Considering the best products of a particular year is a time-honored tradition at tech blogs, and even though there wasn’t much to be thrilled about in 2020, the year definitely did offer some highlights in terms of Apple products and third-party accessories. Without further ado, here are my offerings for The Best of 2020!
Best Apple Hardware: M1 MacBook Air
Hands-down, the best hardware of the year from Apple has to be any of the three Macs sporting the M1 system on chip. For me, that Mac is the 2020 13-inch MacBook Air.
I already own a 16-inch MacBook Pro as my primary work computer, but after spilling water on that device in early 2020 and having it sent out for service, I decided that I really needed a backup laptop. I started off with a refurbished late 2019 MacBook Air.
The MacBook Air has always been one of my favorite laptops, ever since I watched Steve Jobs pull one out of a manila envelope at Macworld Expo. But it has always taken a backseat to the MacBook Pro in terms of sheer speed and capability…until now.
This little M1-powered Mac is ridiculously fast. In a benchmark test using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test — used to determine what video processing a computer can handle — it beat my 8-core Intel i9 powered 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Of course, storage speed isn’t the only thing you want to test on a computer, so I did some head-to-head comparisons rending video in iMovie both on the 13-inch MacBook Air and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Guess which computer won the race?
On the MacBook Pro, the rendering of the video file took 4 minutes, 21.3 seconds. (4.36 minutes)
On the M1 MacBook Air, that same rendering took just 3 minutes 11.5 seconds. (3.19 minutes)
The M1 MacBook Air rendered the video 26.8% faster than the loaded MacBook Pro.
This little computer starts at just $999 ($899 for education purchases) and it’s definitely a lot of Mac for the money. If you don’t currently own an M1 Mac, make plans to get one in 2021.
Best Accessory: OWC Envoy Pro Elektron SSD
Over the years I have reviewed dozens of external drives. In all that time, there’s only one that impressed me so much that I decided that I needed to purchase one. That drive is is the tiny OWC Envoy Pro Elektron SSD.
In my review, it notched a 5-star score, and for good reason. The OWC Envoy Pro Elektron is an amazing feat of storage engineering. In a tiny aluminum enclosure measuring 2 x 3 x 0.5 inches (5.1 x 7.6 x 1.3 cm), this drive currently comes in 240GB, 480GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities. Sure, it’s the perfect companion for your MacBook, but it’s also a handy accessory for your iPad Pro.
It’s speedy, maxing out at about 1,011 Mbps. In my benchmarks, it showed consistent throughput in the 900 to 1,000 Mbps range. It’s bus-powered so there’s no need to drag along yet another wall wart, and it weighs just .2 lbs.
Add to that ruggedness that allows it to be dunked in water or run over by a car, and you have an external drive that’s second to none. By the way, it’s the perfect accessory for backing up an M1 MacBook Air!
Best App (iOS): Magma
Did you ever get the urge to create your own electronic magazine? That’s what Magma (free) is all about. It lets you create, edit, publish and share beautiful magazines and you create them on your iPhone.
There are a variety of formats — you can start with templates for both text and images, photo galleries, and so on. A selection of fonts and colors gives you the ability to create a unique look and it works with your photo library to give you access to photos you’ve taken.
I was going to give this app a pass, as it’s quite difficult to create a magazine that does more than just contain pictures when you’re typing on that little iPhone virtual keyboard. But then I got the idea to try the app out on my M1 MacBook Air, and it worked just fine (especially in full screen mode). Now I can use a real keyboard to type my articles, add links, and more.
Once it’s published, you can share a link to your magazine. People can “like” it, subscribe to your magazines, and so on.
For writing and publishing online magazines, there’s nothing quite like Magma.
That’s all, folks! I didn’t want to fill up a page with apps and hardware that didn’t make an impression on me. Be sure to let us know what your favorite products were in 2020!