I always find it interesting to see which gadgets and technology people use. So I decided to share the current list of gadgets I use.
Before we start, I’ll offer three caveats:
- I’m using a loose definition of the word gadget. The more accurate term might be the less catchy, electronic devices, or even more broadly, tools.
- This isn’t a my programming setup post. It’s about hardware gadgets. I’m not going to discuss editors, shells, et cetera. Though, I’ll go on record here as favoring Visual Studio Code, despite knowing how to exit Vim. 🙂
- Most of these links have my affiliate ID. It’s not the reason for this post but they help offset the cost of my technology addiction. 😉
Good gadgets but not necessarily the best
The set of gadgets I currently use is the result of an evolutionary process.
The technology itself evolved over the years, but so did my ability to acquire it. Furthermore, the worst gadgets didn’t last or I replaced them with better alternatives.
So the gadgets below might not be the best in their respective categories, but they are sensible options. They offer the kind of quality that would please most readers. (Perhaps, even fellow maximizers.)
I currently have two laptops. The first one I bought wasn’t really useful as a laptop (as I’ll explain below), so I ended up with two.
I use a MacBook Pro 13″ (2018) as my upstairs, as well as on-the-go, laptop. Of the two, it’s the laptop I actually use on my lap.
If I’m on the couch, in bed, or at a coffee shop, I’m using my MacBook Pro. It shines for programming and writing, but it’s only adequate for video editing. 1080p videos are not a problem, but 4K proves to be a bit of a challenge for it.
The improved butterfly switch keyboard is actually pleasant enough to write on now that I’ve gotten used to it. I have not experienced stuck keys (though, I don’t eat on my laptop and I clean the keyboard from time to time).
I have experienced crackling speakers in the past (my video was even featured on MacRumors) but recent updates appear to have fixed the problem. Further, I experienced video card issues that also vanished with recent updates.
I find the touch bar useless and the lack of an SD card reader (or USB-A ports, for that matter) frustrating on occasion. Somehow, I always find myself out of space as well. Though I can’t blame the laptop per se. (I have the 512 GiB model.)
I like it enough, but it’s not a problem-free laptop.
Speaking of imperfect things, let me tell you about my Lenovo P51. I use this laptop as a de facto desktop in my office downstairs.
It’s heavy, noisy, and the touchpad is significantly worse than my Mac’s. Conversely, it has a beautiful 4K matte display, a fantastic keyboard, and more ports than you’ll ever need. Including a handy SD card reader.
The great keyboard and the lackluster touchpad balance out for my use case. The laptop is semi-permanently attached to an external keyboard and mouse, so neither really affect me.
The external keyboard I use is a mechanical one. A Filco Majestouch 2 Ninja with Cherry MX Blue switches. It looks cool and has very satisfying feedback. However, it’s quite loud as you’d expect from blue switches. I occasionally get it in my head to go down the customization route, but it’s a rabbit hole I have not explored to date.
The mouse I use is a Logitech MX Master wireless. It’s somewhat prone to interference if I clutter my desktop, but it’s otherwise a great mouse. I experimented in the past with the Magic Trackpad 2 by Apple and I found it to bother my wrist. I don’t experience that issue with either the Logitech or laptop touchpads.
Back to the laptop itself, I love that it’s very powerful. With four Xeon cores, 16 GB of RAM (upgradable to 64 GB), and 2 TB of fast PCI Express NVMe Solid State Drives, this thing is a beast.
It runs Windows 10 beautifully. Now that I started making videos, it’s my preferred option for editing them with Adobe Premiere Pro. (My video editing skills are currently rudimentary, but I’m learning fast.)
Yet, I would not recommend this laptop to many. If you want the same power or more, buy a desktop. If you want an actual laptop, maybe get a Carbon X1 instead.
Since I’ve already bought it, and it serves a purpose in my arsenal, I’m keeping it. I’ll likely replace it with a desktop when it becomes too slow to edit 8K video or whatever video resolution we’ll have by then.
I attach my Lenovo laptop to a BenQ 32-Inch IPS 4K monitor. It’s a good display that works well when connected to either of my two laptops via Mini DisplayPort.
I don’t love the way it looks when connected via HDMI. It’s not just a matter of refresh rate. It seems to affect colors as well. I haven’t investigated the issue much and simply use Mini DisplayPorts.
The productivity offered by so much real estate is hard to beat and, for the money, you could do a lot worse.
I love music so I tend to like nicer headphones, without breaking the bank. My desktop headphones are the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD6XX, coupled with an admittedly weak amplifier (i.e., a FiiO E10K Olympus). They are open-back cans, so they offer no privacy but they objectively sound pretty good.
I wish I could say I love them as much as the HiFiMAN HE-500 planar magnetic headphones that I used to have. Not even close. The HiFiMAN’s sound was in a completely different category as far as I’m concerned. I miss them.
My on-the-go headphones are the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2. They are closed-back, noise-canceling headphones and they sound great. Their noise cancelation is not as good as the Bose Quietcomfort 35 that I used to own, and they are less comfortable. On the plus side, they sound quite a bit better.
For working out, I have a pair of Bose SoundSport Wireless headphones. They sound fantastic for gym headphones, they are fairly comfortable, and they stay paired with my phone.
I actually prefer them over the more expensive Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless headphones that I previously owned. If one of the earphones was to dislodge from your ear mid-exercise, the cord on your neck would prevent them from falling off entirely.
Perhaps more importantly, they are not affected by audio lag while watching videos like the Free Truly Wireless are.
In the past, I even gave the Apple Airpod 2 a shot and the audio quality was appalling in comparison. The difference was night and day. I returned mine and I’m glad I did.
I love the Bose SoundSport Wireless and have no reservations in recommending them for sports.
For video calls, I have a pair of, now discontinued, Jabra UC Voice 550 Duo headphones. Great bang for the buck. I actually received compliments on their audio quality during conference calls. After several years of heavy use, their cable is now fraying.
Soon enough, I’ll likely replace them with a newer model by the same company.
I also have a desktop microphone, a Blue Yeti. Very good as well. (You can hear it in this video I made for my outdoor YouTube channel.)
Other Apple devices
Over the years, I flip-flopped a lot between Apple and Android when it came to phones. I like them both, for different reasons, but I can’t justify having two phones. So I currently have an iPhone XS Max and don’t expect to switch to Android again going forward.
I pair my iPhone with an Apple Watch 4. I used to have the first-generation and I was not impressed at all. This fourth iteration gets a lot of things right and I love it.
It’s good enough for notifications (not perfect, mind you). Useful enough for some key apps I use (e.g., Things). Pretty decent as a fitness tracker. Great at tracking sleep with a third-party app like SleepWatch.
It’s disappointing that AFib detection and the ECG feature are not available in Canada. Otherwise, I have no other complaints. It genuinely enhances the experience of having an iPhone. They are a match made in Cupertino. 😛
I have owned almost every fitness tracker and gadgets under the Sun. If you just want a fitness tracker, get a Fitbit with the heart rate monitor. If you are very serious about training, get a high-end Garmin (like the Fenix line). Want both a fitness tracker and a tiny computer on your wrist? The Apple Watch is the way to go. (Provided you have an iPhone to pair it with, of course.)
Speaking of Apple devices, I gave my iPad to my wife as I didn’t use it enough to justify keeping it for myself.
I’m not saying never again to owning an iPad. The newer, fancy models with the pencil cast a certain spell on me.
Still, I reached a point where gadgets are only added to my collection if they get used. So I’ll only get an iPad if I can find a workflow that makes it a necessity.
I’m an avid reader and over the years I discovered that I read less when I’m limiting myself to physical books. I do most of my reading when I have an e-ink device (coupled with audiobooks when driving or exercising).
So I recently bought a Kobo Forma. I explained my reasoning for going with a Kobo instead of Kindle and why it’s a smart move for Canadians, in this post/video.
I still stand by my statements about the ecosystems, but I ended up returning my Kobo. The screen had a distracting light band near the border. The issue was systemic and not limited to my specific device. It was also the first e-ink device that caused me headaches.
So I returned it and replaced it with an Onyx Boox Nova Pro, which allows me to take notes as well. I just received it so I can’t offer a reasonable assessment of its merits and downfalls yet. I will share my review either as a post or as a video. (Subscribe here or on YouTube to be notified when it goes live.)
I have a NAS connected to my network. It’s only 3 TB and it turns out video takes a ton of space. 😉 So I’m quickly running out of storage and might have to invest in a larger NAS system.
At the moment, I’m using an inexpensive WD My Cloud device, backed up to the cloud via Backblaze. I’ll likely opt for a better, more expandable solution when I run out of space.
My internet connection is excellent (1 Gbps via fiber optic) but I have impenetrable walls in my house. The WiFi signal from the router downstairs struggled to reach the rooms upstairs.
I tried various methods to extend its range (including so-called range extenders). Nothing worked until I bought a mesh network.
The setup includes 3 Linksys Velop nodes. One downstairs near the WiFi router and the other two, strategically located to propagate the signal everywhere else in the house.
I cannot recommend this setup enough if you are struggling with the WiFi signal in your house or office. I now get up to 600 Mbps upstairs, which is impressive. It used to be 3 Mbps.
Video recording equipment
As I announced in a recent post, I started making videos on YouTube. I, perhaps too ambitiously, launched three channels: one on tech, one on self-improvement, and one about my outdoor hobbies.
I don’t have the best video setup in the world, especially after my full-frame camera died, and I ended up borrowing my wife’s Canon Rebel for the time being. Nevertheless, it’s a workable setup, so I’m sharing it here.
The camera sits on top of a Manfrotto 290 Tripod. I got a pair of Neewer Dimmable Bi-Color 660 LED Video Lights with Barndoors. They produce a serious amount of light and can be powered by either AC or batteries. The stands are not award-winning, but for the price, I’m impressed with the lights themselves.
I also got a super cheap background stand support system (a Neewer 8.5ft X 10ft one). It’s fine for the $100 range. The fabric backdrops that came with it are thin, wrinkly, and a bit transparent. I tend to use the black one, putting the other two behind it to prevent light from passing through. It’s not fantastic but it’s workable.
The audio I was getting, even with a RODE shotgun microphone mounted on top of the camera, was fairly bad. It would pick up a ton of environmental sounds. With such a high noise floor, removing noise in postproduction led to serious distortion.
So then I invested in a Zoom H4N Pro audio recorder and a Countryman B3 lavalier microphone and my audio drastically improved overnight. Two fantastic audio gadgets, in my opinion.
Compare a clip I made with my old setup, and one with the new setup. I think it’s a dramatic difference.
I picked that lavalier microphone because it offers great sound for the money. It also connects to my Zoom recorder via its balanced XLR input.
The Zoom records great audio on its own, but without spending significantly more money, you’d be hard-pressed to top it when combined with the Countryman B3.
Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure who this post is for.
If you were curious about which gadgets I use, now you know.
If you came here through Google, searching for an opinion between two different devices, I hope you found my comments useful.
I absolutely did not make this list to brag. Yet, looking at the length of this article, listing all these gadgets in one place, it feels rather indulgent.
Let’s all agree that, maybe, I have a tech gadget problem. I can quit whenever I want. 😉
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