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Staff Picks: 10 things Ryan-Thomas Shaw 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. The Staff Picks series shows you what tech we use for work, play, and health.
Hi, I’m Ryan-Thomas Shaw and I write articles and produce videos for Android Authority. But this isn’t my only gig — I also produce video for my own YouTube channel and I’m a university student. With all of this in mind, I use an awful lot of tech in my day-to-day life.
I tend to buy a lot of used tech from eBay and Facebook, because, you know, I’m a student and I don’t have a lot of money. That means most of what I own is a bit beaten with dings and scrapes, since I prefer function over form. As long as it gets the job done, it’s fine by me!
Today I’m going to break down ten things that I use everyday and why I recommend them (or don’t) in their own product categories.
I shoot a lot of video, and my only camera at the moment is the Sony a6300. It produces great video and photo results, at the detriment of usability. For example, this thing is capable of taking UHD 24P video and 24MP photos, but its poor SD card slot placement at the bottom next to the tiny battery is a pain in the neck. Not only this, but the lack of in-body image stabilization means that I’m limited to tripod and gimbal work when it comes to video.
For a casual user with an interest in photo and video capture, this is a great hybrid camera with some great functionality and fast auto-focus. However, I’ll be looking at upgrading sometime in the next year or so, due purely to the workflow bottleneck. SD cards break. Micro HDMI cables break. The screen doesn’t flip. And recording audio externally is an extra step that I’d rather not have to take.
Viltrox EF-E II
Since I exclusively use Canon-mount lenses, adapters like the Commlite EF-Nex are really useful. However, speed boosters like the Viltrox EF-E II are like magic adapters that not only let you connect different lenses to different bodies, but give the a6300’s Super35 sensor a Full-Frame field of view, and the lens an extra stop of light.
This way, I’m able to use my Sigma 20mm and 50mm f/1.4s in Full Frame and Super35 modes, allowing for more reach or more viewable area. This Viltrox one is far cheaper than the Metabones version that I’ve used on my previous cameras, and seems to be built better, too!
Sigma ART-series lenses
I’ve had my Sigma ART 18-35mm f/1.8 Super35mm lens for nearly four years now and I recently invested in a couple more primes from the range. These lenses are very sharp and incredibly well made, often times being sharper than Canon L-series lenses on top of being more affordable. My lineup includes the 20mm f/1.4 (full frame), 50mm f/1.4 (full frame), and the 18-35mm f/1.8 (super-35).
Apple iPhone 11
I know, I know. This isn’t Apple Authority! But I’m indifferent to mobile operating systems and I like to take a walk on the other side of the wall every now and then. The iPhone 11 is probably the best deal that Apple has offered for a while now and I was intrigued. I’ve bounced between iOS and Android ever since I got into the smartphone game.
There are bits that I love and hate about the iPhone 11. I love the cameras, the speed, the fluidity, and the battery life. I hate the lightning port, the lack of dual-SIM support (which we’ll talk about later), and charging speed.
This is, by far, the best iPhone that I’ve ever used, personally. Having the ultra-wide camera on an iPhone is really strange, in a good way. Similarly, two-day battery life on a consistent basis is something that I don’t think I could now live without.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Galaxy Note 8 acts as my work phone to allow me to effectively separate my work and personal life. It carries my second SIM card for a permanent connection to the internet and is loaded up with all the office apps that I need. Between its large display and S Pen, it really does work brilliantly for this purpose.
I also use it to display scripts that I then read from in the Android Authority videos that I host. It’s a great all-rounder on a budget and I’m glad to be carrying it around alongside my iPhone.
Apple Watch Series 4
After previously using the Huawei Watch GT 2, it was tough to ditch such a beautiful design for something simpler. The Apple Watch has never been a stunner, at least in my opinion.
However, the incredible integration with iOS, the brilliant Taptic Engine, and the smaller footprint on my wrist al swayed me to keep the Series 4. It might only last a day on a charge, but I’m happy to pay that price for tighter integration with the phone that I use on a daily basis.
I’ve found the fitness tracking tech to be good enough, if not as accurate as what the Huawei offers. That said, WatchOS’s ease of use and convenience is something that I find myself addicted to. If you want a modern-fish Apple wearable and don’t want to spend a fortune, a refurbished Series 4 is a great option.
Behringer Uphoria UM2
I record external audio an awful lot, and because of my two XLR microphones, I need 48v phantom power for them. Instead of buying a fancy-schmancy external recorder, I decided to take the cheap route and have my laptop/computer record everything. I picked up this Uphoria UM2 on eBay for £30, and you can get them on Amazon even cheaper now. It supplies power and signal from my PC to my microphone, and I can even plug it into my Donglebook Pro with the right adapter! It’s been rock solid and reliable for my hundreds of hours of use, and takes up little to no space at all.
On the very last day of 2019 I sold my 15-inch MacBook Pro because of its inability to act as a no-compromises laptop. My main concerns were with battery life and performance, two things that my recent purchase overcomes with ease.
My 16-inch Donglebook Pro also brings a much nicer keyboard to the mix — something that I didn’t realize I’d appreciate as much as I do. I now exclusively edit my Android Authority videos on this machine with Adobe Premiere Pro with no dramas whatsoever.
I’m fortunate enough to own a separate Windows machine to fulfill my gaming cravings, but for those looking for a workhorse computer that just so happens to be relatively thin and light, look no further than the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Even if it does cost a kidney or two.
LG 34UC97-S monitor
This is a pretty weird choice for monitor, since it’s old and outdated, but I got it on eBay for a great price. I’ve used 21:9 ultrawide Full HD monitors in the past, but I never realized just how great the aspect ratio would be with a Quad HD resolution.
To be clear, I’ve almost always had two to four monitors on my desk, but I’ve not once thought about needing a secondary monitor since owning this one. This 34-inch monitor covers almost my entire desk and provides a massive amount of screen real estate which is ideal for working on multiple projects at once. It’s like spreading out lots of papers on a large desk when working on something in-depth.
The plethora of ports also means that I can connect my laptop, and any system that I’m working on, to the monitor and switch between them with the superb display interface.
Apple AirPods Pro
I know what you’re thinking. “Wait a minute, I thought this was Android Authority?”. I know, I know, there are a fair few Apple products in this list, for two main reasons. For one, my job is to assess and analyze Google products. It can get a bit much at times and it’s nice to have a grounded perspective from both sides of the wall. Secondly, the seamlessness from device to device means that I don’t have to think about using the products — I just pick up and go.
Up until a little while ago, I was using some cheap Blitzwolf earphones that I found lacked a secure fit in my ears and didn’t do an amazing job at blocking out sound. After switching to the Pro’s I finally understand why AirPods are so popular. From the device-to-device transition to the brilliant ANC to the perfect fit without fatigue, these are my new favorite buds.
Sure, they lack the bass that I really enjoy and don’t have an equalizer for tuning, but I can look past those when everything else works so well. The eye-watering price tag is going to put a lot of prospective buyers off of these earphones, but I suffer from social anxiety and so being able to block the world out when leaving the house is invaluable.