Choosing the best tech at any point in time isn’t easy. There are loads of points to consider — price, actual usefulness, personal preference… okay, not that last one so much. Not usually.
At Stuff, we assess tech based on a much more objective set of criteria than most. Despite what people on YouTube would have you believe, it’s extremely possible to be objective about technology. But that also denies the fact that we (as people who spend all year surrounded by this stuff) might find some objectively less-than-stellar tech fun or interesting.
And that’s really the point of these lists — to show you the best tech Team Stuff encountered in the year that was. Subjectively, this time. Quite often the subjective and objective opinions line up, but sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s fine. Here’s what made the list for my best tech in 2021.
Everyone at the Stuff offices knows that I’m a bit of a headphone obsessive. There’s no really rational reason for this, I’m just fond of headphones for some reason. Like, more than a friend. But the friendliest headphones I ran across in 2021 were the Sony WF-1000XM4 in-ear buds.
Everything about them is just perfect. The physical weight is as finely tuned as the 6mm neodymium drivers. The battery life is excellent, letting users get most of a workday on a single charge. Noise-canceling is the best I’ve ever encountered in in-ears — so much so that I can’t bear to have it active when there’s no music playing. It just makes the world feel way too strange. And then there’s audio, which is second to… okay, it’s second to one or two other sets of in-ears, but not by much. All-round, though, these are the best in-ears I’ve ever used.
Hyperice Hypervolt Go
I’m from the fitness school that skips a lot of class. So things like stretching and recovery and pacing yourself — I’m not great at that bit. I missed the lessons where all of that was explained. But running across Hyperice’s Hypervolt Go in 2021 was more or less a revelation. You mean there’s a way to exercise every day and not have to smash painkillers or stop completely because entire limbs have crapped out?
Apparently, yes. The Hypervolt is a percussion massager and it’s good enough at what it does that it could play the drums for Archspire. In more practical terms, it uses a very powerful motor and three different speeds to pound overstressed muscles back into a relaxed jelly. This has the effect of speeding up recovery because you don’t have all manner of fluid and crystals clogging things up. Did the Hypervolt Go move me further along my fitness journey in 2021? Oh, certainly. Right up to the point where I learned that I don’t know how tendons are supposed to work, anyway.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
I used a lot of phones in 2021. A lot of phones. But that’s about normal for a year at Stuff. This has a few different effects. First, it’s super easy to become blase about even great smartphone hardware. When you start the year with Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra, everything else just seems kinda… lame. Because, yes, Samsung’s making the best mainstream Android phones at the moment. I’m a little worried about the direction their software is taking, but that’s a very recent development and has no bearing on this: The Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Which, yes, is a folding smartphone that’ll cost you nearly R40,000. If you’re looking for affordable, the Galaxy Flip 3 is a much better candidate for your time and money. But the level of improvement over the original Fold, and even last year’s Fold 2, is simply remarkable. The screen is excellent and the build is premium basically everywhere. Even the cameras aren’t too shabby. It’s not quite the future of smartphones but it’s awfully close. Once the Fold series can match the price point that Samsung’s mainline devices arrive at, the lineup will be massively worthy of attention.
So load shedding is back. We’re not sure if you noticed that. We certainly did, to the point where Stuff created and launched a 64-page special supplement dealing with the phenomenon. Which we will never speak of again, thank you very much. That special edition, in addition to giving me an ulcer, also gave me one of the most surprising reviews I did all year. A compact generator from SA company Gentech, the GP2000iSe, spent a few weeks at my house.
It’s about the size of the sort of PC tower you’d see dragged to the now-defunct NAG LAN at rAge, if a touch heavier when loaded with gasoline. There’s a push-button start but, weirdly, I found the ripcord start to be much smoother overall. It’s relatively quite (as these things go) but a little louder than the literature claims. But still, it’s subdued enough to keep the HOA off your back when the lights are out. Except Jerry. Nobody knows what his problem is. The GP2000iSe is very nearly the perfect generator — compact enough to hide just about anywhere, with enough juice to keep you entertained while all the lights are off. Plus, it’ll run your fridge at the same time. Just… point the exhaust away from your house, yeah?
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
My absolute favourite piece of tech from 2021 isn’t actually from this year. It also had nothing to do with the job. At the beginning of the year, I bought a new 10th gen Kindle Paperwhite, along with a case that isn’t sold locally. I needed to replace my Kindle Oasis, which met its demise face-down on a tiled floor. That was a sad day.
Rather than moping, I picked its replacement up on special on Amazon. The price, for the Kindle, the case, shipping, and customs combined, was cheaper than buying just the Kindle here in SA. That was the first awesome bit. The next has more to do with the fact that the Kindle is my favourite gadget ever. I’d buy one every year, if they didn’t last until they are actually destroyed. I’ve still got my first Kindle, and it still works as well as it did on Day One. I just can’t use it in the bath the way I can this one. This Kindle’s IPX8 rating, 6in 300ppi display, and 8GB of storage are more than enough for even a rabid reader.