Today is my last day as TechRadar's Computing Editor, and it's been one heck of a ride. Over the past four years, I've interviewed rock stars, opened a data center using a pair of giant comedy scissors, and picked up PC building tips from a record-holding overclocker who looks like a world's strongest man competitor.
Best of all, like any tech journalist, I've had the fantastic privilege of trying out the latest in computing and gaming tech before it's hit the shelves without spending a penny.
The question is: which products impressed me to the point that I would empty the contents of my wallet on them? Continue reading to see just which ones I splashed the cash on.
Best overall laptop
MacBook Pro 2016 (Non-Touch Bar)
So much negativity has surrounded Apple's new MacBook Pro that it's easy to forget the many things it's got right. It's compact, solidly built, rocks a searingly bright 500 nits-rated, color-packed display and the sound from its full-bodied speakers is so good that I can leave my Beats Pill at home. In addition to its huge and reliable trackpad, these are practical plus for points for me and worth carrying around a dongle or two.
That it can play Skyrim on Medium settings at 60 fps in Boot Camp is the cherry on top. If Apple improves its lackluster keyboard (read: more key travel please), then its successor will tick every box going.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 2016 (No Touch Bar)
Best Windows laptop
Dell XPS 15 (960M)
Dell's larger machine remains one my favorite Windows laptop for many of the same reasons I love the MacBook Pro. It's slim, durable and still the most compact 15-incher I've ever carted around, one that packs a dazzling 4K display with 100% Adobe RGB coverage for gorgeous color. It houses a ton of power under the hood and is a productivity monster and a gaming machine, unlike the MacBook.
Like Apple's machine, however, its keyboard isn't great, and it doesn't last long away from an outlet. Think of it as a compact portable desktop, however, and it really shines. I'll be keeping an eye out for TechRadar's review of the upcoming version with a GTX 1050Ti inside.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 15 (960M)
Best mechanical keyboard
Topre Realforce 87U
I've tried so many mechanical keyboards in the past two years that I've almost ran of places to keep them. Topre's Realforce 87U is the one I've always returned to thanks to its relatively low profile form factor, perfectly weighted 45g keys and tenkeyless layout. Even Topre's new Realforce RGB, which feels more like a Filco (boxier and sturdy, with pretty lights) can't match it in the comfort stakes.
Best gaming keyboard
Mechanical keyboards feel great for typing, but gaming? I've never been convinced that hammering away on a Corsair K70 has ever done anything to help raise my kill/death ratio. The Razer Ornata is a semi-mechanical keyboard with mid-height key caps that sport the company's new 'mecha-membrane' switches underneath.
They give off an audible 'click' similar to Cherry MX Blue switches but require very little effort to press. Everything from typing to double-jumping in Quake Live feels fast, fluid and enjoyable. Its RGB lighting is mesmerizing too.
Best gaming mouse
Logitech G502 Proteus Core
Your gaming mouse can feel very personal to you. It has to fit your hand size, possess a button layout that works well with the games you play and not feel too heavy or light during lengthy session. For me, Logitech's G502 Proteus Core ticks all of those boxes and has spent very little time away from my mouse mat.
It's perfectly sculpted for right-handed gamers, features a perfectly weighted free-spin scroll wheel, a color-coded DPI selector and an incredibly smooth glide mechanism that makes it a joy to wield. SteelSeries' RIval 700 is another excellent mouse and more novel thanks to its LCD display, but nothing beats the G502 Proteus Core.
Read the full review: Logitech G502 Proteus Core
Best gaming headset
Astro A50 Wireless
Sometimes you fall in love with tech over time, and others it's instantaneous. It took me around three seconds to become enamored with the Astro A50 Wireless' soft-padded earcups, which feel like a warm blanket in the middle of winter. Incredibly light yet well-put-together, they've been my go-to headset for both PC and PS4 gaming ever since they landed on my desk. And, once you go Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound, it's hard going back.
Read the full review: Astro A50 Wireless
Best music/general headset
V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
I unboxed V-Moda's Crossfade Wireless not knowing what to expect and was blown away by the headset's incredibly clear sound and booming bass. I like angry sounding music, and whether I'm listening to Castrovalva's 'Pump Pump' or 'My People' by The Presets, the V-Modas do every fuzz-driven bass line and buzz saw synth justice. They don't come cheap and feel a little flimsy, but if the music comes first then there are few better options.
Read the full review: V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
I've found it difficult to go back to 16:9 monitors after using ultra-wide monsters over the years. The LG 34UC97G certainly isn't cutting-edge, featuring a somewhat pedestrian 2,560 x 1,080 pixel-resolution. However, I find that it strikes the perfect balance between providing ample screen-real estate on the desktop and how taxing it is on my PC's graphics card. Its killer feature, a 144Hz refresh rate, makes gaming much more enjoyable than it was in the days of 60Hz, which feels like a prehistoric era in 2017.
Best portable monitor
I ordered a Packed Pixels portable monitor the second I returned it from review. A fantastic gadget for productivity freaks, my only regret is that it wasn't invented earlier. This portable monitor clamps onto the side of my MacBook Air, providing a pixel-packed Retina display good for typing up documents, browsing the web or streaming YouTube videos all day long.
I'm splitting this award equally with another portable monitor, the Gechic OnLap 1303H, which is a pricey but very capable 1080p monitor with DisplayPort. That makes it pretty much the only 13-inch portable IPS display that you can use with a MacBook Air, and a lifesaver if you're not interested in upgrading to one of Apple's newer MacBooks.
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