2012 Best of Year Awards

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And now another year has passed. Another year filled with hundreds upon hundreds of products that have passed through our labs. Some have shone wondrously, while others are best left forgotten. Most vie for mere adequacy, but who wants to settle for adequate? Here at last are the Best of Year awards. Based on our scientific tests, hands-on methods, and product expertise, we are pleased to award the electronics and appliances that have withstood our worst and proved to be the best.

Please consider this our early holiday gift to you, our readers, as a guide for your gift-buying season. We've selected 83 of the best products, including cameras, camcorders, ovens, washers & dryers, fridges, and more.



Camera of the Year

Canon 1D X

(MSRP $6799.00 body-only)


Nikon D4 (MSRP $5999.95)

While there were only a couple high-end cameras brought to market in 2011, this year saw the eventual release of some incredible full-frame models from each of the major players. With some fantastic mid-range bodies also seeing the light of day, the Canon 1D X had stiff competition for our top spot once it finally was released to the public. Despite the delay, the 1D X bested all comers in our lab tests, producing the highest overall score of the year. While it's certainly too big, too expensive, and too  for most people, the Canon 1D X is, hands-down, the best camera from 2012.

The Nikon D4 also graced our labs this year, and we found that it offered performance that exceded the 1D X in some areas, falling behind in others. We should reserve special mention for the D4's backlit control labels and uncompressed HDMI video output. The D4 is an impressive machine that any pro shooting Nikon should be proud to own, but it falls just behind the 1D X in our overall scoring.

Read all the Best of Year Cameras


Camcorder of the Year

Sony Handycam HDR-CX760V

(MSRP $1299.99)


Panasonic HC-X900M (MSRP $1099.99)

This year, Sony finally decided to hunker down and improve the low light performance of its high-end Handycams, and, as a result, the HDR-CX760V ended up as the best camcorder we reviewed all year. In addition to the enhanced low light capabilities, the Sony CX760V is stuffed with manual controls, has a beautiful new Zeiss lens, and features one of the best image stabilization systems wersquo;ve ever seen. A powerfully-robust camcorder, the HDR-CX760V is the best consumer model wersquo;ve seen from Sony in years, and its endless set of features and controls should appeal to pros, enthusiasts, or anyone who loves high-quality video.

The Panasonic HC-X900M is a strong flagship model, and, with its price dipping to below $1000 at some retailers, itrsquo;s also an excellent bargain. Despite its good performance scores and solid range of controls, however, the HC-X900M offers very little that wasnrsquo;t found on its predecessor last year (the HDC-TM900). Panasonic has made very good camcorders over the past few years, but the company has become complacent with its flagship models. More innovation or a boost in performance and the HC-X900M would have been a strong contender for Camcorder of the Year. But the lack of improvement allowed Sony to beat out Panasonic on its way to our top award.

Read all the Best of Year Camcorders

Television of the Year [Samsung E8000]( (MSRP 51-inch, $2199; 60-inch, $3079; 64-inch, $3949) Runner-up [Panasonic Viera VT50]( (MSRP 55-inch, $2499; 65-inch, $3699) This is the second year in a row that one of Samsungrsquo;s high-end plasmas has bested the competition and come out on top. The Samsung E8000 tested with both high-quality performance and features: Not only does it have outstanding color accuracy and a solid contrast ratio, its included smart platform, 3D technology, and special features are top-notch. Samsungrsquo;s smart platform has been an industry leader in delivering internet-based TVs that do an awful lot, while making it look easy. It may not be head-and-shoulders above the competition, but Samsungrsquo;s Smart Hub is still a well-organized beast of apps and streaming content that add a kiss of modern class to any of their internet-ready smart TVs. On top of all this greatness, Samsungrsquo;s flagship plasma includes a mounted microphone and camera combination that allow, for the first time in the industry, control of the TV via voice commands and hand gestures. Itrsquo;s as easy as saying ldquo;Hi TV, Power On.rdquo; The included Smart Touch remote makes for easier cursor control during web browsing and even has a speech-to-text function made possible by an integrated microphone. No matter which way you slice it, the Samsung E8000 is the best TV of 2012. Panasonicrsquo;s VT50 plasma television is a very worthy runner-up. This spiritual successor to the legendary Pioneer Kuro boasts seriously deep blacks, accurate colors, and an array of extra features that certainly add to the TVrsquo;s value. Within the areas of color, contrast, and motion, the VT50 is a nearly unbeatable HDTV. Its drawbacks, however, include lackluster 3D technology and a smart interface (Viera Connect) that doesnrsquo;t perform with the same flair as some of its competitors. [Read all the Best of Year TVs]( nbsp;

Headphones of the Year

V-Moda Crossfade LP-2

(MSRP $199.99 )


Bowers Wilkins C5 (MSRP $179.99)

Easily the best of the headphones released in 2012 in terms of all-around performance (that donrsquo;t require a separate amp), including incredible durability and customizability, the V-Moda Crossfade LP-2s take our top award from the Bowers Wilkins C5s by having a higher comfort score. If you#39;re looking for a set of cans that go anywhere and never let you down, grab the Crossfade LP-2s.

Narrowly missing our award, the Bowers Wilkins C5s offer a very good performance along with a solid design for all you smartphone users out there. Some may not like the comfort implications of an in-ear design, and that was what kept these from winning the best headphones of the year. On the plus side, they offer better noise attenuation than the headphones that took the top.

Read all the Best of Year Headphones

Best Gas Range

KitchenAid KGRS308BSS

(MSRP $1799.00)


GE JGB600SETSS (MSRP $1199.00)

Many serious cooks prefer the control of a gas rangetop, with its superior responsiveness and visible heat source. In our category of best gas range, the KitchenAid KGRS308BSS handily beat out the competition for the crown. In our tests, this range boiled water incredibly quickly, though it demonstrated a slightly narrow temperature range. In the oven, we found similar excellence, such as smooth, even temperature control, a brief preheat, and a competent convection fan. Yes, the broiler and the simmering abilities are questionable, but all things consideredmdash;this is the best gas oven of the year.

The GE JGB600SETSS is a solid runner-up for a gas range. Though collective rangetop power wasnrsquo;t impressive, one burner proved to be powerful, boiling six cups of water in just five minutes. Below, we found much better performance, as the JGB600 showed very consistent temperatures, close attention to the target temperature, and a preheat to 350deg;F in under six minutes. Caveat emptor if you depend on the broiler, as it was unsatisfactorily weak in its preheat. But with five burners of gas precision and a solid convection oven, the JGB600 secures our praise.

Read all the Best of Year Ovens

Best Electric Range


(MSRP $999.99)


KitchenAid KERS306BSS (MSRP $1499.00)

Priced below $1,000, the LG LRE3023ST is a great performer that also happens to be a great value. In our tests, its ceramic rangetop easily sustained temperatures low enough to melt chocolate without a double boiler, as well as temperatures that were hot enough to effectively sear meat. Down in the oven cavity, temperatures remained remarkably steady regardless of how hot or cool we set the thermostat, and the convection fan was very effective as well. Though it certainly left us impressed, the LG LRE3023ST isnrsquo;t a perfect oven by any means: Its broiler didnrsquo;t get hot enough and its burners took a long time to bring water to a boil. However, those drawbacks are far outweighed by its otherwise superb operation, and itrsquo;s safe to say that this LG is a great deal for anyone looking for an electric range.

The KitchenAid Architect Series II KERS306 barely missed snagging best electric range. With no major weaknesses whatsoever, the KERS306 demonstrated amazing rangetop performance, boiling six cups of water in five and six minutes on its two most powerful elements. Oven performance was just as solid, demonstrating exceptionally even and accurate temperatures. Depriving the oven of a perfect score sheet, the keep-warm oven setting ran a fever, acting a bit more like a keep-hot. Like we said, a minor flaw. With its handsome looks and amazing performance, the second place range still has our approval.

Read all the Best of Year Ovens


Best Refrigerator

Samsung RSG257AARS

(MSRP $2399.00)


LG LFX31925ST (MSRP $3199.99)

The Samsung RSG257AARS has managed to retain the crown of Best Refrigerator for the second year in a row, and its clear to see why. The high quality performance in terms of temperature consistency is unmatched among the side-by-sides that wersquo;ve seen, and the moisture retention in the crisper drawer is fantastic. True, the freezer is a bit cramped, but overall, this model has plenty of storage space. It looks and feels great, too, with interior LED lighting and an on-the-door ice maker. Itrsquo;s a superior fridge that will add a touch of class to any kitchen.

If it#39;s a French door you#39;re looking for, you couldn#39;t do much better than the LG LFX31925ST. Its cavernous interior exhibited tremendous cooling consistency, and the design choice to move the icemaker to the fridge door makes for a user-friendly interior.

Read all the Best Of Year Refrigerators

Best Washer

Kenmore Elite 41472

(MSRP $1299.990)


LG WM3470HVA (MSRP $1199.99)

Like all Kenmore appliances, the 41472 washer is a rebadged and slightly redesigned version of an existing product. Luckily for Kenmore, In this case they hitched their wagon to the exceptional LG WM3470 series. That washer features TurboWash, which won our Innovation Award for its ability to get a normal load of clothes fully clean in under 40 minutes. Kenmore rechristened the feature AccelaWash, but a fast wash by any other name performed just as well. Our tests showed that the Kenmore offered slightly improved stain removal performance, and its our opinion that the Sears-only model had a more user friendly control panel. However, both the Kenmore and the LG do an outstanding job getting clothes extremely clean in very little time. If you can find one of them on sale, snap it up.

Itrsquo;s hardly a surprise that the LG WM3470HVA is the runner up here, as itrsquo;s the machine the Kenmore 41472 is based on. Once again, we appreciated the speed of TurboWash, though we preferred the way Kenmore slightly tweaked the wash cycles and control panel to be a bit more effective.

Read all the Best of Year Washers

Best Dryer

Electrolux Wave-Touch EWMED70JIW

(MSRP $1549.00)


Kenmore Elite 81472 (MSRP $1299.99)

Sometimes, an appliance is no more than the sum of its parts. Thatrsquo;s the case with the Electrolux EWMED70JIW, which proved exceptional by following the rules. While many other dryers had a few outstanding cycles, they couldnrsquo;t match the even-handed treatment this Electrolux gave to all kinds of fabrics, from pillowcases to

comforters, or anything else your family can throw at it. Its massive interior measures eight cubic feet, which gives even large loads plenty of room to tumble dry. Yes, itrsquo;s pricey, and its cycles werenrsquo;t perfect, but it proved adept at getting laundry dry regardless of what was in the load.

Earning a close second place, Sears has once again made the right choice by slapping the Kenmore name on an LG product. In this case, itrsquo;s a dryer, and itrsquo;s been branded a Kenmore Elite. On its Normal cycle, the 81472 got a standard eight pound entirely dry in under an hour, and took just 25 minutes to squeeze 91 percent of the moisture out of a four pound load. Its large interior meant that bulky comforters got a chance to tumble around, and the Delicates cycle didnrsquo;t take very long at all. If you canrsquo;t find the Kenmore on sale at Sears, LGrsquo;s DLEX3470HVA is nearly identical, though it didnrsquo;t perform quite as well in our tests.

Read all the Best of Year Dryers

Best Dishwasher

KitchenAid KUDS30FXSS

(MSRP $949.00)


Bosch 800 Series SHX98M09UC (MSRP $1649.00)

Competition has driven large manufacturers to develop dishwashers with plenty of bells and whistles, but at the end of the day a dishwasher has just one purpose: to clean dirty dishes. And when it comes to that, the KUDS30FXSS is the best dishwasher wersquo;ve ever tested. It scored perfectly on some of our toughest stain tests, and was consistent across all three main cycles. It may not be very efficient or innovative (aside from the sheer cleaning power), but it does its job very well.

The Bosch SHX98M09UC isnrsquo;t perfect, but itrsquo;s darn close. It scored well in our performance tests, and is one of the most efficient machines wersquo;ve ever come across. Itrsquo;s also neatly designed and includes a range of extra features. All told, this is one of the best machines of the year. So whatrsquo;s the catch? In addition to performance thatrsquo;s marginally worse than the KitchenAid, we also werenrsquo;t thrilled with its price. Finding it for less than $1,400 is a small miracle. For that price, customers should expect perfection.

Read all the Best of Year Dishwashers

Best Vacuum

Kenmore 21514

(MSRP $299.99)

Most homes come with a combination of flooring types: wood, tile and carpet. The Kenmore Progressive 21514, made for Sears by Panasonic, does a great job cleaning on all surfaces, which is what makes it such a great vacuum. Its powered brushroll agitates dirt out of high pile carpet, while its floor brush is delicate enough for finished hardwoods and tiles. A smaller, powered brush had no problems picking up pet hair off upholstery, while a multitude of other included tools and a long hose reach nearly anywhere therersquo;s dirt. Itrsquo;s true that canister vacuums donrsquo;t store as neatly as most uprights, but the Kenmore 21514 comes with on-board storage for cleaning tools plus a place to hook the stainless steel wand to keep the hose in place.

Read all the Best in Year Vacuums

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