Tech I’m So Glad I Bought in 2021

2021 has been a bumpy year for new technology, but I will focus on the optimistic side of things here and take a look at all the technology that I am really happy to have bought since last January. It’s an eclectic lot, but there’s something for everyone here if you’re looking to spend those Christmas gift cards. Also, to my knowledge, the products featured here are all readily available and are not experiencing backorders or scalping (as of this writing).

DJI Air 2S

DJI Air 2S.
Andy Zahn / Tips Clear

Flying drones is a real passion for me. Filming and photographing the world from an aerial perspective is always exciting, and I have captured some incredible images and videos over the years shooting with them. The DJI Air 2S takes the imaging capabilities of my previous favorite drone, the Mavic 2 Pro, and bundles them into an ultra-portable package at a bargain price.

While you may be tempted by the stunning new top-of-the-line Mavic 3, it costs twice as much as the Air 2S. Unless you need the amazing capabilities of the Mavic 3, the Air 2S is much more accessible and produces excellent results.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G.
Andy Zahn / Tips Clear

Even as a serious photographer with serious photographic equipment, a phone camera is an invaluable tool for capturing fleeting and unexpected moments. A smartphone is a device that is practically glued to my hips or my hands every hour of the day, and I have found it to be true that the best camera is the one you have with you. With this in mind, I broke the bank to buy myself a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, which has arguably the best camera of any phone on the market today, and the photos I captured with it justify that investment.

Between ultra-wide, wide, short, and long telephoto cameras, it’s incredibly versatile, with all telephoto cameras except the long one producing fantastic image quality. While it’s definitely not as good as the rest, the long telephoto camera is still really useful if I want to take a photo of wildlife but don’t have a gigantic camera / lens setup with me. Photography aside, the S21 Ultra has enough RAM and processing power to handle my inability to close Chrome tabs and my tendency to have numerous apps running at the same time.

It’s not all roses and sunshine, as I talk about on my list of tech I wish I hadn’t bought in 2021 – the screen is easily scratched. Also, the USB-C port wears out very quickly with moderate use. For this reason, I’m very much in conflict with my feelings towards the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, and I’m glad I bought it and wish I didn’t buy it at the same time.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2.
Andy Zahn / Tips Clear

I listen to a lot of audiobooks and music; Some days, I spend 5-10 hours (or more) of audio content. Whether I’m writing, editing photos or videos, or doing chores around the farm or around the house, I’ll listen to a sci-fi novel or listen to punk rock blasting out. As you can imagine, having the right headphones is extremely important to me, and this year I think I found the ideal in-ear headphones with the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. They have everything I want: they are discreet, they fit securely enough for any activity, they are extremely comfortable and have great sound quality.

What’s surprising is how relatively affordable the Galaxy Buds 2 are. They really are excellent value for money. I’ve used headphones that cost twice or even triple the Buds 2, and would choose the Buds 2 over them.

Coppersound Triplegraph

Coppersound Triplegraph.
Andy Zahn / Tips Clear

This is a bit more niche and will only be of interest to electric guitar enthusiasts, but it’s so cool I just have to talk about it here. The Triplegraph is a guitar effects pedal designed by Coppersound Pedals in collaboration with Jack White, and it is a beautiful object to behold. Its surface is a combination of elegant design and strong and durable materials designed to facilitate the work of musicians in the studio and on stage. The Triplegraph features three large switches similar to the ones you used to send a telegraph message in the old days.

The telegraph switches on the left and right side raise or lower your guitar signal by one octave and can be set to momentary or latched mode. The middle switch performs several different functions. It can be used to cut the signal completely for a stutter effect, it can be used to isolate the pitch-shifting signal from your guitar, or you can connect a different stompbox to the Triplegraph in a looped configuration to get it triggered. when the center is pressed the telegraph switch. It creates incredible creative opportunities for musicians, and it is also tremendously fun and a beautiful item to own.

Mustang Micro mudguards

Mustang Micro.
Andy Zahn / Tips Clear

Another music-related item, the Fender Mustang Micro is a small guitar amp the size of a large keychain. Its sound is output through an AUX connector to headphones or speakers, making it ideal for practicing silently or on the go. It’s loaded with customizable effects and can be connected via BlueTooth to your phone to stream music to the amp so you can easily practice with an improv track.

This last feature is important because it essentially turns the Mustang Micro into a pocket-sized Bluetooth audio adapter. If you don’t have Bluetooth speakers available, just plug in the Mustang Micro and you’re good to go. The only quibble I have is that it doesn’t work with piezo pickups, which is a bit of a pain for acoustic guitarists.

Koss Porta Pro

Koss Porta Pro.
Andy Zahn / Tips Clear

The Koss Porta Pro is the perfect example of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” These ultra-compact and lightweight wired headphones haven’t changed in decades, and that’s fine by me. They provide excellent sound quality, are extremely comfortable and surprisingly durable, as well as very inexpensive. I actually bought them to go with the Mustang Micro for guitar practice on the go, but since then I’ve also used them just for listening to music or with my Nintendo Switch Lite. Tech products tend to be fleeting and quickly out of date, but the Porta Pro has outlived the Sony Walkman it was designed for.

Nikon Z 2x TC

Nikon Z 2x TC.
Andy Zahn / Tips Clear

A teleconverter to extend the reach of a telephoto lens is not very exciting, even for professional photographers who buy them, but the Nikon Z 2x Teleconverter (TC) is an exception. Typically a 2x teleconverter (the highest magnification available) reduces the image quality of the lens to a fairly significant extent. However, Nikon’s new teleconverters challenge that long-standing problem by largely maintaining the image quality you would get from the lens without a teleconverter.

The lens will continue to darken due to the inescapable laws of physics, but being able to throw a teleconverter at my Nikkor Z 70-200mm f2.8 S lens and turn it into a 140-400mm f5.6 lens without compromising too much on image quality is absolutely fantastic.

Apple iPad Mini 6

Apple Mini 6.
Andy Zahn / Tips Clear

This is my most recent technology acquisition, bought at a Black Friday sale. I have been quite in love with the Apple iPad Mini 6 since I bought it. I’m using the iPad Mini primarily as a monitor for drone flying, but it’s such a remarkably powerful and responsive device that I’ve found myself ditching my smartphone for the larger screen space more regularly than I initially anticipated.

I have not been a particular fan of larger tablets in the past, but I am finding that with my first iPad Mini, its form factor is almost ideal. It’s perfect for things like flying with drones, editing photos on the go, or controlling a variety of other devices, from cameras to smart home products.

DJI FPV Drone:

DJI FPV Drone.
Andy Zahn / Tips Clear

You might be wondering why you would buy more than one drone in a year, and no, I didn’t crash the first one. While the DJI Air 2S is an amazing tool for photography, it is practically a highly functional aerial imaging tool as well. The DJI FPV Drone, on the other hand, is basically a very expensive toy, and I love it. If you’re like me and have long wanted to enter the high-octane world of flying in first person view (FPV), but have found the extremely steep learning curve of the DIY FPV drone too daunting, then the DJI FPV Drone is the perfect entry point to this exciting new hobby.

The DJI FPV Drone is a robust beast that makes a suitably angry roar when it wakes up from its slumber. The kit includes everything you need to get started: controller, headphones, and the drone itself. The drone includes a normal mode that limits speed and helps you avoid obstacles. There’s also a sport mode with a higher speed limit and no obstacle avoidance, but some smart features to help keep you from spinning out of control. Finally, there is the full manual mode that gives you complete control over the drone. Novice pilots are advised to spend some time flying in the included simulator before attempting to fly the drone manually.

Ultimately, the DJI FPV Drone is simply a blast to fly. My only main complaint would be that the camera leaves something to be desired, but it is adequate for piloting the drone and taking some great photos. This drone is without a doubt the most exciting toy to hit the market in 2021.

conclusion

Choosing a favorite device that I bought this year would be next to impossible. They are all quite amazing in different ways. The DJI Air 2S has been insanely helpful, the Coppersound Triplegraph is insanely cool, and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 have kept my ears full of music and audiobooks for literally hundreds of hours.

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