Six clicks: Best gadgets I bought in 2014

I buy a lot of gadgets, and this year more than most years. There were good gadgets, average gadgets, and duds purchased this year. Here are the best of the lot in the order I value them.
Topic: Mobility
1 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Capresso 118.05 EC PRO Espresso Machine

I take my espresso seriously and I’ve owned several espresso machines over the years. How seriously do I take it? I buy locally roasted coffee beans for $20 a pound.

When the espresso machine I bought over a year ago died (pump died), I set out looking for a replacement. There are many choices, from small, cheap ones to mammoth machines that cost thousands of dollars.

My little kitchen doesn’t have much counter space for an espresso machine, so I needed to find a relatively small system that functioned well in spite of the size. After looking at dozens of machines online, I was drawn to the Capresso 118.05 EC PRO. I have owned a Capresso burr grinder (for grinding beans) for a while, and I’ve been impressed with the build quality.

The Capresso espresso machine is small but it’s not cheap at $250.

I have been thrilled with the Capresso 118.05 EC PRO, and it’s easily the best gadget I bought in 2014. It is a high pressure system, critical for good espresso. It can make a double shot of espresso in less than 10 seconds with a quarter inch of brown crema. It also makes a great cappuccino, something I like occasionally.

This gadget is so good I don't hesitate recommending it to those wanting a good espresso machine that doesn’t require much counter space.

2 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

iPhone 6 Plus

I’ve written a lot about the iPhone 6 Plus so I won’t rehash it here. I’ll summarize it and state that the iPhone 6 Plus is the best smartphone I’ve ever owned, and that covers a lot of them.

My coverage of the iPhone 6 Plus on ZDNet:

3 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Amazon Echo

Amazon surprised everyone with the announcement of the Echo. I was intrigued with the cylindrical audio system augmented with an intelligent system like Siri on iOS.

From the moment I took the Echo out of the box it became a routine part of my day, the sign of a good gadget.

The Amazon Echo has impressed me more the longer I use it. The ability to hear my spoken commands, even at a distance of 30+ feet, and accurately determine what I want, is uncanny. Rarely does Alexa (as the AI is named) fail to understand even somewhat complex commands.

The Echo is entertaining, and is able to give needed information on demand. This is the third best gadget I’ve purchased this year.

See my full review of the Amazon Echo on ZDNet.

4 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

JayBird BlueBuds X Sport wireless earbuds

After buying several wireless headsets and earbuds, I was about to give up as none performed well. I bought the JayBird BlueBuds X Sport not expecting them to be any better than the others, but I have been happy to find they are as good as I wanted them to be.

I use these wireless earbuds every day, which is possible given the eight hour battery life. The audio quality is great for listening to music and podcasts, and equally so on voice calls.

The JayBird BlueBuds X Sport wireless earbuds easily makes the list of best gadgets I’ve purchased in 2014.

See the review of the JayBird BlueBuds X Sport on ZDNet.

5 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro for iPad Air

I’ve used dozens of keyboards with my iPad Air, and this one is the one I use daily. The case part is very thin and light, and the keyboard rivals those on laptops.

The QODE Ultimate Pro has several features that most iPad keyboards lack:

  • The keyboard is backlit.
  • The iPad Air can be removed from the keyboard due to the magnetic flap that attaches it to the case.
  • The magnetic flap design makes it possible to use the iPad Air in portrait orientation.

See my review of the Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro on ZDNet.

6 of 6 James Kendrick/ZDNet

Kindle Fire HDX 7 and 8.9 (dual award)

The build quality of the two Fire HDX tablets is outstanding for the price. I originally bought the 8.9-inch model and later picked up the 7-inch Fire HDX.

They are both good tablets, and I have a hard time deciding which size I like better. I use the bigger one for work activities, both with and without a Fire Keyboard. The larger screen shows more information at once, and that helps with work stuff. The smaller one is the one I use for surfing the web and reading ebooks.

Here’s a comparison of the two Fire HDX sizes on ZDNet.

Don’t miss my full review of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 on ZDNet.

See the Fire Keyboard review on ZDNet.

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