Blasts From the Past: TechSpot Staff's Favorite Tech of the Last Decade
Our Picks From 10 Years of Technology, Gadgets and HardwareBy
In the world of tech, change is constant. R&D relentlessly pushes the limits of size, performance, and features. Newer and better models get released all the time, and the old ones soon disappear from stores. But not all of them fade away... especially not for those of us who treasure technology and particularly not for the products that made a difference and left a mark.
We asked everyone on the TechSpot team to think about their top 5 favorite tech items released in the last decade. This article is a collective list of those products (later on you can share your own with the community in the comments), so please join us as we go through our favorite tech from the 2010s: blasts from the past, that impressed us with their value for money, outstanding performance, or those feel-good vibes that they gave us!
Many cores for the masses
- Intel Core i7-4790K
- Intel Core i5-2500K
- Intel Skylake architecture
- AMD Ryzen / Zen architecture
In 2010, AMD and Intel released their first desktop CPUs with more than 4 cores, and even those had only been around for a couple of years. Ten years of progress and a bold move by AMD to shake up the CPU market means that we've all got some big favorites, as lots of great processors have appeared during this time.
For Shawn, it's his Intel Core i5-2500K -- still powering his main rig 9 years on, with 4 cores of Sandy Bridge technology running at 3.7 GHz. Nick has fond memories overclocking his Core i7-4970K, all the way up to 4.8 GHz, thanks to an enormous cooler and a fair bit of luck in the silicon lottery.
Intel carried on refining their design and manufacturing processes throughout the decade, and the Skylake architecture has essentially been with us for 5 years now -- just faster and with more cores.
The fact that this fundamental CPU structure has stayed competitive for so long impressed Tim quite a lot, and given how many chips he's tested over the years, that's well deserved praise. But, of course, the decade will really be remembered for two words: Zen and Ryzen.
In March 2017, AMD launched Zen -- an architecture to banish the woes and bad memories of Bulldozer (certainly none of us gave those CPUs a second thought), and with it, a raft of new 8-core CPUs. It took them just 36 months to go from the success of the likes of the Ryzen 7 1800X to the frankly bonkers 64 core, 128 thread Threadripper 3990X.
'Currently rocking a Ryzen 5 2600 and it's great.'
The prices were extremely competitive and the performance was what we had all hoped it would be. Tim and many others in our team felt the same way: Zen not only saved AMD, but put them right back into the processor battle with Intel, often coming out on top. To quote David: 'Currently rocking a Ryzen 5 2600 and it's great.'
But if we're all happy with old processors or mid-range new models, does it mean that the latest CPU powerhouses are just a bit superfluous?
Favorite Graphics Cards
They are billions (transistors, not dollars)
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
- Nvidia Pascal GPUs
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 660
- AMD Radeon HD 5770
Nothing shouts 'I love PC gaming' more than slapping down a big chunk of money on a piece of hardware that pretty much does just one thing, but we all love a good graphics card here. Sometimes it's for sentimental reasons: William chose the mid-range Nvidia GeForce GTX 660, as it was his very first GPU, and got him into PC hardware and reviews.
But Nick, Tim, and other folks in the team, felt that Nvidia's Pascal chips deserve the most plaudits -- especially the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. It set a bar for performance, chip size, transistor count, and (unfortunately) price tag that still resonates today.
It was monstrously good when it appeared, and if you bought one 3 years ago, you'll still have a great GPU now. Over to Nick: 'I replaced a GTX 980 Ti SLI setup with a single Pascal GPU, and couldn't believe how it managed to easily beat the old duo.'
Sadly for AMD, only one us had fond memories of a Radeon graphics card -- Cohen's first GPU was the Radeon HD 5770 after putting up with several 'gaming laptops'. Yes, it's a fraction outside our time range, but as it was his gateway to PC gaming, we couldn't leave it out!
With value-for-money and longevity being common reasons behind our choices, we're all hoping that prices become a lot more competitive; graphics cards are very expensive compared to how they were a decade ago, even so-called budget ones.
Favorite PC parts and extras
The need for speed, style, and sound
- High refresh rate monitors
- Solid state storage drives
- LaCie Porsche Design 1TB portable external hard drive
- Noctua case fans
- Corsair Void Pro headset
While processors of all kinds have become increasingly more capable and faster over the past 10 years, it took a while for other parts in the PC puzzle to follow suit. Perhaps the most notable changes of late have been in two areas: monitors and storage.
For many of us at TechSpot, the appearance of high refresh rate monitors are long overdue. Even though high resolution, top quality screens have lots of benefits to them, both Tim and William agree on having a 144 Hz or higher screen is far more useful: 'Once used, there's no going back.'
Trust us on this one -- your eyes will thank you for it.
Another PC component that took its time to jump on the speed bandwagon was the hard drive. You could argue that it never really did as their storage capacities just got larger. It was thanks to NAND flash that the industry turned for speed, the little slabs of silicon found in USB memory sticks.
Solid state drives (better known as SSDs) are mandatory now and we're all big fans of them here. Ten years ago, $150 would have got you an SSD with no more than 64 GB of storage and read/write speeds less than 300 MB/s, but that was enough to store the operating system and make the computer feel so much snappier.
Just as with 144 Hz monitors, William selected SSDs for his tech choice: 'An innovation that changed a whole industry; there's no way I would go back.'
Sometimes we love a piece of technology for aspects other than performance or new features. Humza has been using a Lacie Porsche Design portable drive for 7 years now, and chose it because of its looks, feel, and steadfast reliability.
Adrian has a total passion for Noctua fans, especially the comforting hum they make, and fits them to everything -- even power supply units!
More than a few of us mentioned headphones and gaming headsets: Humza chose the Steelseries Siberia V2, while Cohen picked the Corsair Void Pro. Can you guess who is talking about which one from these quotes?
- 'Comfortable to wear for hours upon hours at a time, the audio quality is solid (not exceptional or amazing, but good enough), and most importantly, it's affordable and durable'
- 'The only headset I've got lying around, and one that's still lightweight, comfortable, and sturdy enough for casual gaming sessions.'
It doesn't really matter because even though they're different products, they've been selected for the same reasons: comfort and reliability. And speaking of how things feel...
Favorite mice, keyboards, and controllers
It's all in our hands
- Razer Deathadder Elite
- Logitech MX Master
- Logitech G502 Proteus
- Das Keyboard 4 Professional
- Microsoft Xbox One controller
It's kind of hard to get personal about a CPU or graphics card, as they just sit in a machine, doing their jobs. But mice, keyboards, and controllers are a different thing entirely. They are the immediate interface to the computer, the tactile link between your brain and the computer's.
Fortunately, there's a wealth of brands and models out there, and we all have our favorites. When it comes to mice, Julio swears by Razer's Deathadder, whereas Nick, Ivan and Cohen are Logitech fans, picking the MX Master and G502 as their top choices for digital rodents.
All four staff keep on buying the same models, just getting the latest version when the old one has worn out, and that kind of loyalty only comes about when manufacturers get things just right.
Interestingly, keyboards didn't generate the same kind of response, with only Shawn professing his love for mechanical keyboards in the form of the Das Keyboard 4 Professional: 'It's served me well for nearly 6 years and its quirks are easily fixable.' Clacky and quirky -- what further praise do you need?
When Cohen says 'it's the most comfortable, well-proportioned, and weighty (but not too much!) gaming controller I've ever used', you'll know exactly what he's talking about. Okay, so the image below gives the game away, but he wasn't the only one of us to appreciate Microsoft's gamepad.
Their first attempt, with the original Xbox, was a crime against humanity in some of our eyes, but it has become perfection personified in the form of the Xbox One controller.
And while on the subject of the Xbox, the whole brand was one of David's picks:
'Ever since Phil Spencer took over, Xbox has been become synonymous with consumer friendly gaming. Backwards compatibility, Xbox Game Pass, Adaptive controller, and the new Smart Delivery system for the Series X really make Xbox a compelling brand.'
Well, he's not wrong!
Favorite mobile, wearable, and small form devices
Computers come in all shapes and sizes
- Apple MacBook Pro
- Sony Xperia Z4
- Apple Watch
- Raspberry Pi
Of course, not every computer is a desktop PC, packed with millions of cores and Hz -- the past decade saw a boom in sales of mobile, wearable, and other digital number crunchers. Tackling laptops first, there was only one as far as Julio was concerned: Apple's MacBook Pro.
It's the model that others have constantly emulated, and although it's not perfect, his impression of the machine (several models over the years) is echoed by millions around the world: 'The most dependable laptop I've ever owned'. And this is from someone who's pretty much used them all.
Tablets became all the rage when Apple launched the iPad 10 years ago, but we've not been huge fans of them nor their two-in-one cousins (the tablet-laptop... a tabtop? Laplet?). Well, all bar Humza, who really likes Sony's Xperia Z4.
'An underdog of a tablet and a shame that Sony didn't continue making these. It's an amazing entertainment device, waterproof, great display, battery life, etc and is still objectively better in some areas than the latest Android tabs.'
Wearables went from being a fad that nobody really asked for, to one of the more successful tech sectors in recent years, although some will say that they're still not being asked for. Adrian disagrees with this line of thinking and picked the Apple Watch as being the reason why he's now interested in getting a fancy mechanical watch.
He also thinks that if we run another article like this in the next decade, then we may well have more to say on wearables. Why? In his words: 'The smartwatch is underrated because we still haven't reached enough big screen fatigue and cities haven't digitized many services yet. Give it ten years, and I think most of us will wear one.'
But not everything in the last decade of computing was about OLED screens, brushed aluminum, or heart rate monitors in a watch. For Nick, the shining star of this era was the Raspberry Pi.
'The Pi was a return to the golden age of 8 bit home computers -- cheap, simple, and the perfect springboard into the world of programming.' They've sadly risen in price over the years and there's plenty of competition against it now, but come on -- a quad-core computer for under $50? Who wouldn't say yes?
We don't think computing devices can really get any smaller or more portable, but who knows what another 10 years of technological advances will bring.
Favorite mobile phones
Talk ain't so cheap anymore
- Motorola Droid series
- Apple iPhone 4S, iPhone SE
- Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S
- Nokia Lumia 930
- Battery and wireless charging
The 2010s was also the decade in which the smartphone commenced its domination of the entire tech industry. While many of them today are more powerful and more expensive than the average laptop, our favorites weren't necessarily the best in the market at that time.
Nick and Cohen chose the Apple iPhone 4S -- they both loved the look and feel of it, a perfect balance between 3.5 inch screen size and hand fit. David went with the Motorola Droid series, as he felt that the phone, coupled with Verizon's marketing, really helped push Google's Android operating system to the forefront.
Other choices were as individual as the phones selected: Humza went with the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S, as he has fond memories of its stylish design and superior screen quality. He still has it in his backpack today, 8 years on!
Adrian picked his first proper smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 930, and despite its shortcomings (such as the useless front camera and the paucity of apps and updates), he thought it was a great tool for most of his needs. He eventually replaced it with another favorite of his, the original iPhone SE, which will remain so until another comes along that he can hold comfortably in one hand.
Shawn also mentioned mobile phones, when asked for his favorite tech from the last decade, but he picked their batteries. We'll let him explain why:
"People often complain about modern battery technology. And sure, we still haven't got the many advancements in battery tech we've been promised over the years, but when you step back and think about it, today's battery tech is darn impressive for what we ask of it."
It could be said that smartphones today are generally all very similar, the market lacks variety but again that was inevitable given the commoditization of smartphones. Lastly, Julio didn't pick any specific phone either, rather he mentioned wireless charging as the one key feature he's had to have on the last few phones he's owned.
Favorite new tech for everyday use
Technology for everyone
- Digital streaming services
- Contactless payments
- Apple AirPods
- Google Chromecast 2.0
- Amazon Kindle Oasis
Electronic devices and digital systems are often at the forefront of change. Sometimes it's just a fad (e.g. 3D TV) but others it's so revolutionary that the old is swept away in a blink of an eye. TV delivered via cable and air resisted many advances, leading to large corporations dominating the entire industry. But in the last decade one of the biggest changes was how much traction digital streaming gained over cable subscriptions.
To David, services such as Philo, Sling, or YouTube TV, have helped many people break free of expensive, restrictive cable contracts, and this technology was his first choice when asked about selecting favorites.
'I love the flexibility of simply being able to cancel a service and quickly subscribe to another, if it gets new/better features or channels. This is how cable should be.'
Although it took a good while to become as prevalent as it is now, payments via contactless credit and debit cards started to roll out during the mid-2010s. This was another one of David's tech choices, citing its sheer convenience as being the main reason why it stands out for him.
Some of us in the team no longer carry any cash, when we head out for shopping or food, and we wonder if the next decade will contactless payments become the only way to pay for certain items.
Plenty of new gadgets and tech that appeared in the last decade were roundly criticized as being something that nobody would really want or derided as nothing more than a novelty item.
Wireless in-ear headphones, digital media dongles for TVs, and e-books all fell into one of those two categories, at some point. And yet they have been firm favorites with some of the team, and millions of people around the world.
Adrian has lots of praise for the Apple AirPods and Amazon Kindle Oasis, with the latter having a display that truly deserves the title of 'electronic paper.' Ask David about the Google Chromecast and he rates it for turning his ordinary TV into a smart, streaming hub for a very reasonable price.
Not everyone likes these particular products, but you'll see ones just like them almost everywhere you look these days.
It's more than just silicon, metal, and plastic
Not everyone on the team had a favorite piece of technology or gadget from the past decade. This isn't to say they're not interested in it or don't use any -- it would be a wee bit odd for them to be working at TechSpot if they didn't! -- but for Isaiah and Per, it's simply just there, in the background doing what it's supposed to do without fanfare.
Gadgets and hardware are just supposed to be tools for a specific job, and we don't exactly become all misty eyed and nostalgic over a favorite spoon or hairbrush. So why do we have such clear favorites? Some of our choices are the first of its kind for that person, opening a door to new experiences. For others, the decision was made through a professional's eyes, a clinic nod to the impressive design or technology.
But a lot of it all comes down to an association with good times and feelings, and the joy that using it brings. We'll leave the last choice and words to Julio:
'Paradigm AMS-LCR home theater speakers are an admittedly odd pick, but about 9 years ago I moved to a new house, and I spent big bucks on a high fidelity sound system. I don't use it daily, but when I have time to sit and watch a good movie or show, or when I have friends over and I put some live concerts, I can make the entire house rumble, and I truly enjoy that.'
Those are our blasts from the past -- let us know about your top choices in the comments below, from the cool to the controversial, extravagant or economical.