Like most people these days, we use a ton of tech devices. From smart speakers to laptops to smartphones, we use it all. Better yet, we've gotten or given a bunch of new tech over the holidays, too, and figured you might like to know what we actually use in our real lives. Here, then, are the tech gadgets, gear, and devices that we most love.
Echo Dot 3rd Gen
Just when you think everyone ‘already has one,’ you discover you know someone who doesn’t. The recipient of this gift was genuinely surprised to receive it and later told us that he particularly enjoyed listening to podcasts late at night and retrieving the daily news from it before getting out of bed each morning. —SE Slack, Senior Strategy & Editorial Director
ASUS Chromebook CX1
This little Chromebook was for my husband, who does normal, household tasks like paying bills online, shopping, watching YouTube, and general casual computing. He wanted something small and lightweight that he could carry around without fear of breaking it.
This computer fits the bill. It’s powerful enough for him to accomplish all his online tasks, has a 12-hour battery life, and syncs with all his Google stuff. As far as computers for non-tech geeks go, this one was a win. —Jerri Ledford, Senior News Editor
Fitbit Charge 5
I replaced my Fitbit Charge 4 with a Charge 5. As fitness trackers go, this one is brilliant! Like its predecessor, it accurately measures steps, distance, heart rate, and calories burned. The only drawback I can find is that it no longer measures elevation. Instead, you get a bunch of wellness trackers, including an ECG feature that lets you screen for signs of atrial fibrillation in just under a minute.
You can choose from 20 different exercises and add six to your device shortcuts so you can track your exercise with just a few taps on the Charge 5. You also get six months of Fitbit Premium for free, which offers additional articles, guided meditations, workouts, and support. To maximize your use of the Charge 5, join the Fitbit Community, where you can meet other people with the same health and fitness interests, as well as participate in challenges and adventures.
In short, I highly recommend this fitness tracker for athletes of all levels. —Tim Fisher, Senior Vice President & Group General Manager
I've owned several smart speakers over the years, including Amazon's Echo Dot, Google's Nest Audio, Google Show, and the Home Mini. Despite being all in on Apple's ecosystem (though I still use Google for email and calendar stuff), I never felt like dropping a ton of cash on a big HomePod, either.
After dismissing Amazon Echo speakers as like having an always-advertising smart assistant in my home, I settled on Google as the heir apparent. Sure, it was using my data to inform its advertising to me on the web, but every command wasn't accompanied by some sort of sales come on. The larger Google Nest Audio speaker sounded good, too, and worked just fine.
Until I got smart lights. See, the Google Home app could never really find my GE smart lights or my Phillips Hue lights. I had to go back to using an app to turn them off and on like a heathen.
When the HomePod Mini came out, I avoided getting one since, well, I was doing fine with Google. Then the various colors came out, and the yellow one matched my living room chair. And it was only $99.
I brought my new yellow smart speaker into my home, and three things happened. Suddenly, I could activate and dim my smart lights with my voice. Also, the smart doorbell I got worked with HomeKit, and the HomePod mini is a lovely little hub to run secure video to.
Better yet, this little soft yellow speaker sounds amazing for its size. Like, it's even better sounding than the much bigger Nest Audio speaker. The sound is surprisingly detailed and has a large frequency range; there's gotta be some magic in there.
I can bring my iPhone close to the speaker and transfer whatever's playing on it in either direction. I can ask Siri for a morning briefing, find out the weather, and check on traffic, like other speakers, but it all works just like Siri on my phone. This means less cognitive overhead for yet another system I interface with.
Ultimately, I bought a second HomePod mini for my bedroom because, wow, that sounds better than the Google Nest Hub I had in there. And here I am, in the new year, hoping that Apple brings back the big HomePod because I am a convert, 100%. —Rob LeFebvre, Associate Editorial Director, News
JBL Flip 5 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The teen recipient of this gift was ecstatic once she realized she could take this speaker straight into the shower with her to blast her Spotify playlist as loudly as possible. She also took it to the beach for a party with friends, so Mom and Dad scored big time with this gift. —SE Slack, Senior Strategy & Editorial Director
iFixit Screwdriver Set
If you tinker with tech, you likely need to get inside whatever it is that needs tinkering. This screwdriver set has every available bit you’ll need, and it comes with a handy tray to place your screws on so they don’t manage to roll away. Seriously, what more do you need? —Bob Schulties, Senior Editor
Gunnar Computer and Gaming Glasses
If you’re staring at your computer, phone, and tablet screens all day, eventually, it might take a toll on your eyes. Pick up a pair of these Gunnar glasses, then—the company claims they’ll reduce eye strain and the impact of blue light on your retinas. Heck, it can’t hurt, right? If nothing else, you’ll look pretty stylish while you manage those spreadsheets and shoot those aliens. —Kyree Leary, News Editor
Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra
I’ve wanted a tablet for a while, but as an Android user, I don’t want an iPad. (Blasphemy, I know.) I’m always reading reviews and Samsung’s tablets have gotten better over the last few years, so I asked Santa for the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. It’s huge, but still more comfortable to carry than any laptop I’ve owned.
The battery life also outshines my laptop which seems to run out right when I’m making the most fabulous edits to Lifewire articles. I love the S Pen–my handwriting is terrible so turning it into editable text is a huge convenience. I plan to use it for Zoom game nights with my extended family, reading tons of books, and the occasional bit of work when I want to get away from my desk. —Molly McLaughlin, Senior Content Strategist