Best Gadgets 2021: Our Favourite Buys, From PlayStation 5 to Pixel 4a

Loknath Das

Best Gadgets 2021: Our Favourite Buys, From PlayStation 5 to Pixel 4a

2021 has been a lot like 2020 — we spent most of the year indoors, and just as the world has started to open up, it feels like we might be immersed back into it thanks to the Omicron variant. And that means, just like last year, we have come to rely on gadgets and devices more than ever before. At Gadgets 360, we not only review hundreds of products each year — but like everyone else, we buy stuff for ourselves too. Audio is the most popular product category below, with some folks investing in audiophile-level gear. Phones, as always, are high on the list too. We can’t survive without them. And apart from the usual laptops, gaming consoles, mics and mice, there are a couple of subscriptions worth reading about. And plus, a bike accessory.

We hope you’ll find something below that might suit your needs — or excite you about something you didn’t know you wanted. Presenting the Gadgets 360 staff’s favourite (tech) purchases of the year.

Abhinav Lal, Sennheiser HD 599 Special Edition

This was an impulse purchase after a self-indulgent music appreciation phase back in February, when I decided I finally needed audiophile-grade headphones. With the new normal of working from home, I felt I could finally derive much daily value from a pair of open-back headphones, without troubling coworkers or worrying about portability.

With a small — by audiophile standards — budget of around Rs. 10,000, I spent some time researching options, with more than a little help from resident audiophile Ali Pardiwala, and came across a lightning deal on Amazon on the Sennheiser HD 599 SE. From what I understood, the headphones are essentially identical (except for colour differences) to the HD 599, but licensed and mass produced by Amazon — making them a fair bit cheaper (almost half the price) in comparison.

I’ve been quite happy with the purchase, enjoying the open and detailed sound. I played around with my laptop’s built-in equaliser and sound effects, tried out the Dolby Access app for Atmos sound and more features, but in the end, I felt the headphones were best used with all equalisers and features turned off. While in the past I had made mediocre offerings deliver the best sound possible by adjusting levels, my new cans gave me the chance to listen to the music as it was intended to sound.

Aditya Nath Jha and Jasmin Jose, MacBook Air M1

Aditya: I have been in the Apple ecosystem for ages. After using an iMac 27-inch for six months and still being dissatisfied with the level of performance I received for video editing, I finally decided to jump the gun with the MacBook Air M1. To my utter surprise, the nimble 13-inch machine had enough power to blaze through my 4K video edits with a thin fan-less design.

Jasmin: I have wanted to buy a MacBook for several years now, but for this year, it was the iPhone 13 Pro that I had my eyes on. I’d been religiously tracking all the updates that have been coming out about the new iPhone and was excited about buying it. But I think destiny had this MacBook in store for me. The previous laptop that I’d been using deteriorated quickly, and I was left with no option but to get a new laptop and in the spirit of #YOLO I went ahead and bought the MacBook Air M1.

Aditya: With some amazing card offers and discounts for education, I got my device for less than Rs. 80,000. For such a price, I found it to be the best ultra-portable laptop for all my work needs. For sure, there are some issues related to a few apps not being compatible with the latest Apple Silicon, but I was able to find alternatives for almost everything in the form of a native app. My productivity improved, I was able to get more done throughout the year and the only con I felt was the lack of a bigger display in this compact laptop. Truth be told, it was a great value-for-money purchase for me. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

Jasmin: Yeah, I absolutely love my MacBook Air M1 too. It’s sleek, it’s smooth, it’s silent, and most importantly, it’s just so beautiful (I got the one in gold). The device charges quick and will run for 12 hours or more on a single charge, depending on usage. It’s very light, handy, quick, and maintains a low operating temperature even without the fan. The small screen is tiring at times and the number of ports are less (very), so you’ll definitely have to buy a USB-C hub in addition. I think I’ll give it an 8.5 out of 10.