The year is almost over. For many people, it is a time of reflection, or staunch resolution. For publishers, it is a time to come up with a series of year-in-review articles to feed the beast on slow news days.
This is no exception! However, we thought our Re/code Reviews readers might genuinely be interested in re-reading some of our top product reviews in 2014, especially if they are considering purchasing new smartphones, cameras and other gadgets in the new year. Note: This list is comprised of the reviews that were read the most by our readers; it’s not meant to be a top 10 products list.
Reviews of Apple products dominated our top 10, which is not entirely surprising. But Google and Samsung snuck in there, too; as well as a diminutive little action camera that has made big headlines this year.
Key takeaway: “In my view, it’s the best smartphone on the market, when you combine its hardware, all-new operating system, and the Apple ecosystem whose doors it opens. That includes a new service called Apple Pay for buying goods in stores and online electronically via the phone … Apple Pay will only work with these latest iPhones, and Apple’s forthcoming smartwatch.”
Key takeaway: “There are a couple of reasons why the Apple iPhone 6 Plus might also be too big for me to purchase. But I have to admit it: I really like this phone. And to people who actually prefer huge smartphones: You are going to like this phone, too. That’s mostly because it’s not just a smartphone; it’s a statement phone.”
Key takeaway: “This free software update to the iPhone operating system seems to have an answer for your biggest gripes, checking them off the list, one by one. It also throws in some new features that you won’t know you needed until you try them. And it gives you faster ways to navigate your phone.”
Key takeaway: “Unlike Siri, which only runs on iOS, Google Now runs on a variety of devices, and might work differently across different smartphones and operating systems. And while Siri has a dedicated button, Google Now runs as a kind of intelligent layer under other applications on the phone. In other words, even when you’re not saying ‘Okay, Google,’ Google Now will still cue up info for you.”
Key takeaway: “All three apps make typing on the iPhone smarter and easier because of their predictive technology. This is different from the previous iOS keyboard, which simply auto-completes or auto-corrects a word (sometimes with hilarious results) … That said, SwiftKey was my favorite of the three. Its predictions were the most accurate, and it features a swipe-based input method that’s a real time-saver.”
Key takeaway: “I’ve been testing an early, pre-production version of iStick and its companion app, and found that it does indeed work as advertised for file transfers. It still has a few bugs to work out before shipping, and the process isn’t quite as simple as it is between two computers, due to the unusual file system used by iOS. But the product works, and I suspect it will be welcomed by many iPhone and iPad users.”
Key takeaway: “For the sake of this review, I also tested the new Yosemite operating system on an ‘old’ 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro that I keep at home. I found that while some Yosemite features, like group messaging and desktop calling, worked on my 2011 laptop, there are limitations with older hardware. Is it worth upgrading? I’d say yes. But if you’re using a Mac from 2011 or earlier, don’t expect to use all of the new features.”
Key takeaway for entry-level GoPro Hero: “At $129, it’s the company’s least expensive camera yet; the next-closest is last year’s $199 model with built-in Wi-Fi, which this one lacks. GoPro hopes that this one will lure newcomers, but I’m not quite sold.”
Key takeaway for GoPro Hero4 Silver: “Having the touchscreen made it so much easier to navigate through all the camera’s different menus and settings. No longer do you have to figure out which buttons do what and repeatedly press them to cycle through the many menu options.”
Key takeaway for GoPro Hero4 Black: “The GoPro Hero4 Black is the most powerful GoPro available. However, I really think it’s for hardcore GoPro users, or professional videographers who are looking for these kinds of specs. If I could buy just one, I would go with the Silver, because I don’t yet have a need to shoot 4K video and really liked the Silver’s viewscreen.”
Key takeaway: “In every major hardware area, it’s a very good phone, with a sharp, gorgeous screen that, at 5.1 inches, is a teeny bit bigger than the five-inch display on last year’s model, the S4 … [But] I also had some issues with two of the three big new features on the S5 — a fingerprint reader, the built-in heart-rate monitor, and that water-resistant body.”
Key takeaway: “For the past few weeks, I’ve been using Blue Apron and Plated, which send a set number of uncooked dinner kits each week for around $10 per meal. The benefit of these relatively new services is threefold … [But] I did find that I couldn’t fulfill all my food needs with these kits. They don’t offer a lot of flexibility.”
Other top reviews included these tips for getting the most out of your Netflix subscription, a handy guide for figuring out which wireless carrier has the best upgrade program and portions of our Holiday Gift Guide.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.