Daniel's Favorite Tech of 2017
2017 was a great year for tech — and for drinking great coffee. Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy both.
Google Pixel 2
There have been many negative things written about Google's Pixel 2 since its October launch, but like many things on the internet, much of it is overblown or outright wrong. The reality is that, for me at least, the Pixel 2 is the best phone I've ever used. It does everything I need it to do, and does it quickly, reliably, and continuously for many hours at a time. Android 8.x and HTC's hardware combine for an unimpeachable experience: from solid call quality (on VoLTE) to consistent data speeds, excellent speaker sound, reliable Bluetooth and all the other things the initial Pixel was dinged for, I can't remember the last time I just picked up a phone and forgot about the phone. Except when I open the camera — then I remember how phenomenal Google's software is. At $649, this is a must-buy.
$649 Buy Now
Moto G5 Plus
While Motorola has offered great devices for less than its competitors for years now, the Moto G5 Plus stood out as an extraordinary move forward for the company. With an impressive spec sheet, excellent build quality and an outstanding camera for its $229 price, the Moto G5 Plus is my budget pick of the year. You can't go wrong with its slightly-beefier (but not much better IMO) Moto G5S Plus counterpart, too.
from $199 Buy Now
Netgear Orbi mesh router system
With just a main access point and a single satellite, the Netgear Orbi may not constitute a mesh router solution, but I'll be damned if it doesn't pass for one. In my house, which is taller and narrow, I went from unreliable, spotty 2.4GHz and non-existent 5GHz service anywhere but the main floor to gigabit speeds everywhere I went. The Netgear app isn't quite as good as Eero's, but here's the thing: I haven't had to reset the system once since installing it nine months ago. This system is a steal at $350.
$350 Buy now
I'm not a huge gamer, which is why the Nintendo Switch surprised even me with its multitudinous reasons to love it. I never dreamed that I'd be able to play games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Mario Odyssey on a plane, but here we are and — I'll be right back, gotta play — it's pretty remarkable. The best part about the Switch is that it's finally bringing some great third-party titles to Nintendoland, which is exciting for someone who would love to buy the kinds of innovative indie titles that grace PC, Xbox and PlayStation these days. Stardew Valley is a start, but let's keep it going!
$299 Buy now
Here's something you probably didn't know: most phones are losing their headphone jacks. Joking aside, those of us with lots of high-quality wired headphones have but two choices in a jackless world: buy Bluetooth headphones (which I've done — see below) or use a (shudder) dongle. Or use the third option: Bluewave GET. This Montreal-built accessory is a headphone amplifier that uses Qualcomm's AptX and AptX HD codecs to turn any pair of wired headphone into a relatively portable wireless one. Best of all, it allows high-impedance headphones (like my Sennheiser HD600s) to be used with smartphones that have piss-poor amplifiers. It's a win-win, especially for $99!
$99 Buy now
Ring Wi-Fi Video Doorbell Pro
Ring's connected doorbell, which alerts you when someone is by the front door and allows you to see and chat with the person on the other side, is absolutely incredible. A great app, inexpensive cloud subscription, and excellent video and audio quality, Ring has saved me from having to pick up a missed package at the post office more times than I can count. The Pro version, which requires a beefier 16V transformer and has no battery, supports 1080p video and 5GHz Wi-Fi in a slimmer body.
$229 Buy Now
I used Spotify in 2016, but I loved Spotify in 2017. Not only did the service itself improve but the Android app got some nice performance bumps, too. New features like Release Radar were exciting (not to mention custom playlists that I loved), and continuous playback made it better for ongoing background listening. Moreover, being able to stream Spotify on practically every speaker I own, thanks to Spotify Connect, reinforced my love for the service. Best $10 a month I spend.
from $10 Buy now
Espro Press (Large)
I prepare coffee in many different ways, but the Espro Press continues to be my go-to container for what I consider the best "pressed" coffee out there. While I love the production of a pour-over, a French press, done right, is all about convenience. The Espro Press has a much finer filter (well, two filters) than the average French press, eliminating the sediment you get from a Bodum while allowing for finer grounds, which extract more flavor (in my opinion) from a given bean.
$120 Buy now
Chemex Eight-cup coffee brewer
The other way I brew coffee is with a Chemex, and to this day I haven't found a coffee maker that extracts flavors as uniformly and deliciously than this glass marvel. You have to tweak the grind size to get it right, especially if you're using the company's paper filters, but I've yet to produce a better-tasting cup of coffee at home.
from $45 Buy Now
Sony WH1000XM2 noise-canceling headphones
I tried many noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones this year, and my favorite by far was the Sony WH1000XM2. They sound great, but more than anything they're extremely comfortable to wear for long periods, and for those long commutes or plane rides, the ANC is incredible. It's a competitive market, but Sony and Bose are at the top for a reason — and in my world, Sony wins.
$350 Buy now
No better service showcases the benefits of giving Google all of your personal information than Google Photos. I'm not being facetious, either: with Google, you have to acknowledge that you're giving up a significant amount of privacy when you sign up for its products. But the returns of doing so with Photos is clear: immaculate search that learns as you add more content; incredible editing tools; cross-platform access that maintains the same experience regardless of OS; and inexpensive storage for full-sized photos. The best part is that Google continues to improve Photos every year, so Assistant is smarter, search is faster (and doggier!), and I never have to worry about whether what has arguably become my most source of memories — my phone's photos — are going to be available to me.
Free See at Google
Continuing with the theme of convenience, the other service I couldn't live without is 1Password. In 2017, the company cleaned up its Android app and launched a native Chrome app, both of which made it much easier to live with the once Apple-focused subscription throughout Google's ecosystem. If you store anything of value, I highly recommend subscribing to 1Password.
from $3/mo Buy now
Booq Pack Pro backpack
Last year I had a Booq Saddle Pro laptop bag and this year I've switched to the more back-friendly Pack Pro backpack, and ... wow. This is easily the best backpack I've ever used, with plenty of internal space, a multitude of waterproof zippers, dedicated laptop and tablet sleeves, and two side pockets for water bottles. I recently took the ballistic nylon-covered Pack Pro on several planes and the shell, despite being shoved into various tight spaces, protected everything inside with aplomb. At $295, it's not cheap, but it's worth it.
$295 Buy now
Never has a film so perfectly distilled the naive confidence of a teenager than Greta Gerwig's perfect directorial debut. It's funny and beautiful and relatable and, best of all, repeat-watchable. I loved everything about it, including Saoirse Ronan's incredible performance as the titular Lady Bird.
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Anderson .Paak - Malibu
Anderson .Paak's sublime Malibu didn't actually come out this year, but I spent a good chunk of 2017 listening to it — over and over again. Half sexy R&B pop, half socially-conscious hip-hop, Malibu has some of the funkiest, intelligent music of the decade. Regardless of which directions the album's songs veer, one thing is consistent: .Paak is always optimistic in the face of trial. It's Malibu's happiness and hope that has kept it as this year's best album for me — more than a year after its debut.
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