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Staff picks: 11 things Oliver Cragg uses every day
Here at Android Authority, we have a diverse staff. We come from all over the world and we use all kinds of technology. This staff picks series shows you what tech we use for work, play, and health.
Hello. I’m Oliver Cragg, Features Editor here at Android Authority. I’m often found editing great content other, smarter people write, though I sometimes unleash my own piping hot takes and knock out the occasional review too. I also look after our UK operations.
As an online journalist of eight years and an insufferable video game/film nerd, I’ve accumulated a fair amount of tech and gadgets. I have a feast and famine approach to buying new devices, though. When I do finally take the plunge, I’m happy to spend the extra cash I save during the more barren months, especially when a pricier product better suits my needs.
Below are the essential things I couldn’t do without. If you’ve got any questions about any of my Staff Picks, feel free to ping me on Twitter or hit the comments below.
Google Pixel 4 XL
There are a few products on this list I don’t technically use every day, but the Google Pixel 4 XL is not one of them.
I’m not going to go into too much detail on my likes and dislikes for my daily driver here — you can read those in my six-month review here. All I’ll say is that even with all the legacy issues that still plague Google phones, the fourth-generation Pixel ticks almost all of my boxes for a perfect phone.
Save for a handful of (regrettable) detours, I’ve been using Google phones ever since the Nexus 4 and the Pixel 4 XL hasn’t dampened my love for Google’s approach to mobile hardware. That’ll no doubt continue with the Pixel 5.
Uncomplicated and uncluttered technology is my crippling weakness. That’s why I’ve always been drawn to Apple computers over typical PCs, even though I know for a fact a Windows alternative would represent much better value for money.
My Apple iMac is a 27-inch model with a 5K retina display, Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM, AMD Radeon R9 M395X GPU, and a 2TB fusion drive. I’m yet to find anything it can’t handle (especially since setting up Boot Camp) and it’s a dream to work on.
Just for good measure, here are the rest of my desk essentials:
My (completely unintentional) anti-Windows agenda continues away from home with the Google Pixelbook. Chrome OS is a fantastic platform for handling the basics and the Pixelbook itself is a gorgeous machine with a smart design, tactile keyboard, and a stunning display. I also really like playing Android games from the Play Store on a larger screen.
Read more: Google Pixelbook review
There are equally capable Chrome OS (and Windows) alternatives that will cost you far less and any serious image/video editing isn’t really an option, but the Pixelbook is a great buy for those that want a fuss-free laptop for working on the go.
For those that want a Google laptop without the premium price tag, there’s always the Pixelbook Go.
Bang & Olufsen H9 wireless headphones
Before joining Team AA my daily commute to work involved a fairly grueling train journey. That meant a pair of top-tier noise-canceling headphones was an absolute must.
Bang & Olufsen are famous for creating uber-stylish tech and the H9 wireless cans are no different. The leather memory foam pads and ergonomic headband mean I can wear the headphones for hours without feeling any discomfort. The noise cancelling is also spectacular and the removable battery means I can swap in a spare if I run out of charge.
Related: Best wireless headphones of 2020
While the audio quality doesn’t quite rival the best Bose and Sony have to offer, I quite like the bassier approach and the wider soundstage of B&O’s tuning. My only real gripe is the awful touch controls.
The H9s have since been superseded by the Beoplay H9i headphones which have improved battery life, a USB-C port, and a handy feature that pauses playback when you take them off. I should also give a shoutout to the Samsung Galaxy Buds which are my current earbuds of choice for running or when you don’t want to lug around larger headphones.
Google Nest Hub Max
If it’s not become already obvious from my phone and laptop choices, the sheer number of Google Nest smart products I have dotted around the house should make it pretty clear that I’m heavily invested in Google’s product ecosystem.
I have a lot of Google Home/Nest devices and I love all of them for different reasons. The Home Max sounds incredible in our living room, the Home Mini is great for playing music in my daughter’s bedroom, the Nest Hub makes a great alarm clock, and the original Home (now discontinued) is nestled away in the kitchen for setting timers and blasting tunes.
My favorite, however, is the Google Nest Hub Max. From playing music in my office, playing a quick episode of Peppa Pig for my daughter, or using the amazing built-in Nest camera to follow us around the room on a video call to family, the Nest Hub Max gets a lot of use and is Google’s best Assistant-powered speaker/display so far.
Google Nest Learning Thermostat
Yep, another Google product. Well… technically Google Nest, but still.
For those that don’t have a smart thermostat, please, get one immediately. Being able to switch the temperature of your heating from anywhere in the world using an app or using a simple voice command is incredibly satisfying, as is the warmth you’re greeted with when you return home.
Some of the smart features on the 3rd gen Google Nest Learning Thermostat are a bit overkill, but eco mode, auto-schedule, and home/away assist all work in tandem to keep your heating usage (and bills) down. Plus, it’s quite pretty to look at.
Google Nest Wifi
This is the last Google product, I promise. Considering it’s the thing that makes almost all of my other devices tick I couldn’t really ignore it.
Our house is quite old and after we moved in it was quickly apparent that we wouldn’t be getting decent Wi-Fi speeds from our (atrocious) Virgin Media router beyond one or two rooms.
Read more: Google Nest Wifi review
This all changed after switching the router into modem mode and rigging up three Google Wifi units. Thanks to the mesh system, I get roughly the same Wi-Fi speeds all over and can tweak settings on the fly via the Google Wifi app. Things got even better when I swapped the main router for a newer Nest Wifi, too.
As Wi-Fi isn’t all that great for online gaming, I also went a little overkill and bought a TP-Link AV2000 powerline kit to reduce PS4 latency issues. It does the job nicely and the passthrough version doesn’t take up a plug socket. Obviously a true ethernet connection would’ve been better, but I didn’t fancy drilling through any walls.
LG OLED TV (B series)
While it’s now a couple of generations behind the latest TV tech, the LG B7 is a fantastic 55-inch 4K HDR OLED set with very low input latency for playing games. I barely use any of the WebOS features so I can’t really comment on that, but for my usage — playing 4K movies and HDR gaming — the B7 has been sublime.
The LG B7 has been superseded by the LG B9.
Nvidia Shield TV
Speaking of my TV, it wouldn’t be much use without my trusty Nvidia Shield TV (2019). The (totally) tubular model loses out on a bit of RAM, the USB slots, and, bizarrely, doesn’t have 64-bit app support (so no Dolphin Emulator… boo), but it is a lot cheaper than the Shield TV Pro and has the same core feature set.
The 4K upscaling is witchcraft, the Toblerone-like remote is weirdly nice to use, and the full launch of GeForce Now means there’s a ton of games to play on the streaming device.
It’s the best Android TV box you can buy and an absolutely essential part of my media viewing habits.
Sony PS4 Pro
I’ve always been a console guy and my current platform of choice is Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro. In all honesty, I’m not all that amazed by the hardware. It doesn’t offer true 4K, there’s no 4K Blu-Ray support, and the fan system is appalling (this is my second unit). Roll on the PS5, please.
What is does have, though, is a library stacked with some of my all-time favorite games like Persona 5 Royal, Bloodborne, Overwatch, The Last Guardian, Red Dead Redemption 2, and What Remains of Edith Finch.
I should also give a shout out to the Nintendo Switch which has saved my sanity on endless train journeys.
Arlo Baby Monitor
As with almost everything related to babies, baby tech is expensive, confusing, and oftentimes completely pointless, but you’ll be guilted into buying it anyway because you want the best for your little person.
Having navigated the “baby things” minefield for almost a year now, the Arlo Baby Monitor stands out as one of our essential purchases. Baby monitors are notoriously unreliable, especially the cheaper ones, but this Wi-Fi enabled HD camera from Arlo has consistently provided the peace of mind you need as a new parent.
Also, while it’s not a tech product exactly, if you are expecting do yourself a favor and get the BabyBjorn Bouncer. You and your baby will thank me later.
More in our Staff Picks series: