2021 was a spectacular year for boundary-pushing new technology, though it must be said that actually getting your hands on that boundary-pushing new technology required more than a bit of luck and patience. However, even putting supply chain issues aside, not all was roses and rainbows, for not all new tech left me with the warm and fuzzy dopamine buzz I have come to associate with tech purchases. Here follows the tech I wish I hadn’t bought in 2021. Let it stand as a warning that may help others avoid my own wallet-draining mistakes.
S-view case for Samsung S21 Ultra 5G
When I upgraded to the S21 Ultra 5G from the Galaxy Note 9 this spring, I didn’t want to give up the S-pen experience of the Note 9. Fortunately, Samsung has a case that features a built-in S-Pen as well as a cool S-view window in that case. However, this case turned out to be bitterly disappointing. Unless you live in a clean room environment 100% free of dust and grit, then the S-view case is not for you.
If any kind of gunk gets in between the phone and the case, chances are it will scratch the phone screen, which is what happened to me after just a few days of use. Furthermore, unless you use gloves or wipe the phone screen each time before closing the case, that cool S-view window will leave a huge mark from the oil on your skin that is difficult to wipe off. This is as much a condemnation of the S21 Ultra screen as the case, as my Note 9 and the S8 never suffered from more than one or two minor scratches.
I still love the S21 Ultra for its amazing camera system, and I’m still glad I bought it in 2021, I just wish I hadn’t bought Samsung’s top-end premium case to go with it.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Yes, I just now praised the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, and yes it is on my list of the tech I’m glad I bought in 2021, but I’ve already partially explained just now in my critique of the S-view case, I have a love/hate relationship with this phone. Beyond the durability issues, it’s just kind of disappointing to use. It cost a lot of money, but it doesn’t feel like a phone that costs a lot of money as my Note 9 did, or even the S21 Ultra’s biggest rival, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max, does.
In addition to its screen durability issue, it also has a particularly low-quality USB-C port that has completely worn out after less than a year of use. The only reason I love it and why it also made the list of tech I’m glad I bought is its fantastic camera system and admittedly awesome processing power. It’s a zippy phone to be sure, and the screen is bright and beautiful so long as you manage to keep it free of scratches. However, at the same time, I can’t help but regret the purchase due to unfortunate issues that have somewhat soured me on this device.
Alienware Aurora R10
There’s nothing really wrong with the Alienware R10, but I’m having serious buyer’s remorse given the recent update to Alienware’s Aurora desktops. I bought my R10 in June, partly because I feared prices were going to skyrocket, or that parts shortages would grow even worse. However, none of that panned out, and to be honest, I’m a little disappointed with some aspects of this PC. For one, it runs pretty hot and loud, so when I’m playing a demanding VR game, it sounds like a jumbo jet preparing for takeoff, even with the water-cooled CPU.
The newer Aurora desktops dramatically reduce this problem I’ve had with my R10, with more space in the case. They also have clear side panels that reveal a much better looking interior rather than the ugly, spartan mess that was the older model. I can certainly live with my R10; it’s powerful and does everything I need it to, but it hurts to have your paranoia disproven and to realize you jumped the gun just a few months too soon with a major purchase.
Haida rear ND filter kit for the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens
A small and very niche tech purchase to be sure, but also one that left me disappointed for a number of reasons. First of all, I want to make one thing clear: the filters themselves are great. They allowed me to capture some spectacular images this summer and didn’t create an unnatural color cast or cause a loss of sharpness in my images. My beef is with the kit as a whole.
For one, installation is a difficult process that requires disassembling and reassembling a $2,400 lens with the filter holder in place. This task is a cold sweat-inducing process that I think I could only recommend to those experienced with operating on such an expensive device. Furthermore, the included screwdriver is of very poor quality and broke during the installation process.
Inserting the filters themselves is a bit tricky, but more importantly, I appear to have received a defective model that creates strange reflections in images captured with it, even without any filters in the holder. Haida has great tech support, but since I contacted them after removing the filter holder, I would have to repeat the whole process twice more in order to do the necessary troubleshooting. Quite frankly, I don’t want to roll the dice and risk my lens yet again, so the filter kit has been set aside awaiting my nerve to return, and currently, that prerequisite is still missing without a trace.
Phillips Performance Audio TAG6105 headset
I needed a good secondary headset earlier this year, and I wasn’t looking to spend much on it, so I settled on the Phillips Performance Audio TAG6105 because it seemed to be generally well thought of and was reasonably priced. On the plus side, it was one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve ever used and was remarkably durable in terms of build quality. However, it suffered from a serious and unbearable noise defect.
That might have been solved if I’d sent it in for a replacement, though judging from discussions I read around the internet regarding this issue, there was every possibility the replacement would also be defective. I ended up opting for a refund because this headset also has an absolutely awful microphone. Save yourself the headache and steer clear of the Phillips Performance Audio TAG6105!
Nintendo Switch Lite
I love the Nintendo Switch Lite. It’s an amazing little console that is capable of running the kind of games you’d normally only see on a hulking great tower you plonk down by a TV or monitor. The Switch Lite is super portable, and not even a smartphone is as effective a method of killing time while you’re away from home. I have no major complaints about the device itself as it is now — it’s the future of it that concerns me.
Perhaps the biggest problem plaguing the Nintendo Switch is the lurking prospect of “Joy-Con Drift”, where the joysticks on Switch controllers can fail over time resulting in constant drifting motion of the cursor. While this is a problem that plagues all Switch systems, in the original and OLED versions, the Joy-Con controllers are removable, and therefore replaceable should Joy-Con drift set in. With the Switch Lite that’s not the case, as the Joy-Cons are fused to the device. While my Switch remains fully functional since I bought it back in August, I live in dread of the drift.
In hindsight, I think I should have sprung the extra $100 for a Switch with removable Joy-Cons so that the dread of Joy-Con Drift would not be such a dark cloud hanging over my enjoyment of this otherwise awesome gaming console.
I honestly had to stretch to think of things I wish I hadn’t bought in 2021. The truth is that most tech available in the second decade of the 21st century is fantastic, so long as you stay away from shady, obscure brands. Mainstream products are generally high quality with only minor nitpicks to lay against them. For that reason, my list of the tech I’m glad I bought in 2021 is significantly longer.
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