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HardwareZone's Picks - Top 100 Products of 2012

Apps, Games & Software

The Top 100 Products of 2012

From convertible touchscreen Ultrabooks to dual-GPU gaming notebooks, from 41-megapixel camera phones to the first 'entry-level' full-frame DSLRs, 2012 has brought consumers more choice than ever before. If you have a need or a want, there's probably a gadget or device out there designed for you.

In this article, we pay homage to 100 of of the best products and technologies of the year. With thousands of new entries coming in every year that help define the year, it's important to take a step back and reflect on which set of gadgets, tech and software best shaped the year.

This time round, we've arranged them by category for easy browsing. So without further ado, here's a look back at all of the year's best gadgets, gizmos, games, apps, devices, and more!

Apps, Games & Software


Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4

With the jump to a new process version, Adobe's Lightroom 4 (LR4) is a huge step up from its predecessor. The new Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks sliders allow you to recover highlights and lift shadows to a degree not seen in previous versions, breathing new life into old images. The best thing about the upgrade is the downgrade in price, LR4 sells for nearly half the price of LR3, making this purchase a no-brainer.


Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is an important milestone for Google as it propels the Android platform ahead with its silky smooth performance. Thanks to "Project Butter", sluggish user interface navigation is almost a thing of the past as Jelly Bean deploys touch anticipation, triple buffering, and a fixed frame rate of 60fps to increase the responsiveness of the interface. Jelly Bean also brings a new service, Google Now which acts like a virtual personal assistant. Google Now answers your questions, gives recommendations, and delivers information based on your search results and location.


Angry Birds Star Wars

What's better than the original Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds Space, and Angry Birds Magic combined? Angry Birds Star Wars, that's what. Available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android platforms, Angry Birds Star Wars brings you on an intergalactic journey where you blast away Pigtroopers till you come face to face with Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Pigs, at the Pig Star.


Assassin’s Creed III

Leaving the cathedrals and busy streets of Europe, Assassin’s Creed III shifts the story across the Atlantic Ocean to the American continent around the time of the American Revolutionary War. The game continues the story of Desmond as he tries to solve the mystery of the First Civilization and prevent the 21st December 2012 apocalypse from occuring by reliving his ancestor's memories. This time he'll be reliving the adventures of the half-English, half-Mohawk, Connor. The game looks absolutely stunning as it features a new Anvil Next game engine, which has been built from the ground up to fully utilize the power of current generation systems.


Diablo III

After a wait of over a decade, gamers finally got to stay a while a listen to Deckard Cain’s ramblings again as Blizzard released Diablo III. Featuring five unique classes including old favorites like the Barbarian and new additions like the Witch Doctor, Diablo III is one of the most polished dungeon crawlers released to date. Diablo III also introduced the Real Money Auction House, a service that let players sell and buy items acquired in game for real-world money, letting many dedicated gamers finally realize the dream of making money by playing games.



The best football game on any gaming console has just gotten better. FIFA 13 features improved game physics and gameplay, resulting in players moving more intelligently and passing the ball more naturally and fluidly. The game also has an updated career game system with a thoroughly reworked transfer system that includes counter-offers and player and cash transfer, making it more fulfilling to manage a team.


Forza Horizon

Always been a fan of the Forza Motorsport franchise but sick of driving around race circuits? Then consider Forza Horizon as your prayers answered. Set in a fictional locale that is modeled closely after Colorado, USA, Forza Horizon takes all your favorite cars from Forza Motorsport and puts them on the open road. Fans of the competing NFS franchise might disagree, but Forza Horizon is the most authentic and rewarding open road racer yet.


Google Maps for iOS

Yelps of frustration were heard around the world as Apple replaced Google maps in iOS 6 with its own home-grown ones – which weren't as accurate, with misplaced landmarks and even 'melted' bridges. Months later, Google released its own Google Maps app for iOS utilizing vector maps with the accuracy of the Google Maps we've come to depend on. It also brought turn-by-turn navigation to iPhones at large, something that previously only worked on Apple's Maps app with iPhone 4S and newer.



The year 2012 was a good time for indie game developers. With the gaming industry going from strength to strength, titles such as Journey showed how far video games have progressed. Evoking a sense of smallness and wonder with the employment of breathtaking cinematography and wordless songs, Journey is anchored around an extremely strong narrative arc and great story-telling. A definite "must-play" for those bored with the standard fare from big developer houses.



Mass Effect 3

Bringing a close to the journey of Commander Shepherd, Bioware released the last installment of the epic Mass Effect trilogy. The game features an improved combat system, with better cover dynamics. Best of all, the choices you made in the previous installments of the series could be pulled over into the new title, impacting how the finale of the story plays out.



Microsoft Windows 8

Say what you will, but there's no denying that Windows 8 is Windows re-imagined. While it's built on the foundation of Windows 7, it's been improved on all fronts. You got a new user interface replete with touch gestures, much improved cloud-connected services, a renewed focus on apps, and a slew of new security features. The OS is also designed to work swimmingly not just on desktop PCs, but on laptops and especially well on tablets. With a sharp rise in tablet adoption and cloud-based computing and services, the OS has a lot of foresight in its design to deliver optimal tablet usage experience that could lead the next charge of computing.

In a nutshell, it's the best and most versatile version of Windows we've seen since Windows XP.

More information: HWZ Windows 8 Mega Guide



Microsoft Windows Phone 8

Microsoft rejuvenated its mobile platform this year with Windows Phone 8 (WP8), which also shares Windows core elements between WP8 and Windows 8 OS platforms. This will lead to a uniform user experience across desktops, notebooks and smartphones.

As WP8 is optimized for use with multi-core processors, supports up to 720p resolution and comes with microSD card support, WP8 vendors can finally step up their game and offer compelling alternatives to the market flooded with iPhone and Android devices. Its distinctive feature, Live Tiles, can also be re-sized to fit more information on the home screen.

More information: HWZ Feature


Nintendo Wii U and Wii U GamePad

Nintendo’s latest console, the Nintendo Wii U is the first console to feature a tablet-like gamepad, with its 6.2-inch touchscreen. The screen features the same resistive technology as Nintendo’s 3DS handheld console, and also comes with a stylus, which slots neatly into the back of the controller. While many games make use of the Wii U GamePad’s display as a secondary information screen, perhaps the best thing about the GamePad is its Off-TV Play function, which lets you use its display as your main display, allowing you to play games without a TV available. The Wii U itself also packs a host of hardware upgrades including HD output, an IBM PowerPC 750-based three-core processor CPU, 2GB RAM, and an AMD Radeon GPU.


Paper for iOS

If you love doodling, the Paper app for iOS is for you. Developed by people who are actually passionate about design, Paper has all the essential tools for the creative doodler. You can draw with fountain pens, sketch with lead pencils and even mix watercolors to create new hues. Draw anything you want and save them in beautiful "journals". The only limit is your imagination.


Tunnel Bear

Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, and Netflix; these are just a few examples of services that haven’t made their way out of the US due to licensing issues, and are only accessible via a VPN connection. However, setting up a VPN can be overly complex and time-consuming. Luckily, there’s always Tunnel Bear. Available on PC and Mac, as well as Android and iOS devices, both the mobile and desktop apps have clean and user-friendly interfaces, which makes Tunnel Bear dead simple to use and get started. All you have to do is sign up for a free account - which nets you 500MB of free bandwidth - and you can start tunneling away.