Wednesday, December 1

Patrick O’Rourke’s Favorite Things of 2020


While I spent most of 2020 confined to my home amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I actually enjoyed the past year very much.

On the one hand, although I like to travel, that is an important part of my work in MobileSyrupIt was great to be able to spend time at home with my partner and my cat. That being said, even though I’m a homebody, I’m looking forward to being able to attend tech conferences and events around the world again. However, unfortunately, it is not yet clear when it will be safe for that to start happening.

I am also very grateful that I still have a job doing something I love when so many people around the world have been laid off during the pandemic.

With all that said, my favorite things this year are relatively expected if you know anything about me; there’s a new console, a video game, a smartphone, and at least one or two things that might surprise you.

Xbox Series X

New console launches are always a special moment in the media tech world. They occur once every seven to 10 years and often feature a wide range of fascinating leaks prior to their release, and the launch of the Xbox Series X was an absolute whirlwind.

Because Microsoft released the Xbox Series X in the midst of a global pandemic, the company was forced to handle things differently than when it released the Xbox One in 2013. I was fortunate to be part of a relatively small group of media. I had access to an early build of the console months before its release.

The embargo was extremely restrictive on what I could write about the X Series and I ran into several technical difficulties. Still, it was a childhood dream come true to have access to the console so early.

Although the Xbox Series X doesn’t have any marquee launch titles thanks to Halo Infinite delay, it’s a backward-compatible beast and includes several great features like ‘Quick Resume’, which allows you to instantly return to a game even after the console has shut down, and custom NVMe SSD technology that results in load times fast, even with older generation titles.

It’s also worth mentioning that the X Series is an impressive looking console despite being basically a black box. There’s a simple elegance to its appearance that the bulky Count Chocula-type PlayStation 5 lacks.

For more information on the Xbox Series X, check out my review of the console.

Tony Hawk’s 1 + 2 pro skater

Screenshot of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2

The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series has influenced me significantly over the years, including my interest in skate culture despite being awful in real life and my questionable taste in punk music.

Although the franchise has been on indefinite hiatus for the past few years after the Robomodo abyss Tony Hawk’s Professional Skater 5, this remake of the first two iconic entries in the long-running series managed to exceed even my high expectations. This was due in part to Vicarious Visions, the developer currently in charge of the platform, having worked on the previous series.

Tony Hawk’s 1 + 2 pro skater (THPS 1 + 2) features all the notable levels from the first two titles, including ‘The Hanger’ and ‘School II’, but more importantly, it actually plays like a Tony Hawk’s professional skater game. Creating combos, polishing, and even matching tricks feels incredibly fluid.

The game also retains its classic art style with a new layer of high definition paint added. For most, THPS 1 + 2 looks exactly how you remember it, even though the first few entries in the franchise are visually hideous by today’s graphic standards.

I hope the game was financially successful enough to justify a remake of Tony Hawk 3 + 4 Professional Skater, or maybe even a completely new entry in the series built with the same excellent engine.

Oh, and after 22 years, I finally got 100 percent of both games; Let’s not talk about the reverse facts and the manuals that are included in both the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2 make it easy to achieve some goals.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

Receive a call on iPhone 12 Pro Max

Over the past decade, I’ve reviewed a lot of iPhones. While some are more exciting than others, the years that Apple changed the design of its smartphone lineup is when covering for Apple gets a lot more interesting.

In 2020, the tech giant revolutionized things with the launch of four smartphones: the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max. While the iPhone 12 is the best model for most people, as it packs all the major high-end features of the line, such as Apple’s powerful A14 process and even an OLED display, I still appreciate the added size of the iPhone 12 Pro screen. Maximum offers.

The ‘big boi’ of a smartphone measures 6.7 inches, making it the largest iPhone Apple has ever released. It also features a 2.5x optical zoom, sensor shift image stabilization, and an overall larger image sensor that results in better low-light performance.

As I said in my story focusing on the Pro Max from a few months ago, the difference in camera performance compared to the iPhone 12 and even the iPhone 12 Pro Max is negligible. Still, if you take the majority of your photos with an iPhone like me, you will appreciate these little updates.

Finally, as someone who always puts a lot of stock into the design of devices, I love the retroactive look of the iPhone 4 from the square sides of the iPhone 12 series. In an industry full of devices that are black curved slabs, it helps the Apple iPhone 12 series stand out.

Not traveling

Patrick disguised as a ghost

I already mentioned this earlier in this story, but I’m not a huge fan of travel. My work as a tech reporter / blogger for the past decade has allowed me to travel more than I ever thought I would in my entire life. I am grateful to have been able to go to Barcelona, ​​Germany, Boston, New York (unfortunately), Vancouver and various other places in the world.

That being said, I am always happier at home, hanging out with my partner, my cat, and playing video games or watching movies. After a decade of traveling almost at least once or twice a month, it has been great to be able to spend the past year at home enjoying the house I recently bought and spending time with my little family.

I look forward to eventually attending at least a few in-person events again later in 2021. Still, I hope the remote keynotes and briefings that tech companies have been forced to adjust to over the past year will result in a change in the industry. It is not always necessary to bring a reporter / blogger / YouTuber to receive information about a product in person, and in fact a quick video call can accomplish the exact same thing. I don’t expect every business to take this approach and I’m more than happy to travel when it makes sense to do so, but my fingers are crossed that at least some tech giants learned something from pandemic remote work.

Gardening

Patrick's garden

I love gardening. However, many times I don’t know what I’m doing. Whether it’s growing cannabis with Canadian-made Grobo, putting strawberries, peppers, or various herb pods in my Click & Grow, Or tending the garden my partner and I built this year in our backyard, getting my hands dirty, and growing plants has been a great respite from a hectic year in the tech industry.

In 2021, I have several improvements planned for my backyard garden, including creating raised beds with a lot more soil because the soil in my area is mostly hard clay and roots have trouble growing in it. I’m also about to trade my strawberry and hot pepper click and grow pods for different herbs that are used to make tea, so I’m quite excited.

I also hope to learn more about gardening rather than resorting to trial and error as I have for the past few years. This will likely mean reading more books on the subject, something else I hope to spend more time doing this year.

Most of my hobbies involve looking at different screens, so it’s nice to have finally found something that interests me that is very little related to technology.



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