As each year comes to an end, I like to think about all the gadgets that have hit the market in the last 1
What makes a gadget the ‘best’?
Man, that’s the question, isn’t it? Sometimes the best product is the product with the most powerful specifications. Sometimes it’s the one that fits into a particular niche. Sometimes it is the one that offers the best value. In all fairness, it’s hard to pinpoint one description of “best”, so we’ll use a few different metrics to determine this.
- Price for performance / quality: When something outperforms or outperforms the competition for less money, it’s a pretty great value. This is a big factor in determining which products in a particular category are best for a particular year.
- If it’s the benchmark: Some products may be a little more expensive than others, but if they become the standard by which all others are measured, that particular product becomes a benchmark for a particular category. That’s hard to beat.
- If it is really innovative: Innovation is important. It’s what drives an entire category forward.
These different statistics work together, which you will notice when you read our prize winners. The best value generally sets a precedent by which, for example, other devices in a particular category are measured.
So yes, there you go. Now let’s talk about the best things around this year.
Smartphone of the year: Pixel 4a
Most years it is a challenge to choose the best smartphone. But for 2020 it was actually quite easy. The Google Pixel 4a offers unprecedented value in smartphones, as it ticks almost every box that most users would want: great battery life, great camera, good screen, solid performance … you get the idea.
And it does it all for $ 350. In my mind there is no better smartphone for the money, which is why it easily earned our pick of Smartphone of the Year for 2020. The only other strong consideration we had this year was the Pixel 4a 5G, which is a bit bigger and a little faster than the “regular” 4a. But at $ 500, I feel like it just missed the Pixel 4a’s value. (It’s an equally great phone, though).
Gadget of the Year: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet
Real talk: this was my favorite product of the year. The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet was the first perfect 10/10 review I’ve ever given, and more than half a year later, I’m still behind it. For less than $ 300, you get a brilliant convertible design that is both a tablet and laptop in one. Best of all, everything you need is in the box – the tablet, the kickstand and the keyboard are all part of the package.
In my view, this is the Chrome OS tablet perfected. It works exceptionally well as a laptop of this size, but if you need it as a tablet, it’s great too. With Android apps in the mix, this is the only “Android tablet” worth buying. Like the Pixel 4a, there is simply no better value these days.
Laptop of the Year: Lenovo ThinkPad Extreme Gen 3
There are laptops, then there is the Lenovo ThinkPad Extreme. This third generation product is monstrous in almost every sense of the word – it’s fast, beautiful, and powerful. The innards of beast mode play a big role here, after all, it is not for nothing that you are packing a laptop with a 10th generation Core i7 chip, 32 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD and a discrete NVIDIA graphics card.
But the star of the show here is still the absolutely stunning 4K OLED panel. We’ve now reviewed two versions of the Extreme and were baffled by that big, beautiful screen. If you want brains, strength and beauty then this is the machine to buy. Sure, if you don’t have nearly $ 3000 for a computer you can skip the OLED and get it with an IPS … but you’re missing out.
Truly Wireless Earbuds of the Year: Jabra Elite 85t
Last year, my pick for Gadget of the Year was Apple’s AirPods Pro. For the past 12 months, those have been the benchmark for all my true wireless earbud reviews.
At least until a few weeks ago. The Jabra Elite 85t sets new standards. Not only are these the best-sounding earbuds I’ve ever heard, but they’re also incredibly comfortable, have excellent ANC and HearThrough, and get excellent battery life. This is the first set of earbuds that I think are completely better than AirPods Pro in almost every way.
True wireless earbuds of the year
Smart Home Gadget of the Year: Wyze Cam v3
Wyze has long offered some of the best value in smart home gadgets, but the Cam v3 really takes things to the next level. Not only is it insanely affordable at just $ 20, but it’s also weatherproof for outdoor use and has a starlight sensor for color night vision. There is no other camera on the market that comes close to this price.
And those are just the bigger upgrades over the Cam’s predecessors. There are also smaller (but still meaningful) upgrades, such as multiple mounting options, a wider field of view, smoother video, support for accessories, and a ton of other stuff. With all the upgrades in the Cam v3, it was an easy choice for Smart Home Gadget of the Year.
Streaming Gadget of the Year: Chromecast with Google TV
Just when I thought streaming gadgets couldn’t really get any better in any meaningful way, Google comes out with the new Chromecast. The updated Google TV interface is excellent and makes my “ugh what do I want to watch today” life easier.
Not only that, but it also solves my biggest annoyance with YouTube TV’s live interface, so it’s a win-win. Plus, it’s only $ 50. There is literally no reason not to have one.
Game of the year: The Last of Us Part II
We don’t do a lot of game reviews here at RG (let me know if you’d like to see us do more!), But that doesn’t mean I can’t just pay tribute to not just the best game of the year but one of the best games of all time The Last of Us Part II.
The first The last of us is my all time favorite game (I’ve played it over 30 times), but I still got into it Part II with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s certainly a divisive title, but in the end it’s just as powerful as the first game from a story standpoint. If you’re a fan of the original, you should approach it with an open mind, but if you can, it’s a great game. In fact, the best.
Accessory of the year for home work: Fluidstance Slope
2020 was the year in which a number of people were unintentionally thrown into the world of working from home. And while you might think there isn’t much innovation in “place a whiteboard in your office,” Fluidstance found a way to make the whiteboard more useful. Instead of a whiteboard that is glued to the wall next to your desk, the Slope is a whiteboard that you place just below your monitor so that it is always in your face. It’s brilliant.
When I reviewed the Slope in August, I said it ‘reminded me that writing stuff rocks’ – and four months later, I still agree here. With the Slop, I can quickly write down things I need to do and then erase them when I’m done. No wasted paper and no missed tasks. Bam. Winner winner, chicken dinner. And also Accessory of the year for homework.
Smartphone Accessory of the Year: Satechi Trio wireless charger
We tested a number of different wireless chargers this year, but none were as impressed as Satechi’s Trio. This three-in-one Qi charger is made to handle an Apple Watch, earbuds and a phone at the same time, and it does it exceptionally.
The thing with most pad style chargers is that you have to get the gadget lined up exactly right to charge it. I don’t know what kind of magic Satechi uses here, but you can throw a phone near the charger nearby and it will just work. It’s pricey at $ 120, but it works better than any other multi-device charger we’ve tested this year, so it delivers.
Cereal of the Year: Peanut Butter Chex
This year, I started reviewing grains, mainly because I love grains. In fact, MyFitnessPal tells me that 26 percent of my diet is grains. I’m not sure what to do with the other 74 percent, but I should probably eat more cereal.
And while I started doing cereal reviews this year, I haven’t done as many as I wanted. Really, Peanut Butter Chex is to blame for this as it’s my new favorite. It’s actually the only grain I’ve eaten since reviewing it in August. I went through it for a week. Serious. Best cereal ever… or at least this year.