Top 10 Superior Tech Products You’ll Never Go Back From

Lifehacker’s editor-in-chief Whitson Gordon recently published this list-form article (Lifehacker: Top 10 Superior Tech Products You’ll Never Go Back From) which I enjoyed. I share the specific products that I own in each category below.

10. A Quality Pair of Headphones

High-end headphones are one of those things you don’t think you need until you’ve been spoiled by them (warning: ignorance is bliss).

I owned many pairs of Sennheiser headphones before I finally bought the Sennheiser HD 650 (~$400, Amazon.com) in October 2012. My first Sennheisers were purchased back in 2005 – a pair of Sennheiser HD212 Pro’s – and I fell in love with their detailed sound ever since.

9. A Mechanical Keyboard

Membrane keyboards are fine, but mechanical keyboards […] are still kings in terms of durability, feel, and usability (not to mention ergonomics). You’ll still be able to use membrane keyboards after trying a mechanical…but you won’t want to.

I use a Monoprice gaming keyboard MP-G9 at my main computing setup. Mine is fairly basic, and it lacks backlighting. It features Cherry MX Black switches, which require a fair amount of pressure to bottom out. I bought this keyboard in August 2012 and haven’t looked back.

I found that the trick to typing fast with a mechanical keyboard was to avoid bottoming out the keys. It look some time and self-awareness to get to the point where I can roll my fingers across the keys smoothly. Now that I’ve gone to a mechanical keyboard, I’m curious to try all the Cherry MX switches 🙂

8. Better Third-Party Apps

Some “default” apps will never be overthrown, but in a lot of cases, you’ll get more features, nicer design, and more with a good third-party app. […] Third-party apps don’t usually cost a lot, but they can cost more than their (usually free) official counterparts. There’s not much you can do if you don’t want to pony up the $2, though—unless there’s a good open source alternative available.

I use Rockbox on my iPod Video 5G, Evernote in lieu of Apple’s Notes application, FreeNAS on my home server. I run custom firmware on my Sony PSP Go. I’ve been recommended DuoKan for the Amazon Kindle. Hey — I should do a writeup of my essential computing applications.

7. A Solid-State Drive

A solid-state drive (or SSD) is essentially a hard drive that is much faster than traditional spinning platter drives. It is the best upgrade you can make to your computer.

I upgraded my 2007 MacBook Pro 15.4″ to a 120GB Kingston HyperX 3K SSD, SH103S3/120G in early 2013, and it breathed new life into the old machine. I was already running 4GB of DDR2, the maximum that the motherboard would allow. The internal hard drive had once been upgraded from the factory 160GB 5400RPM drive to a 500GB 5400RPM drive, which resulted in marginally faster read/write operations owing to the increased data density.

The mid-2011 MacBook Air 11″ that I use daily shipped with a 128GB SSD. I love it.

Another worthwhile investment for anyone running a RAM-limited Windows machine (running Vista and newer) is a good USB flash drive to leverage Windows ReadyBoost.

6. Voice Control

Not everything is better with voice, but complicated tasks like setting reminders, converting units, and even performing simple searches are much, much faster with Google Now (or Siri). … Once you get used to talking to your phone, you’ll realize how awesome it is—and never make reminders the old way again.

I’m a little behind on this one, as I’m back to using an iPhone 4 (my iPhone 5 died of water damage). However, I’ve used Siri to dictate messages in the past, and it’s splendid. It’s a little awkward talking to a machine at first, but one grows accustomed to it quickly. The fact that you don’t have to be caught swiping on a glass screen like a fool is a benefit.

5. A Quality Bag

Bags are one area in which you definitely get what you pay for: a truly quality bag will not only come with convenient features (like, say, a TSA-compliant laptop pocket) but will also last you a lifetime.

I’ve been a long-time buyer of Samsonite products. I picked up a Samsonite TSA-certified laptop bag some years back. While the man-made material that covers the carry handle has mostly flaked off, there’s no questioning the utility of a TSA-certified bag. I prefer a messenger bag over a backpack for style points.

4. USB 3.0

Because it’s really, really fast. It’s 10 times faster than USB 2.0. Once you’ve used it for some of those bigger file transfers, USB 2.0 will just feel like molasses.

I’m not a big user of USB 3.0, primarily because my main computers don’t support it. I do make use of alternative interfaces. For instance, my mid-2007 Apple MacBook Pro 15.4″ gets used periodically because of its FireWire 800 port, which far outclassed the USB 2.0 standard. I own three LaCie Quadra D2 external hard drive enclosures, which have been daisy-linked via FW800 in the past.

Come to think of it, that’s one major point that makes FireWire more attractive than USB 3.0. Thunderbolt also allow daisy-chaining, and it looks to be here to stay for Mac users.

I will be upgrading hardware as the need arises. I suppose I could always leverage the Thunderbolt connector, which has double the throughput of USB 3.0, but…

3. A DSLR or MILC Camera

The best camera is the one you have with you—but the second best camera is a real, quality DSLR. You’ll be shocked at how much better your pictures are, even without manual controls—and if you know what you’re doing, there’s no picture you can’t snap.

I’m a little torn on this one. I love my Nikon D300. I bought the beast back in March 2009, and it’s gone everywhere with me. It is a very purpose-built photo-capturing machine. At the same time, it draws attention. I picked up a Fujifilm X10, a retro-looking point-and-shoot, which I started taking around in lieu of the D300. The DSLR is a terrific tool, but it’s something that you have to plan around when going places. DSLRs will always have their place in the hands of professional photographers.

I do intend to write some articles to document my learning with DSLRs in due course. Looking back through the photos that I’ve taken, I can confidently say that I am happy to have added a DSLR to my possessions.

2. Inexpensive Cables

[…] instead of paying more for higher quality, you can pay less for…well, the same quality (usually). There are exceptions, of course—some cables may be more durable than others—but chances are, the $40 cables at Best Buy are a waste of your money, and once you’ve tried the quality cables from a place like Monoprice, you’ll never buy the overpriced crap again.

Yes. The only fancy cable that I own is a 10′ Cardas Quadlink ‘Silent Terminators’ cable, which came with my Sennheiser HD 650 headphones. For everything else, I go with AmazonBasics or Monoprice. Truly technical individuals can even build their own cables, but I don’t do this because I have drawers full of cables already (and I’m only 25!)

1. A Desktop PC

[…] this may be a more controversial one, but hear me out: Desktop PCs do almost everything better than laptops, except travel. A mouse is better than a trackpad, a real keyboard is better than a condensed chiclet keyboard, you can get more powerful parts, use bigger monitors, and benefit from better ergonomics—all at a lower price. In fact, if you play your cards right, you can buy a desktop and a laptop for as much as many people would spend on one PC. So if you have the room in your house, it’s well worth the investment, and hard to give up once you’ve gotten used to it (especially if you build your own).

I presently own three laptops and two desktop machines. I have a complete motherboard, CPU, and memory sitting in my closet from my retired crypto-currency mining rig. I agree that a good desktop is a solid computing investment: I built my first desktop back in 2004, and I keep it around to this day (though it has been beefed up!). It’s remarkably easy to build a computer by yourself. I believe that the two most difficult parts of the enterprise are:

  1. Selecting the components
  2. This has gotten worlds easier with tools like PCPartPicker.com. I keep up to date with hardware releases by following tech websites like [H]ard|OCP and AnandTech.com. Discussion forums are also a Godsend.

  3. Implementing proper cable management
  4. Take it or leave it: this can easily yield returns of 10% on your cooling setup, but it takes some time to get it done right