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Staff Picks: 12 things Kris uses every day

From home office essentials and everyday carry, these are the tech products I can't live without.

Published onJune 3, 2020

Staff picks Kris Carlon desk setup
Kris Carlon / Android Authority

Here at Android Authority, we have a diverse staff. We come from all over the world and we use all kinds of technology. The Staff Picks series shows you what tech we use for work, play, and health.

Like most of the team, I work at my desk a lot of the time but typically spend a bit of time working in airports, cafes and in hotel rooms. During lockdown though, my home office has increased in importance as my central place to work and play. I usually balance portability against the best bang for my buck but when your desk is all you have, it pays to splash out occasionally.

Phones: Pixel 4 XL and HUAWEI P40 Pro

Google Pixel 4 XL vs HUAWEI P40 Pro
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Neither of these phones are perfect but combined, they suit me just fine. In my opinion, the Pixel 4 XL still offers the best software on Android so I’ve made my peace with the battery and moved on. The Pixel 4 XL is essentially my work phone.

My other daily driver is the HUAWEI P40 Pro, which I love for its super-versatile camera system and excellent battery. The lack of Google apps and services is a problem for work stuff, hence still using the Pixel 4 XL. But I can’t deny the lingering appeal of HUAWEI hardware, even if you have to jump through a few more hoops to make it work.

Smartwatch: HUAWEI Watch GT2

HUAWEI Watch GT 2 X watch face
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The one thing I have with me even more than my phones is my smartwatch. The best thing about the HUAWEI Watch GT 2 is that its battery lasts for two weeks and it does no more than I want it to.

It’s far from the most full-featured smartwatch around but that’s why it never leaves my side. It does what I need and nothing more (without me having to disable half its features), so I can be connected… but not too connected. If you’re into a sportier-looking smartwatch with a similar feature set, check out the newer and cheaper HUAWEI Watch GT 2e.

Desk: FlexiSpot E5 standing desk

As I said in my review of this cheap standing desk recently, if I had my time over again, a standing desk would have been my first office purchase, ahead of even a chair or 4K monitor.

Sitting for extended periods of time is bad juju for your health, so a desk that beeps to remind me to stand periodically is a great thing. Combine that with move alerts from my smartwatch to stretch regularly and I actually have a chance of coming out of a workday alive.

Chair: Secret Lab Omega

Secretlab Omega gaming chair

While standing more often is great, when I am sitting I want to be comfortable. This is how I justified dropping a pretty penny on a fancy gaming chair from Secret Lab.

I may not be much of a desk athlete, but I figured I could still benefit from what it has to offer those who sit for a living. Despite my sloth-like twitch response I still appreciate the solid construction, almost lie-flat reclining, and great adjustable ergonomics of the Omega. It even comes with memory foam cushions.

Smart speaker: Google Nest Mini

A Google Nest Mini in charcoal on a purple table
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Perhaps it’s because Google hands out Nest Minis like confetti, but I have these strewn all over my house. I primarily use them to control my lighting and answer the holy trinity of smart speaker requests: “what time is it?” “what’s the weather like today?” and “play some music.”

Now that the new Google Nest Mini is wall-mountable, can be paired with another Mini for stereo sound, and has a more powerful speaker, there’s even more reason to fill your house with them. At $49 they’re an awesome gift too.

Lighting: Philips Hue

Philips Hue MyLiving spot runner lighting bar
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Like the Nest Mini, my home is flooded with Philips Hue lighting. I have Philips smart bulbs in all the light fittings and lamps downstairs and a pair of twin-bulb MyLiving spot runners in the upstairs office. 

I love being able to control my lighting with Google Assistant, through the Philips Hue app or with the Google Home app. I can dim the lights, change the color temperature, control the lights even when I’m not home, and turn them all off with my voice when I’m all tucked in under the covers: what more could you want?

Camera: Sony a6500 and Sigma 35mm f/1.2 art lens

Sony a6500 with Sigma 35mm f1.2 lens

I’ve been using Sony mirrorless cameras for years because I love their size-performance ratio. I’m still shooting on the a6500, awaiting the release of the mythical “baby a9.”

I recently invested in the new 35mm Sigma f/1.2 prime lens (52.5mm full-frame equivalent on the a6500’s APS-C sensor). I absolutely adore this lens, falling in love with it on the first test shot I took on the counter at B&H (see our Instagram). It’s definitely a chunky boi but it has quickly become my go-to lens when I’m not concerned about weight and is worth every dollar. When I need to travel a bit lighter I go with the excellent Sony 24mm f/1.8 prime.

Android TV: NVIDIA Shield 2019

NVIDA Shield TV 2019 modle and controller upright
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I’ve always loved the NVIDIA Shield and continue to love the new smaller Shield TV 2019. One of the best tricks it has up its sleeve is the ability to use AI to upscale HD content to pretty convincing 4K. What’s even better is you can control how aggressive it is, so you can adjust it depending on your personal tastes or the particular content you’re watching.

The new Shield TV gets a new more powerful processor, a better remote control (that you can also use on older Shields if you just want to upgrade that part of the package), comes in a smaller package, and is actually cheaper than the original Shield TV. This is an absolute must-buy if you don’t already have one.

Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM3

Pictured are the Sony WH-XB900N lying flat on a desk.
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I knew through the grapevine that the Sony WH-1000XM3 were the duck’s nuts in noise-canceling headphones, but I’d been happily rocking the trusty Audio-Technica ATH-M50x for years. Until I left for the airport once without them…

An impulse purchase at a Best Buy vending machine later, I cannot speak highly enough of them. Great battery life, class-leading noise-cancellation, superior comfort, excellent sound quality: the XM3s are the complete package.

Earbuds: HUAWEI FreeBuds 3

HUAWEI Freebuds 3 earbuds next to open charging case on white background.
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The Freebuds 3 snap into the case magnetically as soon as you place them in the case.

The HUAWEI FreeBuds 3 are unashamedly AirPods 2 ripoffs, just better. Despite the uninspired appearance, these are some seriously good true wireless earbuds. HUAWEI splits the stereo signal on your phone and transmits each channel to the correct earbud. Most other headphones send everything to one earbud and then transmit from there to the other bud.

Besides the clever technology, the FreeBuds 3 are really good sounding Bluetooth earbuds, complete with ANC. With four hours playback and another 16 in the circular case, the FreeBuds 3 are my new Bluetooth headphones of choice. When I’m at my desk though, I still fall back on wired cans: either my closed-back Audio-Technica ATH-M50x or open-back AKG K7XX from Massdrop.

Bag: Xiaomi Mi Minimalist Urban backpack

Xiaomi Mi Minimalist Urban backpack
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I used to be a huge OnePlus backpack cheerleader, then I got my hands on this tidy little backpack from Xiaomi. Despite being a bit smaller than the OnePlus Traveller backpack, its squared-off shape and tons of pockets mean I can actually fit all the same stuff in it.

My 15-inch MacBook Pro fits neatly, as does my Sony a6500 with the monster Sigma lens, plus headphones, chargers, batteries, spare phones, notebooks, gimbal, and more. Definitely worth a look if you like clean lines on a minimal bag.

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