iPad mini and 7 others gadgets that stood out from the crowd in 2021
This past year in tech was nothing less than a rollercoaster ride. The supply chain issues made it harder to buy several products including the PlayStation 5 and budget smartphones, but despite those challenges, we saw many worthy devices vying to grab our attention. A few came across as the true standouts in what was a pretty great year for tech lovers. This is an alternative take on tech gadgets that had an impact on the conceptual level of what we expect from gadgets.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 was meant to have a broader appeal but no one knew the phone would create such a lasting impact. Although Samsung has been making foldable phones for the last few years, for the first time it felt as if the company totally succeeded with the Z Flip 3. It’s attractive, colourful and stylish and at the same time, the phone starts at $1000 or Rs 84,999, the lowest price we have seen for a foldable device. Aside from its price, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 nailed the idea of a foldable phone that can replace your everyday smartphone. Samsung addressed a lot of issues with the Z Flip 3 such as durability and battery life that hampered the commercial prospects of previous generation foldable phones. This third-generation Galaxy Z Flip 3 is undeniably the best. Read our review of the Galaxy Z Flip 3.
The new iPad mini blew us away with its simplicity and the larger idea of a companion device that’s not a smartphone. On paper, the iPad mini is just a mini-sized version of the iPad Air but once you hold the device in your hands and start using it, the experience is surreal. The iPad mini is traditionally an iPad but not exactly a tablet in literal terms and that’s where Apple’s “Think Different” approach comes in. Given how small and portable this device is, it becomes an extended version of the iPhone. We don’t know yet how Apple wants to fully utilise the potential of the iPad mini, but this form factor is unabashedly cool and full of hidden ideas that are waiting to unravel. Read our review of the iPad mini.
The Sonos Roam is a genre-defining portable speaker born out of the idea of simplifying the music listening experience on the go. That approach along with the minimalist design and terrific audio fidelity keeps Sonos in the league of its own. The speaker uses both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and its triangular shape helps the Roam to be different in a saturated market. Portable speakers can be a hit and miss in terms of audio, but the Sonos Roam gets nearly everything right. Its audio performance is way better than what the competition has to offer, and the portable speaker produces clear, crisp, and well-balanced sound. Plus, the battery life is amazing, lasting 10 hours. It’s a little expensive, but a Sonos device has never been cheap. Read our review of the Sonos Roam.
Nintendo Switch OLED
When a device hits its fifth year, its popularity peaks, and sales start to slow down. But that didn’t happen in the case of the Nintendo Switch. The latest Switch OLED is reaching out to more diverse customers and expanding its user base. What’s working in favour of the Switch is the form factor which is so unique that it’s making it hard for competitors to replicate the idea. Even with the new Switch OLED, Nintendo has tried to keep a distance from 4K graphics and improved performance. Instead, it focused on the little things that enhance user experience and gameplay. The fact that the Switch is both a home console and a portable one is a big draw, but what also makes this console sell in large numbers is access to Nintendo exclusive games that aren’t available on any other platform, including The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
The iMac M1 is more than a revision to the most loved desktop computer of all time. The new iMac is soulful, poetic, and imaginative. No wonder it would have been both thoughtful and challenging to design an all-new, all-colourful iMac. Daring, because the challenge would have been to make a different looking all-in-one desktop computer that’s also familiar. The screen is bigger and more expansive than the one seen on its predecessor, but the computer is 11.5mm thick. Thanks to the M1 chip, the iMac stays quiet and cool. There are a lot of good ideas that went into making the iMac, and the end result is fascinating. The new iMac has a personality of its own and that justifies why it’s called a personal computer. Read our review of the iMac M1.
HP Chromebase All-in-One
HP Chromebase AIO went unnoticed as the “cute” looking all-in-one desktop computer release this year. But a mix of ideas was folded into the HP Chromebase AIO: the desktop computer could become a TV of sorts, a smart speaker, and a giant tablet floating in the air. Perhaps the reason why this Chrome OS-powered machine is different is the fact that you can actually rotate it a full 90-degrees. The ability to move the 21.5-inch screen from landscape to portrait changes how you view content. Another highlight of the Chromebase AIO is the fabric-wrapped base featuring a Bang & Olufsen speaker. Then there was the 5MP camera for video calls, Intel’s Core i3 processor, and a keyboard with good key travel. It’s a pity that this one from HP is still not available in India. The HP Chromebase AIO is great value for its $599 price tag.
Asus ROG Flow X13
Call it a rule breaker or a breath of fresh air, the Asus ROG Flow X13 was an expected laptop no one thought was coming our way. The Flow X13 tried to address the core issues users had with high-performance gaming laptops with a solution that required a different approach. To make a gaming laptop lightweight and equally powerful, Asus thought of the idea of an external GPU (or a companion eGPU) to add graphics performance. This approach surely had a few compromises, but offered a solution to a problem. The Flow X13 is expensive, but the laptop is powerful enough for modern AAA gaming without sacrificing form factor or processing capability. Read our review of the ROG Flow X13.
Nothing ear (1)
Nothing, a new start-up by Carl Pei who co-founded OnePlus, is gaining a lot of traction among users these days. The company is backed by the likes of Tony Fadell, who invented the iPod, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, and YouTuber Casey Neistat. The Nothing ear (1) pack everything we love to see in a pair of truly wireless earbuds that’s not only affordable but look different. Although the audio quality is subjective, we liked the aesthetics and its design that marries retro with futurism. For the buck, the Nothing earbuds are a heck of a deal. They feature premium features like noise cancellation, water- and splash resistance, and customisable gesture controls. Read our review of the Nothing ear (1).