Best Whatever of 2013

2013

With so many “Best of” posts all over the blogosphere, we at the Shizz thought we’d throw our hats in the ring.

However, we won’t focus solely on tech. We’ll list whatever we feel like listing.

It’s our site, so why not?!

Scott Bell

Best Movie

It’s an interesting time in film right now. There are still big studio tent poles (Man of Steel, The Wolverine, World War Z), and plenty of sequels (Iron Man 3Despicable Me 2, Riddick, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Anchor Man 2: The Legend Continues). Some especially good (Gravity) and some horribly disappointing (Elysium).

Even more disappointing than WWZ.

Even more disappointing than WWZ.

But filmmaking is getting more democratic and accessible as studio-quality equipment is getting more affordable all the time. See the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (What?! $1,995 plus accessories! Insane!!) Add Final Cut Pro X for $299.99 and you’re in showbiz. It’s almost to the point where all you need is a little cash, the ability to write dialogue and plot over a three act arc, and you can make a movie to rival the Spielbergs of the world.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Having said that, my vote for Best Movie of 2013 is The Wolf of Wall Street.

Leonardo DiCaprio turns in yet another fantastic performance. Simply put, the movie is raw and over the top, just like the times (and ambition of it’s protagonist) it’s set in. It’s so over the top, some critics have complained. But the complaints that it’s too much miss the point-it IS too much, and that’s why the story’s main character, Jordan Belfort, was ultimately indicted for fraud and money laundering.

Best Television Show

There are so many damn good tv shows now! Once the bane of “real” actors, television has become the darling of long-form story telling, with the ability to tell deep and detailed stories over several seasons. Now a writer has 30-40 hours to tell his/her tale, instead of 2-3 hours on the big screen.

So many good shows: (Sons of Anarchy, House of Cards, Girls – Ha! just messin’ with you!, The Walking Dead).

But the “Best” was a two horse race: Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad.

There were so many highs this year on GoT: the Red Wedding, the Tyrion/Sansa wedding, et al. I cannot wait until next season for the Purple Wedding! I will say no more…

I can't even look...

I can’t even look…

But ultimately, the best overall had to be Breaking Bad by a nose.

I am the one who knocks.

I am the one who knocks.

An incredibly satisfying ending where anti-hero Walter White tries to right some of his wrongs, but ultimately sacrificed his family to what he was “good at”. The show built to a crescendo all season, and I have no doubt this will be talked about with reverence for decades to come. Television simply doesn’t get any better than this.

Ok, some tech.

Best Smartphone

As good as the Samsung Galaxy S4 was this year (and it is some damn fine hardware), I have to give this to the iPhone 5s.

Some say the Galaxy Note 3 screen is better, but overall fit and finish, ecosystem, and interoperability puts the iPhone 5s on top.

If the iPhone had a slightly bigger screen, it wouldn’t even be close for me.

But it is a very narrow margin, I will be the first to admit, and the S4 is a fine handset. If your preference is the Samsung, I won’t quibble with you: it’s a crapshoot.

Courtesy: gizmag.com

Eeeny meeny miny mo…

Best Tablet

The Nexus 7 is the Android flagship, and oh, what a flagship it is.

But some reviewers had their niggles.

Those aside, there isn’t a tablet that can touch the 7 when price is factored in.

Or is there?

My choice for best tablet of 2013 comes down to the iPad Air, and the iPad mini. They’re virtually identical, spec-wise, save for the screen size, so I’ll treat them as one.

While I prefer the portability of the iPad’s baby brother, my old eyes require the larger screen of the Air for comfortable reading. The thinner profile and lighter heft are bonuses.

So, if price isn’t your major determinant, the iPad(s) pulls in the top tablet spot this year.

But unlike the smartphone category, this isn’t close-yet.

I suspect this lead will be diminishing in 2014 (if not disappearing completely).

Courtesy: tabtimes.com

Courtesy: tabtimes.com

Best Smartwatch

This is certainly turning into a crowded space.

Samsung introduced the Gear.

I don’t care what others say, I do like the look of the Gear. It’s pretty industrial-looking, no-nonsense. It’s not a fashion piece, and it’s too big for small wrists. It also as a horrible user interface (see The Verge’s review) and poor battery performance. Unfortunately, the Gear is a solution looking for a problem; what itch does it scratch? In fact, I just saw a Samsung commercial today that shows a woman holding her Galaxy S4 in her left hand. Her phone rings (clearly visible on the screen of her S4 in her left hand, and she turns her hand over to answer the call on her Gear, conveniently strapped to her left wrist, 3 inches from her phone. Why wouldn’t she just slide to unlock her phone instead of the Gear?

Samsung Gear

Other smartwatches include the very interesting i’mWatch, from Italian firm, i’mSmart. I originally saw this watch at CES 2013, and almost shelled out the $349 for my very own (there may have been a $50 discount as well). This watch looks fantastic, has an app store, and allows phone calls to a tethered iOS or Android phone. However, the call quality was subpar, the UI was laggy when I tried it, and the “Droid 2” OS crashed several times during my brief time with the watch. I can’t help but think i’mSmart is onto something with the looks, but doesn’t have the engineering expertise to deliver the goods. It’s a shame.

All show and no go.

All show and no go.

The top of the smartwatch heap, though is the Pebble.

The Pebble started out as a crowd funded Kickstarter campaign. I was an original backer, in fact. It became the highest grossing Kickstarter campaign ever, and collected move than $10,000,000 in funding.

The Pebble succeeded because it didn’t try to do too much too soon. Think the original Palm Pilot (the Newton MessagePad was a far superior machine, but didn’t do it’s myriad tasks nearly as well as the Pilot did it’s limited number of tasks). It has an e-ink screen to save power, so there’s no fancy AMOLED color screen. In fact, the screen isn’t even touch capable-it’s controlled by several buttons along the sides of the watch.

But you can add apps such as watch faces, a golf GPS app that connects via bluetooth to a smartphone, a running app to track distance, etc. Nothing too fancy. It also displays notifications for texts, email, and incoming phone calls. You can even control your music playback of music playing on your smartphone (and it displays song titles as well).

The battery lasts a week with pretty regular use, so there’s no need to plug it in every night.

The Pebble is nothing to look at; certainly not as aesthetically pleasing as the i’mWatch, or even the Gear.

But the Pebble is cheap (weighing in around $149), and I have no fear of wearing it in the roughest os areas and beating the heck out of it like an old Casio. It’s tough, it’s cheap, and does what it does better than any other smartwatch.

Pebble

Look for our 2014 predictions in a few days.

Disagree? Did we leave something out? Give us your picks in the comments below.