I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I love gadgets. There has been a time in my life I accidentally landed with some surplus money, and while many people wiser than me would probably have invested said money in mutual bonds or stock portfolios, I invested in gadgets. One of those was the worst gadget I’ve ever bought – a set-top DVD burner. For use when you record TV shows and want to have them stored for a longer time. It cost me the equivalent of 1300 € ($1450).
But this post is not about my poor purchases (of which there are plenty) but about the better purchases. Things that I feel are valuable enough for me to keep around, and that spark joy when I use them.
Let’s start in order of preference! These are the gadgets I would buy again should they ever break:
1. Plantronics Voyager Focus UC
They don’t look like much but they are amazing. Essentially, it’s a Bluetooth headset with stellar audio quality, long battery life (15 hours) and great range (so I can wander around the house when on endless conference calls). Microsoft Teams is supported – of course – and they are lightweight and comfortable to use for longer periods of time. They can connect to two devices at the same time – say a mobile phone and a laptop/workstation – and switch automatically based on incoming calls.
I’ve had them for a little bit over a year now and on certain days I use them for 8 hours straight without realizing it. There is a bit of noise cancellation built-in, so in theory you could use them in a busy coffee shop also.
I knew I had made the right purchase when a colleague said to me in a meeting once, “Jussi, I could listen to your soothing radio voice for all day long.“
Cost: about $150 (Amazon)
2. Anker 10 Port 60W Data Hub
First impression is that it looks like a cheap, plastic USB hub. We’ve had these since everyone had their own email servers in their basement. I’m using a workstation PC at home, which is built in a full-sized tower chassis. Running USB cables behind the desk is messy so I went looking for a better solution.
The Anker Data Hub has 7 USB 3.0 ports and 3 PowerIQ charging ports. I use the charging ports for all things that need to be quickly charged – my phone, mouse, Kindle and similar. I use the other ports for connecting everything to the PC and running just one cable to the PC underneath the desk.
I’ve had this for about 8 months now and it just works.
Cost: about $42.99 (Anker)
3. Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD receiver
I had a few different TV receivers in my PCs way back in 1997 or around that time. They never worked great, recordings would become corrupt and subtitles never worked or were off-sync. I was very hesitant to invest a single cent to another disaster device, but I needed one.
Let me briefly explain my situation here. I run Plex, the greatest multimedia streaming platform that ever was. I run it on one of my PCs at home, it’s a fairly lightweight server with a dedicated GPU and the Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD receiver card. This way I can stream all of my movies and TV episodes in the house and when on the road on all devices I own. With the receiver card I can record terrestrial TV channels, including sports that are often available only in Finland.
Plex gives a great and very easy to use EPG, and I scan through the movies and TV episodes perhaps once a week and check the ones I need to record. Using the receiver card these are all automatically stored in my NAS and streamable through Plex automatically. Subtitles are stored (if they’re delivered through the original stream) and Plex is intelligent enough to pick them up on the fly elsewhere if needed.
And it also works for sports!
Therefore, using a simple receiver card I can plan weeks in advance what to record, and using Plex I can even sync those offline to my devices for later viewing. This is also the reason I do not have a Netflix, HBO or similar subscription.
Cost: $69.90 (Hauppauge Webstore)
4. Optoma NuForce uDAC
I hesitated for the longest of times before purchasing this. I wasn’t sure if I needed an external DAC (Digital Audio Converter) but the reviews I read assured me I wouldn’t regret this purchase. It’s a tiny box, that connects to your PC and bypasses the internal soundcard with something that is supposedly much better in terms of audio quality. I believe some people call this Hi-Fi.
I use this when I want to concentrate on writing and need to connect my headphones to the PC to play music on Spotify. The volume knob has just enough resistance to have that high quality premium feel and it’s a solid piece of brushed aluminum.
At times I don’t use it for weeks, and other times I feel like I’m using it every day. It’s simply indispensable.
The model I have is the uDAC2 which is already several years old. The newest model is the uDAC5 to which I’ve linked below.
Cost: $127.99 (Amazon)
5. Insmat 10W Fast Wireless Charger QI
Now that my phone supports wireless charging I wanted to see if that’s a convenient enough way for charging the phone at home. I chose the Insmat-branded charger, although I am sure there are many others as well. It connects to my Anker USB data hub through Micro-USB and works without a hitch.
Charge time is relatively slow compared to any of the fast chargers I can get for the phone. But convenience is amazing – just dropping the phone lazily on the small puck is magical. No inserting of cables and there’s a cute animation in the phone when it charges wirelessly.
Cost: About $30 (Insmat)
I might have missed a few indispensable gadgets I rely in my daily life, but these five are the ones I seem to be reaching out when working from my home office. Let me know if you’ve got other suggestions as I am always interested in what others are using!
I work with Azure and frequently write about my experiences. Former Microsoft Most Valuable Professional & Microsoft Regional Director, ex-MSFT. Based in Helsinki, Finland.