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Broadly speaking, tech was a lifeline to anyone able (and forced) to remotely work, go to school, socialize and access online entertainment this year. The key to most activities, Wi-Fi connected us to life outside our homes, leading many to upgrade their routers. Many people also decided to upgrade their laptops given increased usage. Working from home presented new and unique challenges, too, allowing tech to come to the rescue in the form of secondary monitors and HDMI cables.
Additionally, notable launches like Apple’s AirPods Max headphones hoped to help users tune out loud family members and pets. And while we were only commuting from our bedroom to our remote workstation every morning (if we were lucky enough to be able to do so), our phones remained with us at all times, which meant accessories like wireless chargers and protective cases became necessary. Below, we dive into the most purchased wearable and personal tech we covered this year.
Non-contact infrared thermometers have become increasingly popular during the pandemic, as they don’t need to be sterilized before each use and you don’t have to get very close to someone to take their temperature. We included the iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer in our list of the best digital thermometers for at-home use since it can read one’s temperature from about 1.2 inches away and in about one second. Medical experts advised us, however, that under-tongue thermometers tend to give the most accurate temperature readings.
The under-tongue Vicks ComfortFlex Digital Thermometer, which is also featured in our thermometer roundup, was also well-liked by readers.
If the pandemic inspired you to routinely sanitize your phone and other items, a UV light sanitizer can help kill bacteria and germs that build up during the day. In our guide to sanitizing your phone and other tech, medical experts said out of all types of UV light, only UV-C light can kill germs, which products like HoMedics UV Clean Sanitizer Bag utilize. HoMedics UV light sanitizer bag is also portable, so you can clean items on the go. Other notable products from our guide include the HomeSoap UV Sanitizer and the PhoneSoap Pro, both of which rely upon UV-C light to get rid of harmful microbes.
While some Wi-Fi routers can cost you over $200, tech expert Whitson Gordon noted less expensive options still offer up a lot for what they’re worth. He recommended the budget-friendly TP-Link AC1750 Smart Wi-Fi Router, saying it's the best bang for your buck. The router has fast Wireless AC performance and offers Amazon Alexa support.
Readers also like the Asus AC1900 Dual Band Gigabit Wi-Fi Router for its management interface that includes parental controls and guest networking, and the Netgear Nighthawk 12-Stream AX12 Wi-Fi 6 Router, which is one of the fastest routers you can buy right now.
During the pandemic, many people invested in air fryers to simplify cooking dinner after a long day working from home. In BETTER’s air fryer guide, cooking experts recommended the COSORI Air Fryer Max XL because it has a large square basket, allowing you to cook bulkier foods like a whole chicken and potatoes. Since you can prepare food with very little oil in an air fryer, experts suggested readers also invest in the Misto Brushed Aluminum Oil Sprayer to control how much they’re adding to ingredients.
Surge protectors — which often double as power strips — prevent surges in voltage from damaging the devices plugged into them, but they wear out over time, forcing you to eventually replace them. Tech expert Whitson Gordon named the Tripp Lite 8 Outlet Surge Protector the best standard surge protector in our guide to the best power strips, partly because it contains an automatic shutoff mechanism that stops delivering power once its surge protection has worn out.
While most readers purchased the Tripp Lite 8 Outlet Surge Protector, the Belkin 12-Outlet Pivot-Plug Power Strip was also a top seller. Eight of the Belkin product’s 12 outlets pivot 90 degrees, allowing you to move them around depending on what you’re plugging in.
As colleges across the country went remote for the fall semester, many students opted to upgrade their laptops to newer models that allowed them to attend online classes, complete homework and stream shows in their downtime. The Dell Inspiron 14 7000 Laptopzz, featured in our roundup of the best laptops for college students, has a 14-inch full HD screen, a light build, an efficient processor and a long battery life. It also supports Wi-Fi 6 so it’s set up for fast internet.
The Apple MacBook Air 13-Inch was also a best seller among readers.
Wi-Fi extenders are plug-in devices that help broaden the coverage of your home network. The TP-Link AC750 WiFi Extender is an affordable option that can cover a dead zone in a pinch, and it’s named one of the best Wi-Fi range extenders in our guide to the best mesh Wi-Fi systems and Wi-Fi range extenders of 2020. Although it’s not as speedy as more expensive options, according to tech expert Whitson Gordon, it works with up to 20 devices and boosts Wi-Fi coverage up to 1200 square feet.
Going a step beyond Wi-Fi extenders, mesh Wi-Fi systems contain multiple units, all of which are aware of each other’s existence and work to spread connection across a large area. The Amazon eero mesh WiFi system is also featured in the aforementioned list of the best mesh Wi-Fi systems and Wi-Fi range extenders, and it contains three small units you place around your house. It’s easy to set up and also equips Wi-Fi 6.
While dental experts say your brushing habits are more important than the type of toothbrush you use, electric toothbrushes make it easier to clean the entire mouth more efficiently. The Oral-B Pro 7000 SmartSeries Rechargeable Toothbrush is a high-tech option that tracks your techniques in real time through an app, one reason why it’s highlighted in our guide to the best electric toothbrushes. The toothbrush has six modes — daily clean, gum care, sensitive, whitening, deep clean and tongue cleaner — and it’s compatible with all Oral-B brush heads.
10. Apple iPad Pro
When Apple’s iPad Pro launched this year, tech expert Whitson Gordon argued that the product is the only tablet worth buying due to its longevity and functionality, as well as newly added features like a LiDAR scanner and full trackpad support. The iPad Pro is a good option for people looking to replace their computer with a tablet. It has the most powerful processor in an iPad to date — the A12Z Bionic — and up to 1TB of storage. The iPad Pro is also compatible with accessories like the Apple Pencil.
With indoor movie theatres shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, some people chose to bring the theatre home with an outdoor projector and screen. The Skerell 100 Inch Projection Screen with Stand was a popular option among readers, and it’s featured in our guide to the best outdoor projectors and projector screens. Since it has a stand, it’s easier to set up than the hanging variety. It comes with a carrying bag for simple storage during the colder months, and the screen is made from high-quality polyester and spandex material, offering sharp and high-resolution images.