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While my MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iPhone are the three pillars of my digital life, they wouldn’t be nearly as powerful without some accessories. I have hyper-specific tools for once-in-a-while tasks, but I wanted to highlight the tech accessories that I use every day without fail.
These accessories allow me the get the most out of those main products, and ultimately add a whole lot of value to my tech life. They save me time and allow me to do things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise, whether that means letting me stay productive or helping me to relax.
I’ve written about some of these products before, but others haven’t merited their own post yet. The best part about these products is that a lot of them can work together, as opposed to being siloed — that’s what makes them easy to use daily.
The iPad Pro might be my primary computer at home, but my MacBook Pro still handles some key daily tasks for me, like acting as my media server. For the past year, I've kept my laptop hooked up to an external display (more on that in a minute), and in this stand by Twelve South. The BookArk accomplishes two tasks, it keeps my MacBook Pro in a stable position, and it saves me a lot of room.
Rather than have my laptop on a horizontal stand, the BookArk lets me tuck my MacBook away while still leaving all of its ports exposed. If I need to pop in an HDMI cable to play a Steam game, it's right there. The way I have my laptop oriented (as pictured, actually), all of the wires go back behind the desk making my setup look even more clean and professional.
I went 4K, and I'm not going back. Not everyone is going to need a big, 4K monitor, but if you do, I highly recommend this one from ASUS. It has two HDMI ports and a Displayport 1.2 port. The HDMI ports came in handy before I bought a TV; I would hook my game consoles directly into the monitor and they looked great.
At 28 inches, this is plenty big enough to use as a primary screen in a pinch, although you can't plug a coaxial cable into it. As a computer monitor, I'm pretty happy; for the price, you're getting a big beautiful display that's perfect if you want a lot of space to edit images, videos, or use a layout program. It's not the highest-end screen out there, but for my day-to-day needs, it has been more than good enough.
I love flash drives enough that I have two of these 256GB drives -- one at home and one at work, for different, specific reasons. At work, my flash drive holds my massive music library. The library can't fit on my phone, and I don't want to associate my work computer with my Apple ID, so, for me, this is the best way to listen to music at work.
At home, I use my flash drive for more around-the-house purposes. I make bootable operating system installers, hold large video files on it while making space on my home server and performing other random tasks. I also use it to take large files from one place to another.
I love the cloud, but I'm not going to rely on a fast internet connection to send large project files from place to place. I was reminded of the utility of flash drives recently when my internet went out for a few days. While I wrestled with my Comcast router's settings, I knew anything I worked on at home could be easily taken to work thanks to my flash drive.
I've tested a few Bluetooth speakers now, and I keep coming back to this little one from Anker. It hangs out in my kitchen and plays music while I cook, or occasionally when I do some work there. It's powerful for its size and delivers shockingly good sound. This isn't an audiophile speaker by any means, but it does the music I play justice.
This was also made to be a very durable, so if you drop it in a pool, onto concrete, or in the sand, you wont risk ruining it. In my dunk test, it took a little while to fully dry out, but once it did, the sound quality returned and has remained consistent. I don't know what Anker did to pull this off, but I really can't get enough of this little speaker.
I reviewed Status Audio's CB-1 studio monitors this past October, and I'm continually impressed by their audio quality, especially given their price.
Because they're studio monitors, the one place these headphones may disappoint is with their size. You're meant to use these headphones sitting down at a desk, so their long dangling cable and big ear cups aren't very portable-friendly.
If you're looking for a pair of headphones to wear at your desk, though, I can't recommend this pair highly enough. I doubt you'll find better -- or equal -- headphones in this price range.
On their own, the audio coming out of my Status Audio headphones is is excellent, but it's taken up a notch because I have those headphones plugged into this DAC (Digital Analogue Converter) from AudioQuest called the DragonFly. Every electronic device has a built-in DAC; it's what converts a digital file into actual sound, but in your phone or computer, that's just one part of an integrated system.
A dedicated DAC is a component whose sole purpose is to make your music sound better, cleaner, and deeper, and that's exactly what the DragonFly has done for my library.
It's removed a subtle layer of distance between me and my music, and it lets me enjoy what I listen to even more. I used this DAC for a month, and didn't really notice a crazy difference in sound quality, but, when I tried going back to my laptop's DAC through the headphone jack, I was puzzled. The music did sound worse, less clear, and more distant. My ears had just adjusted over the course of that month and my new normal was better than what I was used to before. There's a lot of audiophile snake oil out there, but the DragonFly Black does make a difference in how your music sounds.
I called this the MacBook Pro accessory I couldn't live without, and I stand by that. I use a lot of accessories (I can't you tell how many), and I keep them all connected to my computer whether I use them every day or not. What lets me do that is this dock, which connects to my computer via Thunderbolt and substantially improves my computer's compatibility.
This dock adds Ethernet and FireWire ports that were cut from the MacBook Pro for space-saving reasons, while adding five USB 3 ports and a headphone pass-through. If you use your Mac with a lot of different accessories and you're tired of having to constantly plug and unplug them, this is a lifesaver. With all of my accessories connected, I feel like I'm using a supercomputer, one customised exactly for my needs -- and this dock makes that possible.
My needs at work aren't as extensive as my needs at home, so instead of using another Thunderbolt dock, I use this clip-on dock called the Landing Zone Pro. It gives me three additional USB ports and an Ethernet port, which lets me give up the dongle and USB hub I was using earlier.
I like the Landing Zone's design a lot. You just plop your computer into it and clip it on using a single hinge in the back. Once it's in, it's in. Securely. Speaking of secure, one part about this dock that I really like is the inclusion of a Kensington Lock port. Buy a lock, loop it through, and you're secure. This is a built-in feature on some computers, but not the MacBook Air I use at work, so it ends up making my computer more functional and even safer.
If you can't tell, I'm a big fan of Anker products. This slim Bluetooth keyboard is my primary typing tool at home, and it preforms very well. At first I was worried about having a rechargeable keyboard (who wants to wait for their keyboard to charge,) but I've only had to charge it once in the five months that I've had it.
I noticed some latency issues, but I repositioned my computer and reset the keyboard and everything seems to be working well now. The chiclet keys will be familiar to anyone who has used an Apple keyboard in the past decade, and while I wouldn't mind if the keyboard was a bit bigger, it doesn't feel super cramped. As a bonus, this keyboard has mobile-specific keys; so if you decide to use it with an iPad, you'll have a dedicated home button key.
I'm very picky about which mouse I use, and I like this one from Logitech so much I bought two: one for home, one for the office. The biggest reason I like this mouse is that it's completely wireless -- no dongles, no USB receiver, nothing. After a 30-second sync process, you're ready to go. Unlike the keyboard, this mouse does run on AA batteries, but I've had to change them very infrequently.
At home this mouse lives a bit of a double life. Because I don't use a standard Apple keyboard, I don't have dedicated buttons for some of OS X's fancy features. Thankfully, this mouse has four programmable buttons on it. I've mapped some of my favourite keyboard features to those buttons, and it has made my life a lot easier.
Since the iPhone 4 I've always chosen to use a slim, clear case to protect my phone. After trying Pad & Quill's Woodline Case, though, I've changed my mind. This case is still slim, but it's beautifully designed and provides similar protection to the cases I normally use.
I've been using an iPhone for almost 10 years, and this is the only case I've ever used that people have actually noticed. It's an investment, but if you want to protect your phone and care about aesthetics, Pad & Quill's Woodline Case is the best option I've come across.
Every smart home needs a hub. Whether you opt to use Apple's HomeKit and Siri, Samsung's SmartThings and an app, or the Amazon's Echo and Alexa.
After going back and forth for almost a year about whether I was comfortable having an 'always listening' device in my apartment, I decided to take the plunge. It's been great. In addition to being able to ask the Echo a whole bunch of questions about the news or weather, it gives you the ability to interact with smart-home products using only your voice. It's amazing.
Voice operation removes a layer of friction between me and my smart-home devices that I didn't know would be there. It's so much more natural and fluid than fumbling through an app. All of the devices on this list are Echo-compatible, and honestly, I wouldn't buy a smart-home product if it wasn't.
My first post-Echo purchase was Hue bulbs. At first, they seem absolutely unnecessary, and while they're a definite luxury, they're extremely useful. My apartment only has one source of light -- a ceiling lamp. It got annoying to get up and cross the room to flip the light switch before going to sleep each night. Instead, I say, 'Alexa, turn off my bedroom lights,' and boom, they're off.
I can also set the bulbs to rotate between different colours, which is nothing more than a fun party trick, but hey, it's nice to have fun once in a while! These bulbs were the smart-home device I was looking forward to trying the most, and they haven't disappointed.
I saved the most-boring-but-most-essential accessory til last: my surge protector. I've had some unfortunate incidents happen in the past by plugging my gadgets into less-than-perfect electrical sockets. Its always ended in me being upset at myself for not buying what should have been an immediate purchase.
Belkin's surge protector has served me well over the years, I've definitely never lost a gadget since using it. With 12 outlets in different orientations, you can fit a bunch of devices into this surge protector whether they have a fat AC adaptor or slim plug. It's such a good device that, much like my mouse, I've bought more than one over the years. I consider this surge protector to be a prerequisite before plugging in any gadget. I'd rather be safe than sorry.
As someone who always needs to charge multiple gadgets at once, Anker's multi-port USB hub never leaves my desk.
Its four regular USB ports can be used to charge phones, tablets, headphones, or any other tech accessory that comes across my desk. The USB-C PD (power delivery) port can be used to charge more power hungry devices, like a MacBook or Nintendo Switch.
The aluminium finish complements the iPad nicely, and the hole in its base lets me easily loop a lightning cable through for charging. When used with a keyboard, this stand turns your iPad into a more traditional computer, which is how I'm using my iPad more and more.
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