Of all the tech products we used in 2020, these were our favorites

As it was for many things, 2020 was a strange year for consumer technology. Yet, despite pandemic-fueled factory closures, a widespread economic downturn, and a bunch of delayed product launches, the industry still managed to charge forward and release some of the best tech gear we’ve ever tested. Digital Trends reviewed hundreds upon hundreds of different products in 2020 — everything from folding smartphones to long-range electric mopeds — and as the year draws to a close, we wanted to look back and recap some of the highlights. Here’s our favorite tech of 2020.

Overall winner: Apple M1

Top Tech 2020
Digital Trends/Chris DeGraw

What’s this? A modest, old-fashioned processor for our pick for top product of the year? It’s an audacious choice, but no gadget or piece of gear has the potential to transform the future of technology quite like Apple’s M1 processor.

The company’s first custom Mac chip is more than just a leap ahead in terms of performance, efficiency, and battery life. It’s all those things in spades, and that alone makes it a standout piece of kit.

But beyond making for faster MacBooks, the M1 is the first successful step at truly uniting the device you work on with the one you carry in your pocket. The split between “mobile” and “desktop” — between smartphone and laptop — has always felt like an impassable divide. Don’t switch back and forth too fast; you’ll get some serious digital whiplash.

The M1 unifies the worlds of mobile and desktop, giving both access to the same features — and even the same libraries of apps. Finally, there’s an unbreakable synergy between your MacBook and your iPhone.

The best part? The average person won’t notice the difference at first. They’ll go on using their Mac as they would have, perhaps only marveling at how fast it turns on or how long it lasts on a single charge.

But under the hood, Apple has started a revolution.

It’ll be a few years before we see the full results of the change, but a decade from now, we’ll look back at the M1 as the chip that started it all.

– by Luke Larsen

Best in Mobile: Apple iPhone 12

Mobile Top Tech 2020: iPhone 12
Digital Trends/Chris DeGraw

Smartphones continue to be the most important mobile device in our lives. They’re constantly at our side, and people invariably pick their phone as their most important gadget. For 2020, the best representation of the do-it-all smartphone is the iPhone 12 Pro.

Apple perfectly executed this fresh design, and it’s best in the heavier and sturdier stainless steel of the Pro. Paired with a matte glass back and new color schemes, it’s excellent to see and hold. The display is bigger and better than before, putting it right at the top of the industry. The camera experience is top-notch in all lighting conditions and dead simple to use. And of course, iOS continues to be fast, consistent, and user-friendly. It’s a complete package.

You can almost expand this award to encompass the entire iPhone 12 lineup, because it’s Apple’s most cohesive and compelling yet. So much of what makes the iPhone 12 Pro great is found in the cheaper iPhone 12, and even the compact 12 Mini, which is just incredible. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also elevates the already-great camera experience further, and adds in incredible battery life.

The entire iPhone 12 lineup is superb, and the iPhone 12 Pro is the best of the bunch.

by Andrew Martonik

Best in A/V: Hisense 100L10E Ultra Short Throw Projector

Digital Trends/Chris DeGraw

It’s impossible not to lead this section with a worn-out, predictable lament about being stuck at home most of 2020. The struggle to keep my two kids entertained has been real, so I’ll cop to loosening rules on screen time with zero shame. But what do you do when watching movies — once considered the occasional treat — becomes de rigueur?

My solution? Make movie night at home feel like a proper night out at the movies, complete with fresh-popped buttery popcorn, fizzy soda, trashy candy, and a massive projection screen. That last element is where an Ultra Short Throw Projector comes in — specifically the Hisense 100L10E Laser TV.

Frankly, this projector setup has been invaluable over the past few months. It’s drawn my family closer together and allowed us to have experiences that remind us that better times are just around the corner. We may not be able to get into a real commercial theater for a while, but the cinematic experience we are fortunate to enjoy at home will tide us over just fine.

by Caleb Denison

Best in Smart Home: Amazon Echo 4th Gen

Smart Home Top Tech 2020: Amazon Echo
Digital Trends/Chris DeGraw

At this point, smart speakers aren’t particularly new. In fact, we’ve seen countless speakers since they rose in popularity a few years ago. Amazon’s own line of Echo smart speakers helped usher in the age of the smart home, but this year’s model isn’t just an incremental update. It’s such a big leap that we think it’s not only the best smart speaker you can currently buy, but also the best smart home product of 2020 as a whole.

Why? Well, first and foremost, the fourth-generation model Echo introduces a brand-new  spherical design that’s a refreshing change. Some folks were skeptical about the switch (including us), but the orb-shaped look of the Echo (4th Gen) was a necessary one from the cylindrical designs of its predecessors. Other speakers look blah with their predictable designs, making the Echo (4th Gen) really stand out. Add to that its dazzling LED light ring, and you’ll be entranced each and every time Alexa is activated.

– by John Velasco

Best in Cars: Ford F150 Hybrid

ford f-150
Digital Trends/Chris DeGraw

Ford’s gasoline-electric F-150 PowerBoost is the most significant hybrid model launched since the original Toyota Prius because it brings hybrid car technology to the heart of the American market. Better yet, it does this will little to no compromise in power or utility. Rated at 430 horsepower and 24 mpg combined, the PowerBoost system is available on a wide range of four-door SuperCrew trucks that includes bare-bones models built for construction sites, upscale models for buyers seeking luxury, and anything in between.

While an electric model is tentatively due out in 2021, the hybrid stands out because it doesn’t come with range limitations and it’s relatively affordable. And, with a 12,700-pound towing capacity, it’s also hugely capable. If there’s any single vehicle that’s likely to have a significant impact on emissions in the years ahead, this is it.

– by Ronan Glon

Best in Gaming: The Last of Us Part 2

Gaming Top Tech 2020: The Last of Us
Digital Trends/Chris DeGraw

After some extensive, deliberate, and difficult debates, the Digital Trends Gaming team has reached a consensus: The Last of Us Part II is our favorite game of the year.

The Last of Us Part II had the unenviable burden of expanding upon one of the most critically and commercially successful games of all time, while also releasing at a time when gaming opinions have only become more divisive. Add to that a difficult development cycle and massive leaks before launch, and there was as much was stacked against the game as there was going for it.

That only makes the achievements of The Last of Us Part II all the more impressive. The game does not do what it thinks players will like, but what it felt was important for its characters, and makes no judgments on your thoughts on the matter. It kills off your favorite characters, it introduces new ones that initially leave a bad taste in the mouth, and lets them clash over a brutal 30-hour story that ultimately justifies its length. This is the definition of something that hurts so good.

When thinking of an adventure we took this year, there’s no doubt that The Last of Us Part II is the one at the forefront.

– by Giovanni Colantonio

Best in Entertainment: Lovecraft Country (HBO)

Entertainment Top Tech 2020: Lovecraft Country
Digital Trends/Chris DeGraw

Much like Watchmen in 2019, HBO’s Lovecraft Country arrived at just the right time for its saga to resonate in all the right ways. The tale of a Black soldier who embarks on a cross-country journey through 1950s Jim Crow-era America to find his missing father, Lovecraft Country delivered plenty of surprises throughout its first 10-episode season. The series was billed as an exploration of both the racial terrors faced by African-Americans during that era and the sort of eldritch horrors described in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and it delivered all that — and frighteningly more — thanks to showrunner Misha Green and the series’ talented cast.

Series leads Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett were captivating throughout the series’ first season, sweeping the audience along for every harrowing — and achingly sad — moment of their adventure across a country where the pigment of your skin can be the deciding factor in the balance between life and death. Their supporting cast shined just as bright, with actors Aunjanue Ellis, Wunmi Mosaku, and Michael K. Williams delivering the sort of performances that challenge the traditional views of womanhood, race, and masculinity in fascinating ways.

Lovecraft Country is the rare project that managed to be just as powerful of a tool for education as it is for entertainment, blending visual spectacle and groundbreaking special effects with a story that drills deep into the nation’s shameful history of racial injustice. Whether you consider it a history lesson with horror elements or a horror story with historical elements, Lovecraft Country is a masterpiece of storytelling that was as powerful as it was poignant, and as enthralling as it was terrifying.

No one quite knew what to expect in the lead-up to the show’s premiere, but it didn’t take long for Lovecraft Country to establish itself as the series we didn’t know we needed, and one of 2020’s most memorable, thought-provoking examples of the power of entertainment.

– by Rick Marshall

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