I started writing full-time in 2001 after my corporate career took a serious downturn. I never looked back (well, maybe a few times) and parlayed my Information Technology experience and tech interest into a lifelong fascination with gadgets and gear.
In the last 18 years (13 of those with Inc.com including several years writing for the print magazine), I've encountered some incredibly innovative products. These are my top picks, the ones that stood out the most during all those years of testing and reviewing.
There was something different about the iPhone X, released back in 2017. I still remember glancing at the screen sitting on a table when I was reviewing it and thinking it looked like a freshly printed brochure cover. The updated iPhone 11 lasts longer on a charge for sure, but it's also a bit thicker and bulkier. Plus, the iPhone X was the first OLED phone from Apple.
I've tested hundreds and hundreds of laptops over the years. I have a few favorites for sure, but the one I remember the most is the Pixelbook from 2017. It turns on instantly. It's lighter than most Microsoft Surface models. For me, all I really need is a browser for work. The Pixelbook tends to last all week too. And, it slides nicely into my laptop bag.
This product is easy to remember. After reviewing one many years ago, I immediately decided to buy one and it's been in my back pocket ever since. Nothing fancy. It's made of real leather, and my credit cards stay put in the pockets. I expect it to last forever.
I'm sure Apple reps have grown tired of me talking about this laptop replacement since they insist it is more of a compliment to the MacBook line. I tend to use the iPad Pro 12.9-inch on business trips, though. And now that Adobe offers Photoshop as an iPad app, it's even more viable. I once called it a laptop killer and a game-changer for work.
Some products just leave an indelible impression on me. This one is coffee-related. As far as a breakroom accouterment, nothing beats the Jura Z8, although many of their machines are top end and worth adding to your breakroom. I've insisted for years that the coffee tastes better than the stale stuff you'll find at any actual coffeeshop.
Released way back in 2008, the Canon 5D Mark II was a groundbreaking camera and in many ways still is. (There are newer models that work even better, like the 5D Mark IV.) The original Mark II is a full-frame camera that also records high-def video. It's capable of capturing stunningly clear photos that are noticeably better than other digital models.
I've tested quite a few business apparel products over the years, but the Lululemon Commission Wool pants stand out the most. They're designed for work during the day but also for riding a bike on a morning commute. (I've done that a few times.) They are stretchy and comfortable, but professional-looking enough to wear to a business meeting.
A curious thing happened when I first wrote about this printer back in 2016. People wanted to know more about it. (That does not usually happen with printers.) Readers were curious about the fast speed and how many extra trays I was able to attach. To this day they still let me know it has changed how they produce documents in an office.
Amazon really nailed it with the Amazon Echo speaker. It packs a one-two punch: The speaker itself sounds phenomenal with rich bass and clear tones. And, the Alexa bot is conversational and helpful, a true game-changer in an office when you need directions to a meeting. I've tested all of the models since the Echo debuted, and the best one is the most recent.
Only a small number of products really stick out over the last 18 years. I remember reviewing them as though it was only recently. Way back in 2016, I tested the Samuel Hubbard Getaway shoes, which look business casual enough for work but I also tested them on walks. They're perfect for airports, where you can slip them off and on easily. And--oh so comfortable.
The little things are so important when it comes to laptop bags. Some have multiple compartments and a place for your water bottle. The Knomo Bungo bag is meant for quick access. One magnet holds the flag securely, and when you need your laptop, it's easy to grab. I also like the zipper pocket in front for storing the Apple AirPods Pro.
Sometimes, you really need to tune out the world and get some work done. Even though they just came out last year, the Apple AirPods Pro are a personal favorite because they sound amazing, have noise-canceling tech, and work nicely with an iPhone or iPad. If you are keeping track, yes, I have selected three Apple products. What can I say? They rise above.
I still prefer "hybrid" watches, such as the Fossil Q, because it lasts for years on a battery, yet provides many of the smartwatch features you might need, including fitness tracking. More importantly, it looks like a normal high-end watch. While I did finally warm up to the Apple Watch, I still don't like having to charge a gadget every other day.
You have to drive to work, right? Might as well drive something fun. I consider the VW Golf Alltrack an affordable daily transporter compared to luxury cars, and the turbocharged engine can help you merge into traffic quickly. The styling is business-friendly enough, too. I've tested around 500 cars over 10 years and this one is my all-time favorite.