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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 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Dell XPS 15 (opens in new tab)

Dell XPS 13 9380

Dell XPS 13 9380 (Image credit: Dell)

Best Ultrabook:

Dell XPS 13 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Acer Swift 7 (opens in new tab)

Best Convertible Laptop

Lenovo Yoga 910 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Microsoft Surface Book with Performance Base (opens in new tab)

Best 2-in-1 Tablet

Huawei MateBook (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Gaming Laptop

Razer Blade Pro (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Desktop All-in-One

Surface Studio (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

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{.nofollow}

Accessories

Best Monitor

LG 38UC99-W Ultrawide (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) ASUS ROG Swift PG279Q (opens in new tab)

Best Keyboard

Surface Ergonomic Keyboard (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Mouse

Razer Deathadder Elite (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Mouse (opens in new tab)

Best Mobile Dock

HP Lap Dock (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Wearable

Fitbit Blaze (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Pebble 2

Best VR Headset

HTC Vive (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Bluetooth Speaker

UE Boom 2 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Anker SoundCore (opens in new tab)

Best Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 35 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Bang & Olufsen H9 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) WaterField Field Muzetto

Best External Drive

Western Digital My Passport (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Sandisk Extreme 510 (opens in new tab)

Xbox

Best Xbox Console

Gears of War Xbox One S (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Battlefield 1 Military Green Xbox One S (opens in new tab)

Best Xbox Controller

Gears of War Elite Wireless Controller (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Turtle Beach Stealth 420X+ (opens in new tab)

Best Xbox Game

Battlefield 1 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) DOOM (opens in new tab)

Best Xbox Strategy Game

XCOM 2 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Xbox Shooter Campaign

DOOM (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Gears of War 4 (opens in new tab)

Best Xbox Shooter Multiplayer

Battlefield 1 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Overwatch (opens in new tab)

Best RPG

Final Fantasy XV (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Racing Game

Forza Horizon 3 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Subnautica (opens in new tab)

Best Horror Game

Layers of Fear (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Resident Evil Remastered (opens in new tab)

Best Open World Game

Watch Dogs 2 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Mafia 3 (opens in new tab)

Best Graphic Adventure

Oxenfree (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Batman: The Telltale Series (opens in new tab)

Best Kids Game

Overcooked (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 (opens in new tab)

Best Action Adventure

Quantum Break (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Puzzle Game

INSIDE (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Co-Op Game

Gears of War 4 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Dead Rising 4 (opens in new tab)

Best Platformer

Recore (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best Sports Game

Rocket League (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Windows 10

Best Windows 10 App

Groove Music (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Unstream (opens in new tab)

Best photography app

Polarr (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) KVAD Photo+ (opens in new tab)

Best weather app

Strawberry Weather (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) MeteoLens (opens in new tab)

Best social app

Tweet It! (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Instagram (opens in new tab)

Best news app

Readit (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) MSN News (opens in new tab)

Best Windows 10 Game

Minecraft (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Forza Horizon 3 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Windows 10 Mobile

Best Windows 10 Mobile App

Enpass (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Hope Calendar (opens in new tab)

Best photography app

Vinci (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best weather app

Perfect Weather Universal (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)

Best social app

Tweet It! (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) GroupMe (opens in new tab)

Best news app

iNi Reader (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) NPR One (opens in new tab)

Best Windows 10 Mobile game

Asphalt Xtreme (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab) Mousecraft (opens in new tab)

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

25 Comments
  • So awesome to have the likes of Enpass and Unstream on the platform along with all those other great apps. And what a year for hardware! The Omen X is the precious.
  • Surface studio made the magic
  • No Just Cause 3 for open world game? Hmm...
  • Came out last year. By very definition it wouldn't be considered for a 2016 post.
  • HP Elite x3 all the way! Just bought it! Surface Pro 4 still the best imo also!
  • Surface Pro 4 came in 2015, so not considered..but yeah it is still the best tablet
  • Wait, so x360 gets best laptop but not best convertible? I'm confused, what is the differentiator between those and the ultra book category (because arguably 2 in 1s are also ultra books).
  • X360 is best best best at everything. It also kinda straddles the convertible and ultrabook categories, which the respective winners in each do not.
  • What a load of tosh.  I will never trust a word fr