2020 sucked, but these gadgets did not
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The PS5 was one of my most highly anticipated pieces of tech this year, and I am happy to say it has lived up to the expectations I set for the console. While I still have concerns on how expandable storage will work, I find the PS5 to have had a stronger launch than its competitor, the Xbox Series X, for this reason: namely, the DualSense is one of the most innovative controllers I have seen in the last few years. Its haptic feedback and adaptive triggers provide extra realism to immerse me even more in the games I play. — Taylor Lyles, writer
I reviewed a whole bunch of convertible laptops this year, but the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is the closest to being one that I’d actually consider buying. There are certainly things I don’t love about it: the keyboard is a bit flat for my taste, and the lack of USB-A ports means I can’t connect some of my peripherals without a dongle. But when it comes to the most important aspects of a 2-in-1 laptop, the XPS 13 doesn’t just check all the boxes — it blows the boxes off the page. The build quality is exceptional, the touchpad is comfortable, the 16:10 display is roomy and gorgeous, the battery life lasts all day, and the chassis is unbelievably thin and light. You can even play games like Overwatch at well above 60fps. As someone looking for a reliable, portable machine, I really couldn’t ask for anything more. — Monica Chin, reporter
DJI’s new Mini 2 drone is the drone I didn’t really expect to love as much as I do. It’s not the ultimate do-it-all drone — in fact, it misses a lot of features you’d find on more expensive drones. The Mini 2 doesn’t have any obstacle avoidance sensors, it has a tiny photo sensor, and photos are only 12MP. But it also nails the basics: those 12MP photos look sharp, dynamic range is good for that small sensor, and video looks crisp. It also has two awesome features: it includes DJI’s OcuSync 2 wireless connectivity and it weighs only 249g. OcuSync 2 enables radio transmission and a nearly impeccable connection, compared to the flaky Wi-Fi connection in the original Mavic Mini. And being a sub-250g drone means you don’t need FAA registration (but be sure to follow other FAA regulations). It’s easy to bring anywhere you go and it’s incredibly fun to fly. If you’re a content creator, drone enthusiast, or a total beginner, this is a perfect drone to get. — Vjeran Pavic, senior director
The iPhone 12 mini isn’t the best iPhone 12 for most people. If you asked me, I’d tell you to get the regular iPhone 12 or maybe the 12 Pro Max, especially if you really care about the camera. But the 12 mini is my favorite and the one I purchased. It has been a very long time since we’ve had a small phone with true flagship specs. Usually, smaller phones are either nonexistent or deeply compromised. With the 12 mini, there’s really only one compromise that matters: the battery life isn’t great. That’s the reason I don’t recommend it right off the bat. But if you’re aware of that battery life and think it can fit into your lifestyle, having a small phone again is great. It just feels like it was designed for human hands instead of being designed to maximize the screen size. That’s why it’s my favorite. — Dieter Bohn, executive editor
Fujifilm went back to the basics with the Instax SQ1, which is absolutely the least tech-y gadget I reviewed this year. With no screens, only two shooting modes, and a rotating ring around the lens that turns the camera on and off, the SQ1 feels more like a toy than a $120 camera. And it’s perfect that way because it inspires creativity and fun. Although it’s a bit bulky, the joy it provides by instantly developing memories in that iconic Polaroid frame still makes me want to bring it everywhere. Plus, taking photos of the contents of your friends’ refrigerators and then hiding the photo under the milk carton never gets old. — Becca Farsace, senior director