The tech news cycle moves fast. One second we’re talking about the amazing iPhone 7, the next we’re seduced by Google Pixel. Or the LG G6. Or the Samsung Galaxy S8. Or the Essential Phone. And that’s just covering our smartphone bases. The sheer number of new gadgets can be, admittedly, frustrating, leaving us little time to actually fall in love with something before being lured to the next.
This isn’t true with all of them, of course. Some stick with us, becoming everyday essentials that help us improve or streamline our lives — the GP staff, a team of gearheads, globe-trotters and professionally fussy consumers, can attest to that. Whether it’s a gaming console or a pair of headphones, a lightweight laptop or a rugged smartphone case, some gadgets strike a chord within us. These are our essential gadgets.
Amazon Echo Dot
Nick Caruso, Associate Editor: I have an Echo ($180) in my living room and an Echo Tap ($130) to take into my back patio or for a weekend away. Both are Alexa-enabled, so I can scream demands at them from the couch or a lawn chair or a pool float — and I do. But when I’m getting dressed or winding down for a night’s sleep, in my bedroom, it’s the Dot that briefs me on the day’s news and the next day’s weather, or answers my stupid questions, or lulls me to sleep with thunderstorm white noise. It’s a simple extension of my smart digital world, tucked away on my dresser that makes it easy to pretend that all my plants can talk — which I do. — @thenickcaruso
LaCie Rugged Mini
Henry Phillips, Deputy Photography Editor: It’s like clockwork, or at least simple math: Biannual magazine, two big trips a year, two LaCie Rugged Mini 2TB hard drives, labeled with their associated trip. A stack of them are growing by my desk and I haven’t had one fail yet. Plus the orange pairs nice with the company letterhead. — @henrysp
Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Pro
Michael Finn, Editorial Apprentice: It’s a confounding tragedy: sometime in the past year, Mophie stopped making the Powerstation Pro. I can’t fathom why they’d do such a thing, because mine has always worked wonderfully. It’s been on all sorts of wild adventures — kayaking the Rio Grande, beach-bumming in the British Virgin Islands, climbing in upstate New York — and still shows zero signs of damage. Whatever, I guess. You can still buy it, and — get this — it’s only $15. Fifteen fucking dollars! Mophie’s next-cheapest portable battery is $70, and that one’s not even shock- and water-resistant! — @rhiner
Lifeproof FRE Waterproof Case for iPhone 7
Tanner Bowden, Editorial Apprentice: Before purchasing my first smartphone, I tapped away text messages rapid-fire (T9 be damned) on a Casio G’zOne Ravine 2. That flip phone was waterproof, rock-proof, toss-proof and rum-proof. I only broke one in three years, and I’m still convinced that that was due to a manufacturer’s defect. When I finally upgraded to an iPhone, years behind the rest of contemporary society, I needed some reassurance that my pocket computer wasn’t going to bite the dust were I to get tossed over the handlebars of my mountain bike (happens often) or decide to attend an outdoor concert despite a weather report calling for a 100 percent chance of rain (needs to happen more often). Overall, I’m more careful with my phone, but this case accounts for all those other times when I’m not. — @danger_bowden
Escort iX Radar Detector
Eric Adams, Contributing Writer: About five years ago, I went through a period — I call it the Dark Times — when I racked up a series of unfortunate speeding tickets. You could call it an occupational hazard, given my fairly frequent access to energetic cars as a reviewer, but I just called it stupid, especially since none of those tickets were acquired in actual press cars. Rather, I got them through inattention and carelessness while driving my own vehicles. Though I eventually grew out of it and haven’t gotten a ticket since, I nevertheless have taken up a few precautions, including this Escort iX radar detector. Though there’s been some strange buzz online about how radar detectors no longer work because of the proliferation of radar cruise controls that confuse them, and the argument that Waze has made them obsolete, the former is false and the latter app is just not reliable enough. This new top-line detector is more powerful and sensitive than its predecessors, and better able to weed out
This new top-line detector is more powerful and sensitive than its predecessors, and more able to weed out false positives from door openers and the like. It also features a smartphone app that can access speed-limit data and shared warnings from other users, among other things. Finally, its dynamic display and clear voice alerts are highly effective, with just the right amount of intrusiveness and urgency, and its new magnetic mount makes stashing it under your seat a snap. — @ericadams321
Polaroid Snap Instant Digital Camera
Bradley Hasemeyer, Contributing Writer: I take it on all my travels, both for work and pleasure; there is still something satisfying about a printed picture. It takes both digital and printed — though the digital isn’t very good, so I keep it to the hard copies. It has a few filter options and prints on ink-less paper, and you can peel the back off of each print to make it a sticker. My daughter has loved using it, and it’s a quick way to teach photo basics. — @bhaz
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iPhone 7 Plus
Caitlyn Shaw, Social Media Coordinator: One of the most frustrating parts of covering live events is the hassle of getting photos off your DSLR and onto your phone (even with an adapter). I received an invite to test the iPhone 7+, which claimed that it could replace a DSLR. I was appropriately skeptical. But once I got the phone in-hand, I [begrudgingly] admitted that I was wrong. We can now take shots like this or videos like this and publish them in real-time. Its only downfall is its massive size; I have to use two hands to do almost anything, but the shuffle (and constant fear of dropping it) is worth the great photos it takes. — @heyitscg
Bose QC35 Wireless Headphones
Ben Bowers, Managing Editor and Co-Founder: I spend far too much of my time on planes and trains these days, so opportunities for real peace and quiet are rare. The serenity (and comfort!) offered by Bose’s QC35 headphones has preserved my sanity on multiple occasions. As an owner of the older, wired QC25s, I was skeptical at first that the wireless upgrade was worth it. It took just one trip to put that dumb notion to bed. These are an upgrade in every sense of the word, especially after Apple iced the 3.5mm headphone jack. The murdered-out color scheme is also hard to beat aesthetically. — @benbowersgp
Sonos Connect AMP
AJ Powell, Associate Staff Writer: Music is a huge part of my life, and unfortunately (or not, depending on your view), due to my position here at GP, my ears have been corrupted with access to hi-fi audio streaming equipment. I can no longer listen to mid-tier audio equipment with the same satisfaction. A standard wireless Bluetooth speaker just doesn’t do it. Because of this, I have my apartment rigged with a full Sonos setup (Playbar, two Play:5s, and a Sub), but the most indispensable piece of audio tech is my Sonos Connect AMP. Not only can I play my records over my Sonos setup in all of their hi-fi glory, but I can also add analog bookshelf speakers to the system — like the Q Acoustics Concept 20s that I’m testing now. It’s a setup that turns even the most discerning of audiophiles green with envy. — @powell_photo
Xbox One and FIFA 17
Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer: Fun fact: I have two Xbox One consoles, one in my New York apartment and one at my parents’ shore home in New Jersey. Basically, wherever I go, video games are near me. My main jam is FIFA 17, which I play online with several of my high school buddies on the same team. We scream at each other, in celebration and in vitriol, and it’s a dream.
Who’s my club, you ask? Liverpool FC. Up the Reds. — @j_tb3
What’s Your Essential Gadget?