VPN.

Highly Commended: IPVanish

With an improved interface, IPVanish feels slicker and more polished than it did before, looking less like a VPN and more like a hacking utility from a high-tech spy movie. It still, though, offers you more control than any other VPN, so you can configure it exactly as you want it. It’s not the best option for novice users, but if you know what you’re doing and care about security and privacy, it’s a fantastic VPN.

Mattress of the Year

Winner: Simba Hybrid

You shouldn’t buy the Simba Hybrid expecting it to feel like a traditional pocket-sprung mattress, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most comfortable mattresses we’ve ever slept on. It provides the perfect combination of comfort and support, and unlike many foam-based mattresses, it doesn’t sleep excessively warm, or soften when it warms up. Best of all, Simba offers a 100-night free trial, so what are you waiting for?

Highly Commended: Eve Hybrid

The Eve Hybrid represents stonkingly good value for money. Unlike Simba’s hybrid mattress, which uses 20mm springs and costs £150 more in King Size, it uses 90mm coils surrounded by 25mm of foam. The result is a sleeping surface with plenty of support, which also relieves pressure around your shoulders and hips. If you buy one, just make sure you use it on a solid sleeping surface.

Bluetooth Speaker of the Year

Winner: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom

If you’d told us you could get a Bluetooth speaker for less than £100 that not only sounds good, but also floats, we’d have said you were mad. Yet the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom does just that. It’s a small, portable speaker that outputs an impressive sound and can even float for up to 30 minutes in the pool. Thanks to its IPX7 rating, this 360-degree sounding speaker can be fully submerged to a depth of 1m. But that’s not it: it also sounds fantastic, comes in a variety of flamboyant colours and lasts up to ten hours. It’s the perfect Bluetooth speaker, and rightfully deserves all the accolades it can get.

Highly Commended: Bose SoundLink Revolve

If you want a high-quality Bluetooth speaker with 360-degree audio, the Bose SoundLink revolve is an excellent choice. The reason it makes this year’s awards is due to to the speaker’s spectacularly accurate sound quality. In its small shell, it achieves precise, clean audio, and even adapts to the environment around you by dynamically adjusting its EQ algorithm.

Monitor of the Year

Winner: AOC AGON AG352UCG6 Black Edition

Monitors come in all shapes and forms, and if you’re in the market for a large-sized ultrawide, then you’ll be spoilt for choice. However, there’s one particular model that stands out from the rest: the AOC AGON AG352UCG6 Black Edition. This 1440p, 35in, 120Hz curved ultrawide monitor is spectacular. Not only does it hit the sweet spot for gamers, but its MVA panel is also stunning to look at, especially if you’re watching movies. It’s super-responsive, has a low perceived input lag and comes with Nvidia’s G-Sync technology built in; all of which combine to make it a perfect monitor for both competitive and casual gamers. Simply put, it’s the do-it-all monitor.

Highly Commended: Samsung C24FG73

A curved Full HD 144Hz monitor with Quantum Dot technology for around £250? Seems too good to be true. The Samsung C24FG73 epitomises everything you need in a gaming monitor. It has a super-responsive panel that performs well for avid gamers, but also looks fantastic – so cinematic scenes both in movies and in cut scenes look gorgeous. For its price, there isn’t another monitor that comes remotely close, and if you buy at the right time, you might even get it for £200; an absolute steal.

Games Hardware of the Year

Winner: Oculus Go

This is the only VR headset in the Western hemisphere that can be used without a PC or smartphone attached. The Oculus Go is an entirely self-contained unit that utilises many of the Oculus Rift’s best features, without the hefty price tag; the Go is only £200, making it the perfect introduction to VR. The PSVR and Samsung Gear VR may be cheaper, but they don’t deliver anywhere near the same quality. For anyone who wants a true taste of virtual reality without blowing their bank account wide open, the Oculus Go is the obvious choice.

Highly Commended: Xbox One X

Microsoft’s 2017 upgrade to the Xbox One, the Xbox One X, is an outstanding piece of home entertainment hardware. The Xbox One X comes with a whopping 1TB of built-in storage, and it has been enhanced for 4K and HDR; gaming has never looked so good. To get the benefits, though, you’re going to need a 4K TV first. We can’t wait to see what Microsoft can do with its next-gen console, dubbed the Xbox Two, but until then we’re more than happy to play Xbox One Enhanced games for way longer than we should.

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