We have to admit it, our jobs are pretty cool.
We get to test all the latest gear, usually before everyone else gets their hands on it. We break in the newest products -- phones, tablets, cars, shoes, earphones -- for a week or so, pressing all the buttons and getting it dirty. Then we write up our impressions to help you decide whether it's something you should consider buying.
With that last bit comes a huge level of responsibility, and often some anxiety. But for the most part, it's a really fun way to earn a living. Granted, there are heaps of sucky products to wade through, but when you get to test a real gem, it's a rush.
Listed here are our favorite products we tested in 2011. Not necessarily the best-rated, or even the best-in-class, but the products that stood out in our minds and made lasting impressions on us -- the stuff we most enjoyed surrounding ourselves with this year.
It's hard to find a corner of the computer industry the iPad didn't affect in some way -- touchscreens, software distribution, processors, sensors, web design, materials. Regardless of how you feel about Apple's products or its business practices, you cannot deny that the iPad has proven to be a very big deal.
With the introduction of the iPad 2, Apple slimmed down and sped up the original design, making it easier for us to slot one into our lives. Researchers, students, gamers and musicians are all flocking to the device, finding new ways to incorporate it to their workflows.
And of course, consumers have a new platform for watching videos, sending e-mails, playing games and just tapping around the web on the couch. It's not an essential device -- we already have laptops that do all of these things well, and $500 is a lot of money -- but it's a damn cool addition to the quiver.
Photo by Jim Merithew/Wired