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The Verge’s favorite gadgets of 2020

The Verge’s favorite gadgets of 2020

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2020 sucked, but these gadgets did not

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We covered nearly a hundred products on our YouTube channel in 2020 and countless more here on the site. But while we return all our review units, there are some products we get sad about having to send back — so sad, in fact, that we end up buying them for ourselves (or at least have wishful thoughts about buying them) because we simply can’t live without them. 

What follows are some of the gadgets that our staff really liked.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The Galaxy Buds Live (or the Galaxy Beans as they should have been called) aren’t the perfect pair of true wireless headphones, but they fit my specific needs perfectly. That’s because I wanted a pair of earbuds to wear while cycling. So for starters, they couldn’t be too bulky or have a stem that’d catch on the straps of my helmet. Nor did I want a pair of earbuds that were too good at blocking out environmental noise; it’s more important for me to hear incoming traffic than the end of a guitar solo. That turned the Beans’ open-air design from a negative into a positive for me. Throw in a USB-C port and support for wireless charging, and you’re left with my favorite gadget of the year. — Jon Porter, reporter

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live

$169.9959% off
$70

Samsung’s unconventional wireless earbuds are shaped like beans, but they produce a powerful sound and come with lengthy battery life.


Oculus Quest 2

Oculus Quest 2
Oculus Quest 2
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The Oculus Quest 2 is a big compromise as a platform, since it ties virtual reality directly to the Facebook service. As a gadget, though, it can’t be beat. The Quest 2 is the first piece of consumer VR hardware without a big and obvious compromise. It’s self-contained and can be used without any wires, but you can also plug it into a laptop to play higher-powered games. It’s light enough to wear without hurting your head, although it’s best when tricked out with an alternate head strap and some special short-cord headphones. And it supports some of the best VR games around, including my personal obsession Beat Saber. The Quest 2 isn’t quite the Nintendo Switch of virtual reality — but it’s surprisingly close. — Adi Robertson, senior reporter

$399

The 256GB model of the new default for VR, packaged with the $50 elite strap.

Peloton bike 

Reviewing the new Peloton bike, the Bike Plus, has been a bright spot in a horrifying year. I’m still testing it and working on the review, but the small bugs I’ve found so far don’t take away from the fact that having a place to listen to good music, sweat, and work out all my 2020 frustrations has been incredible. I need an outlet for everything I’m feeling from being cooped up in my apartment. That said, the bike costs nearly $2,500 with a $40 monthly subscription plan attached. It’s a massive cost that is tempting for me to spend, but I do wonder if, when the pandemic wanes, I’ll crave in-person gym experiences again. — Ashley Carman, senior reporter

Photo by Peloton

PlayStation 5

PS5
PS5

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

$499.99

Sony’s flagship next-gen console priced at $499. Compared to the PS5 Digital Edition, this console is $100 more and includes a disc drive. (Be warned: these consoles can be extremely hard to find and are often out of stock.)

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 open, facing forward.
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
Photo by Monica Chin / The Verge

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

Best Laptops 2020: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
$1249

The XPS 13 2-in-1 combines premium design, convertible flexibility, and great performance into a very compelling package. It’s the Dell ultrabook to get.

DJI Mini 2

DJI Mini 2
DJI Mini 2

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

DJI Mini 2 Bundle

$59920% off
$479.2

The DJI Mini 2 might look identical to Mavic Mini, but it now comes with DJI’s OcuSync 2 wireless connectivity for up to 2.5 times the wireless range and more stable connectivity. Plus, it offers 4K video recording.

iPhone 12 mini

The iPhone 12 mini has a regular wide and an ultrawide camera
iPhone 12 mini
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

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

Apple iPhone 12 Mini

$69914% off
$599

The iPhone 12 Mini is the smallest phone in Apple’s lineup and the best small phone you can get.

Instax SQ1

Instax SQ1
Instax SQ1
Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

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

$119.95

The Instax Square SQ1 is Fujifilm’s point-and-shoot Instax camera released in 2020 that prints photos onto Polaroid-framed film. Instead of adding more tech, Fujifilm made the SQ1 as simple as possible.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 5:33 PM UTC Striking out

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Youtube
Andrew Webster5:33 PM UTC
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew Webster4:28 PM UTC
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew Webster1:05 PM UTC
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.


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TikTok
Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.


J
External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.