Apart from the virus that shall not be named, I’ll forever remember 2020 as the year when new product releases never stopped coming. In these past 12 months, we’ve seen a flurry of new smartphones, tablets, smart speakers, headphones, laptops, earbuds, VR headsets, video game consoles, smartwatches, streaming sticks, TVs, and… the list goes on and on.
While it’s been super fun to watch and experience all the ways in which tech brands have been innovating this past year, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge one thing: Reviewing expensive gadgets during the pandemic felt really trivial at first.
Reflecting back on all the devices that came out of 2020, however, I developed an even greater appreciation for all of it. (Yes, I guess that’s possible, even for me.) Without getting too corny and deep, much of it has helped to keep many of us sane during a time of such uncertainty. Some of that tech has kept us connected to family and friends via video chat, while others like fitness machines have been a welcome distraction from the off-limits outside world.
It’s been nice to watch the world embrace technology rather than point out all of the ways it’s ruining our lives. But, let me stay on brand here: The anxiety of anticipating another surprise product announcement at any minute of the day will never wear off.
After sifting through a ridiculous amount of products, here’s my list of the top 10 gadgets of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year that has been 2020.
Peloton’s second-generation Bike+ improves upon all of the pain points that plagued its predecessor — namely the inability to swivel the display (which made it uncomfortable to follow during floor workouts), and the need to manually adjust the resistance knob during workouts.
The Bike+ comes with a bigger display that rotates, an automatic resistance knob that increases or decreases during each class, and Peloton also threw in Apple GymKit integration (so you can connect your Apple Watch). At the same time, the stationary bike still offers the same beautiful, compact design and motivational classes that actually make working out feel … fun.
It’s been almost a year since the Galaxy Z Flip launched and, in the world of foldable smartphones, it still has yet to be beat. (I mean, Motorola tried twice with the Razr, but the rebooted 2020 version will forever remain an absolute failure.)
I’ve said this many times before but it bears repeating: The Z Flip set a precedent for what foldable phones should be. Its clamshell design makes it easy to use and super portable, and its foldable touchscreen display just feels durable. It’s also really functional, with a free-standing hinge that makes it comfortable to use whether you’re snapping selfies, watching YouTube videos, or scrolling through Twitter.
Google’s Nest Audio isn’t the best-sounding smart speaker out there, but its audio quality is certainly an improvement from the first-generation Google Home. And while we’re on the topic of improvements, Google’s new Nest smart speaker now has a much sleeker look to it that is actually worthy of being shown off at home — whether in your living room or the bedroom. You know, unlike its predecessor that resembled a Glade Air Freshener.
Plus, it works with Google Assistant which, in my experience, is the least frustrating voice assistant to use when asking questions or voicing commands. It’s also compatible with a very large ecosystem of smart home accessories. And at $99, it’s safe to say you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck with this one.
Don’t get me wrong, the Note 20 Ultra is an absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary phone, but it packs a ton of powerful specs into a stunning build. It boasts a 108-megapixel rear camera, a huge 6.9-inch display (complete with a 120Hz refresh rate), and an S-Pen stylus, all while maintaining a luxurious metal and glass design.
If anything, the Note 20 Ultra is proof of Samsung’s ability to push the boundaries of what “ultra” really means. It’s too bad the company is most likely killing it off.
Rather than complain about how long it took for Fitbit to release a fitness tracker with built-in GPS, I’m just going to acknowledge how happy I am that it finally exists. The best part is, the company was able to pack in that new feature while still maintaining days-long battery life, a lightweight and comfortable fit, along with the assurance that it tracks metrics accurately.
All the Charge 4 is really missing at this point is on-board music storage, but I’m hopeful Fitbit’s saving that one for 2021.
With all of the negatives that come from using Facebook’s apps and services, the positives of the company’s latest VR headset weirdly outweighs them.
Not only is the Oculus Quest 2 affordable with its starting price of $299, but it’s also easy to use, lightweight, and comfortable to wear (even for those with glasses). Plus, it offers a high-resolution display with support for a 90Hz refresh rate.
Sure, virtual reality might not be the most common hobby, but it’s slowly and steadily becoming more mainstream. And in 2020, it’s the closest you’ll get to safely traveling and visiting loved ones in today’s world.
Let’s get one thing straight: These will forever be known as the Galaxy BEANS not Buds — thanks to their obviously bean-shaped design and leaked codename.
Even though they look really strange, the “Beans” fit securely in your ear, deliver great sound, and come at a fair price of $170. While the noise cancellation feature certainly needs some work, these earbuds are also a great alternative to Apple’s pricier $249 AirPods Pro.
Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 aren’t the best-looking pair of cans around, especially in comparison to Marshall Monitor II headphones, Bose NC 700, and (most recently) the AirPods Max. But it’s what’s on the inside that counts anyway, right? Good, because these bad boys have excellent sound quality, noise-cancellation, and battery life — a.k.a. the holy trifecta.
Since most of us have been working from home this year (the lucky ones, anyway), the only people who might point out how ugly these Surface Headphones 2 look on your noggin are either your roommates or your parents. And who really cares what they think?
I truly never thought I’d see the day when Google would add a remote control to the Chromecast, but hey — in 2020, anything (and everything) happened.
For $50, the Chromecast with Google TV offers users an intuitive interface, Google Assistant integration, and an easy-to-use remote (as all remotes should be). Yes, I’m talking to you, Apple.
Of all the iPhones to come out in 2020 — and there were five in total! — Apple’s budget version is easily the best one.
Not only does the iPhone SE (2020) feel a lot more premium than you’d expect for its $399 price tag, but it also packs Apple’s very recent A13 Bionic chip, a 12-megapixel camera (Portrait mode included) that produces great shots, and all-day battery life. What’s more, in a world where facial recognition has become the norm for unlocking our devices, it felt nice to have Touch ID back on a smartphone.
Speaking of feeling nice, let’s hope 2021 brings back the good feels. We could all use the positive vibes. It’ll certainly make reviewing the flood of tech products that are guaranteed to launch next year a lot more enjoyable.