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Shopping Guide: Ben’s best-reviewed products of 2021

Over the past year, I’ve reviewed dozens of products, from battery chargers to motorized standing desks. While not every new gadget managed to wow me, quite a few made a positive impression.

They might do the same for you. There could even be a few that would make an excellent gift for someone you know — especially those who are difficult to buy for.

Check out the top 15 products from my reviews this year, with gift ideas for every budget.

Belkin 2-in-1 Wireless Charger with MagSafe

Earlier this year, I reviewed a MagSafe charging stand from Belkin designed for the iPhone 12 (and now 13) and Apple AirPods. It’s fast, it’s elegant, and you can check out my full review by tapping or clicking here. While it retails for $99, you can catch it on sale this time of year.

After reviewing this stand, I bought the 3-in-1 version that adds an Apple Watch charger. Yes, it’s a little pricey, but it’s my favorite product on this list and something I use every single day.

Aura Carver Smart Digital Picture Frame

Displaying your favorite photos is as easy as sending them to your TV or smart display, but that doesn’t mean digital photo frames are relics of the past. The Aura Carver is a frame that lets you instantly add photos through a handy app (with unlimited storage) and can be the perfect gift for a loved one who doesn’t live nearby. Here’s my full review.

Flexispot Pro Series Standing Desk

Standing desks aren’t just trendy. They serve a purpose for posture and other health benefits. And the Flexispot Pro Series isn’t your average standing desk, packing dual motors, three memory height presets and customizable options. It’s sturdy, quiet and makes for a great way to break up the monotony of sitting in front of a computer all day. Check out my full review of the desk here.

Ekster Aluminum Cardholder

Even as minimalist wallets became more popular, I was convinced I would keep my traditional leather bifold forever. That’s until I tried the Ekster Aluminum Cardholder, which I reviewed here. Store your most-used cards in the spring-loaded cardholder and access them with a very cool switchblade-like button. Now it’s the only wallet I carry. Check out Ekster’s lineup of wallets and other products here.

Jackery Explorer 300

It’s practical, sure, but there’s no greater gift than having backup power when you need it. Charge your phone, tablet, laptop and more — and power some small appliances simultaneously with the Jackery Explorer 300. It’s compact, easy to use and just works. Here’s my review on why it’s the perfect device to take on getaways, especially camping trips.

If money isn’t a problem and you want more power, there’s the Jackery Solar Generator 1500 portable power station, which I also reviewed this past year. This thing will power full-size appliances, like a refrigerator, when the power goes out and comes with four solar panels.

Philips Hue Bloom LED Smart Table Lamp

Add a little ambiance with the Philips Hue Bloom table lamp, designed to provide indirect lighting with millions of colors to choose from. It’s small enough to fade into the background and is controllable through Bluetooth using an app. If you want to integrate this light into your smart home, add the Philips Hue Smart Hub. Here’s my full review of this table lamp.

Cubii Pro Under Desk Elliptical

My second favorite product on this list is the Cubii Pro elliptical that I have used nearly every day for more than a year. It fits right under your desk, so you can get your cardio in while you work or set it in front of your favorite chair in the evening. Connect it to your smartphone via Bluetooth to keep track of your workouts and find other exercises to try.

Kasa Smart KP400 Outdoor Smart Plug

Smart plugs are a great way to control lights and other gadgets inside the house, but you also can’t go wrong with one specifically made to work outdoors, like the Kasa dual-socket option (here’s the latest version).

I use a couple of these for string lights around my patio and others that illuminate my backyard. I can turn them on using my voice, through an app or simply set them up to activate the lighting at sunset — and you can’t beat the price. Here’s my full review of this smart plug.

Nebula Solar Portable Projector

How great would it be to watch a movie in the backyard or while you’re at a campsite? The Anker Nebula Solar isn’t just a portable projector. It also has a built-in battery that lasts up to three hours on a single charge, along with Android TV’s 5,000-app library. This 1080P projector can produce a 120-inch image with settings that can be controlled using an app. Read my review for all the ways it can be put to use.

JumpSmart 10-in-1 Vehicle Jump Starter

It might look like your average flashlight, but the JumpSmart 10-in-1 has much more to offer, primarily the ability to jump-start your car’s dead battery. I put this thing to the test on my son’s 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and it worked flawlessly (read about it here). There are a few other handy features as well, like dual USB ports to charge your gadgets, a compass, thermometer and an audible alarm.

WD My Passport 1TB SSD

Know anyone who would benefit from the gift of extra digital storage? I recently reviewed the WD My Passport SSD with 1TB of storage, and this thing is pretty amazing. Barely larger than a credit card, it has a sturdy metal frame and digital encryption.

It can store massive photo collections and important documents or use it as added storage for gaming systems like the PS5. Here’s my review of the WD My Passport SSD, which includes details for a tiny flash drive that fits perfectly on a keychain.

August Smart Lock

Giving your front door the smart home treatment doesn’t mean you have to replace your lock entirely. August Smart Lock fits over your existing deadbolt and features built-in Wi-Fi allowing you to lock or unlock it from anywhere using your phone. It also has DoorSense, which can be customized to let you know if the door is open, closed, locked or unlocked. Find my full review of the August Smart Lock by tapping or clicking here.

Fenix PD35 V3.0 Everyday Carry Flashlight

Looking for an extremely bright flashlight that fits in your pocket? The Fenix PD35 V3.0 Everyday Carry Flashlight has a 1,700-lumen output and a rechargeable battery. There are five brightness levels to choose from, including a strobe mode and a battery-level indicator. This Fenix flashlight comes with a micro USB charging cable, a lanyard, holster and a spare O-ring.

I’ve had many flashlights over the years from brands including Streamlight and SureFire, and this one outshines them all — literally. While I haven’t done an official measurement, the Turbo setting outputs a beam that can travel nearly 1,200 feet. And if you only use the eco setting, the battery can last up to 230 hours on a charge.

Anker PowerExpand 4-in-1 USB-C Hub with SSD

You can find USB-C hubs and docking stations in all shapes and sizes, but rarely will you find one that also includes a built-in SSD. The Anker PowerExpand 4-in-1 USB-C hub isn’t the biggest or baddest hub out there, but it’s excellent as a tag-along in your laptop bag with a single 4K HDMI port, two USB-A ports, a USB-C PD port and a 256GB SSD. It’s also tiny, so it won’t take up a lot of space. Check out the full review here.

CyberPower Intelligent LCD UPS System

Probably the most practical gift idea on this list, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is perhaps best suited for someone who has specifically asked for one. A UPS, like this option from CyberPower, is designed to keep the power on during brief outages. It’s a great gadget to have if you work from home, especially if you use a desktop computer.

This one has 12 outlets, six of which are battery backup. That means you can connect your computer, monitors, speakers and any other peripherals, so when the power goes out, you have time to close what you’re working on and safely shut your system down.

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