We reveal the finest tech we’ve tested this year, from smartphones to sat navs
We’ve seen some truly extraordinary technology this year at Expert Reviews. No fewer than 50 smartphones have passed across our experts’ desks, from high-end foldables to budget models that you can repair at home. We’ve had a gaming monitor with a gigantic, bendable OLED panel; a laptop with two screens and a 360-degree hinge; and a pair of earbuds with solar charging built into the case. And on the subject of audio tech, who could forget these whacky air-purifying headphones?
It might sound like fun and games – and for the most part, it is – but testing all that tech does serve a purpose. At Expert Reviews, we believe it’s essential that you know you’re spending your hard-earned cash on the best possible product for your needs. By putting so many smartphones, laptops and TVs through their paces each year, we can provide you with unbiased, in-depth reviews to help demystify what can often be a very mysterious marketplace, so you can buy with confidence.
This year, we’ve outdone ourselves. Below, you’ll find our pick of the best technology of 2023 across a whopping 37 categories, from mobile phones and tablets to sat navs and e-bikes. You’ll also find an overall Tech Product of the Year: this is a product that we feel represents the absolute best that this year had to offer.
Without further ado, welcome to the Expert Reviews Tech Product of the Year Awards 2023.
Tech Product of the Year | Winner
If you’re looking for one wireless speaker for your home, then you can’t go too far wrong with our product of the year – the Sonos Era 300. It turned in a flawless performance in our audio testing earlier this year and it combines sumptuous audio quality with superb ease of use and incredible flexibility.
This is a speaker that’s just at home with regular stereo content as it is with spatial audio, and you can even use a pair of Era 300 speakers as rear channels in a Dolby Atmos set up, complete with height effects.
In our review we said: “It’s hard to think of a single thing that the Sonos Era 300 could do better,” and we can’t think of a better way to sum it up. It’s a superb product and fully deserving of our overall Product of the year award.
Tech Products of the Year 2023
Premium Smartphone of the Year
Compact yet potent, the Xiaomi 13 is uniquely positioned as this year’s best premium smartphone. Not only is it the best small form factor handset we’ve reviewed for a number of years with a delightfully pocket-friendly design, but it also outperforms several of its competitors in a number of critical areas. The quality of the display in particular is absolutely astonishing, while the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset produced some impressive speed results in our performance benchmarks.
Highly Commended | Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 | £1,049
It wouldn’t be an end-of-year awards roundup without a Samsung foldable, but this year’s Galaxy Z Flip 5 is especially notable. The large cover display is a delight to use, making folded operations significantly easier, and the lighter, smaller design makes a huge difference in portability. The various performance improvements are also worth shouting about, with a nice little boost to overall battery life, too.
Mid-range Phone of the Year
Winner | Google Pixel 7a | £372
It’s no surprise that the Pixel 7a takes the top spot on the mid-range podium for 2023. Google’s photography expertise comes into play yet again, but this time it’s applied to an exceptionally well-rounded smartphone that’s fantastic value for money. The Pixel 7a’s photo and video skills are tremendous, and we captured some terrific camera samples as part of our review to which no other phone maker came close. We were also pleased to see the Tensor G2 CPU provide some big performance gains.
Highly Commended | Samsung Galaxy A54 5G | £280
Samsung has been storming the mid-range field over the past couple of years, and the Galaxy A54 5G maintains the trend. A terrifically affordable alternative to this year’s flagships, the A54 5G benefits from a beautiful 120Hz AMOLED screen, with some snazzy colour options and impressive performance and stamina improvements over the previous model.
Value Smartphone of the Year
Winner | Motorola Moto G13 | £115
If you’re on a super-tight budget, don’t want to spend hundreds of pounds or are simply looking for the absolute best value for your money, the Motorola Moto G13 is the obvious choice. With nips and tucks in all the right places, it looks the business, performs well for general use and benefits from a handful of consumer-friendly extras such as a 3.5mm headphone jack, dual-SIM support and expandable storage. If you need proof that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on your next smartphone, then this is it.
Highly Commended | Honor Magic 5 Lite | £249
A great choice for the budget-conscious, the Honor Magic 5 Lite packs in a lot of stuff for not a lot of money. Not only did it score one of the best battery life results we’ve ever tested – lasting for almost 30 hours on a single charge – but it’s also pretty much the complete package in every other department. That’s all topped off with a vibrant, curved display and a head-turning design.
Folding Phone of the Year
Winner | Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 | £1,049
With the Galaxy Z Flip 5 Samsung has refined its clamshell foldable to such a degree that folding smartphones are now ready for mass market appeal. A flashy alternative to the usual blocky smartphone slabs, the Z Flip 5 is a sheer joy to use, with a gigantic cover display that allows you to read your notifications and reply to messages without having to open the phone. The new gapless design is pretty swish, too, as is the big jump in performance and stamina courtesy of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset.
Highly Commended | Honor Magic Vs | £1,400
A proper tablet/smartphone hybrid, Honor’s Magic Vs is a standout foldable worthy of a Highly Commended award. With a gapless hinge design making for a remarkably thin handset when unfolded, the Magic Vs is as luxurious to look at as it is to use, with one of the most colour-accurate displays we’ve ever tested. Add in an asking price cheaper than its competitors, and it’s clear that it will take some beating.
Android Phone of the Year
Winner | Google Pixel 7a | £372
While there’s been a veritable swathe of exceptional Android flagships this year, the sheer value for money offered by the Google Pixel 7a snags it the top spot. A big part of this is that the 7a is powered by the same Tensor G2 chipset as the pricier Pixel 7, delivering great performance for the price. You’re also getting a bumped-up 90Hz refresh rate on the display, and a camera suite that is nothing short of fantastic. Images are sharp, night captures are much more efficient and the expanded software options give you more choices than ever for tweaking your images in post.
Highly Commended | Nothing Phone (2) | £549
It costs quite a bit more than the first model, but the Nothing Phone (2) more than earns the extra money by making dramatic improvements across the board. Performance sees a big leap, with the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset competing with much pricier phones; the design and unique glyph system are effortlessly stylish; and, crucially, the outstanding battery life is one of the best we’ve seen on any smartphone to date.
Best Phone Battery Life
Winner | Nothing Phone (2) | £549
If you’ve read the above paragraph, you won’t be surprised to see the Nothing Phone (2) taking the win here. As well as lasting for a staggering 31hrs 28mins in our testing, the Nothing Phone (2) offers terrific performance for its price, a larger 6.7in OLED display and a revamped light-up glyph system on the rear. Not only is this futuristic design stylish and unique, it also makes more use of the rear LEDs than ever, with new features including a countdown timer and a journey progress tracker via Uber.
Highly Commended | Honor Magic 5 Lite | £249
If the Nothing Phone (2) is too rich for your blood, the good news is that the Honor Magic 5 Lite comes in a good couple of hundred pounds cheaper. For this, you still get exceptional battery life, coming in close to 29 hours, a gorgeous curved OLED display and decent, albeit not class-leading, performance. The cameras aren’t the best in low light and you don’t get a microSD card but, otherwise, this is a killer runner-up.
Phone Camera of the Year
Winner | Google Pixel 7a | £372
Google phones often take the gold when we’re judging smartphone cameras, and this year is no different. The Pixel 7a might not use exactly the same hardware as the 7 and 7 Pro, but you wouldn’t know it judging by image quality. Colours are vibrant and punchy without going too overboard, night-shooting has been much-improved (Google says the shutter speed is twice as fast, and we’ve got no reason to argue), and features such as photo unblur have finally trickled down to the mid-range. Performance, battery life and design are all decent enough, but the cameras really push the Pixel 7a into a league of its own.
Highly Commended | Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra | £859
It’s one of the most expensive phones on this list, but there’s no denying that the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s cameras make it worth it. The massive 200MP main camera captures phenomenal levels of detail with neutral colours, and when paired with the 10MP telephoto lens it can capture up to 100x zoomed shots much faster than the S22 Ultra. Add in impressive performance and monstrous battery life, and this is one hell of a flagship.
Tablet of the Year
Winner | Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra | £1,099
Android’s answer to the M2 iPad Pro, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra is a big-screened powerhouse. Despite being fronted by a massive (and gorgeous) 14.6in AMOLED display, the S9 Ultra is impressively light, suiting something that’s aiming to be a portable laptop alternative. Battery life and performance aren’t quite at the iPad Pro’s level, but they’re still rather impressive, with big leaps over the S8 Ultra. The OS suffers the odd hiccup when trying to use the tablet as a desktop, but for the most part this is a terrific laptop replacement and the best tablet going this year.
Highly Commended | Oppo Pad Air | £239
The Oppo Pad Air doesn’t look like a budget tablet, with the lightweight aluminium frame suggesting a much higher price. Battery life and performance also punch above the Pad Air’s weight, outperforming other competitors in this price range. The accessories that make this a laptop replacement aren’t available in the UK, so the Pad Air is more suited to streaming, with a vibrant display and Dolby Atmos support for the four speakers.
Laptop of the Year
Winner | Asus Zenbook 14X OLED | £1,256
The Asus Zenbook 14X OLED ticks pretty much all the boxes for an award-winning ultraportable laptop. It’s not only supremely capable – available with 13th Gen H-series CPUs as well as the option for a discrete GPU – but it also has a wonderful 14.5in 120Hz AMOLED touchscreen that’s very bright and superbly colour accurate. It’s also compact and lightweight and, in its beige plasma ceramic finish, it’s arguably the most attractive laptop on the market today. At today’s prices, this gorgeous laptop is also an absolute bargain, making it a simple choice for our best laptop award.
Highly Commended | Apple MacBook Air (M2) | £1,059
Apple seldom puts a foot wrong with its laptops and the M2 MacBook Air is another example of excellence in design and build, offering world-beating battery life and an excellent display and speaker system. Its 60Hz display can’t quite match the Asus Zenbook 14X’s wonderful OLED panel, though, and its M2 CPU isn’t as quick either, knocking it into second place this year.
Value Laptop of the Year
Winner | Acer Swift Go 14 | £699
The new Swift Go range from Acer offers phenomenal value in a sub-£1,000 laptop and as a result it claims our Best Value Laptop for 2023. The base machine comes with an AMD Ryzen 5 7530U CPU and a Full HD IPS displa, will set you back £749 and is wonderfully good value, but it’s the OLED-equipped model we were really impressed with. The screen is simply superb for a machine costing less than £1,000, with a 2.8K resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate, and it combines this with a superb 1440p webcam and an impressive level of connectivity for an ultraportable machine.
Highly Commended | Medion Erazer Crawler E40 | £800
For just £799 the Medion Erazer Crawler E40 delivers an amazing set of specifications for £800. It’s a genuine gaming laptop for budget laptop money and comes with a 100W Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 GPU, a 12th generation H-series Core i5 processor plus a Full HD 144Hz screen. It might not be the most portable or attractive of machines, but for those whose priorities are high performance and value, there’s nothing that combines those two aspects quite as well at this price.
Gaming Laptop of the Year
Winner | Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 | £2,800
The doyen of gaming laptops, the Asus ROG Strix Scar 16 may not be cheap but it’s stacked with exotic high-end components. Inside the model we reviewed was an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 GPU partnered by a 24-core Intel Core i9-13980HX processor with 32GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage, all wrapped up in a case that’s the quintessence of gaming style. The cherry on the cake is the Strix Scar’s mini LED Nebula HDR display, which has 1,024 individual lighting zones, refreshes at 240Hz and delivers performance beyond the wildest dreams of your average IPS panel when it comes to brightness and HDR capability. Pricey the Strix Scar 16 may be, but none of the alternatives is as well-balanced nor as fast.
Highly Commended | Asus TUF Gaming A15 | £1,050
Asus’ TUF range of machines have long been among the more reliable affordable gaming laptops, and the 2023 A15 shows why. Non-gaming performance from the Ryzen 7 CPU is a little mediocre but the 140W TGP Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU easily makes up for that in gaming capability. Battery life is good, the keyboard excellent and the 144Hz 15.6in IPS screen is unusually colourful and colour-accurate for an affordable gaming machine. For just under £1,000 you simply can’t go wrong.
Chromebook of the Year
Winner | Acer Chromebook Spin 714 | £599
The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 is the laptop to buy in 2023 for Chromebook aficionados. Not only does it combine a fantastic display with touchscreen and stylus support, it also delivers stellar performance and battery life, lasting a seriously impressive 13hrs 19mins in our battery test. It might be a touch more expensive than you’re used to, but this 2-in-1 convertible laptop makes a great case for Chromebooks as genuine Windows or macOS alternatives. It’s a fabulous device to use as a working laptop or for media consumption and it’s this year’s Chromebook to beat.
Highly Commended | Asus Chromebook Vibe CX34 Flip | £500
The Chromebook category was tightly contested this year, with the Asus Vibe CX34 Flip coming in a very close second. Like the Acer, it has a fantastic display and a 360-degree 2-in-1 design and, also like its rival, it comes with a stylus. The Asus only misses out thanks to slightly inferior battery life and a chunkier, heavier design. Otherwise, this is a superb all-round Chromebook that’s perfect for work, study and play.
Monitor of the Year
Winner | Philips 27B1U7903 | £1,100
The Philips 27B1U7903 is without a doubt the most astonishing monitor we’ve seen this year . The 3,840 x 2,160 163dpi mini-LED IPS display is a stunner, with a peak brightness of nearly 1,000cd/m2 in SDR mode and almost double that in HDR thanks to the 2,403 individual lighting zones. Contrast ratio is an OLED-like infinity:1. It also covers 163.3% of the sRGB gamut and 112.5% DCI-P3, while the Delta E variance versus the latter is an excellent 1.2. The two 5W speakers are a bit puny, but when it comes to image clarity, brightness, colour, HDR performance and accuracy, this Philips display delivers in spades. It even has a Thunderbolt 4 USB hub.
Highly Commended | LG 40WP95C | £1,500
LG’s 40in 5,120 x 2,160 monitor delivers super-crisp (140ppi) images on a gentle 2500R curve, making it one of the most usable widescreen displays on the market. The IPS panel is bright and colourful, covering 95% of the DCI-P3 gamut and with a Delta E deviance of just 1.2. The 20W speaker system delivers an impressive 89dB(A) and has a useful wedge of bass. Well made and ergonomically faultless, the LG 40WP95C is worth every penny of its asking price.
Value Monitor of the Year
Winner | Iiyama G-Master G2470HSU-B1 | £124
For the price, the G-Master G2470HSU-B1 gaming monitor is unbeatable value. Picture quality is good, with a peak brightness of 325cd/m² and plenty of accurate colour on hand. Motion handling is even better, with very little ghosting or smearing, and the speakers also do a decent job considering they’re rated at just 2W each. If the screen size is a concern, Iiyama makes a 27in version called the G-Master G2770HSU-B1, which retails for £45 more and is identical other than the size. The only drawback is the basic stand but, given the price, that’s not a stick to beat it with too harshly.
Highly Commended | Huawei MateView SE | £99
The MateView SE is exceptional value. The 23.8in FullHD IPS panel is bright, colourful and accurate – the Delta E versus the sRGB profile is a solid 1.47 – and it refreshes at 75Hz with FreeSync support, plus there’s a 90° pivot. For input you get both HDMI and DisplayPort. There are no speakers but, given the price, who cares? For casual gamers there are crosshairs, a 75Hz refresh rate and response time adjuster. The OSD is a model of simplicity.
Gaming Monitor of the Year
Winner | Philips Evnia 34M2C8600 | £1,139
Built around a 165Hz, 34in, 3,440 x 1,440 Samsung-made QD-OLED panel with a 1800R curvature, the Evnia 34M2C8600 delivers superb gaming performance, while the two 5W speakers supply excellent sound. Content looks outstanding in either SDR or HDR thanks to the screen supporting very wide colour gamut volumes and class-leading colour accuracy. You also get a comprehensive USB hub with full KVM, the always-impressive Philips Ambiglow ambient lighting system and a VESA DisplayHDR True Black 400 certification. If you want a monitor that excels at gaming, media playback and productivity, the Evnia 34M2C8600 is head and shoulders above the competition.
Highly Commended | Iiyama G-Master GB3467WQSU-B5 | £320
The GB3467WQSU-B5 gives you a lot of monitor for your money. The 34in, 3,440 x 1,440, 165Hz VA panel is bright, peaking at 415cd/m2, and colourful, with gamut volumes of 115.4% sRGB and 81.7% DCI-P3. The excellent 3,307:1 contrast ratio and Delta E variance of 1.8 versus the sRGB profile are cherries on the cake. Motion handling is good rather than stellar and the 2W speakers could use more bass, but it’s still a superb package for the money.
TV of the Year
Winner | Samsung S95C | £1,699
Samsung’s S95B won our Tech Product of the Year award in 2022 and the second-generation model builds on everything that was great about that TV. It’s brighter than its predecessor and has an improved screen filter, enabling it to deliver better contrast in addition to incredible colour saturation. Picture quality is excellent, and crisp images are complemented by immersive audio courtesy of a 4.2.2-channel Dolby Atmos sound system and Samsung’s Object Tracking Sound Plus technology. The One Connect box helps facilitate easy cable management, while four HDMI 2.1 ports and Samsung’s Game Bar 3.0 make the S95C a superb choice for next-gen gamers as well as TV and film lovers.
The TCL C845 may not have the self-illuminating pixels found on OLED models but it sets a new benchmark for what’s achievable at its price point. Its Mini LED panel is able to deliver seriously good HDR performance thanks to its searing brightness, impressive local dimming and Quantum Dot colours, while the onboard Onkyo audio system sounds genuinely good whatever you’re watching or listening to. The use of the Google TV OS means you’re able to access a huge range of streaming services, and gaming provision is great, too, with two of the four HDMI ports supporting key HDMI 2.1 features.
Value TV of the Year
Affordable TVs don’t get much better than the TCL C745. Its Quantum Dot LED panel can’t quite match its C845 stablemate for brightness and the pared-back sound system isn’t as effective, but those are minor grumbles when you take into account how competitively priced the C745 is. There’s support for every HDR format, fine details are rendered with a great deal of skill, and images look both vibrant and punchy. Lightning-fast response times and a host of gaming-related features courtesy of TCL’s Game Master Pro round out the offering of 2023’s budget superstar TV.
Highly Commended | Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED | £550
TVs aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Amazon, but the online retailer’s first Mini LED television strikes a very keen balance between price and performance. Image quality is particularly impressive: the majority of the DCI-P3 colour gamut is covered and reproduced accurately, while image processing and motion handling are first-class. Amazon’s Fire TV operating system could be more responsive but it offers plenty of choice when it comes to streaming services and is extremely easy to navigate, too.
Gaming TV of the Year
TCL’s C845 crams in all the features a next-gen gamer could wish for and manages to do so at an extremely attractive price. There’s support for Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Auto Low-Latency Mode (ALLM) and 4K@120Hz, while PC gamers can also take advantage of 4K@144Hz thanks to support for AMD FreeSync Premium Pro. Key gaming information and settings can be easily accessed via TCL’s pop-up Game Bar, and the C845’s Mini LED panel is free of any concerns regarding image retention, unlike its OLED rivals. The C845 delivers wonderful HDR pictures and low input lag for a smooth, satisfying gaming experience.
Highly Commended | Philips OLED 807 | £1,400
Ambilight is a unique selling point for Philips televisions, but the OLED 807 is a lot more than just a TV with immersive LED lighting built into its panel. It’s capable of delivering stunning SDR and HDR images, supports every HDR format going and features some of the best image processing around. These qualities make it great for watching TV shows and films, but also see it shine as a gaming TV. Only two of its four HDMI inputs support 4K@120Hz, ALLM and VRR, but we’re willing to forgive that given how engrossing gaming on the OLED 807 is when its three-sided Ambilight is working its magic.
LCD TV of the Year
Winner | Samsung QN95C | £1,799
Samsung’s flagship Neo QLED TV doesn’t revolutionise the world of LCD televisions but instead makes meaningful improvements to an already successful formula. Its Mini LED backlight features twice as many dimming zones as last year’s QN95B, there’s a new light rejection filter that helps reduce reflections more effectively, and viewing angles are much wider. Images are supremely detailed, highlights pop and shadows are well defined, while lower-resolution content is upscaled flawlessly. Add a Dolby Atmos-certified 4.2.2-channel audio system, four HDMI 2.1 ports and a gorgeous design to the mix and you’ve got yourself an exceptional TV.
The TCL C845 isn’t on the same level as the QN95C above when it comes to picture and audio quality, but that’s to be expected given how much cheaper it is. And in just about every area that counts, the C845 is a top performer. Brightness peaks at over 2,000cd/m2, native contrast is good and the screen uniformity is excellent, while brilliantly executed local dimming helps ensure deep blacks and halo-free highlights. Gamers are well catered for by a couple of HDMI 2.1 ports, and the 2.1-channel Onkyo audio system is surprisingly good for a modern TV. If you’re after an LCD TV and can’t afford the QN95C, the TCL C845 is a very worthwhile alternative.
OLED TV of the Year
Winner | Samsung S95C | £2,399
The S95C is the standout option in Samsung’s Quantum Dot OLED lineup and the best OLED all-rounder we’ve seen all year. It’s very bright, able to accurately reproduce the entirety of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and retains artistic intent superbly well in Filmmaker mode. In addition to excellent picture quality, the S95C possesses all the other hallmarks of a flagship premium TV. Its next-gen gaming provision is top-tier, sound quality is staggeringly good given the ultra-slim dimensions of the TV, and Samsung’s Tizen operating system is both intuitive to use and wide-ranging in terms of the services it offers.
The LG G3 is LG’s brightest OLED TV yet and delivers superior picture performance to both its predecessor and most other OLEDs on the market. Colours are reproduced with outstanding accuracy, the Alpha 9 Gen 6 chip handles upscaling fantastically well, and LG’s webOS remains one of the best smart platforms around. The G3 is a gamer’s delight, too: input lag is very low, Game Optimiser mode is very handy and all four HDMI ports are the 2.1 specification. It was a close call between the G3 and S95C, but the former’s lack of a stand and underwhelming sound quality saw the Samsung get the nod.
Projector of the Year
Winner | XGIMI Horizon Ultra | £1,749
This top-notch projector picked up a perfect score in our full review, earning praise for its living room-friendly design, superb image clarity and detail and excellent colour performance in our in-house tests. With built-in audio and streaming features – the Horizon Ultra supports Android TV streaming, which gives you access to all the usual services – there’s very little that can touch this projector on virtually any front. It’s fair to say that it earns every penny of its asking price – and its place as our projector of the year.
Highly Commended | Epson EH-TW6150 | £899
If you’re on a tighter budget, the Epson EH-TW6150 is the projector for you. It performed well in our tests, delivering gorgeous colours and pin-sharp 4K image quality; it’s also brimming with adjustment options to help you find the perfect position for a good picture. These things help it to stand out from a crowded field, but it’s the sub-£1,000 price tag that really separates the EH-TW6150 from the rest.
Speaker of the Year
Winner | Sonos Era 300 | £399
The Era 300 is the first Sonos speaker designed primarily for multichannel spatial audio, and it’s a resounding success. Its six drivers are each backed by their own amplifier and fire in different directions to produce room-filling audio that sounds fabulous, even by the American manufacturer’s high standards. Audio cues are positioned accurately within a broad soundstage, Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio tracks have a great sense of three-dimensionality, and build quality is superb, too. Add multiroom functionality, an excellent app and support for two voice assistants to those credentials and you’ve got the most complete wireless speaker we’ve seen in the past 12 months.
Highly Commended | Marshall Middleton | £270
The Marshall Middleton may not be as portable as some of its Bluetooth-enabled rivals, but it’s dustproof, waterproof and able to withstand all sorts of punishment. It’s no eyesore, either, with the speaker paying eye-catching homage to the brand’s guitar amp-manufacturing heritage. Striking aesthetics are backed up by a sound signature that’s big, bold and bassy but not lacking in detail or poise, and on-device controls enable you to adjust bass and treble levels as required. There’s no built-in microphone and battery life could be better, but the Middleton is still a standout option in a crowded Bluetooth speaker market.
Soundbar of the Year
Winner | JBL Bar 1300 | £1,300
There are plenty of multichannel Dolby Atmos soundbars, but few are as immersive as the JBL Bar 1300 and even fewer are as versatile. In addition to Atmos, the Bar 1300 supports DTS:X, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2 and Alexa Multi-Room, as well as the Alexa, Siri and Google voice assistants. Its pièce de résistance, however, is the ability to detach its wireless rear speakers. These can then be used as part of an 11.1.4-channel surround-sound setup, as individual standalone speakers or even paired in a stereo arrangement over Bluetooth. Audio quality is excellent, too, with the Bar 1300 delivering powerful yet balanced and cohesive sound regardless of the type of content you’re watching.
Highly Commended | Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus | £1,149
While the JBL Bar 1300 uses a discrete soundbar, subwoofer and rear speakers to create its surround sound, the Ambeo Soundbar Plus delivers virtualised 7.1.4-channel audio from a single standalone unit. And it does so incredibly well; no similarly sized soundbar we’ve tested can match its scale, drive and precision. It does its best work when fed Atmos content and is capable of conveying an extremely convincing impression of spatial audio, but is equally impressive when reproducing stereo content over Bluetooth. A pleasing array of connection options and a well-specified control app are the icing on what is a very tasty cake.
Value Soundbar of the Year
Winner | Yamaha SR-C30A | £270
The Yamaha SR-C30A presents a highly compelling audio upgrade for small TVs without breaking the bank – and one that couldn’t be topped in 2023. Crafted with typical Yamaha quality, the compact soundbar excels in detail, low-frequency presence and mid-range clarity, while an included wireless subwoofer further beefs up the bass. You’ll also find ample controls to fine-tune that sound on the supplied remote, its companion smartphone app or the soundbar itself. It might not be best suited for larger rooms, but the setup impresses with dynamic sound and clear dialogue that punch well above its size.
Highly Commended | Creative Katana SE | £300
The Creative Sound Blaster Katana SE, the latest addition to the gaming-oriented Katana lineup, provides a flexible single-unit soundbar solution. Ditching the subwoofer seen in its predecessors, it compensates with larger drivers that maintain the same total power output in a more compact size. The result is clear audio delivered through virtualised surround sound on a soundbar offering customisable RGB lighting and versatile connectivity, including SXFI Holographic audio support via headphones. For gamers prioritising convenience, it’s a practical choice.
Premium Headphones of the Year
Winner | Focal Bathys | £699
Despite being Focal’s first foray into the wireless over-ear market, the Focal Bathys are a remarkable success. Delivering a spectacularly articulate and well-balanced audio experience across an expansive soundstage, it’s near impossible to fault them in the sound stakes – and you can even use them as a DAC. Active noise cancellation performs reasonably well, too, with everything packed into an altogether impressive build. If you can afford their high price, the Bathy’s emotional expression and rhythmic control will keep you happy for years to come, making them the standout choice for audio excellence.
Building on the JBL Tour Pro 2 earbuds’ success, the manufacturer’s Tour One M2 headphones bring similarly impressive features to an over-ear configuration. Their design might not dazzle but they make their mark through personalised EQ settings, robust noise cancelling and a fairly immersive spatial sound mode. Further capabilities, including high-resolution support via a wired connection, multipoint using Bluetooth and other features in a comprehensive companion app, make sure these headphones impress where it counts most.
Value Headphones of the Year
Winner | Sony WF-C700N | £100
Sony’s WF-C700N are true wireless earbuds that are your best bet in the sub-£100 category. They impress through a well-balanced sound that offers up ample bass and detailed trebles, which is further enhanced when using Sony’s 360 Reality Audio spatial sound format. The companion Sony app grants access to a range of extra features too, including customisable adaptive sound control, with effective action and location-based ANC modes usually reserved for pricier models. Add in comfort, reliability and solid battery life, and the WF-C700N are an attractive option for those seeking daily drivers that don’t break the bank.
Highly Commended | 1MORE SonoFlow | £90
Should over-ear headphones be more up your street, the 1MORE SonoFlow offer a well-rounded, budget-friendly experience. First and foremost, they excel in audio reproduction, delivering a balanced profile that combines detailed trebles with ample bass. Even more remarkable is their battery life: up to 50 hours with ANC activated and a staggering 70 hours without it. They’re eminently comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, too, with surprisingly effective ANC performance given they’re 1MORE’s first noise-cancelling headphones. What a memorable debut.
Wireless Earbuds of the Year
Winner | Technics EAH-AZ80 | £230
The Technics EAH-AZ80 have firmly established themselves as our favourite wireless earbuds released this year. Rich and robust audio, easily altered via plentiful EQ controls, is paired with a long-lasting battery and fierce noise cancelling. Unlike many earbuds, their microphone performance in noisy environments is astounding, too, and better than any other earbuds we’ve tested. Where the Technics EAH-AZ80 truly set themselves apart, though, is their industry-first multipoint pairing, offering unrivalled versatility for those who frequently switch devices. When manufacturers bring genuinely unique capabilities like this to headphones that excel in all other areas, it’s hard not to be impressed.
The Nothing Ear (2) have elevated themselves beyond their predecessors by bringing high-resolution audio and improved noise cancellation to an already appealing package. The LDHC 5.0 codec might only be available via Nothing smartphones but, irrespective of your device, engaging audio will be personalised to your ears’ frequency range. As ever, Nothing puts this tech into a striking design that’s extremely comfortable in the ear, leading us to conclude that there’s no better buy at this price point.
Gaming Headset of the Year
Winner | Sony Inzone H7 | £119
The Inzone H7 is a great wireless headset that’s optimised for use with PCs but works very nicely with the PlayStation 5, too. It offers most of the functionality found on the more expensive Inzone H9, including simultaneous Bluetooth and wireless connectivity, microphone monitoring and support for Sony’s 360 Spatial Audio for Gaming, with active noise cancellation the only significant omission. 3D audio effects are convincing, and the sound is powerful, well balanced and detailed. The experience is customisable via the Inzone Hub software on Windows, too – another string to the Inzone H7’s considerable bow.
Highly Commended | HyperX Cloud Stinger 2 | £46
Wireless headsets are all the rage but there’s still plenty of demand for wired options, and the Cloud Stinger 2 from esteemed gaming brand HyperX is a shining example of its type. It’s lightweight, comfortable to wear, sounds good and looks very smart for an affordable headset. Controls are kept mercifully simple and the flip-to-mute microphone works perfectly well for chatting with your squad mates or new friends you make online. As a welcome bonus, the headset comes with two-year access to DTS Headphone:X – spatial audio that can be enjoyed on both Windows PCs and Xbox.
Wearable of the Year
Winner | Coros Pace 3 | £219
The Coros Pace 3 hits the sweet spot when it comes to fitness wearables. It delivers the sort of accuracy and features that you’d expect from a far more expensive wearable at a price that’s almost too good to be true. It’s super lightweight and comfortable; it delivers superlative heart-rate and GPS accuracy thanks to its revamped optical sensor and dual-frequency satellite chipset; and, best of all, its battery life is simply phenomenal. Combined with great ease of use, a highly readable screen in outdoor conditions and an impressive set of fitness analysis tools, it’s a fabulous buy for anyone who wants more than just a smartwatch.
Highly Commended | Huawei Watch GT 4 | £249
The Huawei Watch GT 4 is a gem of a smartwatch. Not only does it deliver most of what you want from a modern smart wearable, it also looks incredible, has accurate GPS and heart-rate sensors and works with both iOS and Android phones to deliver notifications and phone calls to your wrist. It isn’t as advanced as an Apple Watch, but the battery life is in a different league.
VPN of the Year
Winner | Hotspot Shield | £11/mth
Marking a welcome change from the usual suspects, we’re very pleased to name Hotspot Shield our VPN of the year for 2023. This user-friendly VPN aced our tests and impressed us with its simplicity, comprehensive feature set and streaming service coverage. It’s more than fast enough to watch content in 4K with no buffering, and its desktop and mobile applications are easy to navigate and packed with useful tools to help you maintain your privacy while surfing the web. It has a free version if you’re looking for a basic VPN, but the paid tiers are very reasonably priced, which is just the icing on a seriously appetising cake.
It’s another strong showing for NordVPN, a favourite of ours for a few years now. Fast and secure, Nord has a huge reach, meaning you can connect to servers across the globe without worrying about speeds or privacy. It’s reasonably priced and supports all the major streaming services, and its straightforward user interface is among the best we’ve seen on a VPN. Throw in an independently audited no-logs policy and you can see why Nord earns its place here.
Router of the Year
Winner | Netgear Nighthawk RAXE300 | £298
Wi-Fi 6E routers are still expensive but this one from Netgear brings the price down far enough and keeps performance high enough to claim the Expert Reviews Award for best router of 2023. Its key attraction is its speed at close range, which is very impressive indeed, only beaten by the RAXE300’s bigger, more expensive brother, the RAXE500. But it’s also much more reasonably priced than its sibling, tipping just about into the realm of affordability. For anyone seeking the pinnacle of performance in a one-box wireless router, it offers the best combination of performance versus price currently available.
Highly Commended | Asus RT-AX59U | £146
Not everyone needs the sorts of speeds that the latest, greatest Wi-Fi 6E routers offer. For many, in fact, a solid connection and enough speed to deliver 4K streaming will be enough. That’s where the Asus RT-AX59U excels. It isn’t the fastest router we’ve ever tested, but it’s cheap, and stacked with useful features such as a built-in firewall, excellent VPN support and parental controls. And its performance and range are solid.
Mesh Router of the Year
Winner | TP-Link Deco XE200 | £620
For sheer speed and range, nothing beats the TP-Link Deco XE200, a mesh wireless that delivered incredible results in our wireless testing over 5GHz Wi-Fi 6 client connections with the help of a super-fast MU-MIMO Wi-Fi 6E backhaul link. It’s even speedier than more expensive rivals that support Wi-Fi 6E, and will deliver enormous speeds to the furthest reaches of your home. Not everyone needs this sort of performance and range, or can afford the price but, if you do require the very fastest that Wi-Fi has to offer, the Deco XE200 is peerless in providing it, even to devices that don’t support Wi-Fi 6E.
Highly Commended | Asus ZenWiFi XD5 | £210
Asus’ compact mesh Wi-Fi nodes deliver everything you need for a solid, reliable Wi-Fi connection across your home. We like it because it’s well priced and provided consistent, speedy downloads and uploads across all our testing. But we love it because it’s absolutely jam packed with features, including security, parental controls and VPN support. It even has web-portal management, which isn’t always a given for mesh Wi-Fi systems.
Video Doorbell of the Year
Winner | TP-Link Tapo D230S1 | £100
The TP-Link Tapo D230S1 claims the gong for 2023’s best video doorbell thanks to its all-round excellence and value for money. Not only does it perform well, delivering great image quality and superb responsiveness, but it does so while being easy to use and reasonably priced. Most importantly, it doesn’t lock any of its main features behind a paid subscription. It’s super easy to install, comes with a chime in the box and supports both Google and Amazon smart speakers, and is the best choice for those seeking a little extra security for their front door.
Highly Commended | Ring Video Doorbell Plus | £160
Ring is the preeminent name in video doorbell security, and its latest premium offering is a class act. It offers crisp visuals and a wide 150-degree vertical field of view so you can see your visitors from head to toe, it delivers notifications without delay and comes with advanced features such as package and person detection and colour night vision. It’s easy to install, can be powered by battery or wired into the mains, and overall is our favourite Ring doorbell.
Action Camera of the Year
Winner | GoPro Hero 12 Black | £399
Building on the success of the GoPro Hero 11 (and the many GoPros that came before), the GoPro Hero 12 Black is hands-down the best action camera we’ve tested this year. Featuring stunning image quality, improved heat management and support for GoPro’s Max Lens Mod 2.0 (for POV shots) the Hero 12 is the ultimate camera for capturing your adventures in high definition. Throw in a brand-new “Easy” control mode that simplifies proceedings dramatically and it’s easy to see why we love this GoPro so much.
Highly Commended | Insta360 X3 | £459
The Insta360 X3 may not quite deliver the image quality of the GoPro, but it’s the best 360 camera we’ve tested and, for many people, that will be enough. Its image stabilisation is stunning, image quality is excellent and the ability to simply mount the camera and not have to worry about where it’s pointing is a godsend. With extra features and a larger touchscreen, this year’s Insta360 X3 is much easier to use and more useful than its predecessor.
Dash Cam of the Year
Winner | Miofive Dual 4K | £250
The Miofive 4K Dash Cam is fantastic value, with its Sony IMX450 sensor producing clear, well-exposed 4K footage whether you’re in blazing sunshine or driving after dark. It’s a smartly designed, low-profile unit with built-in Wi-Fi and an accompanying app, and the latest version has a two-part windscreen mount that makes it easier to remove. What’s more, it now comes with the option of a matching 2K rear camera, giving you front and rear protection in one pack. Add in 64GB to 128GB of built-in storage, parking features and friendly voice alerts, and it’s a deserving award winner.
Highly Commended | Thinkware U3000 | £529
Thinkware’s latest 4K dash cam is expensive but it offers impressive all-round protection, whether you’re driving or parked. Its Radar parking features do a great job of tracking nearby movement and triggering temporary recordings, while the Sony IMX678 4K sensor produces footage clear enough to read number plates and road signs with ease. With some of the most advanced smart features in the business, this is a high-tech dash cam to be reckoned with.
E-bike of the Year
The Tern GSD is the best of a new wave of e-bikes that aim to replace the car for most inner-city journeys. Its long-tail design can help you effortlessly carry big loads around, there’s space for two child seats on the back, and a trailer mount if you regularly need to carry even bigger loads. With space for up to two batteries, the bike can travel up to a maximum distance of 70 miles, and there’s a huge range of optional accessories you can add to it, from a modular bench seat and grocery carrier system to a weatherproof canopy to keep rear passengers dry and warm. Fed up of paying to keep your expensive car on the road? The Tern GSD might just be the ideal replacement.
Highly Commended | Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 EQ | £2,600
Not everyone needs a load-lugging beast like the Tern GSD. If you need to get to work quickly, without feeling too sweaty, tired or stressed from range anxiety, the Turbo Vado is ideal. It isn’t the most powerful e-bike around, with only 35nm of torque on offer, but it delivers its power assistance beautifully smoothly. It looks and feels like a “normal” bike to ride, but it’s much more fun and incredibly efficient, too. Our reviewer got the standard battery to last 30 miles in hilly Pennine terrain, but you can extend that with an extra battery that mounts to the frame just like a water bottle. A brilliant bike for commuters.