Windows Central Best of 2016

2016 has been a breakout year for Microsoft. The year seen the launch of exciting new Windows features and thrilling new devices and interesting new apps and games. It's been one of the most incredible years in the two-decade history of Windows — and we wanted to take a moment to recognize what's made year so great.

This is the Windows Central Best of 2016 awards!

Hardware

Best Laptop:

HP Spectre x360

HP has built a beautiful, thin and premium 2-in-1 with the Spectre x360 that is nothing short of superb. With powerful specs and a light-form factor, this is the best laptop you can buy.
— Zac Bowden

More: Review

Runners Up: Microsoft Surface Book with Performance Base Dell XPS 15

Best Ultrabook:

Dell XPS 13

Dell's XPS 13 continues to be a gorgeous machine with the most enviable display. The latest version gives more batter, improved processor, and better Wi-Fi. What's not to love?
— Daniel Rubino

More: Review

Runners up: Razer Blade Stealth Acer Swift 7

Best Convertible Laptop

Lenovo Yoga 910

The pioneers of the convertible are back with their best effort yet. Lenovo's Yoga 910 has it all; great display, sleek form, high-end specs and a pretty reasonable price, too.
— Richard Devine

More: Review

Runners up: HP Spectre x360 Microsoft Surface Book with Performance Base

Best 2-in-1 Tablet

Huawei MateBook

Huawei's MateBook is one of the best tablet first, laptop second Windows 10 devices on the market. It has an outstanding pen, Windows Hello, and a display that impresses.
— Daniel Rubino

More: Review

Runner up: ASUS Transformer Mini

Best Gaming Laptop

Razer Blade Pro

The Razer Blade Pro is like a dream come true for gamers on the go. It comes with desktop-performance hardware, making it ready for VR or years of games to come.
— Cale Hunt

Best Desktop Tower

HP Omen X

The Omen X looks insane on the outside, and packs the space for an insane PC on the inside. The sky is the limit and you can spec up this incredible box with the most powerful parts currently known to man. A true badass.
— Richard Devine

Runner up: Dell XPS Tower SE

Best Desktop All-in-One

Surface Studio

Microsoft has redefined elegance and design with the Surface Studio. It's not on beautiful, but functional too aiding designers, artists, engineers, and more with its amazing pen and display.
— Daniel Rubino

Best Windows Phone

HP Elite x3

While not cheap the Elite x3 from HP has nearly everything you could want in a modern Windows 10 Mobile device. Considering this is HP's first phone in years, they did an outstanding job with it.
— Daniel Rubino

More: Review

Runner up: Alcatel Idol 4S

Accessories

Best Monitor

LG 38UC99-W Ultrawide

Ultrawide monitors are the future in my opinion, and the LG 38UC99 is the biggest and best an ultrawide monitor has to offer. At 38-inches, and rocking an incredible 3840x2560 resolution, you can't go wrong with this monitor from LG.
— Zac Bowden

Runners up: HP Spectre 32 ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q

Best Keyboard

Surface Ergonomic Keyboard

If you type a lot for your job you owe it to yourself and your hands to give the Surface Ergonomic keyboard a shot. Not only will you type better for longer but you'll enjoy the soft Alcantara palm rest too.
— Daniel Rubino

More: Review

Runner up: Razer Ornata

Best Mouse

Razer Deathadder Elite

Not only is it one of the most comfortable mice to wield, the Razer DeathAdder is highly accurate and designed for countless hours of gaming.
— Rich Edmonds

Runners up: Microsoft Surface Mouse Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Mouse

Best Mobile Dock

HP Lap Dock

The HP Lap Dock may not be mainstream, but it's a bold statement of what Microsoft and HP see as the future of mobile computing.
— Daniel Rubino

More: Review

Runner up: HP Desk Dock

Best Wearable

Fitbit Blaze

Fitness-oriented smartwatches are all the rage, and none better than the Fitbit Blaze. Color touchscreen? You bet! Tons of stylish bands? Oh yeah! Whether you're a health nut or just want to better organize your life, the Fitbit Blaze will find a comfy spot on your wrist.
— Cale Hunt

Runners up: Vector Watch Pebble 2

Best VR Headset

HTC Vive

The best way to blow your mind with VR right now is the HTC Vive. With a Vive and an empty room it's hard to believe that what you're experiencing isn't actually real. It's that good!
— Richard Devine

Runner up: Oculus Rift

Best Bluetooth Speaker

UE Boom 2

The UE Boom 2 is like a party in a bottle-sized speaker. The first time you hear your favorite song pumping out in 360-degree sound, you'll wonder where the rest of this setup is hiding — yes, it's that loud, and yes, the bass is that good. This is the best Bluetooth speaker of 2016.
— Cale Hunt

Runners up: Amazon Echo Anker SoundCore

Best Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 35

Superior build quality, unmatched battery life, and acoustic noise-cancelling technology make the wireless Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones the best premium sound experience on the market.
— Jez Corden

Runners up: Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tournament Bang & Olufsen H9

Best Laptop Bag

WaterField Syde

If you need a light bag to pack your Surface or laptop the Syde pushes boundaries and innovation. Something you don't say very often with laptop bags!
— Daniel Rubino

Runners up: Peak Design Everyday Backpack WaterField Field Muzetto

Best External Drive

Western Digital My Passport

WD is a highly reputable brand when it comes to storage and thus its My Passport external hard drive is ideal for taking media and sensitive data out the front door.
— Rich Edmonds

Runners up: MyDigitalSSD 512GB Sandisk Extreme 510

Xbox

Best Xbox Console

Gears of War Xbox One S

The Gears of War Xbox One S was the best console launched in 2016, featuring custom sounds, laser-etched battle scars, a textured, crimson finish, and most importantly, all the great features of the Xbox One S! 2 TB, UHD 4K media, HDR gameplay, the Xbox One S has it all.
— Jez Corden

More: Review

Runners up: Xbox One S 2TB Battlefield 1 Military Green Xbox One S

Best Xbox Controller

Gears of War Elite Wireless Controller

Just like the Gears of War Xbox One S, Microsoft raised the custom accessory game with the Gears of War Elite Controller. Battle scarred with lasers, blood-spattered with the iconic Crimson Omen, this is the ultimate celebration of the franchise.
— Jez Corden

Best Xbox Accessory

Turtle Beach Elite Pro Tournament headset

Stand aside casual gamers as Turtle Beach threw down the gauntlet for pros this year with the Elite Pro Tournament headset. Featuring Dolby 7.1 and extreme comfort nothing is better for gaming audio.
— Daniel Rubino

More: Review

Runners up: Xbox One Stereo Headset White Turtle Beach Stealth 420X+

Best Xbox Game

Battlefield 1

And here we are, our pick for best game of 2016, and the honor goes to Battlefield 1. Visceral combat, soberingly authentic design, a technical marvel, and infinitely rewarding, Battlefield 1 is DICE's masterpiece. It easily takes its place as one of the greatest games of this generation.
— Jez Corden

More: Review

Runners up: Forza Horizon 3 DOOM

Best Xbox Strategy Game

XCOM 2

Following the triumphant return of the XCOM series, XCOM 2 builds on its strengths in every possible way. With much deeper and fulfilling combat and management, the game strikes a great balance between its systems. If you're looking for a modern turn-based strategy experience, look no further than XCOM.
— Matt Brown

More: Review

Runner up: Hitman

Best Xbox Shooter Campaign

DOOM

id Software triumphantly reclaimed their heritage as FPS royalty with DOOM's 2016 reboot. Unashamedly violent, relentlessly gameplay-driven, and blisteringly fast-paced, DOOM easily reaped the crown of best shooter campaign in 2016.
— Jez Corden

More: Review

Runners up: Battlefield 1 Gears of War 4

Best Xbox Shooter Multiplayer

Battlefield 1

DICE's latest shooter is both a history lesson and a monumental achievement. A large selection of enormous multiplayer maps, a full WWI arsenal, and unbelievable graphics make this the best multiplayer shooter of the year.
— Cale Hunt

More: Review

Runners up: Modern Warfare Remastered Overwatch

Best RPG

Final Fantasy XV

Over 10 years in the making, Final Fantasy XV navigated shifting gameplay trends, an entire new console generation, and numerous delays to become the best RPG of 2016. Gorgeous art, infectious combat and a huge open-world triumphantly bring the franchise into the modern era.
— Jez Corden

Runner up: Skyrim Special Edition

Best Racing Game

Forza Horizon 3

It's perfect. No really, it is. It looks digustingly beautiful, has an enormous and varied open world map, the world's finest vehicles and enough content to keep you going for longer than you want to imagine. This isn't just a game, it's a work of art.
— Richard Devine

More: Review

Best Survival Game

We Happy Few

We Happy Few made its way to Xbox One earlier this year, offering a promising fragment what the final package looks to offer. Set in a dystopian retro-futuristic world, We Happy Few culminates an eerie narrative with survival mechanics, making for a truly unique premise.
— Matt Brown

More: Review

Runners up: The Flame in the Flood Subnautica

Best Horror Game

Layers of Fear

It's not often that new games come along that surprise us, but Layers of Fear did just that. The psychedelic horror game proves that combat-free adventure titles can be terrifying, with its punishing atmosphere and mystifying narrative.
— Jez Corden

More: Review

Runners up: Dead Rising 4 Resident Evil Remastered

Best Open World Game

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2 is a new and unique open-world game that builds upon the universe first introduced in Watch Dogs. This time however, it's from a more millennial perspective. Great, open-world fun.
— Zac Bowden

More: Review

Runners up: Far Cry Primal Mafia 3

Best Graphic Adventure

Oxenfree

With a unique visual style and simply the best natural dialogue you'll find in any game on any platform, Oxenfree is a story-driven game you absolutely have to play.
— Richard Devine

Runners up: Virginia Batman: The Telltale Series

Best Kids Game

Overcooked

Couch co-op games seem to have faded out in recent years, with a greater focus being placed on online services. Overcooked makes a great case for the genre's return, offering chaotic kitchen antics with up to four players. This makes for an addictive, shared experience for the whole family.
— Matt Brown

Runners up: Lego Dimentions Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2

Best Action Adventure

Quantum Break

Remedy does it again and delivers a masterpiece of story-telling in this half game, half live-action thriller. The mechanics are different to any other game you've ever played and once you pick it up you won't put it down until the very end.
— Richard Devine

More: Review

Runners up: Dishonored 2

Best Puzzle Game

INSIDE

No other puzzle games this year came close to knocking INSIDE off its pedestal. This disturbing platformer takes you through a monochrome dystopia full of empty cities and brain-dead drones, letting you discover just what happened. This is a must-play game for all gamers.
— Cale Hunt

More: Review

Runner up: Hue

Best Co-Op Game

Gears of War 4

Few games follow the split-screen tradition as faithfully as Gears of War. With campaign co-op for up to two players, both online and locally, Gears of War 4 is a riot from start to finish. If two-player co-op isn't enough, five players can step into Gears of War 4's Horde mode, taking the gory chaos to all-new heights.
— Jez Corden

More: Review

Runners up: Overcooked Dead Rising 4

Best Platformer

Recore

ReCore represents not only the best platformer of 2016, but also the most underrated game of 2016. ReCore's platforming builds up in complexity like a crescendo, stretching your skills to leap, air-dash and dodge wrapped in a vibrant, anarchic world filled with deadly (and sometimes friendly) robots. Old-school 3D platformer fans must consider ReCore.
— Jez Corden

More: Review

Runner up: Hue

Best Sports Game

Rocket League

It's football. And it's racing. It's both! Rocket League has taken the world by storm and it's easy to see why. Its simple yet insanely addictive and something that literally everyone can enjoy.
— Richard Devine

More: Review

Runner up: FIFA 17

Windows 10

Best Windows 10 App

Groove Music

The Groove team at Microsoft has done an outstanding job of not only improving Groove, but adding outstanding features like Your Groove and Explorer to their music service. Laughed at in 2015 Groove is now a contender for best music app.
— Daniel Rubino

Runners up: Enpass Unstream

Best photography app

Polarr

Polarr does what many try, and don't quite achieve. It crams a pretty full featured photo editor into a ridiculously cheap package that's great on PCs and tablets alike. As close to a no-brainer as it comes.
— Richard Devine

More: Review

Runners up: Photos KVAD Photo+

Best weather app

Strawberry Weather

Strawberry Weather stood out from the pack by delivering a colorful forecast come rain or shine. Forecast information covers the basics nicely with a palette full of colors to choose from for your theme. There's also Live Tile and Notification support to keep you informed of the changing weather and Strawberry Weather is a Universal App that syncs all your locations and customizations between Windows 10 devices.
— George Ponder

More: Review

Runners up: Perfect Weather Universal MeteoLens

Best social app

Tweet It!

A UWP app, Microsoft Band support, light and dark themes, and a fetching user interface? This is the pinnacle for any serious Twitter users, and our favorite social app of 2016.
— Cale Hunt

More: Review

Runners up: Readit Instagram

Best news app

Readit

If you have to go on Reddit on Windows 10, you have to go on it with Readit. Minimal yet stylishly designed, it makes trawling the sub-reddits a delight. And anything that can do that to Reddit is definitely worth your time.
— Richard Devine

Runners up: iNi Reader MSN News

Best Windows 10 Game

Minecraft

Unlike other games in 2016 (cough, Pokemon Go!) Minecraft did not peak or fizzle like a fad. Minecraft continues to grow, add fun enhancements, and is here to stay.
— Daniel Rubino

Runners up: Halo 5 Forge Forza Horizon 3

Best New Windows 10 Feature

Windows Ink

Microsoft has made significant strides in making Windows the best operating system for creatives, and with Windows Ink, Microsoft is making it easy for artists and professionals to draw, take notes, annotate and a whole lot more.
— Zac Bowden

Runner up: SMS on Skype

Best New Microsoft Service

Microsoft Teams

Move over Slack! Microsoft is back with its new Teams collaboration tool for companies and firms. Many doubted that Microsoft could out-cool Slack, but with some great features and humor Microsoft made work fun again.
— Daniel Rubino

Runners up: Skype Bots Beam

Most-Improved Microsoft Service

Skype Preview

Skype isn't known for being the best, but the new Windows 10 Skype Preview app is starting to make things right for the service. Lot's of improvements have been made, and more are still to come.
— Zac Bowden

Runner up: Groove Music

Windows 10 Mobile

Best Windows 10 Mobile App

Enpass

When it comes to your passwords, you want a manager that is ultra secure and also easy to use. Enpass has a UWP app compatible with Windows Hello, Cortana has been fully integrated, and your data is saved locally. Enpass checks all the boxes for us, making it our favorite Windows 10 mobile app of the year.
— Cale Hunt

More: Review

Runners up: Readit Hope Calendar

Best photography app

Vinci

Similar to the likes of Prisma, Vinci from Russian social network VK offers a vast array of filters and neat editing tools to quickly add some flair to photos. And did we mention it's fast?
— Rich Edmonds

More: Review

Runner up: Photo Shader

Best weather app

Perfect Weather Universal

Perfect Weather Universal puts your weather in motion with a variety of animated themes from Star Wars to Super Mario. Utilizing gesture based navigation, Perfect Weather Universal is a lively way to keep up to date with the weather of the day. Plus, it has light sabers and you can never go wrong with light sabers.
— George Ponder

More: Review

Runner up: MeteoLens

Best social app

Tweet It!

Tweet It! is Twitter for power users done right. Lists, columns, tons of customizations and features galore. It looks great, performs great and as a true UWP app, is on your PC as well.
— Richard Devine

More: Review

Runners up: Readit GroupMe

Best news app

iNi Reader

With a minimal design, excellent feed, and plenty of options there is no better way to pull data from your favorite sites than with iNi Reader for Windows 10 and Mobile.
— Daniel Rubino

Runners up: Readit NPR One

Best Windows 10 Mobile game

Asphalt Xtreme

Race around dunes, charge through canyons, drift across the mud and destroy your opponents are just a few of the key attractions of Asphalt Xtreme. Add dozens of monster machines to unlock and upgrade, amazing graphics and real-time multiplayer races and Asphalt Xtreme is hard to pass up. Oh… and did we mention it is free?
— George Ponder

More: Review

Runners up: Legend of the Skyfish Mousecraft