Why I got a Kindle and set a goal to read 24 books in 2017
For several years I relied upon my Dell UP2718Q 4K display; originally described in my 2018 article, Building a Lightroom PC. At the time it was a great 27" monitor with both Mac and PC support, 4K resolution and impressive color accuracy. It served me well.
I had always kept my eye on the new computer displays ever since then but the options for non-gaming displays continued to feel stagnant. There weren't any new traditional 5K panels, just lots of ultrawide 5K displays being introduced. The LG 5K remained the only other good contender if your machine could run 5K over Thunderbolt 3 and you didn't mind the ridiculously glossy, reflective display and dull aesthetics.
Then the 32-inch Retina 6K Apple Pro Display XDR was announced. I could rattle off the long list of specs but I'd prefer to just keep it simple and only mention the ones really important to me: 6K resolution, nano-texture matte glass, 1000/1600 nits with full P3 wide color gamut, as well as the stunning design and simplicity of it with just one cable to charge and run from my 16" MacBook Pro.
The problem with running 4K on my prior 27-inch display was that I always had to be running a scaled resolution to be able to see things large enough to interact with. Running at the native 3840x2160 was possible but everything was impossibly tiny. With the XDR, there's more resolution and a physically larger display, so this is less of a problem.
Of course, the Retina 2x mode is only 3008x1692 on the XDR, so when I find myself wanting more screen real estate and am okay with sacrificing some sharpness, I use SwitchResX to move to a 3840x2160 scaled resolution.
The size: After the typical lovely unboxing with Apple's insane attention to detail, I found myself looking at a huge XDR display on my desk. I had never been in front of such a large computer monitor. It honestly took about a week to get used to the size. It felt like I more actively had to move my neck around to look at the whole screen.
The simplicity: Setup was a breeze and I can't stress how refreshing it was to take down my older monitor and all of its required cables. The XDR just needs power and one single Thunderbolt 3 cable. The integrated USB-C hub in the XDR takes care of accessories I need like my webcam, security key and Logitech USB dongle for mice.
The impressive nano-texture glass: My Dell display was matte but I still couldn't use it in my living room when I had a light on behind me. The glare was too annoying for doing any real work. That's not an issue at all with the nano-texture Pro Display XDR. I'm incredibly impressed with its performance in a variety of lighting conditions.
There were, however, some concerns as well. First off, I did notice a kind of vignetting with the display and have heard this directly from a few other XDR owners. Not a traditional vignetting where the corners are darker, but more so stemming from my field of view. Looking at parts of the screen that are not directly in front of my field of view felt slightly darker but appear normal as I move my head closer to them or moved further back.
Another significant concern is with the nano-texture glass. It requires a special cleaning cloth and cannot be cleaned by any other means. I'm just very worried that one day I will accidentally splash coffee on it, sneeze on it or something else and it won't be easy to clean and will leave permanent splotches on the screen. The manual says nothing about ever using any liquid to clean the display so I'm not sure how I might safely remove any liquids that splash on it. So for now, I remain 100% paranoid about using liquids near the XDR.
That being said, the special cleaning cloth is very effective. I had one fingerprint on the side from adjusting the position of the display that I was worried it wouldn't be able to clean (fearing my finger oils maybe seeped in) and the cloth instantly cleaned it with one light swipe.
Overall, I'm thoroughly impressed with this display and it's exactly what I was looking for. Is it overkill for someone that uses it for hobbyist photography and design and development needs? Definitely. I'm not putting it to its full potential as I rarely have a use for things like its reference modes, though other functionality like True Tone is incredibly convenient and easy on the eyes when not doing any color-sensitive work.
It's not possible to talk about the Pro Display XDR without bringing up the price. Yes, it's ridiculously expensive when comparing it to what an all-around good computer monitor usually costs: $800-1200. With the nano-texture option, the stand, Apple Care (with a display like this, you absolutely want it) and tax, the XDR weighs in at just over $8,150 USD.
I was able to purchase it for considerably less with the help of an employee friend discount as well as receiving 6% back from using my Apple Card during a holiday promo. I think it's worth it—especially for something I will hopefully be using for the better part of a decade—but that's understandably a very personal decision. I also, admittedly, place a lot of value in its physical aesthetics.
I also needed to get a webcam since the XDR, meant for professionals that would likely be mounting several of these together in a studio, does not have one. I had an old Logitech webcam for many years and used that for a bit but it wasn't great: the mounting bracket was too deep for the XDR's thin bezel and would touch and hide part of the screen.
The only Apple-endorsed solution was a special edition of the Brio 4K called the Logitech 4K Pro for XDR. The case design is a little different and it comes with a short USB-C cable that's the perfect length.
Logitech 4K Pro Webcam for Pro Display XDR
4K webcam with a magnetic mount and perfectly-sized USB-C cables.
However, the 4K Pro is not without its faults. For some reason it just does not work with Google Chrome where I would exclusively want to use it for Hangouts/Meet video conferencing. The old Brio had a similar issue that ended up getting resolved so I'm hoping it's just a software fix away.
While I do most of my casual daily computing on my iPad Pro, I turn to my MacBook Pro for the heavy lifting like photo editing and web development.
I have gone through phases over the years, oscillating between having a powerful desktop computer and an ultra-portable laptop like the 12-inch MacBook to having a more powerful all-around laptop and an even more powerful desktop computer.
Most recently my only laptop was a 14" Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon. With a quad-core processor, excellent keyboard, a bright 500 nit IPS display with 100% AdobeRGB coverage and a total weight of only 2.5lbs, it was the perfect compromise for photo editing on the go. Not to mention the integrated LTE modem that came in handy on trips with my Google Fi SIM card. I had originally gone with a Windows laptop to simplify Lightroom catalog sharing with my desktop Windows PC, since remote volumes—like my NAS—use different paths between macOS and Windows.
Eventually I ordered the Apple Pro Display XDR and found myself in need of a way to drive it before it arrived. There were two turn-key solutions: get a new MacBook Pro or a Mac Pro. Other solutions involved doing some gymnastics to upgrade my desktop PC (or hackintosh it) to support the display. I'm still interested in upgrading my desktop computer to take on the task of running the XDR but that will have to come later.
I ended up going with a 16" MacBook Pro with the upgraded 8-core Intel Core i9 CPU, 32GB RAM, a 2TB SSD and the upgraded Radeon Pro 5500M 8GB GPU. It's a fantastic machine and I find the updated keyboard to be a great improvement (though by no means perfect).
I have not used this machine much ever since I got the Apple Pro Display XDR. The PC won't work with the XDR as-is. I think it's possible to get it to drive the XDR but may require a new motherboard, a Thunderbolt 3 add-in card, a larger case to accomodate the larger motherboard needed for the extra PCIe slot and a new case to fit everything.
Drivers for the XDR exist in the Apple Boot Camp drivers and I think it should be possible to extract them to Windows with brigadier but it hasn't been updated in years and I have yet to try. However, even if that worked, I'm not sure the USB functionality like brightness control would work, nor would the XDR's integrated USB 3 hub operate as intended.
It's more feasible to get all XDR functionality when running the PC as a hackintosh with macOS. But for that to work well I would likely also need an AMD graphics card instead of my Nvidia RTX card.
In short: While my 8-core 16-inch MacBook Pro is a fast machine, there could always be faster with a desktop machine. I'd like to get a desktop computer to work with the XDR but it would be very involved and isn't a huge priority for me right now. Maybe later this year...
My desktop computer usage is primarily comprised of photo editing with Adobe Lightroom, basic web development, occasional gaming and light video editing with Adobe Premiere Pro.
Around 2015, when I was only using a 13" MacBook Pro, I wanted something faster and a larger display to pair with my growing desire to edit and publish more photography on this site. So I wound up with a 27" 5K iMac (and 12" MacBook). But two years with that setup I began to feel the same need to have modern hardware and wanted something faster again.
While the 5K display on the iMac was phenomenal, the inability to run top of the line hardware was starting to get to me. And you can't upgrade the CPU and motherboard on an iMac if you wanted to jump to the latest generation processor. I really wanted a much faster GPU and was interested in going with Windows build this time instead of a hackintosh build as I had done before.
I built that Windows 10 PC and wrote about it in detail in my longest article ever: Building a Lightroom PC. It served me very well and was a fun project. It also received a bit of attention from PetaPixel, DPreview and others.
Published my longest blog post ever: 32,000 words on Building a Lightroom PC: Why I switched to Windows and built a water-cooled 5.2GHz 6-core editing machine https://t.co/FGRUr85JKO pic.twitter.com/qnWCT8Bnra— Paul Stamatiou 📷 (@Stammy) January 22, 2018
Then a year passed and I moved to New York. I wanted to downsize my possessions for the move and the expectation that I would have a smaller apartment in NYC. I shipped that large computer home and built small form factor (SFF) Windows 10 PC. Despite the size with its mini-ITX motherboard and SFX-sized power supply, it's even more powerful than my last desktop.
It has a watercooled 8-core delidded Intel i9 9900K processor as well as a hefty Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti graphics card but for me the real masterpiece is the lovely and expandable Louqe Ghost S1 case.
Depending on your needs, you can add so-called "tophats" to provide more room for things from storage to watercooling radiators. Building in the confined space was definitely a challenge but it was made manageable with some custom-length sleeved power cables.
But the biggest surprise is just how quiet this thing is. During regular use the PSU and graphics card fans are completely off and it's just the large radiator fans spinning slowly. I have been extremely impressed with this setup.
But, as mentioned in the update section above, I grew a strong affinity towards the new Apple Pro Display XDR. I ordered the XDR first and then had to figure out how to run it. So now I use it with the 16-inch MacBook Pro until I decide how/when I'd like to get it running with a more powerful desktop computer.
After using cheap desks for a decade I thought it was time to invest in a high-quality desk for the next decade. In particular I wanted a sit/stand desk that I could easily adjust; I'm a bit picky when it comes to setting the height of my desk.
I also wanted one that did not look like it belonged in the office. One that was pretty small by office standards at only 48-inches wide. One with a nice wood top that could fit in with the rest of my furniture and wasn't too long, unlike most popular desks that seem to be 60 inches wide or more. I ended up with this Humanscale Float from Room & Board with a walnut top (pictured below). It looks great and is very sturdy.
I used it for almost 4 years and loved it, but when it came time to move to New York, I decided to have it shipped back home instead of come with me to New York. It was a great desk but was extremely heavy and I worried I may not have space for it in a smaller New York apartment.
Likewise, I sold my Herman Miller Embody when I moved. It served me well over the ~7 years I've owned it but I was up for something new, in a different color, and ideally lighter. Everything about the Embody felt heavy and hard to maneuver.
I ended up going with a newer Herman Miller model, the Cosm. It's a fairly simple task chair with almost no controls—just height—making it a huge departure from my previous Embody chair that had tons of adjustment knobs.
The Cosm also feels much, much lighter. It's a breeze to move around. I opted for a custom order: low back in Glacier fabric color with a white chassis, no armrests and a polished base.
As for the desk, I knew I wanted something less deep than my previous desk as I really didn't need it to be 30-inches deep. I would have preferred something less wide as well but really did not find many stylish desk options that were small and New York apartment friendly. I ended up going with a simple white and gray Floyd desk.
Herman Miller Cosm
Low-back, glacier/white colors, no arms
Simple, affordable, easy to assemble
Xiaomi Mi LED lamp
WiFi-enabled, tunable color temp
elegant and functional
Herman Miller Embody
the perfect task chair
Lets get the keyboard out of the way first. It's the new Apple Magic Keyboard. It's considerably more compact than previous models and takes some getting used to with the reduced key travel. But I love it. I find the super low profile helps my wrist pain as I don't need to awkwardly angle my wrists up to hit the keys. Battery life is fantastic and I use it with my Windows PC without issue (of course I use KeyTweak to remap a few keys to my liking).
Now, on to the mice. Yes, I have three. For the past few years I have had some recurring wrist RSI pain from my computer and phone use in my right wrist. To keep it in check I've found it helpful to use a variety of input devices. I have the Wacom tablet, a regular Logitech MX Master 3 and finally a Logitech MX Vertical.
Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Vertical
USB-C, vertical wireless mouse
Wacom Intuos S
Graphics drawing tablet
Apple Magic Keyboard
Logitech MX Anywhere 2S
My smaller travel mouse
I try to use the Wacom tablet the most and reduce the amount I articulate my wrist and instead move the stylus pen with my whole arm. I haven't used the Wacom that long, so I'm still learning proper form. I tweeted my impressions on using a Wacom tablet after my first two weeks with it in this thread.
As for the Logitech mice, I'm a huge fan of their large ergonomic shape that makes it much easier for me to use for long periods than something low profile like the Apple Magic Mouse for example. I also appreciate the Logitech mouse customization software and the use of their unifying receivers and the ability for each mouse to switch between three channels. This proves hugely useful when use the same mice between various devices. I use this functionality constantly when switching between using it with my personal laptop, my work laptop and my desktop PC.
While I do the heavy lifting on the PC, I take care of my casual couch and travel computing with my iPad Pro. I used to have a 13" Touchbar MacBook Pro that I used for the majority of my casual computing but I ended up getting rid of it after finding a way to weave the iPad Pro into my daily life. I wrote an article about how I use it.
12.9" iPad Pro
2nd Gen, 256GB
tilt & pressure sensitive
Apple Smart Keyboard
While I've had iPads and other tablets in the past, I never found a way to incorporate them into my daily routine. I think the difference here was that I opted for the huge 12.9" version and it feels like such a great way to browse websites and media. And second, the Smart Keyboard is fantastic. It's full size and I can type quickly on it.
My iPad Pro is not the latest generation with Face ID and USB-C. I had considered upgrading but my current model still does everything I need. However, with the new iOS 13 beta showing improved functionality for USB-C file access on external drives (as well as the ability to import photos directly into any app and not require it goes to the Camera Roll first), having the new iPad would make things easier to directly connect my external SSD when traveling without using an adapter. That would allow me import hundreds of gigs of RAW photos and videos while traveling, and then move them to an external SSD. But I'll probably just wait for the next generation to come out.
I'm not a watch person. Haven't been for a decade. Always felt it was annoying to have on my wrist and annoying to have on while typing.. but I became more and more intrigued with all the health tracking functionality that the Series 4 Apple Watch brought to the table, including the new ECG feature. So I got one and surprisingly I fell in love with it and have been wearing it daily (and nightly) since I got it.
Alright I got my first Apple Watch. Series 4 40mm. Wanted the lightest one. Not really a watch person but now I’m thinking I just had a bad experience with my last heavy link band chrono years ago. This thing is light! Most curious about the health tracking ❤️ pic.twitter.com/W4yVLfLmZa— Paul Stamatiou 📷 (@Stammy) September 26, 2018
The heart rate and activity/workout tracking is first rate (I also love a sleep tracking app called Pillow). Controlling music on the go from my wrist is great. Having notifications on my wrist is of course a nice to have—don't always need to pull out my phone for what likely ends up being a notification requiring no action. Then I found myself using Apple Pay more and more as it was so convenient. I opted for the smaller 40mm non-LTE model and a few straps: black sport loop, black sport band, olive sport loop, space black milanese loop.
Of course this does mean one thing: my primary phone is now my iPhone 11 Pro and not my Android. I love Android, but the Apple Watch software and hardware is so compelling. I haven't found any Google WearOS devices that can come close, mainly in terms of aesthetics.
Apple Watch 40mm
Series 4, GPS-only
Apple Link Bracelet
Space Black, 38mm (they only make a 38mm and 42mm, but it's compatible with all models)
Apple Sport Loop band
Apple Sport Loop band
40mm, Olive Flak
Apple Sport Loop band
40mm, Summit White
Apple Milanese Loop band
Space Black, 40mm
Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock
A higher-end charger for the Apple Watch with a sturdy and heavy base. You can move the charging dock to charge flat or tilted up.
First and foremost — my internet connection. I'm very lucky to have gigabit symmetrical fiber via Verizon FiOS. This definitely comes in handy when backing up hundreds of gigabytes of photos and videos after a trip.
While my place is relatively small, I had issues with my Apple AirPort Extreme providing WiFi to the furthest corners. I ended up trying the 2nd generation Eero kit to see if it could help and it definitely has. Eero works by setting up a mesh network in your house via multiple Eero devices in your house. I now have three Eero devices: two larger Eero base stations and a smaller Eero Beacon.
Eero & Eero Beacon
2 base stations, 1 Beacon
Gigabit, I use both 5 and 8-port models
1-foot Ethernet cables
5 pack, snagless
The Eero setup process is nothing short of stunning. They have a great mobile app for setting up and managing your network as well as giving you per-device level control easily. I can see that there are 20 devices on my network, see which ones are currently using the most bandwidth, block devices, setup access family profiles, create a guest network and more. It also periodically does an automatic speed test to give you peace of mind as to your Internet connection's health. Eero also offers a paid monthly service that claims to protect your network from viruses, botnets and phishing sites.
I ended up loving my Eero setup so much that I got an Eero kit for my parents and added their account to my Eero app so I can remotely diagnose/reboot the system for them if there are any issues.
The only downside of the Eero is that it assumes the vast majority of your devices will connect over WiFi. I have a good chunk that need or that I would prefer to have connected via Ethernet—especially with a fast gigabit connection, I need my desktop PC and NAS to be wired. As such, I had to purchase a cheap Ethernet switch to give me more ports. Unfortunately, the Eero nor the switch provide user-configurable QoS settings (Eero seems to do automatic QoS by using DSCP to catalog traffic to one of the four 802.11e Wi-Fi Multimedia access classes for handling traffic — background, best effort, video and voice). You'd have to upgrade to a much pricier switch if you want that functionality.
I use the Amazon Echo along with some Insteon devices to control lighting in my house. It's a wonderfully convenient solution and I have found the Echo to be handy for other basic things like setting alarms, telling me about the news that day, weather and searching for basic info. Insteon has a bunch of other devices to control other aspects of your home but I'm just starting with these.
Eventually, I replaced the original Amazon Echo device with a smaller Sonos One, which features complete Amazon Echo functionality.
speaker + voice assistant
Connects to router
for plug-in lamps
Insteon wall switch
dimmer for ceiling lights
Amazon Smart Plug
Cheap, easy Alexa integration
Blink security camera
Cheap, battery powered
And while not exactly home automation related, I added the very affordable Blink home security camera to this list. Blink, an Amazon-owned company, makes small, simple battery powered home security cameras. While they can also be plugged in, the beauty is that they can be placed anywhere and still wake up when motion is detected.
I've also grown quite fond of lights from Pablo Designs. I replaced my kitchen pendant lights with ones from Pablo Designs and then purchased this tall Vella floor light to go in the corner. It has two independently swiveling aluminum louvers so you can control how the light casts itself as well has adjustable LED levels.
When I moved to New York I ended up selling my black Sonos Play:1's and Sub, as well as leaving my TV and Playbar in my house that I rented out. I loved that setup but thought my New York apartment would be smaller and have more neighbors, so I didn't necessarily need a subwoofer or the most capable soundbar. I knew I loved the Sonos system, I just wanted to downsize a bit.
I went with the new Alexa-enabled Sonos Beam sound bar and two paired rear Play:1s with Sonos Stands. All in white to match a few other accents in my room, along with the lighter floors. I also have another Play:1 in my bathroom and the Sonos One in my bedroom. It's just so easy to play music to any or all of the Sonos speakers with Spotify and other music services.
As for the TV, I was happy to retired my older 1080p 65" Sony TV when I moved. At the time it felt like it was too early to go 4K in terms of the content available. But now in 2019 with a plethora of 4K content available and the 4K Apple TV, it felt like the right time.
This time I went with an OLED TV instead. I opted for the just-released-at-the-time 65" LG C9. It's ridiculously thin, so thin that I had someone come over to help me unbox and mount the stand as I was worried I would crack it.
Why OLED? OLED TVs have extremely high contrast levels, deep blacks and vibrant colors. The downside of OLED displays is that they are not as bright as LED-backlit TVs, making it less than ideal for viewing in bright rooms, and the potential for screen burn-in. I weighed the pros and cons and decided to proceed with OLED regardless. I've had it for a few months now and absolutely love it.
LG C9 OLED TV
Super thin, 65" 2019 model
Joren media console
by Rove Concepts
Apple TV 4K
Siri remote, 32GB
Apple TV remote case. The best $8 you'll spend
2 for rear satellites
White, hides wires
TV sound bar
elegant wireless sub
LED, 3D, Android TV
I use my kitchen a decent amount and cook dinner most evenings, at least during the weeks. My mornings usually start by making myself a cup or two of coffee.
I finally ditched the spice grinder I had been using to grind my coffee beans and went with a burr grinder with various settings for how I'm making the coffee. I most frequently just make single cups with a Kalita Wave 185 dripper, but I use my french press often too. Beyond that I love my Heath mugs and plates.
Fellow Stagg EKG
1200W, gooseneck electric kettle
Kalita Wave 185
pour over coffee maker
Breville coffee grinder
burr with 60 settings
Breville espresso machine
1600W, PID temp control
plates, mugs, bowls in indigo and slate
hard to beat quality
Cheap & essential meat cooking tool
David Mellor flatware
TSG Hard Strong glasses
thin 12oz tumblers
cast iron, 8" and 10.25"
1800W convection smart oven
Breville tea maker
with robotic tea basket
I have become particularly interested in sous vide cooking, a technique generally involving any cooking occuring in a temperature-controlled water bath over a long period of time with the foods placed (ideally) in a vacuum-sealed bag. The main benefit of this style of cooking is cooking the meat the same way the whole way through and getting a tender, flavor-packed result without losing any juices.
There are a million articles online explaining sous vide but here's a good one. In addition to the gear below I also have a container and lid from Everie. I have also been pretty happy with these sous vide bags you can vacuum seal with a simple hand pump.
I originally had the Anova sous vide cooker but began to prefer the ChefSteps Joule. It's smaller, more powerful and has a better cooking app. I constantly had connectivity issues with the Anova model.
ChefSteps Joule sous vide cooker
Small, Wi-Fi enabled, 1100W
Versatile meat searing torch attachment
Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker
After whatever meat (you can sous vide just about anything but I tend to do pork chops and steak quite often) I've tossed into the sous vide container has finished cooking, I just need to finish the meat by searing it. Sometimes I use my cast iron pan for this and sometimes I opt to use my torch with the Searzall attachment.
I was kinda late to the Nintendo Switch train. I had purchased one for my nephew as a gift the year it came out but never really got into it myself. Then a year later I saw my nephew continue using and loving it and decided to bite the bullet and get my own so I could play Mario Kart with him online.
I was curious about the new Nintendo Switch Lite and waited for that to be released, but eventually decided it wasn't for me as I wanted the ability to play Switch connected to my TV (and the haptic feedback/rumble functionality is nice). In the end I was glad I was late to the party as the regular Nintendo Switch received a small hardware update in 2019 to increase battery life and more efficient processor. There is also a rumor that 2020 will bring a Switch Pro model with better performance and hardware specs at the expense of not supporting portable play.
Portable and dockable gaming console
tomtoc slim case
Perfect fit, with game storage
MoKo game case
Store 12 Switch game cartridges.
Nice to have one set separate for TV play.
Joy-Con Charging Grip
USB-C port to charge your Joy-Cons.
SanDisk Ultra 64GB MicroSD card
More storage for digitally-purchased games.
I'm glad I got the Switch. It's such a fun platform and simple system—I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it.. especially considering I have a high-end gaming PC. The graphics aren't the most astounding and the 6.2-inch display only has a resolution of 1280x720.
Here are a few of the games I'm currently enjoying:
When I moved to New York in early 2019 I downsized a good deal and didn't bring much furniture with me. I outfitted my bedroom with a Casper mattress and platform bed frame. When it came time to add nightstands I went with some simple ones from Floyd and added my Sonos One and Casper Glow to them.
I have become quite fond of the little Casper Glow as my bedside light. It's a rechargeable and wireless smart light. You flip it over to turn it on, twist it to adjust brightness and use the app to have it automatically turn on slowly in the morning at a time you set to naturally wake you up. It also slowly turns off in the evening as you get ready for bed.
But my Dyson handheld vacuum has to be my favorite household appliance. Extremely powerful and versatile, I find myself using it a few times per week.
Dyson V10 Absolute
the best handheld vac
Wifi-enabled air purifier, heater, fan
Eames molded plastic side chair
Charcoal, chrome base
Elise floor lamp
Both 32" and 48" models
Floyd side table
Smart speaker with Alexa
wireless smart light
Case Study planter
Small for my Snake plant
And finally, I love having plants around the house. I have a few large window sills for succulents that can deal with direct sunlight, then a few others elsewhere in the house: neon pothos, monstera deliciosa, fiddle leaf fig, snake plant, pilea peperomioides, rubber tree plant.
I have gone through a myriad of personal audio setups over the years. I used to have studio monitors (recently Audioengine A5s and Rokit RP5G2s) for my desktop alongside larger circumaural headphones (Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro and Sennheiser HD 650). But I began to prefer having a simpler setup and cleaner desk. While I definitely play music over the Sonos system, I opted to simplify my desk setup when I built my gaming and photo editing PC: I have a small portable Bose bluetooth speaker as the primary audio device.
When it comes to wireless on-the-go and at-the-desk usage, I have begun using my AirPods Pro the vast majority of the time. It used to be the case that noise-cancelling headphones were a hassle: horrible battery life, a bulky case, sub-par performance or a mess of wires. The AirPods Pro changed that and make noise-cancelling headphones so much more approachable—and pocketable.
AirPods Pro are fantastic. 💫 Though always kinda feel like they’re not fully in your ears.— Paul Stamatiou 📷 (@Stammy) November 2, 2019
Noise cancelling is solid but transparency mode is the real surprise. Better than on my big Sony 1000xm3s.
And they pair flawlessly. Last AirPods always gave me pairing trouble. pic.twitter.com/V0rouYxKDJ
The AirPods Pro retain the same formula from the regular AirPods: great form factor with a wireless charging case, easy pairing and stellar phone integration. It also means another thing: while they will pair with non-Apple devices like Android phones and Windows PCs, they don't work that well. Some of the physical controls don't work and there's sometimes an issue with volume being artificially limited.
I also have a larger set of wireless noise-cancelling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3. The Sony also has USB-C charging and a robust set of noise-cancelling optimization options with the mobile app. While both the AirPods Pro and the Sony headphones are great at quieting surrounding office noise and airplane noise when traveling, the larger Sony headset is definitely a bit better at noise-cancelling if you're looking for the absolute best in that area. However, the AirPods Pro have a much better "transparency" mode that lets you clearly hear the world around you when you want that.
I use both a lot, but the convenience factor of the AirPods Pro means I find myself using them much more frequently. However, the AirPods Pro rely entirely on Bluetooth connectivity, meaning you can't use them to connect to an airplane media system to watch a movie on a flight right out of the box. I have gotten around this with a great aftermarket option: the Airfly wireless transmitter. It accepts any audio jack audio input and then pairs wirelessly with AirPods (or any other bluetooth headphones).
Apple AirPods Pro
Portable and wireless noise-cancelling in-ear headset.
Airfly Duo transmitter
Connect any wireless bluetooth headphones to any audio jack output. Useful for in-flight entertainment systems and the Nintendo Switch. Charges via USB-C and supports up to 2 pairs of headphones at the same time.
Top-notch wireless noise cancelling headphones
Bose SoundLink Mini II
Portable wireless speaker. I usually just use this as my desktop PC speaker but sometimes take it out of the house or when traveling. These are discontinued now. If I was in the market for a new portable speaker I would go with the USB-C JBL Flip 5.
Bose QuietComfort 20
Bose SoundSport Wireless Free
For exercise activities (mainly running) I used to live by the wireless sweat and weather resistant Bose SoundSport Wireless Free. They were my 3rd Bose sport-related headset. I kept coming back to Bose for a reason—I just absolutely love the fit with the little "shark fins" that keep them in place along with a more oval earpiece. However, I have begun using my AirPods Pro for this. While the new in-ear design does not have the equivalent shark fins, I do find the AirPods Pro don't fall out as easily as the regular AirPods do while running.
The Bose SoundSports Wireless Free also had a few downsides from a large case and earbuds to connectivity issues and hard to press buttons, so it was easy for me to migrate to the AirPods Pro.
I don't like carrying too much on me aside from my phone, a thin wallet and a pack of mints. My current wallet, a slim card case from Everlane, only has room for 2-3 cards and a tiny sleeve for cash.
Take a look at my camera gear page for a look at my bags.
Apple AirPods Pro
Portable and wireless noise-cancelling in-ear headset.
Crazy strong mints
Compact yet handles up to 55mph winds
Warby Park Percey sunglasses
Clear frame, polarized lenses
A few years ago I wanted to try to read more—a lot more. I gave myself a challenge to read 24 books in 2017 and got the Amazon Kindle Oasis. I achieved that reading goal and am still very happy with my Kindle. It has quickly become one of my favorite devices and I've read over 40 books on it so far. Be sure to read my post on the topic:
Many of my design explorations (and various todo lists) start on paper so I'm always carrying a few pens and notepad in my backpack everyday. I'm a fan of Marvy Le Pen thin point felt tip pens. As for my notebook of choice, it varies. I've gone through a few Moleskines, Baron Fig notebooks, Fabriano notebooks and Dot Grid notepads. If I had to pick one favorite it would probably be the special edition Moleskines with embossed covers. And when I need a bit more space to sketch out some concepts, I switch to a larger Stonehenge sketchpad.
9x12", 15 sheets
I seem to collect mobile devices these days from needing both iOS and Android devices to test designs, prototypes and app builds at work. However, my main devices are the Google Pixel 3 and iPhone 11 Pro. The iPhone is my primary device these days due to my reliance upon the Apple Watch, AirPods Pro and some casual usage of the Apple Card with Apple Pay (usually in coffee shops, stores and taxis).
Google Fi is my wireless carrier of choice, having switched after more than decade on AT&T. I have now been using Google Fi for 4 years and now use it with 2 phone numbers (on a group plan with two Google accounts of mine) and a data-only SIM for when I used it with my Thinkpad X1 Carbon.
I love Google Fi for a few reasons. First, it's just a super easy to use mobile carrier and since it uses your Google account you get great security off the bat since your Google account can be locked down with two-factor auth, security keys and Google's Advanced Protection Program. Second, it works virtually everywhere internationally with no change in price. And finally, the billing is flexible and easy to understand: just $10 per GB. They recently added new $70 per month unlimited plans ("unlimited" until you reach 22GB) which I moved to as I always consume enough gigabytes per month for it to be more cost efficient for me.
That's the general gist but there's more to it, like automatic network switching and automatic VPN if you're on Android. Here's my referral code if you want to give it a try and get $20 of credit. I have sucessfully used Fi on recent trips: New Zealand, Greece, Cayman Islands, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Netherlands and the UK.
The move to USB-C devices has been a long journey and unfortunately I'm still in an awkward middle ground where I have a few remaining Micro-USB devices, some USB-A cables and some USB-C chargers. I've been trying to move to USB-C chargers where possible, so I have also had to begin investing in USB-C cables.
And you can never have enough battery life when traveling so I always have one of my Anker battery packs in my bag.
Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux
I've been using Anker battery packs for years but it was only recently that they introduced models like this one that let you both charge the battery and other devices over the same USB-C port. This was the last link that means I can travel without USB-A cables entirely.
USB-C Apple Watch Charger
I made sure to get USB-C Apple Watch charger for traveling. I opted for a very short one to make packing easier too.
Great quality phone stand. Handy for testing designs and prototypes while designing at my desk.
USB-C to A adapter
Great build quality and much more compact than the Apple adapters, but you can't fit two next to each other on a MacBook Pro.
USB-A to C adapter
A less common adapter but I find it handy to plug in USB-C accessories directly into the USB hub in my desktop PC monitor.
USB-C to USB-C cable
I have 6-ft and 3-ft versions of this Anker cable
USB-C to Lightning cable
While I have a few Apple ones, I also got some of these cheaper Anker ones to have around the house and while traveling.
USB-C to Micro-USB
Because not everything is USB-C yet (Kindle!) but my chargers are.
Anker PowerPort III Nano
Ridiculously small 18W USB-C charger. If you remember the old 5W Apple USB-A chargers, it's the same size but a whole lot more powerful. It can charge iPhones and iPads no problem. Perfect for travel.
Anker PowerPort Atom PD 1
Small 30W dual USB-C PD charger using GaN tech. This charger is a maybe double the size as the 18W unit above but still much smaller than other 30W chargers not using GaN technology. It's enough power to charge a new MacBook Air.
Anker PowerPort Atom III
Tiny 60W USB-C PD charger using GaN tech
Anker PowerPort Atom PD 2
Tiny 60W dual USB-C PD charger using GaN tech. This one is a bit larger than the PowerPort Atom PD 2 above that has just one 60W USB-C PD port.
Bagsmart electronic organizer
Affordable small pouch for keeping track of cables and chargers while traveling.
tomtoc electronics pouch
While the same general size as the bag above, this one from tomtoc has slightly better build quality and is a bit thicker with more pockets. I use both depending on how much stuff I need to bring with me.
And while I'm on the subject of mobile devices, I also own several hardware security keys for use as a second factor for two-factor auth with many of my online accounts. Many websites these days let you authenticate multiple security keys so you can have a backup. I go into great detail about the topic in my recent article: Getting started with security keys.