As I mentioned in the introductory post, I may veer a bit off topic at times on this site if there’s something that particularly interests me. I’m a sucker for gadgets and technology, for example, so don’t be tremendously shocked if I pull out the odd review or opinion piece. Don’t worry, though; hockey will still dominate the front page.
With that said, people ask me pretty regularly what tech gets regular usage in my day-to-day life. With that in mind, here’s my best attempt at an up-to-date list.
- I built my desktop back in 2015, so it’s a little out of date specs-wise but still more than gets the job done. Inside the case, you’ll find an Intel Core i5 4690k, an ASRock z97M motherboard, four 8GB sticks of Kingston HyperX Fury Black RAM, two Samsung 850 Evo SSDs (250 GB and 500 GB respectively), a 2GB Nvidia GTX 960, and a standard fare DVD writer and power supply.
- In case you’re looking to make a similar build, I’d probably recommend going with the i5 7600k and the GTX 1050 Ti now; both of them are newer, faster, and cheaper. Likely a different motherboard too, but couldn’t tell you which off-hand.
- For video capture off of my Bell Box, I’m running a Hauppauge HD PVR 60 (though I’d also recommend the Elgato variant), with two 50 foot HDMI cables going in/out and a splitter acting as an HDCP stripper.
- My monitor is, quite literally, the biggest piece of excess here. I’m using Philips’ 43-inch 4K display, which is gorgeous, shows proper colour, can take in from four different sources and acts as a USB hub. Best Buy sells it for $899, but you can frequently find it on sale for $699.
- As far as input goes, I’m using a Razer Blackwidow Chroma v2 as my keyboard. I know there are technically better, cheaper mechs out there, but I’ve become used to Razer’s switches and I enjoy the customization that the Synapse API allows. For a mouse, I’m using Logitech’s MX Master, which is very comfortable and feature filled. My mousepad is a Razer Firefly that I picked up on a black Friday sale; again, I’m a sucker for customizable colours.
- For extra storage, I use a Western Digital 4TB MyCloud external hard drive. Being able to access my data anywhere is nice and it’s never had a hiccup.
- My main microphone is a Blue Yeti that I grabbed on a Black Friday sale. Not sure if its worth full retail to me, but if you’re someone who is constantly chatting on their computer, or is podcasting, I’d recommend it.
- I also have an LED PacMan Ghost on my desk that everybody asks me about whenever I take photos, so I may as well link to that as well.
- Earlier this year, I decided to bite the bullet and bought a late 2016, 15″ MacBook Pro. The model I went with had a 2.6 GHz i7, 512 GB of PCIe SSD storage, 16 GB of RAM, and the 4GB ATi Radeon Pro 460. It was a pricey configuration and I hope to never spend that much on a laptop again, but I suspect it’ll last me a few years and retain a lot of its resale value. Not to mention, I like the idea of having both Windows and MacOS at my disposal at all times, in case there’s an exclusive app I require the use of. To ensure a solid deal, I highly recommend the Apple Refurbished Store; I saved about $600 by picking this up there.
- My ‘backup’ laptop is a 2014 Dell XPS 13. I bought it while I was still working at Microsoft on a very solid holiday discount and got a lot of mileage out of it, and I imagine somebody else could still get a few years. The battery life is great, the 4th Gen i7 still goes, and 8GB of RAM is plenty for everyday use. Dell’s done a great job with the XPS line over the years to make it a premium laptop option to be proud of, shaking off their prior reputation. I might look to sell this one at some point, though, because I don’t get much use out of it these days.
- The only major accessory I carry around with me (though I may pick up a USB-C hub for my Macbook soon), is my mouse; I keep it simple and use a Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Mouse 3600.
- I’ve gone through far too many tablets trying to find the right solution for me, but last year I found my happy place with the 9.7″ iPad Pro. Tablets are weird, in the sense that you need to find the right balance between a consumption device and a creation device, and I found that as someone who leans consumption with a tablet but likes some creative wiggle room, the Pro works for me. I grabbed the 128GB LTE model from the Apple Refurbished Store.
- As far as accessories go, I’m happy with the official Apple Pencil, and rotate between a more basic, notebook style case and using the official smart keyboard (found on eBay) with a cheap back casing and sling pencil holder.
- When I need something a bit more creative, I still have my old Surface 3, which has the same keyboard, pen, and case setup, but runs full Windows 10.
- I never really hold onto cell phones for very long, because I’m a constant tinkerer, but I picked up a used 128GB iPhone 6S off eBay last year and it’s served me well. Nothing is amazing about it, and I can’t tinker too hard, but it does all the basic stuff very well and that’s all you truly want from a daily driver, right?
- Accessory wise, I’m using the official smart battery case, which adds just enough grip and bulk without becoming unwieldy. Not to mention, the fact that it uses the case before the internal battery for power means you keep the phone healthy for longer, which is huge. The “bump” on the back is also just big enough to hold one of those wallet stickers, which I used for my Presto card for a bit, but decided that was too bulky, so now I’ve just double-sided taped the card to the back.
- Rather than buy a traditional screen protector, I brought the phone into Staples to get their liquid armour treatment done. It’s barely noticeable and keeps scratches off the phone, so I’m happy.
- If I’m still needing extra battery life, I have a credit card sized dodocool battery that has integrated tips for microUSB and Lightning (my headphones use microUSB, so that’s big), and an Aukey Battery for when I need to be cautious and make sure I have a full day of charge at my disposal (mine is 12000 mAH, but that 20k one linked above is much newer and the same price).
Television / Gaming
- I honestly don’t know a ton about my TV. I bought it off a friend that was moving for well under retail and use it mostly for playing video games on occasion. It’s 55″, it’s a Samsung, it apparently has 3D capability that I never use, and it doesn’t give me any problems.
- My only current generation game console at the moment is an Xbox One. I also picked that up while working at Microsoft and made sure to max out my Live subscription before I left. I’d like to get a PS4 at some point just so I can play NHL and FIFA with all of my friends, but there’s no massive rush on that.
- I’m looking into getting a Raspberry Pi 3 kit in the next few weeks and setting it up to run emulators. If I do, I’ll let you know how that goes.
- I opted for a soundbar as my TV speaker solution. I’ve got my father’s old Bose home theatre setup boxed up and in storage, but there isn’t much room for it in here and it shakes the walls, annoying everybody around me. The Vizio bar I bought sounds good, gets loud, but doesn’t travel through the walls, so I’m happy to not have to explain myself anymore.
- For on-the-go audio, I have a JBL Charge Bluetooth speaker. It sounds decent, can be used as an external battery, and also fits into the water bottle holder of a bicycle. Hard to go wrong with that kind of flexibility, right?
- For my computer, I’m using the Bose Companion 2 speaker system. Simply put, it let me get rid of the subwoofer while still getting quality sound. Plus they look subtle on my desk.
- My main headphones, probably the best value pickup on this list, are the August EP650. They sound about as good as $100-200 over-ears, have very good Bluetooth range, are decently comfortable, have a long battery life, and are under $60. They can even be used in 3.5mm and USB configurations, which is stellar.
- As far as earbuds go, I was left pleasantly surprised by the Skullcandy Smokin 2’s, which are comfy, sound decent, and have an okayish battery life. They go on sale relatively frequently, as well. Mine have lasted me about a year and a half now and are still as good as when I got them. My backups are Parasom A1s that I bought when I thought the Skullcandys went missing, and when I need to go wired, I just go with a cheap pair of Panasonics (before you try Amazon, though, check your local Dollarama; they’ve been spotted there for $2-3, which is larceny).
- For long texting conversations when I don’t MacBook handy, I also keep these handy tablet and phone stands on my desk, and a Logitech K480 Bluetooth keyboard that feels kind of typewritery (in a good way) and can switch between three devices.
- I really love my Apple Watch. I never thought I’d say that, but I got one as a gift from Telus during the World Juniors last year and it’s fantastic. They gave me the 38MM Sport model (mine is a Series 1), but I threw on a leather strap to make it look more presentable. My favourite features are using it for Apple Pay, and the integration and bonus statistics it brings to Apple Health.
- I have a camera, but I don’t use it that often. I picked up a Nikon D5200 kit (5300 is the current model) a few years ago for $380 at Target thanks to a pricing error (no wonder they left Canada). It’s great, and I get good results from it, but I’m very much a “the best camera is the one you have on you” person so my phone gets more love. When I do use it, I either pair it with a WiFi SD card or use a Lightning to SD adapter to download to my phone.
- Similar goes for my microphone. I have a budget XLR mic (no real recommendations, though this is cheap with good reviews) with an iRig kit to plug into my phone, but end up usually just leaving it in a drawer and forget to throw it in my bag. A blank flash with some stickers and a matching colour windscreen goes a long way to making you look vaguely mainstream.
- I joined the bandwagon of people using TP-Link as their bang-for-buck router solution last year and have zero regrets. I grabbed this model, which I have running 2.4GHz and 5GHz connections at the same time, and it does great work around the house.
- I can’t remember the last time I’ve flipped a light switch in my room, thanks to my Phillips Hue kit. I use the Hue Pro app on my phones and tablets for simple things, and Hue Disco when I want it to react to music. They’re real fun to mess with, though extra bulbs can get pricy.
- Some charging solutions: I use this 6-port USB charger at my desk, this dual-port at my bedside, swear by AmazonBasics for Lightning Cables, and if you can still find Blackberry Playbook chargers, they’re the best for MicroUSB (though people have caught on and the price has gone up in recent years).
I’ll update this list over time as I get new things, or think of others that weren’t mentioned.