9to5Toys’ Favorite Things of 2021: Poké Ball replica, M1 Mac mini, more

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This year is coming to a close, which has all of the writers here at 9to5Toys getting a bit retrospective on all of the gear we’ve taken a look at in 2021. Alongside all of the tech, toys, and fashion we’ve reviewed since January, there is a selection of things each of us tried that weren’t covered. Ranging from authentic Pokémon collectibles to M1 Macs, ergonomic desktop accessories, and more, you’ll find all of 9to5Toys’ Favorite Things of 2021 down below.

This marks the first installment of 9to5Toys’ Favorite Things, a yearly roundup that takes a look at the purchases our team made throughout 2021 that are worth highlighting before the new year – not necessarily things that were released this year. We have a wide range of favorites to check out down below.

Blair’s favorite thing of the year – Poké Ball Replica

I’ve gotten to review a lot of cool tech and toys over the year, which certainly makes answering the question of my favorite purchase of 2021 even harder. From self-lacing shoes and the latest consoles to every single LEGO Star Wars set and chargers in any and all form-factors, it’s been a busy, toy-filled year. But even with all of the gear I’ve taken a look at for 9to5Toys, my favorite thing of 2021 is something I bought just for myself. At the very end of last year, the folks over at the Wand Company launched the first in what has now become a long-running series of authentic Poké Ball replicas

And so as a lifelong fan of Pokémon, bringing one of these to my collection was something of a must. It has been living on my desk for much of the year, gracing my workstation with about as cool of a collectible as there is. After all, who didn’t want their very own Poké Ball as a kid? So with this being about as close as you’ll find to the real thing, it’s hard not to recommend.

Featuring a die-cast metal construction with integrated LED lights, the entire package has quite a bit of heft to it and even lights up when you push the front button. Included in the $100 price is a companion case, which has a really novel mechanism that lifts the Poké Ball out while illuminating the collectible from below. It turns the entire thing into a display piece that’s fit for the older Pokémon fans out there.

Since I picked up the original Poké Ball, the Wand Company has released a whole collection of different balls from the Pokémon universe. Ranging from the more popular Great and Ultra Balls to some more unique Premier and Dusk variants, there’s a wide selection available right now.

If I had to pick a second favorite, getting to go hands-on with the entire collection of Pokémon Celebrations TCG cards before launch was pretty hard to beat.

Justin’s favorite pick up of the year – Mac mini

For me personally, it has been a few years since Apple brought something out that really got me excited. The new iPhones are always a blast, I’m not much of a wearable fan, and its AirPods eventually really hit their stride, but my setup was in need of a new main desktop in 2021. 

The MacBook Pro lineup is generally too pricey for someone that doesn’t do much computing on the go, and after being a long-time Mac Pro user – first with the classic silver chassis and then again with the infamous 2013 “trashcan” model thereafter – unfolding a laptop just to essentially plug it into a monitor permanently just doesn’t feel right. 

Deciding on a new desktop Mac became a whole new thing this year and last. The latest iMacs are absolutely gorgeous and a wonderful option for just about anyone looking for a new tabletop Apple system, but with the base model coming in at a few hundred dollars over the MacBook Air I could essentially hide somewhere and pretend it was a desktop machine, I just couldn’t pull the trigger. This brings us to the ultra-pricey new Mac Pro Tower, or rather, very much not to the latest $5,999 and up Mac Pro Tower – this blogger and Logic Pro user certainly doesn’t need that kind of horsepower and wouldn’t spend that sort of cash on it even if I did. That leaves us with one miniature option left in the lineup, now “Supercharged” with Apple’s latest M1 chip and a far more digestible price tag, it was time I put my Mac Pro pride aside to bring the latest model Mac mini home and I couldn’t be any happier I did. 

The Mac mini has been a wonderful experience thus far – more than powerful enough to run heavyweight Logic Pro sessions with way too many audio tracks or software instruments and a particularly streamlined addition to just about any at-home workstation. The rounded rectangle form-factor with that beautiful footpad along the bottom and just enough I/O to maintain the clean look and feel nestles wonderfully in the office – folks not familiar can’t even find the computer running my system. It can get thrown in an under-desk shelf, tuck-away easily in a small shelving unit with other tech, or sit atop somewhere in all its glory without being an audible or aesthetic distraction. In my opinion, it is a truly affordable Apple desktop solution that has more than enough power for all but the most graphics-intensive applications.

Simon’s favorite pick up of the year – Vertical Mouse

While working from a trackpad is often the most convenient way to work when mobile, it’s hard to beat the productivity boost that a dedicated mouse can offer. With so many options out there, the perfect solution is available, you simply need to know what you want. Bluetooth, an ergonomic design, and silent clicking are a few features that I was after, and in order to get all three I needed to go with a brand that was unfamiliar to me.

I ended up with the MOJO Silent Bluetooth Vertical Mouse at $25, and I could not be happier. Not only does it check all of the boxes already mentioned, but it also clocks in at a significantly lower price than what you would spend on competitors. The silent clicking paired with a vertical design has been a real game-changer for me. I actually look forward to using this mouse each day and love that the clicking is no longer a nuisance to myself or anyone else.

Patrick’s favorite pick up of the year – SainSmart CNC Machine

In addition to tech and gaming, I do woodworking on the side and have had my eye on picking up a CNC for over a year now. This past Black Friday gave me the perfect time to dive into the world of computer-controlled carving with the deal we found on the SainSmart 3018-PROver. This hobbyist CNC has a compact footprint and doesn’t take up a ton of room in my shop while offering quite an expansive ability set.

After picking up a few different bits for the SainSmart 3018-PROVer CNC, since it only includes a few engraving bits in the box, I was ready to tackle just about any project. The included Carveco software paired with the Universal G-Code Sender made for a solid experience all around, from the designing to actually cutting with the machine. I’ve been able to engrave, cut out patterns, create templates, and more with ease. Honestly, this CNC is far more capable than I expected it to be for the price.

9to5Toys Readers favorite pick up of the year – Apple MagSafe Charger

To wrap up our Favorite Things of the year spotlight, we’ll highlight something of a readers’ choice from the 9to5Toys audience. Going off of our Amazon Affiliates insights, shoppers this year have gravitated towards one item that earns a place in our list of top purchases. As our most recommended item, the Apple MagSafe Charger earns the title for 2021.

Apple’s official MagSafe Charger launched back in 2020 with a bit of a mixed reaction due in part to the steep $39 price tag. Of course, deep discounts throughout this year have made the first-party accessory more affordable, which certainly explains why it became so popular with all of you throughout 2021.

What is your favorite thing of 2021? Let us know in the comments below!

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