My obsession with gadgets is no secret. Well before I started writing this blog, I have been been doling out my occasionally solicited and often times unsolicited opinion on the gadgets to buy and the ones to avoid. Friends and family have over the years, heard me wax eloquent about one only to hear me go on a long rant over another. The same audience has been kind enough to follow my blogs and this page is dedicated to them.
In this page which I hope to update on a very regular basis, I will share my favorite devices in the market. Some of them are what I use and others are what I have used to make a reasonable recommendation. If you are in the market for a mobile/wireless gadget, I hope this page helps you in making the best choice.
1. iPhone 6
The flagship Apple device released in 2014 is my personal phone of choice and one of the best smartphones available in the market today. The 4.7 inch screen straddles between the very small 4 inch iPhone 5S and the too big iPhone 6 Plus. The camera is top notch and battery life is very good. The AppStore is the best in the business. If you are committed to the iOS ecosystem, the iPhone 6 is the best choice. See my detailed review here. As much as I think Apple shafted its loyal users, I recommend the $299 64 GB version. The 16 GB version of any device is pretty useless these days.
2. Moto X (2014) / HTC One (M8/ 2014)
On the Android side, I highly recommend the Moto X (2014 edition) and the HTC One (M8). I have spent a good bit of time with both devices and they are excellent. The Moto X takes a good device from 2013 and makes it top class. Customization is a bonus with the Moto Maker. Mine is one with a wood back. The camera was flaky in 2013 but much improved in 2014. The Google Play store is growing rapidly and arguably as good as the Apple AppStore.
The HTC One (M8) is arguably the best built Android device ever. It is a lot of metal and comes with a fabulous screen. The only area where the One pales in comparison to the Moto X is the UltraPixel camera which is less than what is advertised. Otherwise, fantastic device. See my detailed review of the HTC One (M8) here.
3. Budget smartphone – Moto G
The best budget smartphone available today is the well made Moto G. The 2013 Moto G was a surprise hit and the 2014 version builds on that success. The 5.2 inch screen is a little big for my taste but works very well for many. The experience is smooth for a $179 unlocked device. Only downside is a very average camera. Otherwise, the Moto G is the best value for your money.
1. iPad Air
The iPad Air is still the tablet to beat. It offers the most compelling overall value in a ridiculously thin and sleek package. It has all the best apps and an excellent camera to boot. My only gripe is that the 16 GB version at $499 is almost useless. Download a movie, a few apps, couple of games and a few magazines and you will hit the cap. The $599 64 GB version is not as great a value but if you are getting an iPad, it just makes sense to get the 64 GB version for the long run. I do think the 2013 version is a good investment over the 2014 version which doesnt offer much in terms of upgrades. Best value is a Apple refurb 2013 32 GB iPad Air which currently sells for $389. See my review of the 2014 iPad Air 2 here.
2. Kindle Fire 8.9 HDX
Yes, I work at Lab126, the division of Amazon that designs the Kindle Fire 8.9 HDX. I work on the product. But that is not why I am recommending it. The Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is the best Android tablet out there. It is thinner and lighter than the iPad Air 2, has a better display and with Prime, offers the best media consumption experience. The only thing the Fire 8.9 HDX has going against it is the app selection in the Amazon AppStore. It is growing albeit slower than the Apple and Play store. Otherwise, this is a remarkable value for money at $379. Throw in a $99 Prime membership and you have a great value- movies, TV shows, book rentals, early access to Amazon deals and not to mention, free 2 day shipping.
3. Budget tablet- Kindle Fire 6″
No better value at $99. Yes, I am biased but hard to find anything at this price that is made and backed by a company like Amazon.
1. Kindle Voyage E-reader
Hear me out on this one. If you are a serious reader and in the market for a dedicated reading device, just get this already. It is the best Kindle ever made and it is fantastic. I have been using it every day for the past few months and it is my one precious device. I know the usual question- why buy a $189 dedicated reader instead of a multipurpose tablet. Simply because it is single purpose and dedicated for one task only. There is a case to be made for devices that allow you to focus on the task at hand and this one does it best when it comes to reading. Highly recommended. You can buy one here.
2. Sony RX100- Point and shoot camera
I dont own one of these but have spent some time with it. By a distance, the best point and shoot camera I have ever used. The output is fabulous. You wont go wrong with the first gen RX100 (which can occasionally be had for $400) and definitely a winner with the latest RX100 III.
3. Kindle Fire TV Stick
If I had written this post a few months ago, I would have had no hesitation in recommending the Google Chromecast. But with the new Fire TV stick out, the Chromecast has a new and better competitor. The reason is simple- the Fire TV stick does everything a Chromecast does and better. Chromecast has really poor Wifi performance and needs a companion device for operation. The $7 more for a Fire TV stick gets you a remote, better wifi performance, casual gaming and a standalone product that makes your old TV a smarter one. Coupled with Prime, it is an excellent value for money. I have been using one for the past two months and it is pretty good. You can get one here(assuming you can wait until after New Year’s to receive one).
4. Roku 3
If you are looking for a TV streaming box that has a much broader array of channels like international sports and offerings from many parts of the world in local language, look no further than the Roku 3. It has a dizzying array of channels and is growing by the day. Apple TV and Kindle Fire TV are good offerings if you are in their respective ecosystems. The Roku 3 offers much more for a full streaming box solution. You can get one here.
5. FitBit Force/Charge HR
Smartwatches and fitness trackers are a brand new category and there are no real compelling offerings that solve all the problems of being smart, having a good battery life and doing the fitness tracking stuff. The Android Wear products are strictly first gen and will get better in the coming years. The LG G Watch R and Moto360 show a lot of promise in that front. The Apple Watch is going to be pricey and strictly for Apple fans. Wait for gen 2 or 3 on that one too. The Pebble is a good entry level offering but not as compelling and cool. It is more nerdy if that is your style.
Microsoft Band offers promise but when worn, disappointed me a lot. I cannot recommend it purely for that reason. And that leaves me with my Fitbit Force. I have been using FitBit products for 2 years now (first a FitBit One and now the Force). They are excellent products for the money. I am hoping to upgrade to a FitBit Charge HR when it comes out. You can get them here.
I have sampled and used a ton of headphones and this is one category that is very hard to pick one clear winner. Different people have different preferences when it comes to music and sound. In the affordable category, I have two that I use and love. The Sony MDRX05 produces great sound for a $100ish pair. The Kindle FirePhone box earbuds are great in that they produce good sound, stay in the ear and are affordable. I hate earbuds in general and this one surprisingly stays in my ear. You can buy it separately here.
As a bonus note on headphones, I have been highly priveleged to try out an Audeze LCD-X ultra premium headphones. It blows the competition out of the water. If you are in the market for one such headphone, give Audeze a try.
In my highly digital and gadget dependent existence, I still faithfully rely on my good old notebook and fountain pen to help me through meetings. I highly recommend them as it has helped me focus better. On that front, I recommend the Rhodia pocket size Webnotebook to go with the insanely cheap and awesome Pilot Metropolitanfountain pen. Remember to buy the Pilot Namiki Cartridgesfor the pen.
To be updated on an ongoing basis…
Last Updated on Nov 25, 2014.