16 Dec 18
The modern world of life is simple. People that use technology spend a lot of time at their desks. As both a developer and writer, I am in front of my MacBook Pro for tens of hours a week.
Here’s some tech picks that can complement your own desk life, and they make great gifts for others too.
Read on for a breakdown of my picks: HomePod, the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock, LIFX Z Light Strip, Fermata headphone stand and the JOBY iPhone Tripod Mount. Treat yourself (or a friend) …
I have two HomePods in stereo pairs flanking my desk setup. Simply, they sound fantastic. When I’m in the work groove, or just chilling out playing a game, it’s so nice to have music playing on endless loop in the background. Just ask Siri to ‘play some new music’, or be more specific with genres or artists, and you are off to the races.
The HomePod is also great for taking phone calls. When I’m in my home office, when my phone rings I just ask the HomePod to answer the phone. The call is then beamed over the HomePod’s speakers and it uses its six-microphone array to provide clear, high-quality, audio back to the other person. Holding your phone to your ear became a first-world problem so fast for me.
The HomePod gets a lot of flack for being both expensive and functionally lacking. I’m not going to excuse it. I do love them though. The lack of multi-user support is mitigated by the fact I put my HomePods on my desk, essentially in a room where no one else can use it. In terms of price, the base $349 is a stinger but many outlets are offering HomePods at significant discounts. A single HomePod is a great family gift and there will be somewhere it makes sense in your home, whether in your office or your living room.
OWC Thunderbolt Dock
Use a MacBook Pro or 2018 MacBook Air? Then a great addition to your desk could be a Thunderbolt 3 enabled dock. With the standardization of USB-C connectors on Apple’s laptops, access to legacy I/O like normal USB ports or HDMI out would naively require a whole mess of dongles and adapters.
Thunderbolt 3 docks have a bad reputation for being unreliable; I’ve had nothing but good things to say about them. I plug just one Thunderbolt 3 cable into my MacBook Pro, and my laptop not only charges but connects to my wired keyboard and mouse setup, my external display, and has access to a dozen other ports when I need them.
Aux jacks, HDMI, Thunderbolt 3 daisy-chaining, four USB-A ports, USB-C, SD card slots, and 85W charging. All available with just a single cable when I sit down at my desk with my laptop. What’s not to love about that? I use OWC, but there are many great choices:
OWC 14-Thunderbolt 3 Dock ($299)
CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 Dock ($309)
Plugable Thunderbolt 3 Dock ($230) – vertical option
Fermata Headphone Stand
I’ve recommended this stand multiple times in previous gift guides, but I’m going to do it again as it continues to be a permanent resident on my desk. I love AirPods, I love my HomePod, but there are still times when I want to wear proper over-ear headphones. Typically, when I’m playing the video game I’m addicted to — League of Legends — I’m wearing MW50s.
The stand offers a nice place to keep them upright, but the reason it sticks around is that it has integrated charging wires inside the base. This means I can charge my wireless headphones through the micro-USB port without needing a lot of ugly cabling. The base also includes another USB-A port that you can trail out a Lightning cable (or whatever) so you can charge your phone too. There’s also a little lip in the stand if you want to hang earbuds.
I use the TwelveSouth Fermata but there are cheaper options available. There’s a competitor on Amazon that has a $20 lower price tag, features three front-facing USB ports, and even has accessible power outlets.
Smart Strip Lighting
Smart lights have no function, but they are just fun. You can get more traditional bulbs like Philips Hue as desk lamps, or you can go a bit more adventurous and venture into the HomeKit strip lighting world.
Strip lights have sticky adhesive on one side and a track of LEDs on the other. This means you can stick them on the underside of your desk and provide some multi-colored ambience. I am currently using the LIFX light strip, which has HomeKit control for color and brightness in addition to a dedicated app with different themes and color palettes to cycle through.
The LIFX solution is a nice all-in option for $70. It’s a good gift item as it doesn’t need a hub to use it. If you already have a hub from other manufacturers, then obviously consider them first, like the very-similar offering from Philips Hue.
JOBY iPhone Tripod Mount
This is a bit of a wildcard pick, but I do actually keep my tripod on my desk so I’m counting it. The JOBY mount lets you use your iPhone on a tripod as a camera, enabling much more creative photography than what would normally be possible.
You simply snap your phone into the jaws of the mount. The JOBY mount offers a standard tripod connector so you can use it with pretty much everything; this compact Manfrotto tripod is a nice pairing. It’s a cool little gift for anyone with photographer aspirations.
I use the tripod to take product photography or shots of my phone on the desk, but it also comes in handy when family come over for group photos. If you just have a creative spark, you can take some incredible shots with a tripod and an iPhone, whether that is stills or video. I use the Camera Remote app on my Apple Watch to preview and take the photos, or you can use the timer that is built into the Apple Camera app.
For more last-minute gift ideas, see all 9to5Mac 2018 Gift Guides.