Popular Science takes the annual Best of What’s New winners very seriously. Items are scrutinized by independent researchers, vetted by third parties, and defended to a panel of dubious editors. The Pop Sci stamp of approval is not easily won.
Once our winners are chosen, however, we can ease up and get excited about sharing our choices with you all. And what makes us even more excited is when sales, like today’s Cyber Monday bargains, let you experience them, too.
August Home Smart Lock
The August Smart Lock unshackles your home from the tyranny of physical keys. The 3-inch cylinder fastens to the back of an existing deadbolt, leaving the outside appearance of your door unchanged. Once attached, a Bluetooth signal from your smartphone can flip the mechanism to unlock the door. A guest with a smartphone and an August app can enter once you’ve granted them access. No more passing out hard-copy keys, which are much harder to revoke—and easier to lose. The Smart Lock lets you pick days and times for guest entry, so the dog walker can get in only during lunch hours, or your weekend Airbnb guests lose access once their stay is over. If your guests don’t have smartphones, a Wi-Fi add-on allows you to buzz them in remotely. Plus, you can set the Smart Lock to bolt automatically every time the door shuts. And should anything fail, the old key still works. $229, plus $50 for remote connectivity
Acer Switch Alpha 12: Liquid-Cooled Laptop
Many ultrathin laptops pack a punch but have no room for fans, leading to overheating. So Acer turned to liquid cooling in the Switch Alpha 12, a laptop-tablet hybrid with Intel’s latest processors. As the system heats, so does coolant moving through a circular pipe; as the liquid condenses, the CPU cools down. In tests, the underside of the computer remained a comfortable 85 degrees after 30 minutes of video playback. $600
The First 4K Blu-Ray Player: Samsung 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Ultrahigh-def content is coming, and Samsung’s device is the first to handle it all. The player streams 4K video from Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon, along with, of course, playing physical UHD discs. $399
23% off Parrot Disco Drone
Some big-name drones are having a bumpy holiday season – sorry, GoPro. But the winged Parrot Disco is still sailing smooth. The fixed-wing flier is among the easiest to launch and fly of any of its airborne brethren, making it a worthy investment that might not get caught in a tree Christmas morning. $1,000
LG Signature OLED TV: The Most Colorful Picture
Even the best 4K TVs can swallow up details in the darkest and brightest parts of the image. High-dynamic range (HDR)—a catchall term for video encoded with a billions-deep color gamut—brings those nuances into the forefront. LG’s Signature OLED TVs render colors better than any other. The sets support both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR standards, so viewers can count on seeing the full rainbow, no matter their content source. From $7,999
Axe Element Hyperwhip Baseball Bat: Better Grip, Faster Swing
Round bats with round handles are as old as baseball. Now there’s a bat with a handle like an axe. Its ovular shape provides a better grip, and the tapered end protects from injuries when clobbering fastball after fastball. (Click here to find out what a pro thinks.) $225
Lighting Science HealthE Genesis: Just-Right Light
Light affects your body’s circadian rhythm, which in turn dictates your energy level, sleep cycles, and overall health. The HealthE Genesis lamp keeps things in sync with a super-precise lighting spectrum that can fluctuate based on the time of day or night. It keeps your biology so well in time that NASA is installing a custom version of it on the International Space Station to regulate astronauts’ sleep with precision. $175
41% off Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator
Updating a major appliance isn’t something to do on a whim, but if you’re already in the market for one, this smart fridge is well worth a look. Armed with three interior-facing cameras, the Wi-Fi connected device lets you check if you have eggs right from the grocery-store aisle. $3,500 from Best Buy.
Moto Z: Swappable Phone Features
If you’ve ever wished your phone had more memory, a massive zoom lens, beefier battery life, or improved speakers, the Moto Z makes it possible—all without having to buy a new phone. Any of five accessories, called MotoMods, magnetically attach to the back of the Android handset. The phone’s 0.2-inch-thick design manages to keep heft down—even when it has a Pico projector modded to its back. $624 (mods from $60)
The HTC Vive’s external camera lets you see out the other end.
BB-8 Droid: $150
The star of this Star Wars—the BB-8, a rolling, clowning droid with all the cute anthropomorphism you can squeeze out of a Disney film. Here’s your chance to own its mini friend. It comes equipped with smart-phone directed modes: driving via animated joystick; messaging commands like “help” to send it rolling; and patrol, which lets BB-8 roll where he wants.
22% off Amazon Echo
The freestanding speaker that brought a Siri-like experience into the home continues to be a hot item on Amazon, so naturally it’s part of their annual Cyber Monday showcase. Armed with Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, Echo learns new tasks all the time. For instance, this summer, she learned how to order you pizza. $140 on Amazon.
Pebble Time Steel
For all the bluster around smartwatches this year, most come with an Achilles heel: They need to be charged once or even twice a day. The Pebble Time lasts for 10 days on a single charge. The secret is the watch’s highly efficient color e-paper display, the first one in a consumer gadget. Bonus: It’s easier to read the display under varied light conditions. $250
Kolibree: A 3D-Motion Toothbrush
Even with the built-in timer on some electric toothbrushes, most people don’t brush for the full two minutes that dentists recommend. Kolibree is more foolproof; its 3D motion sensors show, in real-time, how well you’re scrubbing. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth to highlight problem areas and suggest improved brush motion or position. A connected game ensures kids will do more than just swallow the toothpaste. $149
Dyson Humidifier: The Ultimate Clean Machine
Humidifiers can often be breeding grounds for bacteria. But that doesn’t mean humans have to live with bone-dry air. Dyson’s new humidifier zaps bacteria with ultraviolet light, killing 99.9 percent. It also uses the same “air-multiplier” technology as the company’s fans, to ensure thorough room coverage. It’s the first humidifier to earn an asthma and allergy-friendly certification from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. $500