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25 Tech Things We Tried And Liked In 2020

The apps, gadgets, subscriptions, and other things that made 2020 not so, uh, 2020.

This year meant huge changes in the way we use technology, from shifting to working from home to figuring out new ways to try and find some joy and connection with people. These are the apps, gadgets, and other tech things (we're using a very broad definition here) that BuzzFeed News staff bought and paid for ourselves and liked enough to recommend to others. We promise, no Zoom. Just so you know, there may be some affiliate links on some of these products.

1. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB, $250 at Amazon

Record player

2. Nuuly subscription, $88 per month

Samatha in a jumpsuit

3. Selfie ring light, $19.96 at Amazon

4. Cleo app, free or $5.99 for Cleo Plus

5. The NYT Cooking app, $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year

6. Strava Routes, $59.99 per year

7. Bearaby "napper" weighted blanket, $249

8. Olaplex No. 3, $28 at Sephora

9. Wigs, $18 Blond bob at Shein, $19 “Ginger queen” at Amazon

Caroline in a blond wig

10. Growing my own tomatoes, $15 for the tray, $2–$20 for the seeds, both at Amazon

Tomato seedlings growing indoors

11. Mini Complete Pot Grow Kit (1/2 gallon), $40 at A Pot for Pot

12. Below Deck, all possible seasons and variations, $14.99 season on iTunes, streaming on Peacock app ($4.99 per month) or Bravo

13. PlayStation 5, $499.99 (Currently sold out almost everywhere; check around to find out. Our recs for accessories here.)

Why does the PlayStation 5, the largest console, not simply eat the others?

New video game consoles only come out about every seven years, so they need to feel like a generational leap for years after they're released. Sony's PlayStation 5 can pull that off. With a solid-state drive that loads games almost instantly, 4K graphics, a clean user interface, and a controller with revelatory haptics, it feels like the next generation as soon as I fire it up. The bad news: The PlayStation 5 costs either $400 (with no UHD Blu-ray drive) or $500 (with one), and they're basically impossible to find. The good news: It will still feel next gen even when it's current gen. —Brandon Hardin

14. Group WhatsApp, free, friends not included

When you're getting roasted in the group chat but text back "lol" and act like it's all good.

2020 was the year my group chat became my social life. Waking up (often) exhausted and stressed, I'd inevitably see WhatsApp messages from one of my closest friends, already deep into her shitty day in London. Then the New Yorkers would chime in, then hours later, the Californian. It was a place to be funny about an infuriating and sad year, a place to work out endless uncertainties together, a place to argue over the news in a substantive way that felt worlds away from the flat judgments of social media, a place to share our lunches, our outfits, and our dumb memes. We could live our lives alongside each other, even though we were no longer living our lives alongside anybody. It was constant and transformative, and I loved it. —Azeen Ghorayshi

15. Mortal Kombat 11, Ultimate and Aftermath, $19.99 for Xbox or PS4 at GameStop

16. Noom app, two-week free trial, six months for $159

17. Seth Skorkowsky’s YouTube channel

View this video on YouTube

A batch of pandemic Zoom chats with high school buddies this spring triggered nostalgic Dungeons & Dragons memories of rolling dice, making jokes, and murdering stuff, one of the more wholesome ways I wasted my adolescence. For a fix, I turned to Seth Skorkowsky, a science fiction writer who reviews role-playing games on YouTube, stretching the boundaries of green-screening replays of amusing game screwups in his recaps. The reviews are actually little sitcoms with recurring characters he plays himself in idiotic costumes, vignettes that present a picture of a happier world where people own dragon-castle-shaped dice-rolling boxes and entertain themselves by figuring out how to loot Cthulhu's minions. There are plenty of in-jokes, and Skorkowsky's rather adult but always self-mocking reviews of adventures gone wrong are a balm after a bad day and still short enough to still get to bed on time for the aging former gamer. —Dan Vergano

18. Google Photos, storage plans start at $1.99/month up to $49.99/month

19. A T-shirt made of crabs, $48 from Allbirds

Scott in his crab shirt

20. Tile for my cat, $17.99 at Amazon

21. PRW+ laptop stand that adjusts to standing height, $54.90 at Amazon

22. Maven digital clinic, $20–$70 per appointment (or free as an employer benefit)

23. Find What Feels Good — the Yoga With Adriene app, $99 per year or $9.99 per month

24. Slinky, $6.99 at Amazon

25. The Book Bundler, $15–$20+ per box of 20 used kids books

26. Instagram AR filters

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