You can take a look back at last year’s gear here:
there were/are some major changes happening with my assortment.
Pixel 4 XL phone – My ‘Google’ phone. This as a ‘secondary’ or backup phone. It has all the Microsoft apps installed on it and is connected to my Microsoft 365 production account. Most importantly, it has the Microsoft Authenticator app for MFA access for certain apps.
This phone is becoming a bit old, tired and slow to be honest. I haven’t installed many new apps but it somehow feel slower? Maybe that has to do with the OS updates over the year? Given that my primary phone contract is due to expire in early 2021 I am debating whether to switch to Android? I’d really like to get Microsoft Duo phone but they are not yet available here in Australia. I appreciate the Duo has limitations and is expensive when compared to other phones but I’d like to see how the concept of dual screens works in a business context. We’ll have to wait and see if the Duo is rolled out Australia in 2021 and then I may retire my current Pixel. For now the Pixel will remain.
iPhone XS Max – This has been my main phone for almost two years now. As mentioned, the contact is up in February so I’m beginning to think about potentially replacing it. My main concern with doing that is not to lose my unlimited data contract, which got me out of a major jam last year when my ADSL broadband service failed for over 6 weeks.
After two years of living the iPhone lifestyle I gotta admit I still don’t get people’s fanaticism about it. Yes it is well engineered, better than most I’ll readily admit, but at the end of the day it is just a phone for me. I have a few common apps I use on it, apart from all the Microsoft ones, but honestly, I just use it as a phone not as a surrogate friend.
So when it comes to upgrading after the contract expires shortly, I’m kinda in two minds as to whether the benefits really justify this or whether it may be time to look live with Android for a while.
Surface Pro 7 – With the death of my Surface Pro 4 in late 2019 I invested in a new Surface Pro 7 as my main desktop machine. Being the same form factor, it just slotted directly into my Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro Docking Station. This meant that my Surface Pro 6 device has been relegated to my backup or travelling device (which kinda didn’t happen much in 2020 now did it!).
The only real noticeable difference with the Surface Pro 7 is that it is a little faster, however it is the machine that I use most day to day and has performed flawlessly.
Surface Pro 6 – Moved from being my primary desktop to being my backup and travelling machine. I use it pretty much every day as an adjunct to my main machine. It lives on my secondary Kensington SD3500v connected to a full screen and acts as my onsite backup in case my main machine fails or is unavailable for some reason. It is also a handy way to test things from outside my environment by hot spotting to my phones.
Surface Pro X – I had the opportunity in 2020 to buy a virtually new ARM based version of a Surface PC cheaply, so I did. I was interested to see how it performed with an eye to make it my travelling PC given it was lighter and was less power hungry. I also grabbed it to better understand the limitations that an ARM processor would bring to productivity work.
At the moment this device sits in my offsite ‘back up’ office which I still visit regularly. The idea with my ‘back up’ office is that if my main office is unavailable for some reason (i.e. no broadband, on fire or under water, unable to access, etc) then I have another location I can work from that has everything I need, including infrastructure.
The major thing I like about the Surface Pro X is the pen. It is far superior to the Apple pencil in my opinion. It feels and operates far more like a real pencil. Given that this style of electronic scribe also comes with a Duo device is one of the major reason I am keen on getting it when it becomes available in Australia.
Can I use the Surface Pro X as a desktop replacement for say my Surface Pro 7? Yes, but with more reliance on the cloud to do things the Surface Pro X can’t do natively. Could others? probably not if they are dependent on ‘old world’ desktop software. However, as that dependency falls away I see a real place for devices like these. Maybe not this one, but something like it in the future. That’s why I’d love to get my hands on Duo device to see whether it is closer to this dream
Surface Pro 3 – Continues to work fine and functions as a Microsoft Teams ‘phone’ tablet on my desktop. Basically, it is now a device I use for making and receiving calls. It sits on my desk without a mouse and keyboard, arranged in portrait orientation. It doesn’t get used much to be honest but it still chugs along and while it does I’ll hang onto it if for nothing else than testing.
Surface – I have had an original Surface version 1 for many years now. The keyboard has long since broken by the system still works fine, although somewhat under powered with only 4GB of RAM. This is why this machine is the machine I use with Windows 10 insider builds. In essence, it is a test machine that I can reformat and reconfigure on a whim.
iPad mini 5th Gen – I decided I wanted a smaller ‘notebook’ size table to use like a paper diary, amoungst other things, so I went out and bought an iPad mini. My older, larger iPad was then repurposed for a family member, so it also still remain in operation.
I also now use this iPad mini with the Apple pencil, which generally works well. The secret is to get a good case for both the iPad mini and the pencil. My choice was:
which I’d certainly recommend as it is flexible, tough and cheap.
Another reason for going with an iPad mini was that it would be less bulky to travel with but that didn’t get tested in 2020, hopefully 2021.
The only major downside of the iPad mini is that battery life is a lot less than the full size iPad, which is understandable. I have however never run out of juice but you do notice the power levels fall away quickly when compared to the full size version. I like that the iPad mini comfortable fits on my desk, works will with the Apple pencil and is much more transportable than the larger version. I was a little concerned that the screen size would be too small to enjoy movies and read web pages, etc but that hasn’t proved to be the case. I happy use it lying back on the couch to watch a variety of programs and read web sites.
All in all I’m very happy with this devices as a replacement for a paper diary or notebook. When you add in everything else it can provide as well I’m happy to say that apart from my desktop PC, this is probably the device I use most.
Ubiquiti – Towards the end of 2020 I started to have real issues with my ADSL broadband. This last for over six weeks and at times meant that I had to resort to using my mobiles. Luckily, after that NBN broadband FINALLY became available in my location but unfortunately the modem that I ordered from the new supplier decided to take a holiday trip around Australia instead of being delivered to me. I therefore went out and bought a D-Link Wireless N300 Model Router DSLG225 so I could at least connect.
Now thanks to the fact that I already had a variety of Ubiquiti in place I just needed to slap this modem inline, set it to bridge mode, may a few minor changes to the configuration of the Security Gateway and I was up and running.
This new broadband connection has made a huge difference to my work, especially have so much more upload speed! However, having the Ubiquiti stuff already in place removed the need for a major reconfiguration of my on premises infrastructure.
One of the items that I am again considering for 2021 (still) will be a Ubiquiti camera like this:
Again, not really a must have but I can see benefits of having one of these device to monitor things when I’m not there.
Docking station – I still love my Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro Docking Station. It is a really neat device, that suits most modern Surface Pro devices. It is slim, compact and now all me to have 3 external monitors off the one Surface devices (as you can never have enough screen now can you eh?). I can plug in all my devices, microphones, phones, etc to it and all the cables are hidden at the back. I also like that you can adjust the screen up and down, a bit like a Surface Studio.
Occasionally, one of my monitors goes dark and a few seconds later comes back, kinda like it is doing a reset or refresh. Maybe I need to update some drivers? Apart from that it continues to perform flawlessly.
The original Kensington SD3500v has now moved to work with the travelling PC when it is running in my office and that is also working well, making it a truly ‘plug and play’ experience when I get back from road trips.
WD Sentinel DX4000 – Now that NBN has finally arrived I’m beginning to shift most of my production data to Microsoft 365 and Azure. I doubt that I’ll de-commission this device as it is still useful as a backup and a repository for stuff that doesn’t make sense in the cloud. My on premises environment is connected to Azure via a site-to-site VPN so I can readily move files between the two locations.
In the end, this device serves less and less purpose as I move more and more data off it and into the cloud.
Personal fitness device – I am still in two minds about this. Is it something that I will really take advantage of? I am also somewhat concerned about the privacy of them, given that Google purchased Fitbit a while back. My major reason for such a device would be to monitor my sleep and my activity (steps). A heart rate monitor would also be handy. If I went with anything I think it would the Oura ring, but that ain’t cheap. So I am still deciding whether it is worth the investment.
Amazon Kindle – Still have this but it has now largely been superseded by the iPad mini for reading books. I still love my Kindle but if I can have one less device then I’m going to take that option. so for now, the Kindle has been relegated as a backup.
Xbox One S – Still use it to watch YouTube, Netflix and Amazon video but now playing more games thanks to the release of the latest Call of Duty game.
My major hardware investments in 2020 where a new Surface Pro 7, Surface Pro X and iPad mini. The arrival of NBN is now accelerating the retirement of the WD Sentinel. My major focus will be determining what I go for in regards my day to day phone and I would really love to see the Duo device arrive on our shores.
2020 was a very different year, with greatly reduced travel so we’ll see what this year brings but I kinda feel it is going to be pretty much the same for now.