Every tech magazine comes out with a “best products of the year” list at around this time. Readers love lists—and it is shopping season, after all. Plus, it’s an easy story to do: Just open up a Web browser and start searching for the best of everything, then rewrite what you read online. Maybe throw in a few outliers, so the list is less generic than the countless other stories that have essentially the same products.
Here at PCMag, we do things a little differently.
The difference between our “best of the year” story and those of most of our competitors is that we’ve tested and reviewed all of the products we recommend. Most of that testing took place in PC Labs in New York City. The Labs are where Sascha Segan conducted his battery run-down tests on the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, Matthew Buzzi ran PCMark 8 on the new Microsoft Surface Book, and Jim Fisher used Imatest to measure high-ISO image distortion on the Nikon D3400. Thousands of products have passed through the labs in our 34-year history.
But our testing isn’t limited to the Labs. Increasingly, our staff has to take products home to test. We have a Samsung Smart refrigerator in the Labs, but when Will Greenwald asked if he could fire up the Char-broil Digital Electric Smoker, I thought an outdoor location might be more appropriate. Likewise, we’re currently evaluating home security systems, products that have to be tested in an actual home and over an extended period. The same goes for our auto coverage—the only place you want to test a Tesla Model S is on the road.
It’s a lot of work. And then, after all the testing, our editors and analyst argue over the best products of the year and create this list of the top 100. All of them are killer, the best of the best. But to be honest, other sites manage do the same thing. In fact, our story makes it a lot easier for a lot of them to do their research. To me, what makes PCMag’s review operation exceptional are all the products that *don’t* make this list.
The products we recommend as best of the year represent less than 4.5 percent of all of the consumer products we tested in 2016. When Sascha recommends the iPhone 7 Plus, you should know he has also tested the Samsung Galaxy S 7 and every other iPhone ever made. Mathew Buzzi has run PCMark 8 on more than 100 PCs this year to get to his top picks. And Jim Fisher has spent hours in the field shooting with the cameras and lenses he reviews—and he posts the photos to prove it.
Keep in mind that this list is focused on consumer products. If you’re looking for business products—office printers, network routers, VoIP services, accounting solutions—we’ve reviewed those as well. Just head over to PCMag.com and click on “Business.”
To me, the “best products of the year” story isn’t just another listicle. It’s the culmination of a massive amount of work done by expert staff dedicated to helping you make better buying decisions. Every year, it makes me proud to work here. I hope you enjoy it.
Check out the best products of 2016 in the the December issue of the PC Magazine Digital Edition, available now via Apple iTunes.