Could we have survived this year without our favorite tech products? Probably, but they sure made the trainwreck better known as 2020 more bearable.
Spending less time in offices and on-the-go meant we had to find normalcy at home. Whether we wanted to stay in shape, upgrade our remote work set up, stream a backlog of shows or embark on a new hobby, we turned to tech for help.
As this terrible year comes to a close, we’d like to reflect on the silver linings. See all our favorite tech products of 2020 below, from headphones and smart devices to stunning TVs and gaming peripherals.
Ring Fit Adventure
Yes, I reviewed the Nintendo Switch Ring Fit Adventure when it came out in 2019, but I bought my own Ring Fit right after the start of the pandemic, when I desperately needed a way to work out at home — and have fun doing it. You just dock your Joy-Con controller into the ring gadget, which is like a pilates ring, and the game can start tracking your exercise, making sure you’re staying in good form.
Months later I’ve lost a significant amount of weight as I’ve stuck to daily morning Ring Fit sessions. The game itself is a kooky, fun romp where you save a magical land from being taken over by a fitness-crazed dragon. You fight Drageaux and his goons by doing exercises, which conjure floating abs, fists and other entities to hit the enemies and do damage. It’s a bit corny, but I don’t know how I would have survived 2020 without it. — Henry T. Casey
MacBook Air M1
Apple actually did what it said it would earlier this year: ditching Intel’s processors for its own Apple silicon for impressive results. So while the newly released MacBook Air with M1 looks exactly like its predecessor — down to the Magic Keyboard Apple thankfully added to throw out the shallow and controversial Butterfly keyboard — it’s a whole new beast under the hood.
For example, the MacBook Air M1 lasts a lot longer, with 14 hours and 41 minutes of battery life, obliterating the 9:31 time from the Intel version. And its Rosetta 2 app translator has proven remarkably capable at running legacy applications that haven’t been updated for Apple silicon’s ARM-based processors. That means we actually got Rise of the Tomb Raider looking beautiful on a MacBook Air, and Sid Meier’s Civilization VI ran at 37 frames per second, 30 fps faster than the Intel version.
The new MacBook Air even replaced my Intel-based MacBook Pro from a few years ago, with no hiccups at all. This makes me incredibly curious about how much faster the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro will get when Apple silicon arrives in those models. — Henry T. Casey
I got a NutriBullet blender last year, but it’s been 2020 where it’s really made its mark. I was initially hesitant to get it – I already had a decent blender – but the NutriBullet’s biggest draw isn’t the blending capability or the feature set, but the simplicity of the thing. The canister is the cup. There are no buttons or settings, no pieces to disassemble and hand wash, and the size is perfect for one serving for one person. You throw your ingredients in the cup, screw on the lid/blade assembly, and put it on the blender until it’s done.
That simplicity has made it my go-to kitchen appliance in a year where daily life sometimes feels too hard. A healthy breakfast is easier when I can quickly blend up some yogurt and fruit for a smoothie. After a big workout, I can whip up a good protein shake, with whatever extra ingredients I want to add. Set up is dead simple, clean up is easy, and I don’t even have to dirty a second dish pouring my smoothie into a glass, because the individual-serving canister doubles as a cup.
Some days it feels like too much to have to make food and sit down and eat. My NutriBullet lets me quickly get something made, makes it easy to eat and easy to clean up. Not a lot of things have the distinction of being both convenient and good for you, but the NutriBullet has helped make life easier while also helping me stay healthy. — Brian Westover
Sony A8H Bravia OLED TV
There’s a reason that the Sony Bravia A8H OLED TV ruined all other TVs for me when I tested it this year. As I watched Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and more of my favorite flicks in 4K on the set, I was completely mesmerized by the crisp motion and color reproduction.
In our Sony Bravia A8H OLED TV review, we loved just about everything with this set. Even at its regular price, it was competitive with other OLED sets — so this discount is a real bargain. While it couldn’t reproduce as many colors as other OLED sets, those that it did were more accurate than competing models from LG and Samsung, according to Tom’s Guide TV tests.
I loved its deep blacks, as well as its customizable Android user interface. I also appreciated that it has Google Assistant built in, but still supports both Alexa and HomeKit, so this set meshed seamlessly with my smart home. — Kate Kozuch
Honor Watch GS Pro
My curiosity about the Honor Watch GS Pro was first piqued when Honor announced that its sports-focussed smartwatch was capable of lasting 25 days on a single charge. Knowing that I’d have to plug it in only once or twice a month, I actually tried wearing the Watch GS Pro every day, and found it blended seamlessly into my life. Its automatic fitness and heart rate tracking features reminded me to log my occasional exercise sessions including SpO2 data, while its vibrating notifications allowed me to remain connected but undistracted whether I was working or relaxing.
I regret not being able to try out some of the Watch GS Pro’s more exciting features, like the Route Back feature that automatically leads you home even if you don’t have an internet connection, its weather, tide and sun/moonrise alerts or its tough MIL-STD-810G-compliant exterior. But all the same, I think I’ve finally found the smartwatch that’s right for me. — Richard Priday
Plantronics BackBeat Fit headphones
My ideal morning routine looks something like this: I wake up early, get in a nice workout, take a shower and enjoy some breakfast before I head down to my cold basement office for a day of work. My Plantronics BackBeat Fit waterproof Bluetooth headphones help me do all of that.
Thanks to the comfortable fit and waterproof design, I can slip them on before I even get out of bed and keep them on throughout my morning. There’s no break in the music as I go, no fiddling with repositioning the headphones as I move through a workout, no pause to untangle any wires, no worries about water damage from sweat or shower. Just a continuous stream of my music, and I can listen at any volume without waking everyone else up. Even as I dry off, get dressed and eat my breakfast, I can keep the music going right up until it’s time to sign on for the start of my workday.
And the battery life is excellent, with the headphones giving me 8 hours of listening time per charge. With my routine taking about an hour at most, that means I only have to charge them once a week, and then I’m good to go for days on end. — Brian Westover
Netgear Orbi router
As my wife and I both had to work from home this past year, having a good router became essential. My original hub-and-extender step proved inadequate, as did the throughput from the mesh network from my Internet provider. Enter the Netgear Orbi. With just the base station and satellite, I was able to cover my entire home and have enough bandwidth to carry on two video calls simultaneously while our daughter got her fill of Sesame Street streaming to our TV. — Mike Prospero
The tablet is a weird device, often maligned as just a big phone. But the reMarkable 2 goes in a whole other direction, and it thrives thanks to advances made since its original model. If you missed the original reMarkable, the big thing to know is that it’s made for people who love to write with a pen or pencil. Pressing its stylus against its display actually feels a lot like writing on a real surface, unlike using any stylus from Apple or Microsoft, where you lose the tactile feeling of writing, pressing pens against glossy glass.
The biggest change for the reMarkable 2 comes in its aesthetics, as the chunky white bezel and big buttons are gone, so it’s streamlined down to a thin sliver of an e-ink screen. Also, the handwriting to text conversion tool is a godsend, and it all comes together in one sleek package that has helped make me a much better note-taker in meetings during this work from home era, so I can write on the reMarkable 2 and keep my eyes on my briefing I’m getting. — Henry T. Casey
Although the high price tag of these modular smart light tiles might seem unreasonable, especially for an ornamental product, Nanoleaf Shapes is worth the splurge if you, your cohabitor or your child is feeling uninspired at their workspace these days. These panels have definitely boosted my mood, making my desk someplace I actually want to roll out of bed for in the morning.
My hexagonal Nanoleaf Shapes offer endless color patterns, although Rhythm Scenes is my personal favorite. This setting makes the tiles dance in tune to your music. I like working to a soundtrack, but I like having lights that match my music even better. Some might find the endless movement distracting, though I think it adds some much-needed energy to my home office. — Kate Kozuch
JBL Club 950NC headphones
I also recently treated myself with a pair of JBL Club 950NC noise cancelling headphones. They do everything I want a good pair of headphones to do — they sound great, they wear comfortably for hours at a time, and they weren’t crazy expensive like some audio products can be.
But the active noise cancelling has been a game changer for my daily work. I’m far from the first person to recommend noise cancelling headphones for better focus, but until I put them on and switched on the instant-quiet of noise cancelling, I didn’t realize how loud my basement office was. The low hum of the furnace and air conditioner. The constant sounds of family walking upstairs. The sounds of my young kids crying or laughing or talking — noises that, as a parent, you never fully tune out.
Having that added measure of quiet makes it easier to work, sure, but it also helps make the professional and personal feel a little more separate in a time when the lines between workplace and home have disappeared. — Brian Westover
Logitech G915 keyboard
The Logitech G915 may have debuted in 2019, but this product saved my 2020 time and time again. At $250, the G915 is one of the most expensive keyboards we’ve ever recommended, but with good reason. It’s a wireless mechanical gaming keyboard, which means that it’s comfortable, functional and durable. It also means that you can finally make your gaming desk into a wire-free zone.
While gaming mice and headsets went wireless years ago, gaming keyboards have been a much tricker proposition, partially because mechanical keyboards are expensive, even in wired configurations. But the G915 makes no compromises. It features robust Logitech GL key switches, gorgeous elevated keycaps, colorful RGB lighting and a handy selection of extra keys for media, macros and custom commands.
Since a keyboard is a stationary gadget, wireless functionality seems optional — but if you frequently swap out your mouse, keyboard, headset, monitor, laptop and even PC (as I do when reviewing hardware), not having to extricate yourself from a tangle of wires each time is worth the G915’s price of admission. And it almost goes without saying, but the G915 is simply an excellent accessory for both productivity and gaming — as is most Logitech G gear. — Marshall Honorof
Like a lot of people, I turned to hobbies to fill up idle quarantine time. One of those hobbies was brushing up on my dormant piano skills, which Lumi Keys made easy and fun. The portable, illuminated keyboard connects to the Lumi Music app, and together, they deliver Guitar Hero-like lessons. Learn notes and scales, watch video tutorials as instructors go over technique and eventually play hit songs from the Beatles to Beyoncé.
Lumi is not cheap — $299 including the keyboard and a yearlong subscription to the full library of lessons and songs. But it’s a well-designed piece of hardware and software that can yield hours of enjoyment. Lumi is best for beginners or anyone looking for a fun, game-like piano playing experience. Nobody will use it to become a concert pianist, but it’s certainly boosted my mood in these unprecedented times. — Kelly Woo
Eufy Wireless Video Doorbell
Despite being very into my tech, I have been resisting the whole “smart home” trend that’s been pushed on us the last few years. Because of the usual concerns about privacy, security, and the fact I don’t feel much need for most of it. But I always wanted a video doorbell, for lots of reasons including the fact my office is well out of earshot from the front door. The controversy around Ring, and how it treats cloud recordings, always made me hesitant, until I found Eufy’s Wireless Video Doorbell.
Eufy’s video doorbell appeals because everything it records is kept local, and doesn’t go near the cloud. Not only does this mean nobody else has access to your clips, it also means there are no hidden cloud subscriptions to contend with. The hub only has 16GB of space, but it’s been more than enough for what I’ve needed over the past 200 days. Plus I can access it all remotely, even if I’m not on my home Wi-Fi network.
At $200, the Eufy Wireless Video Doorbell isn’t cheap, but it’s well worth it in my opinion. It has all the benefits of a video doorbell, in terms of security and convenience, plus the added bonus that there is minimal server-side contact and none of your video goes onto the cloud where you lose all control. — Tom Pritchard
HyperX Cloud II
The HyperX Cloud II is both a great-sounding and very comfortable headset, but neither of those qualities are why I love it. Or to be more exact, why I love mine. While many have justifiably credited their smartphones for keeping them in touch with friends and family, the moments I’ll most fondly recall from 2020 have largely occurred with this HyperX headset wrapped around my ears.
I’ve used it for heart-to-heart talks late into the night, I’ve used it to enjoy countless new songs and I’ve used it to host a somewhat-positively-received Zoom quiz. Sometimes, for kicks, I’ve even used it for games. In Among Us, that microphone has transmitted hours of brazen lying to my closest friends, not to mention plenty of shouting at UK Editor Roland whenever we died together in Apex Legends. Fond memories, indeed. — James Archer
Whoever said the best gifts come in small packages was not entirely right. The Dyson Airwrap has won the hearts of many since it was first released in 2018. This year, however, Dyson came out with several new attachments for the Airwrap, and the craze started afresh (though you could probably blame salon closures too).
The Dyson Airwrap is available in two different kits, one for frizz-prone hair and one for fine and flat hair. Each kit comes with four barrel and brush attachments. At the moment, the Airwrap is the only styler on the market that uses high speed air to operate at a lower heat that prevents from damaging your hair as you curl, dry and wave it. You can easily operate it with one hand too, which can be a real time-saver.
Personally, I’ve abandoned the rest of my hair styling collection ever since I tried it. Since then, I’ve noticed far fewer split ends than usual and was finally able to become more time-efficient when styling my hair. The only downside (and what a jaw dropping downside it is) is its $500 price tag. I’m usually not a big fan of overpriced premium brands, but after consistently using the Airwrap for over 5 months, I can confidently say that it was one of the best investments I made.
Is it really worth $500? Not entirely. Will it cut your hair routine time in half? Absolutely. — Denise Primbet
Midea U Smart Air Conditioner
As I wrote in my Midea U Smart Air Conditioner review, this gadget probably saved my marriage. When the lockdown started, my wife and I had to work from home, and converted our finished attic from an entertainment room to a home office. It being the attic, temperatures soared — and nerves frayed — during the summer months. With its cool and quiet operation, the Midea U made things a lot more bearable. I especially liked its unique U-shaped design, which has two benefits: it lets in more light, and lets you use your window, rather than flimsy baffles, as insulation from the outside. I almost can’t wait for summer to get here again. — Mike Prospero
Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller has been out for a few years, but it wasn’t until 2020 that this expensive peripheral really proved its worth. The Nintendo Switch is a fantastic portable console, but that’s of very limited value when you’re stuck at home almost all the time. (And even if you weren’t, there’s nowhere to go.) The Switch comes with a controller mount for its two Joy-Cons, but this simply makes two small, clunky controllers into one large, clunky controller.
The Switch Pro Controller is a much more elegant solution. Resembling an Xbox controller, the Switch Pro Controller has large hand grips, staggered analog sticks, a high-quality D-pad and a slick, semi-transparent design. It’s the perfect Switch accessory if you’re going to kick back on the couch, plant your Switch in the TV dock and play for hours at a time. And, let’s be honest — that’s the only way that most of us can play right now. — Marshall Honorof
TCL 6-Series Roku TV
The TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) was easily the best value TV of the year, and a stand out favorite among the products I reviewed. Buying a TV for under $1,000 used to mean giving up some quality, losing important features or settling for a smaller screen size. But TCL’s value champ totally flips the script with a QLED screen and mini-LED backlight that outperformed more expensive competing LCD TVs and let you enjoy a seriously great TV for less. Combine that with the rich app-selection and feature set of Roku TV, and you’ve got one of the best TVs of the year, at any price. — Brian Westover