Stuff Picks: Lockdown gadgets

We’re missing bonding over frequent chai breaks. Tech is the glue holding us together even during the lockdown

Working at Stuff has its perks.We’re surrounded by the newest smart technology, and some of it has literally come to our rescue in these tough days.

While our Sr. Art Editor, our dear ‘Joe’ is silently saying a prayer everyday for the good Apple folks for the Macbook Pro in his custody (the products meant to be returned got held back due to the lockdown), the rest of us too have enough at our disposal, which is making things easier for us. From the good ol’ pair of headphones to the roombalicious bai that’s sharing the cleaning load before sitting down for work, here’s a few of the Stuff (India) team’s personal picks of gadgets to the rescue…

Sony VPL-VW570ES 4K HDR Projector (₹9,16,700)

One of the biggest overarching challenges during this extended lockdown period has been maintaining our sanity, and after you’re done accepting social media challenges through the day, you want to fill the void at night with your loved one(s). And by that I mean Netflix, Prime Video or Hostar. For me, thankfully, Sony’s mighty VPL-VW570ES 4K HDR projector has been a resident since I’ve started the ‘work-from-home’ routine; while it may not sound much like “work”, considering a large part of my day is spent writing about my tech and AV experiences, it fits the bill perfectly. Cinematic HDR colours and 4K resolution to help you forget about the world outside, every night is a movie night with the Sony around – I’m loving this lockdown!

iPad mini (2019) (from ₹34,900)

Living in a matchbox house in Mumbai, space is a big constraint. And with a toddler and a tween (both boys) fried to boredom during the lockdown, the fight for the same toy or that one TV remote is like being present in the centre of a soccer stadium. My current setup consists of an iPad to extend my Macbook Air’s display for multi-tasking. For quick edits and communication, the iPad mini (2019) (from 34,900) with Pencil support is the best alternative when my laptop isn’t required. And when I need to get on my laptop for bigger jobs, the iPad mini keeps my two noisy brats busy scrolling through their favourite cartoons online.

iRobot Roomba i7+ (₹89,000)

Dangerous, dominating and fearless, is often how most would describe a Doberman Pinscher, but even Trevor (what I call mine) is terrified of the efficiency of the iRobot Roomba i7+. Yes, it costs a pretty penny but is totally worth it. Apart from cleaning the entire house so that I don't need to touch the dreaded 'jhadoo', the i7 empties its collection of dust on its own too, maximising my efficiency at the work desk all while keeping Trevor's protective tendencies in check.

Amazon Echo Plus (₹11,990)

Usually, my two kids want constant attention. And when that’s the case, there’s not the slightest room for distraction. When life was on track, the Amazon Echo Plus (2nd generation) that I purchased on a whim during the big Amazon sale last year was hardly ever used ‘coz where was the time? “Alexa, call mumma”, “Alexa, play songs from my playlist” were the commonly used commands. But now that there’s no school to occupy them and no extra classes to engage them with, the constant need for attention is getting a bit overwhelming, especially during ‘working hours’. Thanks to the Echo device, the few hours of peaceful (and productive) work I'm able to squeeze in a day are courtesy of Alexa’s story-telling abilities and the ‘never say no’ attitude. Ask her to tell a joke, play music, enslave it for personal chores (controlling smart lights is their favourite), or throw a quick math quiz at them, my work time is surely more productive when the tiny tots are busy.

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless (₹34,990)

Being a dad to a newborn and living in a joint family in a house in Mumbai means a lot of sharing. Sharing the dining table, sharing a quiet room to work in and... well, you get the point. So it’s nice to have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones around, and fortunately, I happen to be stuck with the best. Sennheiser’s Momentum 3 Wireless headphones don't just look good but sound great as well. They may not beat Sony’s WH-1000XM3, but they are good enough when it comes to cancelling-out locked down kids and everyone else who’s sitting on a Zoom call, and focus just on your work. And once I’m with work, the Momentum does a fantastic job of delivering the signature Sennheiser sound that’s pretty much audiophile grade.

D-Link EXO AC1300 (₹4,999)

You can’t have work from home without a trusty internet connection, and what better way to do it than to stick your internet cable at the backside of one of the best routers for budget users. It’s a saving grace for anyone who is holed up in a 1300sq.ft or smaller home; I recommend sticking this somewhere central so the 5Ghz connection can spread evenly. It’s also capable of creating a mesh system inside your house with compatible MIMO extender nodes. It’s a safe buy and has kept my tech running in all corners of the house without worrying about hackers also. There’s a free McAfee subscription for a couple of years included with the purchase and the router itself is protected by McAfee and actively protects all devices connected to it.

Acer Predator Helios 300 (₹1,29,999)

Although I miss the dual monitor setup I had back when going to the office for work was a thing, I am surprised to find that productivity has not taken as much of a thrashing as I expected, thanks to this beast of a machine I had the urge to buy a little more than a year ago. The beast in question is the Acer Predator Helios 300 with a 7th-gen Intel i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, 1TB HDD storage and an Nvidia 1050Ti graphics card. This was intended to be my one-stop-shop gaming machine, and yes, I am aware the specifications are not high enough to run modern AAA games as smoothly as intended, but as a fan of older games like Assassin's Creed 2, this machine was perfect for me. Long story short, I never ended up gaming much on it and used this machine as my primary entertainment system until we were all subjected to work from home. And that's when I realised how versatile this machine really is and how well it can handle anything that I throw at it. A proper workhorse of a machine this!