CNET's five best tech products of 20121. Samsung Galaxy S3, the Android hero
It took years of iPhone dominance and many months of Android market leadership for a phone with Google's mobile operating system to knock the iPhone off its pedestal. The Samsung Galaxy S3 won that honor. The GS3 is a truly global phone, available on nearly every carrier, nearly everywhere. Its large, vibrant HD display represents a growing class of phones with broader form factors, and its delicate balance of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, a sharp 8-megapixel camera, 4G LTE or HSPA+ support, and an accessible price make the Galaxy S3 a worldwide hero.
2. iPhone 5, the most anticipated
The drumbeat of aggressive rumors in the lead-up to the iPhone 5 launch gave the handset a lot to live up to. Finally released in September, nearly six years after the original iPhone, this is the iPhone we've been waiting for. The iPhone 5's anticipated 4G LTE, built-in turn-by-turn directions, and a tall, featherweight design make it a beauty marred only by subpar maps, which have improved steadily since the phone's launch.
3. Google Nexus 7, the superior small tablet
Certainly not the first 7-inch tablet on the market, Google entered the fray with the Nexus 7 in 2012 and left the competition behind, struggling to differentiate themselves. The tablet's native, streamlined Android 4.2 OS -- flexible and open but friendly -- paired with a vivid 1,280x800-pixel-resolution screen and $199 price make it the best small tablet, period.
4. iPad Mini, the luxury latecomer
The iPad Mini arrived so late to the small-tablet race that the competition had already left the starting blocks and rounded the bend. Playing catch-up to the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, and Nook HD proved difficult for the Mini, especially with a lower-resolution screen and significantly higher price than the rest. In spite of those handicaps, Apple's latecomer earns an impressive silver in the tablet race, thanks to its slighly-wider-than-average screen, fantastically light weight, and impeccable fit and finish.
5. Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, the new battery benchmark
Of all the high-achieving smartphones, why would CNET choose a phone from last January for one of our top-5 products of the year? We picked the Droid Razr Maxx because it reset the bar for battery-life expectations. In our tests, the Razr Maxx's battery life bested the closest competitor by nearly 30 percent, and our real-life experiences with this 4G LTE Android device and its vivid screen keep us brimming with enthusiasm for the slim phone. Because the Droid Razr Maxx got the Ice Cream Sandwich OS update in the fall and an HD sibling (the Droid Razr Maxx HD) our recommendations sticks: this is one of the best phones on the market. Click Here!