In an age of social distancing and digital competition, Hidrate also displays stats for your friends and family if they also own a bottle, so you can turn drinking water into a rivalry. Yes, bottles are still expensive, but if you like being able to track your own data, or save the planet from single-use plastic, or if you’re just on a health kick –Harvard University School of Public Health says drinking enough water is linked to regulating body temperature, preventing infections, improving sleep quality, and keeping organs functioning well – a smart water bottle is worth a try . —Saira Mueller
21st century audiovisual equipment
We all have our blind spots. My kitchen could be fitted with a premium Vitamix and Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. But before the pandemic, my partner and I had the same huge, heavy 55-inch Panasonic TV with kinky, blown speakers that we’ve had for 10 years. We just haven’t watched enough TV to think about it.
Everything changed in March 2020. In April, desperate to feel that all was not lost, I tentatively started my upgrade by adding a sound bar. The improved sound quality made my scalp hair come up. A few months later, our Parker Hall A / V tester filed a mid-range TCL 6 Series television for long-term testing. The difference between the huge dusty boulder of our old TV and the thin, shiny light was obvious even to our 5 year old. “Why Paw Patrol do you look so much better now? she asked, hopping onto the couch in her jammies. If you’ve also forgotten that your TV is worth upgrading, I highly recommend it. —Adrienne So
Desktop Guitar Amps
I never realized how inconvenient guitar amps were until I had one. Classic tube amps sound amazing, but they’re expensive, weigh a ton, and give off enough heat to warm small rooms (and enough sound to rock a small house).
This year I discovered the desktop guitar amp. Lightweight amps the size of a toolbox like the Yamaha THR30-II and Positive grid spark bring everything you love from a physical amp into the 21st century. With everything from wireless cable technology to on-board processing for compelling effects (no pedalboard), these new digital amps ultimately sound too good to call them toys. Of course, I prefer my hand-wired Fender Bassman in the studio, but for most other applications I’m looking for these little guys for convenience. The Spark and THR models come with both USB and headphone outputs, as well as Bluetooth, making it easy to play along with songs, record quick demos, or play during quiet hours.
I am not the only one to have taken them. I was watching recently a documentary about Taylor Swift Folklore, and noticed that the songwriter was playing with a familiar little Yamaha in an intro segment. If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me. —Parker Hall
There hasn’t been a watershed moment this year when e-bikes have made a technological leap. It was more of a gradual arrival. Perhaps so many people have been pressured into commuter shopping and biking because of Covid-19, and have accomplished admirably. Or because you can now buy a decent electric bike weighing not much over 40 pounds and not costing much over $ 1000, even after removing the hub motor and pedal sensor, is also basically a decent bike made with solid branded components.
I’m a motorcyclist at heart, so the early days of heavy e-bikes boasting high speeds (for a bike) and high prices (for any vehicle) didn’t grab my attention. I wanted them to compete with analog bikes and become a tool of the masses – no sucking. Ranges will go up, prices will come down, and electronics will move entirely within the frame as affordable e-bikes get better, but this is the year I stopped telling people to “wait a bit.” longer ”when they ask if they should buy one. —Matt Jancer
Hot water bottle
After moving to a new location last winter, I quickly learned that the top vent wall mounted furnace in my apartment was good for heating exactly one corner of my living room and nowhere else. A friend suggested that I put a hot water bottle in bed at night to keep me warm, which I found strange and not at all effective. I was wrong. For only $ 13 on Amazon, all the joys of non-modern heating become mine, a thermoplastic bag filled every evening with hot water. As if it wasn’t comfortable enough already, it even comes with a knit sweater. (To be clear, the sweater is for the water bottle, not you.) Just be aware that you can’t microwave it, and boiling water isn’t recommended either. —Lauren Goode
A TV remote control holder
Before the pandemic, I tried to avoid watching TV from bed, but this year that rule went out the window. my Fire TV Stick became a self-soothing necessity, but I would inevitably lose her tiny remote control in my nest of blankets. This super cheap remote support was an impulse buy, and now it’s oddly essential. It can be mounted via screw or adhesive, and it helps me keep track of my remotes so I don’t have to panic through the bedding of my candy wrappers to adjust the volume or skip a YouTube ad. . Cheap thrills! —Louryn Strampe
A document camera
The Hue HD Pro ($ 100 on Amazon) is the most useful thing I have tested in 2020. If you are doing a teaching, demo, or peer review on paper, or anything else that requires both a camera on you and one on a document, the Hue HD Pro is the device you’re looking for. It integrates with Zoom, Skype, Webex, and Microsoft Teams, or you can record through the included software.