Top Products of 2008: A Buyers Guide


by Yale Nov 27, 2008 fileunderFound in Home


Time to buy buy buy... And the only thing that is worse than not knowing what to get your loved ones this season are the typical buyer's guides that come out this time of year. Most offer the most non-sensible gift options, starting above $100. Are they being sponsored? Shills? Who knows. We decided to remove any doubt, by having the community decide. We compiled a list of the most exciting products of 2008 based on the amount of buzz from the community and then put it to a vote for the final say. So buy with confidence – you're going to get exactly what they want.

Results

Top Video Games of 2008

Video games are only getting bigger and better. With 3 well established consoles now in full swing and a flourishing PC gaming sector there have been several big name releases in the past few months. Many of these, such as Gears of War 2, Fallout 3 and LittleBigPlanet have been released within the last 30 days.

 

  Product Votes %  
Wii Fit 41 26%
Grand Theft Auto 4 22 14%
Fallout 3 16 10%
Rock Band 2 15 10%
Guitar Hero 4 14 9%
LittleBigPlanet 14 9%
Gears of War 2 14 9%
Spore 11 7%
Metal Gear Solid 4 5 3%
Fable 2 3 2%
    155    

All of these options represent diverse types of gaming – as all require different consoles or PC system requirements to be run and vary in style drastically. From the easy to take part in and physically involving Wii Fit (which requires a Wii to be played of course), to the exploratory hours of vegging out in the open ended Fallout 3 or Grand Theft Auto 4 (which both can be played on Xbox 360, PS3 or PC) what you take away from this poll should not necessarily be what to buy your kids. The votes in this poll point to an overall enthusiasm for the mainstream Wii Fit – a great option for those of all ages, but most of the other options maintain their own slice of the pie, from 7-14%. Thus, what you should buy depends on the type of game you're looking for – and the fact that you must have the corresponding platform to play it on. All of those listed are the cream of the crop however, so look into these first.

Top Mobile Devices of 2008

The cell phone market has been rocked hard in the last two years. The Apple iPhone took the smartphone to the next level, and others have spent the year playing R&D catch-up. Only now are we seeing some viable alternatives – or are we?

  Product Votes %  
Apple iPhone 3G 92 61%
Blackberry Storm 17 11%
Blackberry Bold 15 10%
T-Mobile G1 14 9%
HTC Touch Diamond 12 8%
    150    

Apparently not. The majority has spoken, and they still want an iPhone. RIM isn't sitting on their hands however, after their first foray into the consumer market with the BlackBerry Pearl back in 2006, the company has introduced their first touchscreen phone (the BlackBerry Storm) and a more feature rich business-class phone (the BlackBerry Bold). Sadly the iPhone includes the most advanced features from both phones – and does it without the bugs, tricky and sluggish interface, and annoying mail in rebates. The same can be said of HTC – the company that produces both the T-Mobile G1 and Touch Diamond. While slightly less popular than the BlackBerries, both enjoy touchscreens and attractive, light builds – while perhaps not as luxurious looking as the iPhone. Hopefully the future will see improvements to the Android software platform and the user interfaces built on it.

Top Laptops of 2008

Laptops haven't seen any massive changes in 2008. Besides the latest Intel chipset update – an expected yearly development – very little is different. This chipset, Centrino 2 (aka. Montevina) with its support for the latest in 45nm processors and DDR3 allows for faster, more powerful devices. Slightly more energy efficient, these devices maintain the same dimensions and weight as earlier laptops.

  Product Votes %  
Apple MacBook 56 39%
Sony VAIO Z 30 21%
Apple MacBook Air 25 17%
Asus EEE S101 23 16%
Lenovo W500 9 6%
    143    

The latest Apple Macbook revision has seen the most important changes this year – and thus it was clearly the winner with 39% of the vote. While more expensive than previous models and considerably handicapped in ways they were not – the Macbook is one of the nicest affordable laptops on the market. The biggest disappointment for me was the lackluster Lenovo W500 vote. With a powerful processor, much nicer video card and the same DDR3 ram the W500 matches or bests the Macbook in many types of real world applications for students and professionals alike – for a very similar price. The other picks, the Sony VAIO Z, Apple MacBook Air, and the Asus Eee S101 were all well supported, each with nearly 20% of the vote.

Top MP3 Players of 2008

MP3 Players don't even need an introduction. These pieces of technology have become our every day companions – fending off our boredom and filling our otherwise empty lives with love and happiness in the form of music. 2008 is no different – only they're smaller, sexier and include the full features of a laptop from 5 years ago. What are you doing still reading the introduction?

  Product Votes %  
Apple iPod Touch 84 60%
Microsoft Zune 120 28 20%
Apple iPod Nano 22 16%
Cowon A3 7 5%
    141    

Apple dominated MP3 Players this year, just as they have since the original iPod took off over 5 years ago. The winner of today's line-up, the Apple iPod Touch, originates from 2007, but has seen a revision recently which lower prices, greatly improved battery life and a few miscellaneous features that add yet more polish to one of the nicest mp3 players the world has ever seen. With WiFi and downloadable applications it's no wonder the Touch is such a dominating force - bored of your music? Watch a video, check your stocks or surf the net. Microsoft's new 120GB Zune was the second in line – with an exciting new subscription based service being launched the device has also seen new software updates. Sadly the device is far from the Touch in terms of usability – while it includes WiFi and has a nice user interface, usability is restricted to trading and downloading songs only. Apple's newly renovated (both inside and out) iPod Nano was the biggest disappointment of the vote. I've personally had some hands on experience with the new model – and next to my second generation Nano there is no comparison. If you only want a music player for music, there is no better option. Our obligatory 3rd option, the Cowon A3 faired quite poorly. It's high price and bulky appearance didn't help, but let's face it - it was the lack of Apple branding that sealed its fate.

Top Netbooks of 2008

Introduced in 2007, the Netbook is the newest and probably most exciting product category on our list. Unfortunately however, we only included 4 options – during a time when tens of new options have been made available in recent months. Still, the results point to some interesting trends.

  Product Votes %  
Asus Eee 1000HA 44 38%
HP Mini 1000 37 32%
Acer Aspire One 19 16%
MSI Wind 16 14%
    116    

All 4 of these represent a mainstream Netbook option. The MSI Wind was once touted as an 'Eee Killer', but it is aging, has been poorly priced since day one – and may also suffer from distribution issues – so this result was almost a given despite the fact that it is a good netbook. The hype for the HP Mini 1000 may be due to the fact that it was only recently announced (it has many pitfalls that are clear to see – such as poor storage options, and that split trackpad), but it is overall a very attractive option. The Asus Eee 1000HA is also fairly attractive, especially when you take into consideration the usability of its keyboard and extended battery life for its more modest price. The big loser of the day appears to be the Acer Aspire One – Asus' main opponent, especially when value is concerned. Whether it is the fact that it is merely getting older or the fact that Acer just hasn't provided as many diverse models to meet those the netbook giant Asus has, this is the most interesting result for me. For those of you who want to know more about netbooks, look no further.

Top Digital Cameras of 2008

2008 has seen a frightening blurring of the lines between DSLR and Point and Shoot. The creation of hybrids like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 and Canon PowerShot G10 mean superior pictures, more control and low prices – without the difficulty and weight of full sized professional cameras. Perfect.

  Product Votes %  
Canon EOS 5D Mark II 41 37%
Canon PowerShot G10 18 16%
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 12 11%
Canon Powershot SD770 IS 12 11%
Sony Cybershot DSC-T500 12 11%
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 9 8%
Sony Cybershot DSC-T77 6 5%
Samsung TL34HD 1 1%
    111    

The winner here was the soon to be released Canon 5D Mark II. This mini-DSLR is the real deal – and consequently it costs real money, so it may not be the best gift this season unless you really have nothing to do with that spare $2700. The next two options are great, however, for the aspiring amateur photographer or the well established professional who tires of bringing his/her giant camera to every casual event. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 is a mini-DSLR, complete with a variety of lenses and professional add-ons – but it comes with the mini-DSLR price of $800. If that is too steep there is the $500 Canon PowerShot G10 (a personal favourite). This camera falls more on the side of simple point and shoot. Much lighter and less customizable than full DSLR cameras the G10 still produces images any pro would find acceptable.

Top LCD/Plasma TVs of 2008

If you're planning on buying a LCD or Plasma TV this holiday season there are a few series you should look into before you trod down to your local big box store. Buying a new series of TVs doesn't necessarily mean you'll be paying top dollar – but it does mean you will be getting the latest technology your money can buy.

  Product Votes %  
Sony XBR8 Series 37 37%
Samsung 6 Series 26 26%
Panasonic Viera PZ800 Series 25 25%
Vizio XVT Series 12 12%
    100    

The Sony Bravia XBR8 Series was the big winner in this poll – but who wouldn't want a flagship $5000 TV with LED backlighting. If value is what you're looking for, the popular Panasonic Viera PZ800 Series or the cheaper yet Samsung 6 series would fit nicely. Both are still considered fairly high end, but don't come with those cutting edge night sweats that come after buying a top-of-the-line model. Even cheaper still, the Vizio XVT Series is another good option, and while the loser in our poll it still carried 10% of the vote.

Top GPS Receivers of 2008

GPS units have become a great deal more affordable and complex over the past few years. Today these sophisticated hand held units can guide you by custom chosen voices, sync with Bluetooth devices for hands free phone calls, or even communicate wirelessly to find out real time traffic conditions and plot your route accordingly.

  Product Votes %  
TomTom GO 930 30 32%
Garmin Nuvi 765T 29 31%
NAVIGON 8100T 14 15%
Garmin Nuvi 255W 14 15%
Dash Express 7 7%
    94    

The voting shows a tie for first, and a tie for third. First place goes to both the TomTom Go 930 and Garmin Nuvi 765T, two high end units that both go for a rather pricey $600. Both offer very high quality screens, text-to-voice readers, mp3/audiobook players and other luxury features. The main difference between the two is the TomTom's ability to intelligently re-plot your route based on traffic conditions. The NAVIGON 8100T came tied for second, but since it's also a $600 unit it might not be as fitting as the first two options – while it's 3D topographic interface does look clean and exciting. For those uninterested in these features, or the price they entail however, the Garmin Nuvi 255W or is for you. Both units feature some of the most important functionality of the more expensive units, while cutting out others and keeping the price down. We'll tip our hat to the Garmin unit however, as it was more popular.

Top A/V Receivers / Home Theaters in Boxes of 2008

Home A/V got considerably fewer votes than our other categories. This is probably due to the fact that not many people research or understand A/V that well. If your special someone or family already has a large TV, Bluray player and multiple consoles – consider one of these.

  Product Votes %  
Onkyo HT-S6100 27 34%
Sony STR-DA3400ES 22 28%
Yamaha RX-V663 17 22%
Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K 13 16%
    79    

The voters were split, but the most popular A/V device was the Onkyo HT-S6100, which pairs a powerful and high quality A/V receiver with 7.1 surround sound speakers. This receiver is especially interesting, as it appears to be quite similar to the critically acclaimed TX-SR606. Similarly the Sony STR-DA3400ES is a 7.1 receiver, but doesn't include speakers – and with a price tag of $1000 you might want to discuss the purchase with the A/V fanatic you're buying it for. The Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K however, provides similar functionality (albeit at a lower level of quality) for about half the price – a great buy for those who aren't that concerned with having the best of the best. Another step down is the Pioneer VSX-1018AH-K, which still had a respectful 16% of the vote.

Top Blu-ray Players of 2008

Blu-ray hasn't really taken off yet. The players and discs have been expensive and the majority of people hadn't yet upgraded to high definition TVs. This year is different. Blu-ray players can be had for less than $300 – and this number is expected to plummet across the board this holiday season. People have also begun to enjoy high definition TV.

  Product Votes %  
Sony BDP-S550 42 55%
Samsung BD-P2550 16 21%
LG BD300 15 20%
Magnavox NB500MG9 3 4%
    76    

By far, the winner of this poll was the Sony BDP-S550, one of the latest players from Sony, supporting Profile 2.0 and including 7.1 analog outputs for $400. There was a tie for second between the LG BD300 and the Samsung BD-P2550 which, both include support for Profile 2.0 as well as streaming Netflix videos from the Internet (something the Sony doesn't support) – however, the Samsung will cost you extra for the 7.1 analog pre-outs, as well as it's enhanced video processor. The big loser in this category is the inexpensive Magnavox NB500MG9, which only supports Profile 1.1.

At ProductWiki we're dedicated (and even a little obsessed) with transparency when it comes to products. We also love to know what you think! If you disagree with the masses or simply want to comment or point out an alternative product – feel free. Otherwise, take comfort in the fact that hundreds of knowledgeable consumers have your back when picking out that special something from our list.

Comments

1.  avatar Omar said:

Amazing job on the article yale! Really interesting results, and presented in such a fine manner to boot!

I have to admit that some of the results surprised me, particularly in how brutally Apple beat down its competition. I'm also surprised/impressed by the results in the GPS Receivers, I didn't know much about GPS' before-hand but I can definitely see why the TomTom 930 came out ahead (if just by 1).

My theory for video games is that the vote got split. You have the casual people that voted for Wii Fit, but then the hardcore gamers all had different favourites so the votes got spread around according to taste. I guess that's how it is in real life though!

Overall a very cool article and look back at some of the products that the community found favor with this year.
Nov 27, 2008 2:12pm
2.  avatar Erik said:

I agree with Omar about the Apple beatdown, GPS result, and his video game theory. There definitely was a splitting of the vote between mainstream and hardcore. The same reason why the conservative party won the election in Canada this year ;)

I'm really happy that Onkyo was able to sneak away with a win from Sony, preventing a clean sweep in the home theater category (TV, Blu-ray, receiver). If you're in the market for a home theater in a box at a great price, you have to consider the HT-S6100.

Let Black Friday begin! (oh, and Happy Thanksgiving to all you Americans!)

Nov 27, 2008 2:19pm
3.  avatar GT-D said:

Yeah, for me the WiiFit is an amusing novelty, not a particularly laudable game.

I'd agree with the videogame breakdown analysis Omar posted. Personally, I would like to play all those games, but I only ended up getting through Fallout 3 before the WoW expansion hit. We're not due to see GTA4 on PC for a few more days and at this point I'll wait till I'm not playing as much WotLK before I pick it up.

As a PC user with no consoles (other then an old N64) a bunch of those games immidiately become excluded. (I suppose I could play them at someone elses house - but going to visit someone to play console games isn't really my idea of going out to have a good time anymore.)
Nov 28, 2008 9:50am
4.  avatar Gnarlodious said:

I noticed a few snarky swipes at Apple ("Sadly the iPhone includes the most advanced features") so the writer is biased and unreliable. Grotesque misspellings (micelanious) further convinced me the writer is technically challenged. Lastly, my excellent Olympus DSLR was not even an option on the voting page, so of course it did not appear in the results. Makes me wonder who is sponsoring these endorsements.
Nov 28, 2008 10:19am
5.  avatar brandonink2001 said:

Why do I own a top-five product out of half those categories? No wonder my wife complains about my spending.
Nov 29, 2008 11:19am
6.  avatar DLF said:

No Nikon on the vote-getting list for Top Digital Cameras, no Pioneer Elite on the list for Top LCD/Plasma TVs, No Denon on the list of Top AVR/HTiBs, and no Panasonic on the list of Top Blu-ray Players. Quite a knowledgeable crowd you've got voting in these things. You might want to weight the results next time based on what products the voters own. or at least have actual, personal experience with.
Dec 03, 2008 6:25pm
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