Apple iPhone 5s (16GB), $100 to $200 (price and terms vary by carrier)
which uses Apple’s newest operating system (iOS 7), is hard to beat when it comes to intuitive, foolproof access to core smart-phone functions. Its camera takes some of the best stills and videos you can get with a smart phone. Its nifty fingerprint reader, built into the Home button, lets you safely and quickly unlock the phone’s screen or authorize an iTunes purchase with a light press of your finger. Just don’t expect the giant screen or some of the cutting-edge features being offered by some competing models.
Brilliant smart phone
LG G2 (16GB), $0 to $200 (price and terms vary by carrier)
This phone has a stunning 5.2-inch display and a battery that doesn’t know when to quit. The power/volume button cluster is on the back, under the camera, a design LG considers more ergonomic and intuitive (you decide) than the usual top or side mount. You can count on smarter shortcuts for common tasks, such as auto answering when you hold the phone up to your ear. The ultrasmart camcorder can stay focused on your subjects in interesting new ways.
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, $230 (7-inch, 16GB, Wi-Fi)
The latest Kindle has one of the highest-resolution 7-inch displays available, great for watching videos and reading books and magazines. New X-ray features let you dig deeper into the videos you watch and the books you read. For example, you can find all of the songs that play during a movie and jump to the spots in the flick to listen to them. Songs you buy from Amazon come with all of the lyrics. You also get live, 24/7 tech support onscreen free when you press the Mayday button. We haven’t fully tested the Kindle Fire HDX yet, but prior versions were top-rated, and this one looks promising.
Best TV yet
Samsung KN55S9C OLED TV, $9,000
This 55-inch model is one of the first to use OLED (Organic LED) technology, which combines the best attributes of plasma and LCD TVs but has none of their shortcomings. Incredibly deep blacks, superbright images, vibrant colors, and strong contrast make images jump off the screen. Throw in unlimited viewing angles, great energy efficiency, and an ultrathin design and you have the best TV we’ve ever seen. The KN55S9c, which has an eye-catching curved screen, also has the best 3D performance to date. Now if only they can work on that price
Sony Bravia XBR-55X900A, $4,000
A new breed of HD TVs takes high definition to a whole new level. Also called 4K sets, Ultra HD TVs have four times as many pixels as 1080p screens, and the added detail makes 4K images look incredibly lifelike. UHD sets can enhance the quality of regular HD images as well. This 55-inch Sony LCD (which has LED backlighting) has excellent high-def picture quality, among the best we’ve seen. It also has very good sound, thanks to large speaker arrays flanking the screen, and it features Sony’s smart TV Internet platform. There’s not much Ultra HD content yet, but Sony offers a $700 media player that’s loaded with Ultra HD movies, plus a download service that offers additional titles for rent or purchase.