Staff picks: 8 things C. Scott Brown uses everyday

A photograph of Android Authority writer C. Scott Brown.

Here at Android Authority, we have a diverse staff. We come from all over the world and we use all kinds of technology. This staff picks series shows you what tech we use for work, play, and health.

Hello everyone, my name is C. Scott Brown (the “C” stands for Christopher, but please call me Scott). I’m primarily in charge of writing news here at Android Authority, but I also write some opinion pieces, roundups, and other types of articles. I also am active on the Android Authority Instagram account, where you can see me talk about the news every day during the week and on Thursdays you can chat with me while I do a Live video.

I love technology and try to incorporate some form of tech in nearly everything I do in my day-to-day life. Honestly, if I were to write a staff picks article summing up everything I use that’s technology-related, it would be insanely long and constantly changing. Instead, below you’ll find some of my current gear that I feel is pretty indispensable.

If you have any questions about any of these products, hit up the comments! I promise I’ll check in regularly to respond. Conversely, you can easily find me on Twitter or Instagram if you’d like to ask me something directly.

Now let’s check out my staff picks!

OnePlus 7 Pro

A hand holding a OnePlus 7 Pro so that you can see the back, which is the Nebula Blue color. AA Recommended Badge

When OnePlus revealed the OnePlus 7 Pro, I already had the OnePlus 6T in my hand. I said to myself, “I don’t need to upgrade, this 6T is just fine.” However, then I actually used a 7 Pro and immediately changed my mind. The phone is just unreal.

The 90Hz refresh rate makes things so buttery smooth, and the all-screen, notch-free display is just awesome. The pop-up selfie camera is cool too; pretty much every one of my non-tech friends thinks it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever seen.

Related: OnePlus 7 Pro review: Bigger and brighter, but is it better?

Really, the only complaint I have about the phone is the color. Don’t get me wrong, that Nebula Blue you see in the image above is stunning — but my favorite color is red, not blue. There’s a red version of the regular OnePlus 7 available in certain markets, but not the 7 Pro, which makes me sad.

Overall though, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a tough phone to beat. I don’t know how the company will improve on it with the expected OnePlus 7 Pro T.

eBags Professional Slim Junior Backpack

An image of the eBags Professional Slim Junior Laptop Backpack hanging on a brick wall. AA Recommended Badge

Where would a tech writer be without a backpack? At any given moment, I could need a certain piece of gear to test out a new app, take a photo of a phone, or charge up my various devices. And since I’m on the move quite a bit (no office hours for us writers!), at that particular moment I might not be home to grab that specific piece of gear. That’s why my backpack needs to carry literally everything I could ever need to do my job.

That backpack, however, also needs to be durable, lightweight, ergonomically designed, and — let’s be honest — look good on my back. The only bag I’ve ever come across that does all these things is the eBags Professional Slim Junior you see above.

Related: 10 best travel apps for Android

In that backpack, I can fit all my necessities: my laptop, various phones, a lot of charging cables, my smartphone tripod, Moment lenses, over-ear headphones, Kindle, and even my Xbox One Wireless Controller. There’s also a zip-out pouch on the side where I can securely store a water bottle.

This backpack is so good I bought my girlfriend one immediately after getting mine. Hers is blue, but you can also select from all sorts of colors such as purple, gray, green, and more. I can’t recommend it enough!

Dell XPS 13 (2019 Edition)

A Dell XPS 13 2019 edition sitting open on a desk with a mountain landscape photo as the background. AA Recommended Badge

There are three things I want from a laptop: a thin form factor, a small weight, and great battery life. I don’t play video games on my laptop so I don’t need a high-end graphics card, a large display, or tons of ports. All I need is something I can depend on that won’t weigh down my backpack too much.

For years, the Dell XPS 13 has been my go-to for all my laptop needs. I had a 2015 model for a long time and it was still chugging along great at the beginning of this year. However, when I saw the 2019 Edition with a top-mounted webcam and a super sexy Alpine White color, I just had to grab it.

Related: Best Dell laptops you can buy right now

Honestly, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made when it comes to computers. The 2019 XPS 13 is just magnificent. It’s thinner and lighter than my previous model and the all-white colorway is so pretty. The 4K touch-screen display makes work easy on my eyes as well as fast since I can just tap on the screen whenever necessary.

I’ve definitely seen people — mostly Mac users — eyeing it with envy while I’m at coffee shops working.

Yes, the Dell XPS 13 2019 Edition is very, very expensive, especially the maxed-out model I purchased. However, I literally make my living on my laptop, so it was worth every penny. 

Moment lenses and the DJI Osmo Pocket

A OnePlus 7 Pro with a Moment case and a Moment lens attached, next to a DJI Osmo Pocket camera. AA Recommended Badge

I’ll be honest: I am no photographer. There are plenty of people on staff here at Android Authority who know much more about taking great photos and videos than I ever will. Luckily, I rarely need to create high-quality photo or video content for the site, so I don’t need to lug around tons of gear like my friend David Imel does.

When I do need to get some good photos or videos, I just use my smartphone. For photos, I use Moment lenses on either my OnePlus 7 Pro or my Google Pixel 2 XL (which I mostly use to take advantage of saving as many RAW files as I want in Google Photos without having to pay for storage space). In fact, every photo you see in this article was snapped on one of my phones.

Related: DJI Osmo Pocket review: A pocket-sized powerhouse

I very, very rarely do video stuff, but when I do I use the DJI Osmo Pocket. Since it’s so small, it takes up very little room in my backpack, so I don’t mind taking it with me everywhere — even though I rarely need to use it. I do like using it for personal stuff though — my Instagram has a few videos shot on the Osmo Pocket.

As a bit of shameless self-promotion, I actually shot a short film using my Pixel 2 XL and the anamorphic lens from Moment. Give it a watch here if you’ve got three minutes to spare.

Sony WH-1000XM3 wireless headphones

An image of the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones. AA Recommended Badge

Those of you who read the site regularly might remember an article I wrote when I first bought the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. You can check it out here if you missed it, but I’ll give you the general gist: the headphones are so good that it made me reevaluate my entire music-listening life.

Since writing that article, there’s barely been a day that I haven’t worn the XM3s at least once. I’m still just as happy with them as I was when I first bought them, and am incredibly impressed by the battery life, sound quality, and comfort.

Related: Now that I own $350 headphones, I know why people pay $350 for headphones

However, in that article, I did mention a slight complaint surrounding the “double-tap to play/pause” feature. That complaint still stands, and by that, I mean that double-tapping the right ear cup sometimes will play/pause the track and sometimes won’t. There have been a few times when I’ve tried to perform a double tap four or five times without the desired result, which then forces me to pick up my smartphone and play/pause the track manually. I know, first-world problems.

Other than that, I wholeheartedly recommend the XM3s. They are actually coming down a bit in price so you likely won’t even need to pay the MSRP of $350 for them anymore.

Xbox One Wireless Controller with smartphone clip

A smartphone clipped to an Xbox One wireless controller. AA Recommended Badge

I am what’s commonly called a “patient gamer,” in that I don’t play most games when they are brand new (hi, /r/patientgamers!). Instead, I usually wait around for years and then only play the games that still hold up as being truly great after all the hype has washed away.

With that in mind, retro gaming and console emulation is a big part of my gaming life. With the processing power of my OnePlus 7 Pro, I can emulate many games from the PlayStation 2 era and earlier without lag at 60FPS — but to play them right, you definitely need a solid Bluetooth controller. For that, I use the Xbox One Wireless Controller with a rechargeable battery and a smartphone clip attached.

Related: The 5 best SNES emulators for Android

Annoyingly, the Xbox One Wireless Controller uses regular AA batteries as a default power source. In order to have the ability to recharge your controller easily, you need to purchase a rechargeable battery pack — which is crazy when you consider the PlayStation Dual-Shock 4 Controller has this feature built-in and usually costs the same as the Xbox version.

However, the Xbox One Wireless Controller, in my opinion, beats the DS4 hands down when it comes to Android smartphone compatibility as well as overall feel and comfort. You may disagree, but if you want my advice on the best way to play retro games on your smartphone, you need to buy the three items linked below!

Breville’s The Tea Maker

An image of a Breville Tea Maker. AA Recommended Badge

I drink a lot of tea. On an average day, I drink three or four cups of hot tea and usually have an iced tea with lunch. So. Much. Tea.

To make all that tea, I rely on what is probably my most-prized piece of tech: The Tea Maker by Breville.

You might be wondering what The Tea Maker does that a traditional electric kettle doesn’t. This YouTube video breaks it down very well, but I’ll sum it up like this: The Tea Maker makes tea with the same convenience that a coffee maker makes coffee.

Related: The best smart kitchen tech products you can buy

The Tea Maker has a stainless steel tea basket connected to magnets which automatically lowers tea into water that’s been heated to the correct temperature. Once lowered, the appliance will steep the tea for the appropriate amount of time and then raise it out of the water. It will then keep the tea hot for one hour.

You can use pre-created programs to make perfect cups of different types of tea at different strengths — or come up with your own programming. Best of all, you can program The Tea Maker to do all this ahead of time, so I can fill it up before bed and then wake up with a fresh cup of tea right there waiting for me. It’s incredible and I love it.

The Tea Maker — as with all products from Breville — is ridiculously expensive. However, I’ve had this Tea Maker for nearly ten years now and it looks and performs as good as new. I will likely have it for the rest of my life, so it’s a worthwhile investment if you drink as much tea as I do. I’ll only upgrade if/when Breville offers a model with Google Assistant built-in. I can’t wait to say, “OK Google, make me a cup of tea.”

Caavo Control Center

A first-person view of a man sitting on a couch with a Caavo Universal Remote in his hand. AA Recommended Badge

Caavo, unfortunately, got off to a shaky start with the Caavo Control Center. Early reviewers reported the device with equal parts enthusiasm and criticism. The enthusiasm stemmed from the awesome potential of the product, and the criticism stemmed from the product’s inability to live up to that potential.

Well, I’m here to say that the Caavo Control Center is an amazing product assuming you want to do one thing: get rid of all the different remotes on your coffee table. If you want it to do more than that — which the company thinks you do and hopes you’ll take them on — you might be disappointed. If you just want the best universal remote money can buy, get the Caavo Control Center.

Related: Smart home gadgets — The best smart home products you can buy

I used the Harmony Hub linked with the Harmony Smart Control Remote for a long while, but that system was incredibly unpredictable. Sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. Getting Harmony to work well with my Google Assistant smart home was particularly painful.

However, the Caavo Control Center, so far, has been working flawlessly. The simple, touch-sensitive remote is elegant and utilitarian and I’ve had zero issues so far with my smart home voice commands. Caavo even works with my Steam Link, allowing me to ask Google to turn on my retro gaming system, TV, and audio receiver without leaving the couch.

For my needs, the Caavo Control Center works perfectly well — and I only have one remote in my living room now.

That’s the biggest tech in my life at the moment. Is there anything here you think should be replaced for something else? Is there anything more you’d like to know about one of the products? Hit up the comments and I’ll do my best to chime in!

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