Best Travel Gadgets 2013
The new Moto X phone is so smart that you almost never need to push a button. When its sensors detect that you’re driving, the phone automatically reads aloud incoming emails and text messages, and makes it easy to respond with talk-to-type.
It’s one of the latest tech products that are taking intuitive design to the next level—and changing the way travelers experience the world. We also uncovered cameras that upload straight to Facebook and laptops thinner than thumb drives as part of our tests to pick out this year’s honorees in the Travel + Leisure Tech Awards.
Related: Best New Travel Gadgets for 2014
If you’re looking for sound quality—or sound sleep—consider the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC29 headphones. They strip away 87 percent of outside sounds when noise canceling is turned on. Even better, they offer thumping bass and clear dialogue at a bargain price.
And don’t mistake the iPad Mini for just another entertainment source. The tablet’s pared-down size makes it comfortable to carry as a navigation tool, while 900,000-plus apps mean there’s little that this powerhouse can’t do.
Find out which other travel gadgets are worth adding to your wish list.
Best Overall Laptop: MacBook Air
It may look like the same slim classic you know and love, but the latest MacBook Air delivers nine hours of battery life, improved performance, and a new operating system with sophisticated mapping and organizational tools. Add state-of-the-art Wi-Fi technology for more-stable connectivity, and you have the fastest, most reliable laptop on the market. $999, apple.com.
Best Overall Camera: Samsung NX300
With 20.3 megapixels and hybrid autofocus for quick, detailed shots, this mirrorless camera has the ability to capture 8.6 snaps per second, a tilting screen for tricky angles, and built-in Wi-Fi for easy uploading to Flickr or Facebook. From $749, samsung.com.
Best Overall Tablet: iPad Mini
Sexy, light, and slim (at just 0.28 inches), the iPad Mini is an all-around winner. Its loudspeakers do justice to movies and TV shows, but at two inches smaller than the flagship model, it is also comfortable to carry as a navigation tool. Throw in the growing number of offerings in the App Store (900,000-plus at press time), and there’s little that this powerhouse can’t do. From $329, store.apple.com.
Best Overall Headphone: Audio-Technica ATH-ANC29 QuietPoint Noise-Cancelling Headphones
The top choice for those who need to tune out their seatmates at 30,000 feet, these sleek headphones strip away 87 percent of outside sounds when noise canceling is turned on. Even better, they offer thumping bass and clear dialogue at a bargain price. $100, shopaudiotechnica.com.
Best Overall Phone: HTC One
The sleek Android interface offers instant access to news and social media on your home screen. The camera’s Zoe mode lets you pull still images from video (ideal for group shots). And the built-in Beats Audio speakers provide the clearest and warmest sound we’ve ever heard on a phone. From $200, all major carriers, htc.com.
Samsung ATIV TAB 3
The smallest tablet running Windows 8, the 10.1-inch TAB 3 is as close as you can get to a handheld laptop. The detachable keyboard makes it easy to work on the go, while built-in SideSync technology lets you use your tablet’s screen and keyboard to type long e-mails—or surf the Web—with your smartphone’s connection. From $700, samsung.com.
Nikon Coolpix A
Don’t be fooled by the small package: this point-and-shoot has the same type of powerful sensor used in many DSLR’s. An optional adapter turns your smartphone into a remote control, making it easy to take self-portraits from a distance. $1,100, nikonusa.com.
Creative Labs Sound Blaster EVO ZxR
The high-tech look of these Bluetooth wireless headphones is just a hint at the standard-setting specs that lie within: 50 mm drivers for big sound, active noise canceling, and a built-in processing chip that lets you adjust your audio preferences straight from your smartphone. $300, creativelabs.com.
One of the smartest hands-free devices on the market, the Moto X is constantly listening for your spoken commands, from making calls to setting alarms. When its sensors detect that you’re driving, the phone automatically reads aloud your incoming e-mails and text messages, and makes it easy to respond with talk-to-type. Add to that Google’s sophisticated voice search, and you’ll almost never need to push a button. From $200, all major carriers, motorola.com.
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
The glossy, 10.1-inch touch screen of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z is both beautiful, with a full HD display, and durable (the glass is more scratch-resistant than most). Thanks to fully sealable inputs, it’s also water- and dust-resistant, making it equally suited for beach reading or navigating city streets on a snowy day. $500, store.sony.com.
Ideal for active trips, Pentax’s latest weatherproof DSLR has ergonomic dials for its many advanced features (from ISO to depth of field) and an add-on backup AA-battery power supply—all in a whopping 120 color combinations. $780, us.ricoh-imaging.com.
Beats by Dre Studio
Beats by Dre’s newly revamped design—in four splashy colors—goes well beyond aesthetics, delivering crisp audio while blocking out everything you don’t want to hear. What’s more, the USB-rechargeable battery lasts an impressive 20 hours, long enough for a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. $300, beatsbydre.com.
Want the convenience of a touch screen and the accuracy of a physical keyboard? The Q10 has both. The software’s smart, too: a multilingual predictor simultaneously checks your spelling in up to three languages of your choice, while a nifty substitution tool learns when (and how) to expand your shorthand. So long, auto-correct. $200, all major carriers, us.blackberry.com.
Google Nexus 7
With a full-featured version of Google Maps that stores data for offline use, a location-based news feed, and Google Now’s collection of travel-friendly functions (currency exchange rates, translations, and local transit info, to name a few), this ultracompact, seven-inch workhorse could win over the fiercest Apple loyalists—even without mention of its affordable price tag. From $229, google.com.
ZAGGkeys Cover for iPad Mini
This backlit Bluetooth keyboard doubles as an iPad cover. $99, zagg.com.
Canon Vixia Mini
No bigger than a deck of cards, this video camera has a 2.7-inch touch screen that flips up so that you can be both videographer and on-screen star, as well as built-in Wi-Fi for instant uploading to YouTube. Also fun: a fish-eye lens that adds a funky, Instagram-like edge. $300, usa.canon.com.
Apple iPhone 5
Android and Windows phones may take the prize for innovation, but Apple’s latest updates don’t disappoint. Both the budget-conscious 5C and high-end 5S have improved cameras and battery life—up to 10 hours’ worth. Particularly great is the 5S’s new processor, which yields smart navigation functions (knowing you’ve switched from driving to walking, for instance) and the ability to access a broader network of Wi-Fi connections, even overseas. From $99, store.apple.com.
Despite being one of the lightest high-performance laptops (at a mere 2.55 pounds), the SX2 is packed with convenient features: a blazing-fast Core i7 processor, up to 16 hours of battery life, and an all-too-rare DVD drive. It’s also rugged, with a magnesium-alloy body that comes in seven splashy colors. From $2,799, dynamism.com.
Nokia Lumia 1020
Never agonize over perfectly framing your shots again: the best of Windows Phone’s latest releases features a standard-setting 41-megapixel camera, with built-in photo and video tools that beat many a point-and-shoot, even in low-light situations. $200, AT&T, nokia.com.
Innergie PocketCell Duo
Charge two devices at once, without an electrical outlet. $90, myinnergie.com.
There’s no need to choose between work and play when it comes to this sleek Ultrabook, which is preloaded with Adobe Photoshop Elements and Norton Anti-Theft Security software. We love the backlit keyboard and USB ports that charge your gadgets even when the computer is turned off, along with the better-than-HD screen and Harman Kardon speakers, which make for exceptional movie viewing. From $1,600, toshibadirect.com.
Sony Cyber-Shot TX30
While many ruggedized cameras look the part, this shock- and water-resistant point-and-shoot is slim and discreet, packing in 18.2 megapixels, HD video, and 5x optical zoom, all at a great price. $260, store.sony.com.
Bose QuietComfort 20i
These tiny earbuds are every bit as powerful as the best over-ear models, proving surprisingly adept at blocking out noisy airplane neighbors and delivering warm sound on movie dialogue. Bonus: a built-in mic doubles as a remote for your smartphone, and it’s easy to deactivate the noise-canceling technology to hear your captain’s PSA. $299, bose.com.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S
Few convertible laptops satisfy as both a computer and a tablet—but the IdeaPad rises to the challenge, thanks to its wide keyboard; intuitive, motion-sensitive controls; and smart design. Simply rotate the supersharp, 11.6-inch touch screen to create a flat, handheld device, or rotate it into a “V” shape to prop it up on your seatback tray table. From $649, lenovo.com.
Olympus PEN E-P5
Underneath its retro styling, this Micro Four Thirds camera offers cutting-edge features—such as ultrafast 1/8000s shutter speeds—that optimize performance for close-ups, low-light situations, and everything in between. $1,000, getolympus.com.
HP Chromebook 11
The HP Chromebook 11, which hit shelves in November but was too new to test at press time, offers a full suite of cloud-based Google apps and top-notch hardware for less than $300. This striking second-generation model doesn’t skimp on form or function, with a 16-inch widescreen and digitally tuned speakers squeezed into a 2.3-pound white magnesium-alloy body. Even the charger warrants applause: the simple USB cord is refreshingly lightweight, and it also works with any Android smartphone. $279, google.com.
Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse
In addition to being pocket-size and ergonomic, it’s compatible with both laptops and certain tablets. $70, logitech.com.
Sony Smartphone Attachable Lens-Style Camera (DSC-QX100)
This accessory—designed in collaboration with high-end lens maker Carl Zeiss—uses a Wi-Fi connection to bring DSLR-like capabilities to your mobile device. With a built-in sensor and 3.6x optical zoom, it turns out crisp close-ups, impressive low-light performance, and 1080p HD video. It’s optimized for use with Sony’s Xperia smartphones, but a special case lets you use it with Apple or Android devices as well. $500, store.sony.com.