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Everyday Essentials Our Editors Swear By | Best Gadgets 2022 – Popular Mechanics

Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. How we test gear.
Multi-purpose tech and tools that have improved the way we work, play, and travel.
Our team is constantly testing a wide variety of gear, ranging from electronics to hand tools. Even though we see a lot of shiny and new products pass through our labs, they only make the equipment we come back to everyday stand out even more. Our favorite gadgets get the basics right while providing multiple layers of extra functionality—standing the test of time as practical and versatile. The selections below have been well-loved by our editors, logging hours of use as they help us complete our daily tasks.
IOGear’s $50 Mini Dock is my everyday USB-C hub—high praise for the dozens of hubs I’ve tested over the past few years. It condenses all of the ports I need (headphone, HDMI, USB-A, and USB-C) into a compact adapter that fits right into my everyday carry loadout. I use this dock on all of my USB-C-equipped devices, from my laptop to my smartphone. It adds extensive functionality, like connecting an external screen (I often connect my laptop or tablet to my TV to play video games), as well as extra connectivity for accessories like a wired keyboard or USB microphone. Since it is small enough to stay attached to my gadgets, I never forget it when I move around the office or travel.—Hunter Fenollol
I have dozens of tools so it’s hard to say what is essential. Something that’s crucial on one project may not get used at all on the next. But on virtually every job, I use the Empire e250 combination square. I use it to check for square, identify cuts, mark position lines to drive screws holes or drill holes, label bevels, and pinpoint lines parallel to an edge. And when I remove the ruler from the head, the head itself forms a miniature level, thanks to the single-bubble vial built into it. That’s a lot of versatility from a tool that costs just $13.—Roy Berendsohn
Last fall, I bought Heyday’s Lightning-to-USB-A Keychain Cable from Target. I hate to admit it, but the geometric teal and orange of that model’s design is what initially caught my eye. But once I realized how convenient the keychain was—I keep it attached, almost at the hip, on my Dagne Dover backpack—I became obsessed. You’re telling me I can hide a lengthy charging cable inside a compact, aesthetically pleasing package? Nonsense. Unfortunately, this exact model has been discontinued, but you can grab its cousin, this 7-inch Lightning-to-USB-A Tassel Keychain Cable for $12. Snag one to lighten your load, add some flair to your style, and never run out of juice again, my friends.—Courtney Linder
Don’t let this $5 keychain multi-tool fool you—it’s a durable attachment that has saved my hide many times both at work and on the road. Its space-saving design requires extra turns, which puts some extra strain on your wrist, but its Phillips screwdriver, wrench, and nail puller have seen plenty of action. From removing the bolts from a toilet seat cover to opening up various electronics, this aptly named DoohicKey has seen it all. Most of the time its small but mighty scoring point is my tool of choice, coming in handy for opening up packages. No, it’s not going to keep up with an actual wrench or screwdriver but it pays itself off the minute you end up in a jam without access to your toolbox.—HF
Modern automobiles have made some serious entertainment technology advancements. If you told me five years ago that Apple and Android would have made an operating system for a car, I would’ve immediately said you’re lying—yet, here we are. Because of this, my 2015 Volkswagen daily driver is starting to show its age a bit in the infotainment department. That’s where the Quadlock Smartphone case comes in super clutch. Paired with the brand’s suction-cup windshield mount, it allows me to charge my iPhone while keeping apps like Apple Maps and Spotify at a glance. I like to consider it a budget Apple CarPlay or Android Auto alternative.—Matt Crisara
If your projects involve paint in any capacity, you’ll appreciate the utility of Purdy’s 6-in-1 Painter’s Tool. The six things this one tool is designed to do are: scrape paint, set nails, open paint cans, clean paint rollers, spread joint compound or wood putty, and open or clean out gaps and cracks. You’ll come up with plenty of other uses too. I’ve used it as a pry bar, hammering its thin end under trim to pull it up for repair or replacement. In a similar way, it’s also been a helpful ally freeing up windows that have been painted shut—breaking the bond between window sash and jamb. Heck, it’s worth having solely to help clean out paint rollers.—Bradley Ford
For just about the price of a lunch special at your favorite sushi joint, you can nab this portable Apple Watch charger that keeps anxiety pangs at bay. This gadget is essential if you’re constantly checking your wrist for notifications, sending messages, or using apps. Forgetful when it comes to carrying the various chargers you need to keep on hand for all of your favorite devices? This lil’ dude attaches right to your keychain, so you have no excuse for forgetting your watch charger at home—or for neglecting to hit your daily fitness goals.—CL
Stanley Tools began making its Model 99 utility knife in the early 1960s. Like the Leatherman multi-tool, it was a breakthrough that created an entire product category. Placing accurate razor sharpness into consumers’ hands meant you no longer had to struggle with a dull blade or take time to sharpen it. All you have to do is remove the blade and swap it end-for-end to expose the second sharp edge or swap the dull blade for a fresh one. I’ve used a 99 for the last 40 years and find it indispensable for sharpening carpenter pencils, cutting twine, opening packages, shaving off iron-on edge banding, sharpening stakes, scribing a line, scraping off adhesive residue, and slitting building paper.—RB
If your work revolves around a computer, Loupedeck’s Live control deck is a must-have despite the admittedly eye-watering price tag. This tool consists of 18 dynamic touchscreen buttons and six dials to streamline your workflow across apps. Each input changes on the fly—buttons become shortcuts and dials become level controls to streamline and fine-tune controls for the software you’re using. For example, when you’re browsing the web you can adjust volume or pin sites to their own button for faster access. Switch over to Photoshop and each button becomes a tool while the dial lets you precisely adjust your desired levels of aspects like brightness and blur. And while live streaming, you can switch between cameras, audio sources, and animations with a tap. Each button can be customized to your liking using the included software, which opens up automation possibilities for other tasks like spreadsheets.—HF




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