Feature Articles

Here are our favourite new gadgets of 2021

By Team HardwareZone - 2 Jan 2022

Part 1

Note: This feature was first published on 31 December 2021.

A very Happy New Year from everyone at HardwareZone!

The end of the year is naturally a time for reflection and contemplation. And despite all that is going on in the world, we have had no shortage of cool devices and gadgets. 

Here are our favourite picks from 2021. There's a ground-breaking new notebook, a clever coffee-maker, a new chip that aims to change computing, a keyboard that uses beams of light to detect key actuation, and more.

We hope you enjoy reading about our picks and see you next year!


Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earbuds

Sony WF-1000XM4.

With so many true wireless stereo earbuds (TWS) in the market, why is the Sony WF-1000XM4 my favourite?

For one, I was drawn to its excellent noise-cancellation features. It's almost a must for commuting, or when writing articles, and many other situations that need to be noise-free. The predecessor to the WF-1000XM4 was already excellent at cutting out sounds from traffic and other commuters, so the improved noise cancellation on 1000XM4 is just what I wanted.

Being very much into audio products also meant appreciating clean, crisp quality, and the 1000XM4 delivers on that. Its size belies its ability to sound good. I wouldn't trade the 1000XM4 away – not even for its predecessor.

Everything else about the earbud is the cherry on top of the cake: Sony reduced its charging case size, making it easier to carry in our pockets. The touch controls are better, so there's less fumbling with the device as compared to its predecessor when changing songs on the go. It has a premium design and feel, and has a great fit for comfortable wear.

While it's not the best in every category, the combination of all its great points makes it ideal for my usage – in short-to-medium bursts for full concentration, or when getting from one point to the next.

When you take all the lovely bits about the WF-1000XM4 together, it's easy to see why it's a favourite. When paired with my various data-driven subscriptions (Netflix, Disney+, Spotify Premium, etc.), it also made perfect sense to give the content excellent-sounding audio in a form factor that encourages portable consumption at its best.

Another favourite feature is the WF-1000XM4's ability to pair with modern Sony TVs for uninterrupted immersion in shows on the big screen. When I tried it with its predecessor during Sony's TV launch, it felt like something from the future, made for a new way of life where you can enjoy personal, quality audio inside and outside of the home.

A year has gone by and the Sony WF-1000XM4 (S$379) still holds up as a yardstick to measure every TWS against. Given how great it is, I also certainly look forward to the next earbud seeking to de-throne this one. But, until then, Sony has the true wireless experience in spades - and for some time to come.

Read our review here.

Pricing and availability information here.

— Liu Hongzuo, Senior Tech Writer


Apple 6th-generation iPad Mini

As the owner of a 4th-generation iPad Mini, I didn’t think I had to wait four long years for Apple to completely redesign it. 

Finally announced in September, the 6th-generation iPad Mini arrived with a fresh design, Apple's blazing fast A15 Bionic processor, upgraded cameras, USB-C connectivity, a larger screen, plus 5G connectivity and support for Apple's second-generation Apple Pencil.

It was truly a breath of fresh air and I ordered it the very night it became available. And since I’ve had it, minor niggles like the price and the lack of a headphone jack aside, I love my new iPad.

USB-C connectivity is just so much easier. I can’t wait for the iPhone to get this too! It makes so much sense to swap over to this standard.

Without the Home button, it feels brighter and larger. I now have 8.3 inches of real estate, with a higher resolution to match (2266 x 1488 pixels), so visually I just seem to see more when I watch my streaming content in the still small form factor.

And my content streams with little interruption thanks to the fast 5G connectivity when I’m outside and the ever-reliable Wi-Fi for home and office.  

Read our news on the launch here.

Find out our real thoughts in the review here

— Ken Wong, Senior Tech Writer


Razer Huntsman V2 Analog

The Razer Huntsman V2 may not be a winner in terms of practicality or cost-savings, but for me at least, it's been the most memorable effort to push some innovation in the gaming keyboard market.

The V2 Analog features contactless optical switches, contactless meaning it doesn't use the traditional metal contacts for keypress sensing. Instead, it uses a beam of light to sense actuation, and, for the V2 Analog, it's able to track how far down a key has been pressed, essentially meaning pressure sensitivity.

This provides a host of benefits, including smoothness from the lack of metal contacts, to niche, gaming-centric features like dual-step actuation. But the most intriguing case is being able to set your own actuation point, between 1.5mm and 3.6mm, allowing you to tweak it to your liking. You can adjust the actuation point based on how heavy you type, and even set different points for key clusters like the WASD or arrow keys. It grants you a certain customisability that traditional contact-based designs don't.

None of this is really new, as the Wooting One of 2017 and Steelseries Apex Pro of 2019 also featured contactless switches adjustable actuation. And even the Wooting Two HE, released earlier this year, features a greater range of 0.1mm all the way to 4.0mm. 

But with the V2 Analog being easy-to-get and coming from a near universally-known brand, it hopefully continues this trend of innovation, and with its predecessors, heralds some big shifts in the mainstream gaming keyboard space. 

Read our review of the Razer Huntsman V2 Analog here.

— Glenn Chua, Intern

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