YITR 2021

Year In Technology Review 2021

Digital Entertainment And Media Edition

2021 has not been a breakthrough year for most of the tech industry. While covid has affected a lot of in-person activities, the shift has gone virtual. For imaging and creativity tech, things have flourished. It is probably more to do with the fact that it doesn’t always require people working together in the same place or location. Creatives like video editors, can work from the comforts of home with content stored on the cloud. The bandwidth from Internet providers has been able to support the traffic.

Other creatives like producers are also making use of more virtual ways of working that includes video conferencing (e.g. Zoom) and virtual meetings (e.g. Google Meet). These are all tools that keep people connected during a time of social distancing and lockdowns. It has also become more of the norm, which may become permanent for many workers. That includes those who work in the arts and entertainment industry.

The retail and consumer electronic market has been slow for most of 2021, as a result of less production (due to covid) and supply chain issues. This has led to price increases. New products still came out, but were not produced to meet the projected demands. While the physical products were in short supply, consumers turned to more digital content for entertainment and leisure.

Let’s begin with some of the best categories of 2021 …

Best Of Category

Here are some categories I have selected a “Best Of …” for 2021. Unfortunately, I am not able to review every single product out there, but here are some of those that fell into the radar of HD-PRO.

Best Digital Cameras

The Sony a6100 is the pick for best overall consumer digital camera. It has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating from customers and has also been selected by other tech reviews as “camera of the year”.

Why is it a great camera?

Besides the specs, it has great imaging quality, user friendly features and budget price. It comes with a fast AI-based autofocus capturing accurate colors and capable of 4K video @ 30 fps.

On the higher end of the scale, mirrorless cameras like the Fujifilm X-T30, Nikon Z 9, Canon EOS R3 and Sony A7 IV are notable mentions.

Best Smartphone Camera

The Huawei P50 Pro takes best smartphone camera. With a DxOMark rating of 144, it is ahead of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max. The P50 Pro has a large sensor with 13 mm ultra-wide, a 90 mm telephoto, a monochrome sensor and a multispectral color temperature sensor. The camera excels with low noise level in imaging quality, accurate white balance, good exposure and dynamic range, excellent capture in detail and great stabilization.

Best Speakers

The KEF LS50 Meta are the speakers you want for build and quality. Using what it calls Metamaterial technology, it delivers hi-fidelity sound that has a cleaner and less distorted output at high frequencies. These speakers come at a higher price though, but if it is about aesthetic build and the best sound quality then this is worth it.

Best Streaming Service

Netflix takes the best streaming service. Despite the competition, Netflix comes out on top in terms of content variety and availability. Disney+ has great content as well, but limited more to a certain group (children and Marvel fans). Amazon Prime has a large library of content, but it seems to cater more to a niche audience.

According to a survey, 37% of respondents also think Netflix has the highest quality shows available for streaming. This makes for good binge watching. It really boils down to variety, since Disney+ and Amazon also have popular shows (e.g. Mandalorian, Jack Ryan). The Squid Game, Tiger King, Ozark and Moneyheist are some of the popular hit shows that can be watched on Netflix.

Best Video Game

Forza Horizon 5 is the game of the year. With a 92% Metacritic rating, this racing game is the latest version of the Forza series for the Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.

Why this game?

Amazing details, engaging playability, realistic graphics, exciting levels and plenty of options for gamers. Even gamers who are not into racing will be happy playing this one.

Other games worthy of mention are Deathloop, Resident Evil Village and Age Of Empires IV.

Best Computers

For desktop let’s go with the Apple iMac 24" M1 and laptop is the Macbook Pro 16" M1 Pro or M1 Max. Perhaps 2021 was the year Apple introduced its flagship models with their new Apple silicon M1 chips. Energy efficient and optimized performance, for both workstation and mobile use. These machines are what you will need for both work and play (just not the best for video games).

Best GPU

I’ve got the Nvidia GeForce RTX-3060 (Ti Founder’s Edition) as best GPU. Although rival AMD is catching up, Nvidia’s RTX-3060 line still gives it an advantage in so many aspects of graphics processing. It has a great price-to-performance ratio with the benchmark numbers to prove it. The design is beautiful and elegant, but it’s what is inside that matters. It is about the performance of this graphics beast.

Best App

TikTok just won’t stop. This is the choice for app of 2021, because the social media platform has exploded in the last several months. It has become the most visited website, overtaking Google for now. What TikTok has proven is that video-based social media is more popular than static-based content. It is probably due to more entertaining and engaging content to watch for users. According to some studies, TikTok is expected to increase number of users to 1 billion in 2021. It was also the second most popular app in Apple’s App Store.

Virtual Goes Mainstream

Many trade shows and conferences were virtual once again (e.g. CES). It is actually becoming more common, it is very likely to become either permanent or a fixture in future events. It is actually saving companies on costs and are able to reach a wider audience since virtual conferences are global.

Virtual is also becoming more familiar to everyone. This is perhaps ideal to keep up with the times due to covid health policies. Many companies are already allowing their workers to permanently work from home. Communications is via web conferencing and virtual meetings. This has helped boost the sales of consumer electronics devices in 2020, but supply shocks in 2021 have scaled things back a bit.

NFTs And The Metaverse

One of the biggest announcements in 2021, was Facebook’s renaming the parent company to Meta. This was in line with the popularity of the Metaverse. It is about a more interconnected world in a virtual reality/augmented reality environment. However, the corporate establishment or Big Tech version of the metaverse differs from that of the Web3 version.

The Web3 version of the metaverse is more about decentralization, a contradiction to highly centralized Big Tech companies. The Web3 version aims to deliver a blockchain interconnected virtual world through tokenization. This involves the use of cryptocurrency tokens for transactions and the use of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) to establish ownership and authenticity of digital assets (e.g. collectibles, game items, digital art, limited editions). It is still in its early stage since 2021 was its breakout year.

AR/VR Where R You?

We have been hearing a lot about AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality). Where are the mainstream applications for them? It seems to be like something companies show off during conferences, but when it comes time to real world use there is very little to show. When is this market going to explode? Now there is a report that it will be at the heart of the metaverse. I just wonder if that means the Big Tech metaverse or the crypto related one.

Supply Chain Crisis

We are in the midst of a supply chain crisis in 2021. A shortage in computer chips used in automobiles and consumer electronics items has led to an increase in prices of certain products. Inflation has also affected commodity prices to further complicate matters. This means more expensive items that rely on these parts.

While the global covid virus crisis was a precursor to the supply chain problems, it can also be due to vulnerabilities before that. The world just has so much interdependence in global commerce, that what happens in one country can affect the rest of the world. China, a major supplier of goods and parts, was severely affected early on by the virus. This led to production disruptions which markets relied on. Now the question is how to address these supply chain issues, like bringing back more domestic production.

5G Revisited

Has 5G really made a big difference? Not in 2021. Although many countries are expanding into 5G networks, it has not replaced the existing telecommunications infrastructure. 4G LTE and older 3G systems are still in place and used around the world. 5G was not meant to really replace those systems, but to co-exist alongside them. The advantage of 5G is in terms of speed and reliability. The rollout of 5G is still on-going, but it is not moving at a rapid pace in terms of adoption. Not quite yet, but it should be happening soon.

Back To The Movies

The world is reopening movie theaters in 2021. This is good news in the entertainment industry, but the damage has been done. It will be a slow return to profitability, but many theaters remain closed. Audiences are also finding it more convenient to watch from home via OTT streaming services with direct-to-streaming content.

While the trend was already showing OTT popularity on the rise and movie ticket sales going down, theaters may give a reason to watch movies again. If it is a discount offer on soda and popcorn or NFT giveaways, these entice moviegoers to return to the cinema for the best entertainment experience (plus strict health guidelines to be followed).

Conclusion

With 2021 in the past, what are we to look forward to in 2022?

The return to in-person conferences and seminars. CES 2022 promises to return to physical form but continue virtual content.

As we return to normal, the thing to remember is that health precautions are still going to be necessary. Many of these in-person conferences and exhibits will require attendees to be fully vaccinated and /or pre-screened for the virus beforehand.

Hopefully new things are around the corner for 2022. Supply chain problems have delayed product distribution for the most part, and this could last a little longer.

It has not stifled technological innovation though, with a lot of the energy going into health tech due to the covid situation.

With movie theaters opening up again around the world, the entertainment industry is slowly bouncing back up but we have to admit that some changes are more likely permanent. That means more direct-to-video or direct-to-streaming releases to expect.

One last final thought … stay healthy and be safe in 2022.

Note: The opinions expressed here are the author’s own views. Please DYOR always.

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Vincent Tabora

Vincent Tabora

Editor HD-PRO, DevOps Trusterras (Cybersecurity, Blockchain, Software Development, Engineering, Photography, Technology)