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Best of 2012: Gadgets and Tech Products

Best of 2012: Gadgets and Tech Products

From the perspective of folks who cover tech-related happenings, this is always a polarizing time of year. The final weeks of December are generally void of product announcements, yet only two weeks later, we're bombarded with new gadgets at CES.

Before we move on to the latest and greatest devices of 2013, we figure it's worth revisiting some of 2012's most popular devices as suggested by our Product Finder, which includes reviews by hundreds of seasoned specialists across the Web. We've included 59 products across 14 categories along with their aggregate review score and a brief commentary that explains why they're special.

WD Black 4TB Hard Drive Review

WD Black 4TB Hard Drive Review

It's been a long year of HDD supply shortages and wacky premiums, but things are finally stabilizing and new designs are trickling out of drive makers. Recently WD expanded its flagship Black series with a 4TB model, meant to deliver a balance between speed, capacity and price.

At ~$350, a Black 4TB drive is slightly cheaper than a pair of WD Black 2TB drives and much more affordable than the previously released enterprise WD RE 4TB drive. Given that we've been spoiled by SSDs over the last few years, we don't expect to be blown away by the new drive's blistering speed, but it should be fun comparing its performance with other terabyte-plus hard drives if ample capacity is what you're after...

OCZ Vector SSD Review: New Flagship Drive, Brand New Indilinx Controller

OCZ Vector SSD Review: New Flagship Drive, Brand New Indilinx Controller

Earlier this year we reviewed OCZ's flagship Vertex 4 SSD which at the time we were lead to believe was based on a second-generation Everest controller developed in-house. Eventually it was revealed and later confirmed by OCZ that the Octane and Vertex 4 drives actually used Marvell controllers with firmware developed in-house by the Indillinx team. While we acknowledged that it was very sneaky on OCZ’s behalf, it also didn’t change things much for us. Regardless of who did or didn't make the controller, the Vertex 4 was still one of the best performers and best values in the high-end SSD segment.

So with the controversy of the Vertex 4 almost behind them, OCZ is finally ready to unveil its first truly in-house SSD controller. It's been three years since Indilinx released a brand new controller and they are doing so today with the Barefoot 3, which is to be featured in OCZ’s latest SSD series known as Vector.

The Best Sub-$100 SSDs Tested, Reviewed

The Best Sub-$100 SSDs Tested, Reviewed

The major issue with SSD adoption over the past few years has been price, the astronomically high price when you are counting in hundreds of gigabytes. In today's comparison review we are going to look at 8 popular SSDs that cost $100 or less and feature capacities of up to 128GB.

The contenders include the OCZ Vertex 4 128GB, Samsung 840 120GB and Crucial m4 128GB. The most affordable high-capacity SSD featured in our roundup is the Kingston SSDNow V+200 120GB, while the OCZ Vertex 4 64GB, Crucial m4 64GB and Samsung 830 64GB should all offer stellar performance for under $80.

Thunderbolt-Equipped Gigabyte Z77X-UP5TH Meets Velociraptor Duo Review

Thunderbolt-Equipped Gigabyte Z77X-UP5TH Meets Velociraptor Duo Review

Unveiled at the 2009 Intel Developer Forum, Thunderbolt wouldn't make its debut into an actual product until two years later with Apple's MacBook Pro 2011 refresh, and then another one until it finally started to find its way into PCs.

With most Thunderbolt-enabled products available today being storage-related, we wanted to see what the new Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 TH motherboard and its dual Thunderbolt ports had to offer in terms of performance. The best way to accomplish that, in our opinion, is to test the new ultra-fast Western Digital My Book Velociraptor Duo, which has a pair of 10,000RPM Velociraptor hard drives.

Samsung 840 Pro SSD Review: Topping Performance and Reliability

Samsung 840 Pro SSD Review: Topping Performance and Reliability

While the Samsung 830 Series and many of its year-old peers may still be attractive, Samsung is ready to move on to bigger and better things. Their new flagship offering, the SSD 840 Pro, is said to refine the 830 Series' firmware with faster random and sustained performance as well as improved reliability.

Since most SSD competitors use the same rehashed components, Samsung has been in a unique position to shake things up over the last few years, and it's done a fine job. We had nearly no expectations for 2010's 470 Series, but we were pleasantly surprised when it dominated our performance charts. Last year's 830 Series gave a repeat performance, so we can only hope the same of the 840 Pro.

Crucial m4 mSATA 256GB Review: Miniature SSD Power

Crucial m4 mSATA 256GB Review: Miniature SSD Power

Not only are SSDs faster than HDDs, but they also consume less power and generate less heat. They're quieter, more reliable and more compact than their spinning counterparts. Talking about compact...

We recently took notice when Crucial announced its m4 mSATA SSD in a 256GB capacity at under $1/GB. The mSATA drive is tiny compared to Crucial's standard 2.5" m4, and despite the size difference, both 256GB models feature the same read and write speeds of 500MB/s and 260MB/s -- an exciting prospect, indeed. Assuming there are no catches, Crucial's new mSATA offering could become the go-to solution for ultraportable upgrades...

Mainstream SSD Shootout: Crucial v4 vs. OCZ Agility 4 256GB

Mainstream SSD Shootout: Crucial v4 vs. OCZ Agility 4 256GB

By mid 2012, SSD prices fell through the floor, costing approximately half as much as last year. Granted, that's still nowhere near as economical as standard hard drives, so companies have continued to offer affordable solutions in addition to their high-end series to drive sale volumes.

Such is the case with OCZ and the Agility 4, a budget-minded counterpart to the Vertex 4 that employs cheaper NAND flash memory. In similar fashion we recently saw the arrival of the Crucial v4 series. With both the Agility 4 and Crucial's v4 priced at just under $200 for 256GB models, it seems we have the makings of a value-driven shootout...

WOF: Do you carry a USB drive every day? If so, what's on it?

WOF: Do you carry a USB drive every day? If so, what's on it?

With flash storage being more affordable, compact and rugged than ever, it seems common for people to routinely carry a USB drive -- or six, in the case of our news editor Rick, who runs a PC repair business. Naturally, most of his drives contain bootable utilities, operating system installers...