I love technology and gadgets, and while many are disappointing, there are a few I'd recommend and use daily.
I'm going to classify this post as 2021 as I haven't bought anything new in 2022 and this will cover what I own for the end of the year.
Streamdeck - $139
I really love the Streamdeck, it is a device that sits on my desk and connects to my computer via USB. While it is primarily designed for streamers, you can customize it to launch applications, change volume, skip songs, and adjust settings.
I primarily use it to start/stop my music as my keyboard doesn't have multimedia keys. I also have one button updating every few seconds with the current bitcoin price. It also launches different applications and in some games I have custom hotkeys assigned to it.
It is a bit expensive and they have a newer XL version that has 30 buttons instead of 15 buttons. It does come in handy though, and I love how easily it is to modify it and update the button display images.
Western Digital 5TB Portable Hard Drive - $99
While not the fastest drive you can, it is fast enough to act as a backup drive that can easily be rotated off site. In my experience the drive performs around 105MB/s - 120MB/s and is completely powered off the USB port.
This drive is awesome for desktop and laptop backups allowing you to easily get your backup off your machine. I am very particular about backups and I always maintain at least three copies of my data: live, backup, offsite. I recommend having at least two copies of your data onsite. These drives are cheap, small, and fast enough for typical backups.
If your daily backup cannot fit on a 5TB drive, I would recommend other options.
Backblaze - $7/month
Speaking of backups, I have used Backblaze for a long time as my off-site backup solution. For only $7/month for unlimited storage, it is an amazing deal. Although you can save even more money paying for two years at a time for $130 for a monthly price of around $5.41.
My favorite thing about Backblaze is they will ship out a USB hard drive for $189 with your backup on it, and if you return it within 30 days you get a complete refunded on the drive.
Another thing I love about Backblaze is their custom pods you see in the above picture. They sometimes sell and give these away if you are lucky enough to get some of their old versions. The best part of it though is their transparent reports where they report on how every drive performed based on manufacturer and model. This gives the community amazing data insights on hardware quality every year when they do their reports.
Although I am a big fan of Backblaze, I do not like their recovery options. The shipped drive is great and I would likely use this in an emergency, the day to day recoveries are done via the website and you download a zip file. The application doesn't have the ability to browse your backups and recover files. This isn't a deal breaker for me as I never need to recover and this is only for last ditch effort. When I have tested it though, I would have preferred it to be handled on the local app. In the end it isn't a big deal, just not ideal.
Do not ignore backups!
Zacurate Pro Pulse Oximeter - $24
As I recently got Covid, I picked up an O2 sensor to make sure my blood is staying oxygenated. This decide is the most popular device on Amazon and works amazingly well. It will give your oxygen and pulse reading within about 10 seconds. As long as you have it on your finger it will continuously update.
I am unable to vouch for how accurate it is, and the directions clearly say it isn't a medical device and is only to be used for sports to get a relative reading. I suspect it is fairly accurate though despite the cover your ass warnings.
Sony A80J 77" XR OLED - $2,900
This is the most extreme gadget I'm going to recommend on my list. I've been wanting to replace my TV for a while as I didn't have HDR and to be honest HDR is far more impressive than 4K.
I decided to take a big step up and get the best TV for this size, and boy am I happy that I did. The difference from my previous 60" 4K (No HDR) tv is absolutely amazing. The color is breath taking and the details in dark scenes is fantastic. It also includes a Netflix calibration mode when using the built-in Netflix app to ensure you are watching with the settings intended by the producer.
Our "playroom" we use for watching TV isn't the biggest (10'x13') which greatly limits my options, but I wanted something that would fill the wall more than our 60" did and I really wanted HDR.
One of the nice things about this TV is the operation system isn't slow like many smart TVs so I am able to replace my Nvidia shield device for Plex, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, and other streaming services.
Wall mounting this was a challenge but I was able to use my previous wall mount without a problem after repositioning it. It is easily held up with a $30 wall mount from Walmart.
I got my previous tv really cheap on sale and had it for a few years, with how busy I have been in crypto lately I haven't had as much time to watch movies and TV as I would like, and I wanted to get something that was a significant upgrade to what I already had.
Google Nest Thermometers - $230
A really easy smart home upgrade you can do on your own is Smart Thermometers. I went the Nest route as it is kind of the defacto standard for this. I really love the look of them and the fact I can just use my phone to adjust them. Installation takes about 5 -10 minutes and it is easy to do yourself.
When we bought our current house, the first thing we did was put in central air. At the time they installed their own thermostat which was independent of the heating system. A Nest allowed me to easily combine them into one smart thermostat. I did have to have my electrican move the wires of the heating system to the same location of the central air so they can be combined to one device.
While they do claim to be learning thermostats, I find they are not as smart as they make themselves out to be. I tend to prefer just keeping it at a set temperature and change it as needed. Although I do like how it will conserve energy when you are not in the house.
One thing I think is a missed opportunity with these devices is the lack of oil monitoring which you will see in my next gadget.
Wireless Oil Monitoring - $170
If you have oil heating, this device is a life saver. It attaches to your oil tank and monitors your oil level to a remote device that plugs into any outlet (typically your kitchen).
This allows you to easily tell how much oil you have, in the cold part of the US this is a life saver. Using a device like this allows you to call for oil as needed, typically giving you better pricing than signing up for regular delivery.
As mentioned above, this would have been ideally integrated into smart thermostats but they still haven't got the memo.
Double Lined Water Bottle - $25
While this may be a stretch for "technology or gadget", I absolutely love these water bottles. I drink a lot of water daily and I can't drink water that isn't ice cold. These bottles will keep ice from melting in water for 1-2 days. They are absolutely amazing if you are picky like me with water temperature. I have two 40 oz I fill on a daily basis at least once.
I used to use Nalgene plastic water bottles and fill them 1/3rd with water and freeze them. This worked ok provided you drank it before all the ice melted.
These dual lined bottles are absolutely amazing. There are a ton of brands who sell them on Amazan and they all work similarly. Hydro Cell are a little cheaper and have a nice selection of colors including two tones and are cheaper than the big brands like Hydroflask and Yeti. Being gifted a 20oz Yeti in a gift swap a few years ago is what got me into these.
Crock-Pot Multi-Cooker - $150
We love to use a crock pot to make pulled pork and other meals, especially during big get togethers. Unfortunately most crock pots suck and they don't always last. We have gone through a few crock pots in the last 10 years. After the last one broke, I was looking for a good replacement and came across this device.
At the time, it was pretty expensive at around $150 compared to a typical $25-50 crock pot, but it went on sale for $85 at one point and I picked it up due to the great reviews.
It can act as a crock pot, sterilizer (think baby bottles), pressure cooker, saute cooking, and steaming. It is a lot more than just a crock pot, although that's mainly what we use it for.
We have used it a few times and it has worked great. Our replacement crock pot didn't come to temperature well and took forever to do what our previous ones did, and the lid didn't stay locked down.
You can tell this is well made as it is built like a tank and feels very heavy duty. It is also 10 quarts which is almost twice the size of most crock pots.
While it looks really complicated it is pretty easy to use and does a fantastic job. We have only used it for crock pot meals, but I want to try some of the other features. If my son was younger, I would likely have loved the sterilization features of it.
If you can catch one of these on sale for under $100, it's a great investment. Looks like the model we got is no longer sold on Amazon and I'm not sure if there is a replacement but we are very happy with this.
Automatic Cat Feeder - $76
We got this for around $66 but it has gone up by about $10 since then. I absolutely love this thing, our cat is a very hungry kitty and this allows us to give her a very portioned amount of food daily without any thought.
This allows us to give her treats knowing she has a very calculated diet outside of the treats. Our cat is always hungry and always looking for food, and when we got her she was almost 14lbs, which is pretty large for a cat but not outrageous. We have managed to get her down to about 12 lbs while still being able to give her treats through the day during interactions.
One thing I love about this feeder is the ability to spread her food throughout the day so she is not eating once or twice then starving all day. This is probably the biggest benefit of this feeder.
She does hover around it and runs to it when we come near hoping she will get fed.