By Joel Lee
We live in a world of consumer excess. With hundreds of new products hitting the market every year, it’s hard to believe that every single one of them is necessary — or even useful. In fact, tech is one area where consumers are extremely likely to suffer from buyer’s remorse.
But that doesn’t mean you should ignore all gadgets and devices. Even as gimmicks and pointless ideas abound, there are plenty of things you can buy that are tried, true, and proven to be valuable. Here are a few that won’t lead to disappointment.
1. Solid State Drive
When it comes to boosting PC performance, the first thing you should do is swap out your hard disk drive for a solid state drive (SSD). This change alone can turn a one-minute bootup sequence into one that takes 5 seconds or less. SSDs also help with file transfer and app launch times — whereas Photoshop or Word may normally take a while to open, it happens in a flash with an SSD.
2. External Data Drive
The importance of data backups cannot be overstated. What makes a drive failure so catastrophic? The fact that you didn’t see it coming. That it happens in the blink of an eye and leaves you devastated before you can even process what happened. And yes, data loss is a catastrophe.
You can use cloud storage as a backup method, but we don’t recommend it for files that are sensitive or large (i.e., music, videos, photos, game development files, and so on). For these, choose an external data drive instead.
There are a few things to look for in a good drive for data backups, but the most important aspects are total capacity, longevity, reliability, and price. Hard drives tend to make better backup drives than SSDs because they’re cheaper, larger, and last longer.
3. Mechanical Keyboard
Most keyboards are membrane keyboards, which use rubber or silicone membranes under each key that must be depressed to complete a circuit and register the keypress. The keys on a mechanicalkeyboard complete the circuit using a spring-based switch system instead of membranes.
The benefits of this are three-fold. Mechanical keyboards have much better tactile feedback, so typing is more comfortable and pleasing. They last much longer, because switches are significantly more durable than membranes. And membrane keyboards are limited in how many keys can be pressed at once, while mechanical keyboards can register many simultaneous keys.
4. Second Workstation Monitor
As of this writing, I’m stuck with nothing more than an iMac and a Chromebook, but there was a time in my life when I had a double monitor setup — and not a day goes by where I don’t yearn for that setup again. You won’t believe how much it can boost productivity until you try it out yourself.
But nothing beats the actual experience of having a second physical monitor. If you regularly do work on a computer and you’ve never gone beyond a single monitor, you must try this as soon as possible.
5. Convertible Standing Desk
Obviously it’s impractical to have two workstations (though feel free to do that if you can manage it). The solution is to use a convertible standing desk, such as a FlexiSpot Adjustable Standing Desk (UK). You can find cheaper ones, but this one is built well, ergonomic, and spacious. If you decide to go with another one, get one with a keyboard tray to encourage good posture habits.
Modern Chromebooks are amazing, especially ones labeled “for Work” which are designed for maximum robustness and performance. But even regular Chromebooks, which rarely cost more than $350, are well worth their price. These days, most users would actually be happier with a Chromebook than with a tablet, laptop, or desktop.
There are a few caveats, though. First, Chromebooks only support web apps and cloud-based services, so they become useless when you don’t have an internet connection. Second, you need to plug yourself into Google’s ecosystem to get the most out of a Chromebook. Third, you can’t install regular Windows or Mac apps, so Chromebooks aren’t good for professional use.
But if all you do is check email and browse the web, and if you’re happy enough with Google’s online office suite and the apps available on the Chrome Web Store, then a Chromebook is perfect for you.
7. Streaming Media Device
More people are starting to cut the cord and give up on overpriced cable television packages. Why pay over $100 every month for hundreds of channels you never watch when you can pay anywhere from $10 to $50 for on-demand access to shows you’ll enjoy watching?
We’re talking about services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, and others. And here’s the good news: you can actually stream these shows directly to your TV. All you need is one of these streaming media devices to transform your TV into an all-in-one media center.
I personally recommend a Roku; either the streaming stick (UK) or the full-blown media player. They’ll both serve you well. That being said, you can’t go wrong with a Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV. They all work in the same way: plug into your TV, sit back, and enjoy.
In retrospect, it’s easy to see how revolutionary the Kindle actually was. Even die-hard book lovers are starting to fall in love with the Kindle’s convenience, and now that there are several different Kindle models available, there’s no excuse to forego it if you like to read.
Obviously, you can skip this if you have no desire to read at all. On the other hand, if you’re an avid reader with a mind for maximum comfort and readability, consider getting a Kindle Oasis. For middle-of-the-road readers, a basic Kindle (UK) or Kindle Paperwhite (UK) will be more than enough.
9. Smart Home Thermostat
Believe it or not, there is a right way to heat and cool your home for maximum savings on energy and money, and most people are doing it wrong. That’s why smart thermostats have exploded in popularity over the last few years: they actually do what they promise!
We previously said that you’ll probably regret smart home gadgets, but this is an exception. A smart thermostat learns your temperature preferences and then adjusts itself to maximize comfort while minimizing waste. (Note that you’ll need to own your home to install one of these. Sorry, apartment dwellers.)
As far as smart thermostats go, you should look into the two main contenders: the Nest Smart Thermostat (UK) and the Ecobee3 Smarter Thermostat. We did a Nest vs. Ecobee3 thermostat comparison in the past, so check that out if you aren’t sure which one to get.
10. Moisture Sensors
If there’s one other smart home device that you buy, let it be a moisture sensor. It goes by different names depending on which smart brand you purchase, but they all operate on the same basic principle: you place the sensor in a leak-prone area and it will alert you when it detects moisture.
Why is this a good buy? Because you can get individual sensors for between $20 to $40, and you can place as many as you want around your house, but most importantly, they can prevent your house from sustaining severe water damage in the case of, say, a broken water pipe.
Water damage can be expensive to repair, so think of these moisture sensors as a form of insurance. Investing just $100 up front for three sensors could save you thousands of dollars in damage later.
11. Light Therapy Lamp
As of this writing, close to 10 percent of the American population suffers from seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called seasonal depression or winter depression. Symptoms may mimic those of depression or burnout; feelings of emptiness or hopelessness, fatigue, restlessness, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, loss of interest in activities, and more.
But even if you don’t suffer from this, your mental health may still benefit from a particular gadget called the Philips Wake-Up Light (UK). The Wake-Up Light simulates the gradual brightening of a sunrise and combines it with natural sounds to wake you up as naturally as possible. It’s a shining example of how technology can improve day-to-day life. No more sleep-shattering alarms!
Avoiding Disappointment as a Tech Geek
Perhaps the most common source of buyer’s remorse is being an early adopter. We’ve covered several reasons why being an early adopter is a bad idea, including the fact that early adopters often pay the highest price, don’t have the luxury of hearing other users’ experiences, and tend to be victims of marketing hype.
What have you purchased in the last few years that you don’t regret one bit? Or, on the flipside, have you bought anything that you intensely regret? Share with us in a comment below!
Image Credits: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock Source: www.makeuseof.com