This is the 8th edition of our annual HWM+HardwareZone.com Tech Awards, and in the last issue, we rounded up the products and technologies that won our Editor’s Choice awards.
This is the 8th edition of our annual HWM+HardwareZone.com Tech Awards, and in the last issue, we rounded up the products and technologies that won our Editor’s Choice awards.
This issue, we’re going to breakdown all 44 of the best brands in the industry that won the Readers’ Choice awards by popular vote. Here, you’ll find out which brands have the most consumer mindshare in Singapore, how far a lead they have, plus our little analysis on why we thought they deserved their win.
Best Activity Tracker Brand
Although the Apple Watch has become the most successful smartwatch in the market, with Apple pivoting towards health and fitness, we’re glad that didn’t spell the death of fitness trackers. They’re more purpose-built and convenient anyway. Like last year, Fitbit is the runaway winner, with 52% of the votes. Fitbit makes no less than seven activity-tracking devices, including the new HRM-capable Charge 2 and the slim Flex 2, the bangle-like Alta and the watch-like Blaze, as well as the Surge “super watch”. In second place is Garmin, which recently unveiled an EZ-Link-compatible Vivosmart HR activity tracker.
Best Gaming Keyboard and Mouse Brand
The contest for our Best Gaming Keyboard and Mouse Brand award involved more than 20 brands, but at the end of the day, the trophy went home with Razer. If you’re a gamer, you’d have heard of Razer’s BlackWidow series, which includes keyboards such as the BlackWidow X Chroma and the 2016 BlackWidow Ultimate. And in January this year, the company unveiled a new BlackWidow Chroma V2 that features a new switch type and detachable wrist rest. If you’re shopping for a gaming mouse, 2016 saw the arrival of the entry-level Abyssus V2, which sports an ambidextrous design and a “true” 5,000 DPI optical sensor. And oh, did someone say gaming mouse mats?
Best Smartwatch Brand
With nearly half of the votes, it’s a comfortable win for Apple in the Best Smartwatch Brand category. This goes to show that consumers are happy with the new Apple Watch lineup, which includes the water resistant and GPS-equipped Apple Watch Series 2, the Apple Watch Nike+, and the Apple Watch Edition with white ceramic case. In second place is Pebble, though sadly, the company is joining Fitbit and we’ll probably not see any new Pebble devices in the future. Samsung, which makes the sleek Gear S3, is in third place with 14% of the votes. And you know what, Samsung’s smartwatches also work on iPhones.
Best External Storage Brand
When it comes to HDDs, there’s no bigger brand than Seagate and Western Digital. In recent years, they’ve grown even bigger, with Seagate acquiring Samsung’s HDD business in 2011, and Western Digital acquiring Hitachi Global Storage Technologies in 2012. With a third of the votes, WD is once again the winner of this Best External Storage Brand category, with Seagate remaining in second place with 20%.
Best Removable Flash Storage Brand
Solid-state is the future, which explains why HDD giant Western Digital bought SanDisk in a US$19 billion deal last year. And with 54% of the votes, SanDisk wins our Best Removable Flash Storage Brand award. And no wonder, be it high-capacity microSD cards, iPhone cases with built-in flash storage, flash drives that work on iPhones and iPads, or OTG flash storage that works on Android, SanDisk makes them all.
Best Solid State Drive
Samsung, which won our Readers’ Choice award for Best SSD Brand in the last two years, has once again managed to fend off SanDisk’s challenge to retain its trophy, making it a three-peat. We’ve reviewed the current flagship 960 Pro and found it to (expectedly) offer blistering performance. But the real surprise was the mainstream 960 Evo, an incredible performer even for a TLC NAND-based SSD.
Best Video Srtreaming Service Provider
With a majority 62% of the votes, Netflix is our readers’ favorite video streaming service and the first recipient of our Best Video Streaming Service Provider award. Really, what else can we say about Netflix that we haven’t said before? Even Singtel and StarHub love Netflix! Frequent readers of HardwareZone will also know that Amazon’s Prime Video has landed on our shores this past December; and we’ve just the article for those still deciding on which service to get. Don’t like either of them? Then perhaps you should check out some of the smaller players, such as CatchPlay.
Best Gaming Notebook Brand
With 25% of votes, Alienware is the winner of this category once again. Just this past October, the company refreshed its Alienware 13, 15, and 17 gaming notebooks with - no surprise - NVIDIA’s 10 series graphics chips. The new notebooks sport redesigned hinges, and up to 20% reduction in size compared to their predecessors. Following closely behind is local custom PC maker Aftershock PC.
Best VR Gaming Gear Brand
VR gaming is still in its early stages, but our readers already have their favorite. Sony, maker of the PlayStation VR headset, is the winner of this inaugural award with 33% of the votes. In second place is Facebook-owned Oculus VR, which makes the Oculus Rift. HTC, which quietly launched its Vive headset late last year is in fourth place with 11%. Surprisingly, Samsung is third. We can only posit Galaxy phone users like what they’re seeing with the new Gear VR; not to mention this is still one of the more affordable ways to get into VR.
Best CPU Brand
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoCs and Apple’s A series chips are in most mobile devices these days; but for desktops, they’re mostly Intel inside. The second half of 2015 saw the arrival of the 6th-gen Core processor family, and these “Sky-lake” chips have become ever-present in Windows PCs since. That said, if you want the latest and greatest from chipzilla, it has got to be a CPU from the 7th-gen Core “Kaby Lake” series. Built using an improved 14nm process, Kaby Lake is the first “optimization” example of Intel’s new process-architecture-optimization strategy. A long-standing winner of this Readers’ Choice award, can AMD’s up-coming Ryzen change anything next year? Exciting times ahead for the CPU scene!
Best Business Projector Brand
Named the world’s number one selling projector brand for the last 15 years, this is the fourth year in a row that our readers have voted Epson (20%) as their favorite business projector brand. In a close second place is NEC (18%), which recently launched an MC series designed for classroom and office use.
Best Home Theater Projector Brand
At home however, Sony bagged the home theater projector brand award with 30% of the votes. Looking at its product lineup, perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. They’ve got everything from the top-end VPL-VW5000ES SXRD 4K HDR home cinema projector that goes for a whopping $84,000 to the (relatively) more wallet-friendly VPL-VW550ES later in the year. Even if 4K isn’t your cup of tea, Sony still has new Full HD SXRD model in the form of the VPL-HW45ES. Epson, another favorite for home projection, follows closely second with 20% of the votes.
Best Wireless Networking Brand
With almost half of all the votes, this is the fourth straight year ASUS has won our Best Wireless Networking Brand award. Like its motherboards and graphics cards, ASUS offers a lot of choice for every need. Whether it’s an AC5300 or AC3200 tri-band router, an AC3100 or AC2400 dual-band router, or a modest AC1900 router, you can bet that the Taiwanese manufacturer has one ready to sell you. And let’s not forget that ASUS also makes a lot of other wireless networking equipment, from repeaters and pocket routers to media bridges and access points.
Best Electronics Shopping Portal
Did you know that Qoo10 is by Giosis, a joint venture company formed with eBay? The Giosis Group now operates seven localized online marketplaces in five countries, including Japan and Singapore, and has plans to expand into more Asian countries in the near future. With 28% of the votes, Qoo10 is the winner of our Best Electronics Shopping Portal (Singapore) award for the second straight year. Not far behind is Lazada, with 22%.
Best PC Components Retailer
Sim Lim Square has always been the go-to place for DIY enthusiasts building their own systems, as this is the mall that gathers numerous PC components retailers under the same roof. (Sorry, Funan.) For the eighth consecutive year, our readers have voted Fuwell their favorite PC components retailer. Together with Cybermind, Best Bargain, and PC Themes, these four retailers already garnered more than half of our readers’ votes.
Best Gaming Graphics Processor Brand
With a staggering 80% share of votes, NVIDIA is once again the winner in this category. In May 2016, NVIDIA introduced the GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070, two screaming-fast GPUs built on its Pascal architecture. The GeForce 10 series family has grown quite a bit since then, with additions such as the GTX 1060, GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1050, and of course, a new crazy powerful Titan X. For AMD, its VR-ready Polaris stack comprises of the Radeon RX 480, RX 470, and RX 460, all of which target budget-conscious gamers who still need decent performance.
Best Compact Camera Brand
Good news, camera makers! According to CIPA, sales of digital cameras are improving. In fact, looking at December 2016 data, there’s actually a year-on-year increase in net shipments. For this Readers’ Choice category, our winner is Canon, which garnered 28% of the votes. For the benefit of those not keeping track, the Japanese camera maker introduced quite a few compact cameras last year. We’ve the PowerShot G7 X Mark II and SX720 HS in early 2016, followed by the PowerShot SX620 HS with 25x zoom soon after. And barely into 2017, we already have the PowerShot G9 X Mark II and new IXUS cameras.
Best Wireless Speakers Brand
With 38% of the votes, the winner of our Best Wireless Speakers Brand award is Sonos, which is known for its smart speakers such as the Play:1 and Play:5. For the past year, Sonos has been working hard to add support for streaming music services. In October 2015, Amazon Music support officially arrived on Sonos speakers, and this was followed by Apple Music in February 2016. Voice control is another area of focus: in 2017, owners of Alexa-enabled devices such as the Amazon Echo or Echo Dot will be able to use the intelligent personal assistant to control their Sonos sound systems. Bose, which won this category last year, is second this year with 20% of the votes. Creative, which launched the iRoar Go and several Nuno and Muvo series speakers last year, is third.
Best Premium Smartphone Brand
With 57% of the votes, Apple is once again our readers’ favorite premium smartphone maker. Unless you’ve just returned to civilization from the Amazon Jungle, you’ll know all about the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, their two new matte black and jet black finishes, the dual-camera setup on the 5.5-inch model, the craze on launch day, and the fact that Apple has just made tons of money off them. With the “iPhone 8” later this year widely expected to feature an OLED display and support for wireless charging, it’d take a lot from the competition to stop Apple’s most important product from retaining this award next year.
Best IP Camera Brand
With 22% of the votes, D-Link is the inaugural winner of our Best IP Camera Brand award. For most of 2016, D-Link’s best home IP camera was the DCS-2630L, a wireless-AC-capable camera that offered a Full HD image with a 180-degree field of view. But now, you’ve got more choices with the DCS-2530L and DCS-960L. In second place is Netgear, maker of the Arlo cameras. Because they run on batteries, they’re great if you want to build an un-tethered indoor or outdoor home security system.
Best Motherboard Brand
What most of our readers like about ASUS graphics cards (variety, performance, reliability) also apply to the company’s motherboards. For example, in 2016, the company had an impressive line of Intel Z170 motherboards for high-end system builders, as well as a comprehensive line of H170 and B150 boards. And this year, the company has followed that up with a slew of Z270, H270, and B250 offerings, each of them further segmented into ASUS’ usual Prime, ROG, TUF, and Pro Gaming lines. In short, like graphics cards, if you need a motherboard, you’re bound to find one that fits your needs from ASUS.
Best PC Memory Brand
With 33% of the votes, this is the first time Corsair has won the Readers’ Choice award for Best PC Memory Brand. In fact, it managed to stop Kingston, which has made this category its own in the past six editions of our Tech Awards. A U.S. computer peripherals and hardware company, Corsair’s Vengeance LED and Dominator Platinum Special Edition series of DDR4 memory modules are arguably some of the highest performing (and most fanciful) RAM you can get for your PCs. But PC RAM isn’t the only thing it makes; Corsair’s gaming input devices and PC cases have quite a following here as well. And now, the company is building its own gaming PCs.
Best Inkjet Printer Brand
With 31% of the votes, Canon is once again our readers’ favorite inkjet printer brand. Last year, the maker of EOS cameras introduced the Pixma MG3070s, a super-affordable wireless multi-function printer, as well as their 2nd-gen Maxify business printers, the MB5170, MB5470, and iB4170. If you print a lot, Canon has also added new ink tank models in their Pixma Ink Efficient series, such as the Pixma G4000 that now does fax and has a 20-page ADF. A lot of our readers also voted for HP, which only lost out to Canon by a very small margin. For those interested, the U.S. company did a major revamp of their OfficeJet desktop and mobile printer lineups last year.
Best NAS Brand
Our NAS (network-attached storage) category has always been hotly contested, and this edition saw more than 14 brands competing. With 21% of the votes, WD is the winner. Last year’s winner Synology dropped to fourth place. For those not familiar with WD’s offerings, the company’s NAS portfolio consists of the My Cloud, My Cloud Pro, and My Cloud Expert series, with some of them configurable with up to 32TB of storage.
Best Laser/Led Printer Brand
While Fuji Xerox didn’t exactly launch a lot of consumer laser or S-LED printers last year, its mind share has remained high. With 31% of the votes, it managed to hold on to the trophy it won last year, beating the likes of Canon and HP. Canon has new laser printers to show for last year too (for both big corporate offices and smaller offices); and HP also expanded its LaserJet lineup, which now includes a new family of affordable mobile-enabled laser models.
Best Gaming Monitor Brand
With 30% of the votes, ASUS is our readers’ favorite gaming monitor brand. If you’re looking for a big G-Sync-capable IPS monitor, there’s the well regarded 27-inch ROG Swift PG279Q. Too big? Then consider the slightly more manageable 24-inch, full HD ROG Swift PG248Q. If you’re going for the jugular, then it has to be the ROG Swift PG348Q, a 34-inch curved behemoth. Samsung, which is increasingly bringing its quantum-dot tech to monitors, is second place.
Best Home Theater System Brand
While Sonos was voted Best Wireless Speaker Brand, Bose is still the favorite for home theater systems and this is the seventh straight year they’ve won the popular vote. Bose recently launched three all-new wireless home entertainment systems: the 5-speaker Lifestyle 650 and 600, and the SoundTouch 300. In a nutshell, the Lifestyle 650 and 600 support Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless music streaming, 4K video compatibility, and have six HDMI inputs. The Lifestyle 650’s OmniJewel satellite speakers are made from a single piece of extruded aluminum and offer 360-degree output; while the Lifestyle 600’s Jewel Cube speakers feature direct/reflecting technology, with precisely angled transducers inside each of them. On the other hand, the SoundTouch 300 is a soundbar system that also supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; and if you want more bass or more pronounced surround sound effects, you can add an additional bass module or a couple of rear surround speakers.
Best Mainstream Smartphone Brand
With 37% of the votes, Samsung is still our readers’ favorite mainstream smartphone brand. For sure, 2016 was an eventful year for the Korean company: it started the year well with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, and followed both acts up brilliantly with the Galaxy Note 7. Alas, the Note 7 ended with a bang, and as they say, the rest is history. Samsung concluded that aggressive battery design was to blame, and has come up with a new comprehensive 8-point battery safety check measure to prevent such incidents from happening again. While the new Galaxy A series phones are Samsung’s first smartphones in 2017, it’s clear all eyes would be on the upcoming Galaxy S8. Coming in second is Xiaomi, purveyor of some very fine smartphones such as the Mi 5, Mi Note 2, and Mi Mix. And in third place is ASUS, maker of the ZenFone series, which includes the ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Zoom, ZenFone 3 Max, and ZenFone 3 Deluxe - just to name a few.
Best Telco (Singapore)
Singtel is still our readers’ favorite telco this year, garnering half of all the votes. Its overall position is still strong despite the presence of new digital telco player, Circles. Life, which entered the market in mid 2016. We can’t say the same for StarHub, it seems to have lost footing since the previous year.
Singtel’s best moves last year include the new DataX3 mobile data add-on, the expansion of its ReadyRoam service to 26 countries, and collaboration with M1 and StarHub on a universal mobile-based authentication platform. Singtel also launched Cast, an OTT video portal app. And Singtel Music, its music streaming service now plays nice with Spotify, KKBOX, AMPed, MeRadio, and Tidal. Recently, Singtel has even upgraded its 4G network to support 450Mbps.
Best Graphics Card Brand
With half of the votes, this is the eight straight year ASUS has walked home with the Best Graphics Card Brand. Once again, we think ASUS’ popularity boils down to its ability to churn out a wide range of graphics cards for both NVIDIA and AMD fans. Be it based on NVIDIA’s newest GTX 1050, GTX 1060, GTX 1070, or GTX 1080 GPU, or based on AMD’s RX 460 or RX 480 GPU, ASUS has them all. Not only because of the variety, but ASUS also has the knack of hammering out some of the best performing cards in the industry.
Best Gaming Publisher
Maybe it’s the effect of Super Mario Run for mobile (we’d like to think it’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD for the Wii U), because our readers have this year voted Nintendo as their favorite gaming publisher. With 21% of the votes, the Japanese video game company managed to edge out last year’s winner Activision Blizzard, which has gotten 18% of the votes this time round. Electronic Arts is a very close third with its 17% share.
Best In-Ear Earphones Brand
Klipsch is the all-round big winner for personal audio with a good 40% of the votes for the Best In-Ear Earphones Brand award. To recap, the two-way, dual-armature-equipped X20i is the American company’s flagship in-ears, followed by the X12i, XR8i, and X6i. And if you hate wires, the R6 has an Bluetooth in-ear version. Prefer something that’s more resistant to moisture and sweat? Then take a look at the AS-5i and AW-4i. In second and third places are Bose and Sennheiser respectively.
Best Headphones Brand
Featuring more than 30 brands, the headphones category is another hotly contested Readers’ Choice category. After tallying the votes, Klipsch is the winner this year with 37% of the votes, comfortably beating last year’s and five-time winner Sennheiser (which is now in third place). To recap, Klipsch’s flagship headphones are the Reference On-Ear, and a new version 2 was just announced this past December. Moving down the ladder, we’ve the Reference R6 On-Ear and Reference R6i On-Ear, the key difference being the latter having a remote control. Bose, maker of the excellent QC35 noise-canceling headphones, is second with 11%.
Best Gaming Desktop PC Brand
With 36% of the votes, local outfit Aftershock PC wins Best Gaming Desktop PC Brand and with good reason too. Their flagship Ultracore PC supports a fully custom open loop liquid cooling setup, custom paint jobs, and course, premium gaming components. Aftershock’s Hypergate mid tower, Tremor, and Zeal gaming rigs have all been recently updated with GeForce 10 series GPUs and Kaby Lake CPUs. Last year, the company also dipped its toes into the mini PC market with the Nano series, and worked with fiber broadband provider ViewQwest to offer a custom Boost PC for subscribers of the latter’s 10Gbps Black plan.
Best Pay TV Service
Mostly known for its cable TV services, StarHub also has something called StarHub TV on Fiber, which is its Internet TV service. In April 2016, StarHub brought Netflix to its fiber TV customers through their set-top boxes on channel 525. StarHub mobile and broadband customers also get to enjoy seamless streaming on their smart devices too, thanks to StarHub’s participation in the Netflix Open Connect program. In June last year, StarHub announced the launch of the CatchPlay service on StarHub TV.
Best Fiber Broadband Service Provider
Compared to fixed line and mobile telephone services, the fiber broadband market in Singapore is a lot more competitive due to the presence of more providers. (Case in point: WhizComms is the latest kid in town.) Still, Singtel has retained the award that it won for the past five years, with 33% of the votes this time round. MyRepublic, is second with a pretty sizeable 27% of the votes. It has increased in mind share considerably since last year and it would be interesting to see how this scene pans out in 2017.
Best Gaming Console Brand
Once again, our readers have chosen Sony as their favorite gaming console maker. To recap, there are two PlayStation 4 consoles: the PlayStation 4 Slim and PlayStation 4 Pro. At its name implies, the PlayStation 4 Slim is a slimmer and more energy-efficient update of the conventional PS4. On the other hand, the still-pretty-much-out-of-stock-everywhere PlayStation 4 Pro has a higher-clocked processor, a beefier GPU, and supports 4K gaming and HDR.
Best TV Brand
Having dominated the market for the past 11 years, we aren’t at all surprised that our readers have once again voted Samsung their favorite TV maker. Last year, the Korean manufacturer’s strong 4K TV lineup was split into two camps: SUHD and UHD. The former comprises of the quantum dot-enhanced KS9800, KS9000, KS7500, and KS7000, while the latter is made up of the more traditional KU6500, KU6400, KU6300, and KU6000. That said, know that moving forward, Samsung’s quantum dot 4K LED-LCD TVs will be called “QLED” TVs. Enhanced with a new metal-coated quantum dot material and a re-engineered structure, these QLED TVs claim a brightness of up to 1,500 - 2,000 nits and DCI-P3 coverage of up to 99%. More importantly, Samsung promises 100% color volume regardless of brightness, something that OLED is still weak in at the moment. But other brands like LG, Panasonic, and Sony aren’t resting on their laurels. With Panasonic and Sony now joining LG in making OLED TVs, Samsung has a big fight on its hands this year when it comes to the picture quality stakes.
Best 2-in-1 Notebook Brand
Some call it notebook-tablet hybrids, some call it 2-in-1 notebooks. Whichever the case, the new form factor is only possible due to the multifaceted nature of Windows 10. A new category we created two years back to reflect this trend, this award has been won by ASUS on both occasions. Well, you can call it a three-peat now, as ASUS is the winner yet again, this time with 33% of the votes. Microsoft, which didn’t release any new Surface Pro device last year, is second with 26% of the votes. If you prefer Lenovo’s devices, the Chinese company has new Yoga and Miix devices too.
Best Action Camera Brand
With 40% of the votes, GoPro is the winner of our new Best Action Camera Brand award. The company’s latest Hero action camera models are the Hero 5 Black and Hero 5 Session, both introduced in September 2016. Both action cams are waterproof up to 10m, capable of 4K video recording at 30 frames per second, and support USB-C connectivity. As the action cam market gets more crowded (and smartphones become more capable), GoPro has recently entered the drone market with its Karma Drone. In second place is ViDi, maker of the aptly-named ViDi LCD Action Camera, with 34% of the votes.
Best Tablet Brand
With 53% of the votes, Apple’s iPad remains our readers’ most beloved tablet. Kudos to Apple, because its only new iPad in 2016 was the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. (The iPad Mini 4 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro were announced in September 2015.) Like the bigger iPad Pro, this 9.7-inch iPad Pro supports the Apple Pencil that lets you write and draw fluidly like a real pencil, and it’s still the only iOS device that has a True Tone Display that dynamically adjusts the white balance of the screen to adapt its color to your environment. That said, if you’re considering an iPad now, we’d say wait, because Apple is widely expected to refresh its tablet lineup in the coming few months. And for what it’s worth, second place Samsung, which launched a refreshed Galaxy Tab S2 and Tab A last year, apparently has a Galaxy Tab S3 on the horizon.
Best Interchangeable Lens Camera Brand
In a nutshell, interchangeable lens cameras refer to both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. After tabulating the votes, the winner is Canon with 32% of the votes. In second place is its long-time DSLR rival Nikon with 19%. For Canon, 2016 saw the arrival of the EOS 80D for enthusiasts, the EOS 1300D for beginners, and the EOS 5D Mark IV for pros. And for its compact mirrorless EOS M family, we got a Rilakkuma edition of the EOS M10 in the middle of the 2016, a new flagship M5 later in the year, and the EOS M6 in early 2017.
Best Business Notebook Brand
With 24% of the votes, the Best Business Notebook Brand award is once again won by Lenovo, currently the world’s largest PC maker, shipping 56 million units last year according to Gartner. When we reviewed the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, we found it to be the business notebook to beat. And in the near future, more X, L, and T series ThinkPads featuring Intel’s Kaby Lake processors are expected to arrive. If your business needs are simple, check out the cool, traditional keyboard-less Yoga Book. Apple, with 20% of the votes, is in second place. Did the iPhone maker’s aggressively redesigned 2016 MacBook Pros harm its chances?
Best Consumer Electronics Chain Store
With 41% of the votes, IT and CE chain store Challenger has now won our Best CE Chain Store award for five consecutive years. And that’s despite the closure of Funan, the mall in which Challenger was an anchor tenant. Harvey Norman (which opened a giant flagship outlet at Millenia Walk in late 2015 and followed that up with the Games Hub in 2016) and Courts complete the top three.
Text by Team HWM • Art Direction Ken Koh