Editors’ Choice picks for smartphone, Chromebook, smartwatch, and earbuds


AP’s annual best of the year list

google pixel 6 1

2021 was a great year for hardware. On the phone side, it started strong with the Samsung Galaxy S21 and OnePlus 9 series, continued with the superlative Pixel 5a 5G and, later, the Flip3 and Fold3, and ended with the Pixel 6, our smartphone of the year. There were also great accessories, from the fantastic Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds to the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 series, both our Editors’ Choice picks in their respective categories. And finally, on the Chromebook side, no laptop impressed us more than Acer’s excellent Chromebook Spin 713.

We were lucky enough to test and review hundreds of products in 2021, but these four — in distinct categories — really stood out as the best of the best.

  • The best smartphone of 2021

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    There were plenty of other phones that wowed us in 2021, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It was also the year folding phones came into their own, hitting mainstream with the Z Flip3 and defining the ultra-premium experience with the Z Fold3. But even in the face of the most expensive models of the year, the Pixel 6 holds its own, with one of the best smartphone cameras you can buy, exclusive time-saving Assistant features, an impressive five-year security update commitment (sadly just the same three years for OS upgrades) and great build quality.

    This is the first time that a “flagship” Pixel has won this award since the original model in 2016, and we’re happy to declare the Pixel 6 our Android Police Most Wanted Award winner and the best phone of 2021.

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  • The best smartwatch(es) of 2021

    Before this year, Wear OS was in pretty desperate need of a shakeup. The platform’s software development had grown so languid, it was almost a running joke among techy types. In May, Google announced it was partnering with Samsung to finally do something about it. Then, this summer, we got the first fruits of that joint labor: the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 and Galaxy Watch4 Classic. They’re both really good. In fact, together they win our Editors’ Choice award for our 2021 smartwatches of the year.

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  • The best Chromebook of 2021

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    Over the last two years, Chromebooks have dominated laptop sales around the world. As a low-cost way to access the internet — and the perfect device for remote learning or working — it’s no surprise that Google’s web-based OS is more prevalent than ever. With endless choices to pick between, shopping for a new laptop can be a stressful experience. Allow us to make it a little easier for you: the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 has earned the Editor’s Choice pick as our 2021 Chromebook of the year.

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  • The best wireless earbuds of 2021


    We’ve reviewed a lot of true wireless earbuds this past year, and one thing is clear: cheap earbuds are getting good. However, expensive earbuds are also improving. Case in point, the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds. These buds retail for $280, but you get what you pay for. I’m still going back to the XM4s months after wrapping up the review because they’re just so good. They represent a high mark in audio, ANC, battery life, and more. That’s why they’re the best true wireless earbuds of 2021.

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