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Best gadgets 2021: Apple, Jackery, Insta360, and more

Here are the gadgets that have served me well over the course of 2021.

I get the opportunity to test a lot of gadgets. Some are good, while some are not.

What follows is a list of the best gadgets I've used during 2021. Yes, there are many Apple products listed, but there are gadgets from a selection of other companies here -- from DJI to Jackery -- as well.

I have tested every item on this list. And by tested, I don't mean a quick five minutes hands-on; I mean weeks and months of heavy, sometimes daily use. There's nothing that beats using -- and sometimes totally relying -- on a device to see if it is as good as the marketing claims.

DJI Mini 2

Awesome aerial camera platform

DJI Mini 2
Amazon

I have a lot of drones (including the DJI Air 2S and Mavic 3), but this sub-250g drone is the one I keep turning to.

Sure, the other two have better cameras and are far more stable when there's a breeze. But the size, weight, and legal categories this drone falls into makes it so useful. And don't be fooled -- the camera is incredibly capable, making this a very useful aerial camera platform.

Also: Best photography drones in 2021

Insta360 One X2

See and record in 360 degrees

Insta360 One X2
Insta360

I love this 360-degree camera! It allowed me to capture quite unique video and photos. I especially love being able to record 360-degree video and then reframe it in post to focus on what I want the viewer to look at.

This camera is also super practical -- I've had it suction-cupped to the roof of a car, strapped it to a drone (yes, a drone), waved it around on a selfie-stick (yes, I've become one of those people), and even used it under water.

Also: Best cameras of 2021

Sony A7III

Amazing mirrorless camera

Sony A7III
Sony

2021 was the year I shifted from my Canon 5D MkIV DSLR to a Sony A7III mirrorless camera. This is the perfect camera for the sort of photography I do -- landscapes and night photography.

It's small and compact (compared to my old Canon), and the 24.2-megapixel sensor captures stunning photos. 

Apple AirPods Pro

The best of the best

airpods-pro-better.png
Apple

These are still my absolute favorite earbuds.

Sure, the new AirPods are a huge improvement over the previous-generation buds, but the noise cancellation on the AirPods Pro version puts them head and shoulders over the AirPods.

These are comfortable, offer solid battery life, have great audio and video, and integrate beautifully with my other Apple products.

Note: Amazon is currently offering $50 off compared to the Apple price.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Better battery life makes this a winner

iphone-13-pro-max-better.png
Apple

Yes, this device is at the core of pretty much everything I do. It's always within arm's reach and gets a lot of use each and every day.

The killer feature in this upgrade is the amazing battery life. I'm easily getting an extra couple of hours from each charge!

Apple 16-inch M1 Pro MacBook Pro

Blows away the competition

Apple 16-inch M1 Pro MacBook Pro
Apple

It was time for a laptop upgrade, and this one did not disappoint. The screen is simply stunning, the battery life is unbelievable, and the M1 Pro chip is all the performance I need right now.

The extra inch on the display is a welcome addition, since I do a lot of photo and video editing on this system.

I have no hesitation in calling this the best laptop I've ever owned.

Lexar SL200

Fast, reliable storage

sl200-better.png
Amazon

I handle a lot of photos and video, so having fast external portable SSDs makes my life so much easier. It also means I don't fill up the drive on my MacBook Pro in short order.

The Lexar SL200 is perfect for my needs. It's small and lightweight, super-fast (read speeds up to 550MB/s), and robust enough to put up with daily rough handling.

Also: Best external hard drives: Top SSDs and storage

Aftershokz Aeropex

Earphones that don't plug up your ears

aftershokz-headphones-better.png
AfterShokz

If I don't feel like plugging my ears up with my AirPods Pro, I'm wearing my Aftershokz Aeropex bone-conduction earphones.

They fit over my ears, which means I can still hear everything that's going on in the world. But they do a superb job of carrying audio into my ears. They also have superb battery life and are comfortable enough for all-day wear.

Jackery Explorer 1000

Heavy-duty portable power

jackery-portable-better.png
Jackery

This -- combined with two SolarSaga 100W solar panels -- were my primary power supply as I explored Scotland for two months. It performed brilliantly, not once letting me down.

There's a lot of competition on the portable power station market, and I've tested a lot of them. But the Jackery is still the best out there.

Note: You can get $100 off, plus a $180 off coupon on Amazon.

AlsoJackery Solar Generator review: A 1000-watt power station for your mobile office