Our Top Five High-Tech Gadgets to Improve Your Life Now

Written by | Lifestyle

Poweradd Wall Charger

As we say goodbye to 2017, I wanted to share with you some of the tech that I’ve personally bought and used this year that has added quality to my life. Looking for holiday tech gifts? If I didn’t already have these, they would definitely be on my list for Santa.

The Briefcase

Since 2001, every laptop I’ve owned has been protected by a WaterField Designs product. Up until this year, I’ve used their basic form-fitted sleeves, designed to hug and protect the laptop when placed in a backpack or tossed it into my carry-on luggage. This year though, I decided to go for a style upgrade. I ditched the backpack and picked up their Bolt Briefcase instead.

The Bolt briefcase comes in several style combos. I chose the waxed canvas with black leather, but its options include ballistic nylon and either chocolate or grizzly leather accents. The leather also adds a touch of style — not to mention added protection at the base and comfort on the handles.

The interior contains a padded laptop sleeve, a slot with a soft lining designed to not scratch the screen of a tablet, and two interior pockets for smaller items like chargers and cables. The large main compartment still leaves room for a large water bottle, lunch or whatever else you want to bring along. The whole interior is also made with a patterned reflective orange material that illuminates the inside of the bag so you can easily see everything in there. It’s just one of the nice touches that speaks to WaterField’s attention to detail.

Bolt Briefcases

Bolt Briefcases

There’s a luggage loop on the back to easily attach your bag to a carry-on roller handle and a wide open-topped pocket for magazines or newspapers. On the front are two pockets with tabs that magnetically close for your phone and wallet along with larger zippered pocket for easy and secure storage. Add in splash resistant main zippers and a sturdy padded removable shoulder strap, and you’ve got a versatile goes-with-anything bag — which is perfect, because you’ll take it everywhere. The made-in-America Bolt ranges from $269 for the small size to $299 for the large. It’s the Goldilocks of bags. Everything is just right (it even fits vertically under an airplane seat to preserve your precious leg room). Find the right size for you and see other styles at sfbags.com

The Headphones

Bose’s noise cancelling headphones have been around for some time now, but it wasn’t until the Quiet Comfort 35 came out that I took the plunge. Why did I finally buy them? And why should you?

First, they’re the only Bluetooth headphones I’ve encountered that work and sound as good as wired headphones. There’s no static or interference and no cords to tangle or worry about. They can connect to two devices simultaneously, so they seamlessly switch between music on my phone and video conferencing on my computer. They have playback and volume controls and a microphone for making voice calls and issuing voice commands to your phone.

Second, the noise cancellation is fantastic. Whether I’m in a noisy open office environment, at the gym, or on mass transit, all the background noise fades into the background. It’s also better for my hearing: I can play music at lower volumes since I’m not trying to compensate for external noise. The downloadable Bose Connect app lets you customize the headphones still further and updates often bring new features. The latest update allows you to control the intensity of the noise cancellation, so you can tweak how isolated you want to be.

Lastly, these are comfortable all day long. With ear cushions and a padded headband, 80% of my day the Bose headphones are either on my head or around my neck ready to be put back on. Widely available at retailers and online for $329. They’re pricey, but it’s true what they say: silence truly is golden.

Bose Headphones

Bose Headphones

The Power Bank

Powerbanks are useful because you can plug in any of your devices that use USB to charge whether you’re away from home or just out on the deck or patio and not near a traditional wall outlet.

I chose the RAVPower USB C Power Bank 26800 PD Portable Charger because its packs a lot of power in a small form. The 26800mAh battery capacity can fully charges an iPhone ten times, a Samsung six times, or an iPad Air twice. The USB-C port will also charge a Nintendo Switch or power (but not really charge) the latest generation MacBooks to extend their hours of use. It also offers two standard USB ports for everything else. Find out more at ravpower.com; it’s available for $59.99.

The Wall Charger

The Poweradd 5-Port/40W USB Type C Wall Charger solves a different power-related problem that often occurs even when I am near a power outlet — so much that I actually bought two: one for home and one for my office. With my tablet, phone, headphones and smartwatch to charge every day, my desk and nightstand were a messy mass of power cables and charging bricks. Working like a tradiUSB hub — but for power only, the Poweradd can use a single power outlet to charge four USB devices and one USB–C device.

I replaced my phone and tablet this year and noticed they were taking forever to charge. That’s because as phones and tablets get bigger, they need more current to charge. The 40 watt Poweradd charger will generally charge devices much faster than either the ports on your computer or the factory-issue plug sold with the device. They’re affordable at $22.99. Learn more at ipoweradd.com.

The Smart Oven

I actually did buy what may at first glance appear to be a simple toaster oven. Already have a toaster and an oven? Hear me out, because you still might want to make space for the Breville Smart Oven Air in your kitchen. I hated my kitchen appliances. My toaster burned everything and couldn’t fit my favorite bagels. My oven took forever to heat up, my microwave made everything soggy, and the deep fryer was really affecting my waistline. The Breville Smart Oven Air has replaced them all and fixed my kitchen woes. I use it several times every day.

What makes the Breville Smart Oven Air such a workhorse is that it does a lot of things exceptionally better than the traditional appliances mentioned above. Toast and bagels are evenly browned and spot-on every time. Its small size makes it convenient for baking and roasting small portions faster and with quicker heating times via convection that circulates air, reducing cooking time.

There are many variations of this type of oven, but the Air is what you want. It contains an “Air Fryer” setting, so you can get the crispiness and speed of a deep fryer without the added fat and calories of the oil. The convection feature cooks chicken and other meat faster so it retains more of those delicious juices. It also slays pizza — providing both crispy crusts and perfectly melted cheese.

With the Smart Oven Air, you get the convenience of a microwave with the flavor and browning of a traditional oven. Its six heating elements are managed by an assortment of presets to direct the heat in the most optimal configuration for whatever type of cooking is on your menu. Especially if you’re often cooking for only one or two diners, the Smart Oven Air saves time, uses much less energy and your tastebuds will thank you. In addition, when you host larger groups, it makes a great secondary oven for sides or a dessert. It won’t fit in a stocking, but you’ll want to make space for it on your counter. Available for $399 at Williams Sonoma.

Last modified: November 23, 2017