Best of Tech Design – Yanko Design Awards 2023

Best of Tech Design – Yanko Design Awards 2023

It’s that time of year again when we take stock of the past 12 months and reflect on the ups and downs in order to get a brief glimpse of what lies ahead. It has been a pretty active year for the tech industry in many segments, from companies recovering or folding from the events of the past 3 years to the explosion of AI-powered services. Of course, there has also been a torrent of new designs and product types, such as the gaming handheld fever that’s gripping the PC market. In other words, there has been a great storm swirling in the tech and consumer electronics world, and now that the dust has finally settled, we’re taking a look at some of the best product designs that you can grab today or in just a few months.

Best Mixed Reality Headset – Apple Vision Pro

After years of speculation and waiting, Apple finally revealed its hand and showed the world its vision for its mixed reality platform. Of course, that includes the hardware that will become the gateway to that reality, the Vision Pro. In typical Apple fashion, the headset isn’t just a rehash of any old VR/AR gear and is specifically designed not only to showcase the power of Apple’s Spatial Computing but also to provide convenience and comfort in all aspects.

Designer: Apple

Why it’s noteworthy

As expected from any Apple product, the Vision Pro has a minimalist, understated design where every part is made with meticulous attention to detail. In addition to luxurious, comfortable materials, the headset is designed to be lightweight and well-balanced, allowing for long hours of use without straining the head. It was also made to immerse the wearer in a virtual world without taking them away from the real world, especially when communicating with others by making eye contact. Apple’s visionOS platform is carefully tailored to mix the real and the virtual seamlessly. Admittedly, the pricing for the Vision Pro is going to be high, but that’s also on par with any high-quality product that Apple makes.

Best Gaming Handheld – Lenovo Legion Go

Although some manufacturers have been churning out portable gaming PCs for years now, things really heated up when the big names in the industry started jumping in. Valve got the ball rolling with the Steam Deck, followed closely by the ASUS ROG Ally. Lenovo may just be the latest to jump on board, but thanks to both its expertise and the advantage of hindsight, the Lenovo Legion Go is pretty much ahead of the game not just in terms of specs but also in design.

Designer: Lenovo

Why it’s noteworthy

Yes, the Legion Go looks big, but mostly because it has the biggest screen among handheld gaming PCs in the market today. Its removable controllers give the perfect Nintendo Switch vibe, but the FPS mouse mode also delivers a new and unique way to play games. The high-performance hardware leaves few complaints, aside from the usual battery life, and the built-in kickstand removes the need for a separate accessory. There’s definitely still room for improvement, so it’s actually exciting to see what Lenovo has planned next for this device category.

Best Foldable Phone – OPPO Find N3

Foldable phones are becoming mainstream to the point that there might be too many to choose from at this point. While Samsung still has the lion’s share of people’s attention, it has long relinquished being the best in this market. It has easily let its rivals pass it by, and OPPO, who is relatively new to the scene, has just produced what is pretty much the best foldable phone you can buy (depending on where you are).

Designer: OPPO

Why it’s noteworthy

The OPPO Find N3 combines not just the best specs but also the best designs currently available in this category. It folds flat, has stylish color options, and has a more normal, wider shape that makes it more usable as a regular phone when folded. And it doesn’t skimp on the cameras, which is something that most foldable phones still have a hard time getting right. This particular model might not be available in all markets, but the OnePlus Open is a dead ringer and might be available in countries where the OPPO Find N3 isn’t.

Best Laptop/Portable PC – HP Envy Move

When thinking of “portable computers,” most will probably think of laptops since those are the most common designs available. They’re not always the best, though, especially when you consider the ergonomics involved. Desktop PCs, however, are just too large and bulky to be portable, even the thin all-in-one PCs are firmly rooted to desks. HP is challenging that status quo with a unique PC that is as portable as a laptop yet as usable as an all-in-one desktop.

Designer: HP

Why it’s noteworthy

The HP Envy Move is, for all intents and purposes, an AIO or All-in-One PC that was designed to be carried around, especially thanks to a built-in foldable handle and a pocket for storing a wireless keyboard. Its large 23.8-inch screen has plenty of room for work and entertainment, and you won’t have to crane your neck down every time you use it. Yes, it’s probably going to be awkward to carry it with you everywhere, but when you have a few fixed places to set up work or sit down for a movie, this computer will give you the full desktop experience in no time flat.

Best Portable Power Station – Bluetti AC500 + B300S

A stable supply of electricity has almost become a luxury these days. Power grids can go down without prior notice, or you might find yourself spending days and nights outdoors. Gas generators no longer cut it and are dangerous liabilities rather than assets, but there’s, fortunately, a large selection of safer and greener battery-powered generators now available today. Perhaps too many, in fact, since they come in all sizes and capacities, but Bluetti’s latest modular AC500 inverter and B300S expansion batteries offer the perfect flexibility for all your power needs.

Designer: Bluetti

Why it’s noteworthy

The modular design of the Bluetti AC500 means that you can stack as many as four of these 3,072Wh batteries if you need to, enough to power a home for a day or two. Or you can only bring the inverter and one battery module if you just need to go camping over the weekend. Best of all, you can charge the batteries using solar power, so you don’t even have to worry about power outlets in case of emergencies or being stuck outside. It’s a great way to enjoy the conveniences of modern life by having access to safe and sustainable power at any time.

Best Powerbank – Anker 737 GaN Prime 24K

Our dependence on computers and smartphones becomes pretty obvious when we start scrambling for a charger and find no power outlet available. There’s a variety of portable batteries, a.k.a. power banks, available today, but not all of them deliver the power you need to charge multiple devices, let alone a power-hungry laptop. Anker is one of the leading brands in this space, and it has a solution that addresses that need without forcing you to carry a veritable brick in your bag.

Designer: Anker

Why it’s noteworthy

The Anker 737 GaN Prime 24K offers portability and power in a compact package. It has enough output and battery capacity to charge a MacBook, for example, which means smartphones, accessories, and even drones are no sweat at all. GaN (Gallium Nitride) technology makes charging not only faster but also safer, while a helpful LCD display shows all the necessary stats you need to keep tabs on the power bank itself as well as the devices it’s charging. The block is admittedly chunky, but compared to power banks of similar capacity, it’s surprisingly compact and light, making it the perfect all-around partner for any mobile worker.

Best Smart Speaker – Sonos Era 300

The hype around smart speakers may seem to have died down, but that’s mostly because they have become almost too common. Every modern Bluetooth-enabled speaker these days has some smarts now, leaving manufacturers more freedom to explore other designs. Sonos is one of the pioneers in the wireless speaker space, and it continues to push through with new designs even in the face of unrelenting competition. Its new Sonos Era 300 this year makes an impact not only with its design but also with its commitment to the environment.

Designer: Sonos

Why it’s noteworthy

The Sonos Era 300 has a distinctive shape that almost looks like a flattened speaker icon, with a front half that flares out and a back that is more or less uniform in size. That shape isn’t accidental, as it allows the multitude of woofers and tweeters to be positioned for maximum efficiency and performance. What really makes the Sonos Era 300 extra special, however, is the attention that it gives to sustainability, picking materials, lowering power consumption, and encouraging quick repairs in order to reduce its negative impact on the environment.

Best Wireless Earbuds – Sony WF-1000XM5

Apple may have made wireless earbuds popular, but it is far from being the only game in town. When it comes to design and especially sound quality, the AirPods are easily eclipsed by products from more experienced brands. Reclaiming its foothold in this audio space, Sony has launched a new pair of high-end buds that truly immerse you in your favorite music, regardless of your environment.

Designer: Sony

Why it’s noteworthy

The Sony WF-1000XM5 boasts one of if not the best noise canceling experiences that tiny buds can offer. It even uses some AI special sauce to also reduce noise interference when you’re making calls, allowing for clear and crisp audio on both ends of the line. Best of all, its minimalist design doesn’t call attention to itself, but its stylish appearance won’t embarrass you if people do notice.

Best Robot Vacuum Cleaner – SwitchBot S10

We have long gone past the days when robot vacuum cleaners only vacuumed floors and still left everything else to humans. Now they can dump their dirt into bins on their own and even wipe the floor with a mop when needed. Human intervention can’t be removed completely, like in taking out the dust bin or refilling water in the tank, but the SwitchBot S10 further reduces the need for manual interaction by making the robot smart enough to dump its own dirty water and stock up on clean water all by itself.

Designer: SwitchBot

Why it’s noteworthy

The small and narrow auto-emptying station of the SwitchBot S10 is rather deceptive, making you think it’s less capable than its larger competitors. But that’s because the exciting action happens away from that bin and at the separate water station that lets the robot vacuum exchange dirty water for clean one using the same pipes that you already have for drains and faucets. It can even refill a humidifier’s water tank on its own, presuming it’s SwitchBot’s humidifier, of course. These almost completely automated processes reduce the need to get your hands dirty, literally, and reduce the risks of getting contaminated and sick from handling waste materials.

Best Smartwatch – Apple Watch Ultra 2

Just like with smart speakers, the smartwatch market has more or less normalized by now after a long struggle in trying to carve out its niche. Designs may no longer be changing drastically, but innovation hasn’t stopped completely either. Now it’s a race to put the best health sensors you can cram in such a small space, but Apple has long been ahead of the race and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 cements its lead even further.

Designer: Apple

Why it’s noteworthy

The Apple Watch Ultra series delivered what users have been asking for a long time, more space to see the information they need at a glance without having to tap their way through screens. It also adds a new double tap gesture so you won’t even have to use your other hand for basic actions like stopping a timer, ending a call, or better yet, taking a photo from your iPhone. It also introduces Apple’s first carbon-neutral products, offsetting the negative impact the production of its smartwatches has with “carbon credits” from nature-based projects and parts.