Google Pixel 3 tops best gadgets list of 2018 for investor Peter Pham

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. – Every day was Christmas at Peter Pham’s house in 2018. 

When you’re a massive tech geek, an investor who wants to know what’s coming in the years ahead – and you’re also in the middle of a home remodel that’s put you on an additional spending spree – you’re going to buy a lot of gadgets, at least one a day, by his reckoning. 

Which he did. For work. 

For the third year in a row, USA TODAY sat down with Peter Pham, the president of tech incubator Science, Inc., which helped turn apps like Wishbone, Yarn and Dollar Shave Club into huge hits. The objective: Let him highlight his top purchases. 

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When we visited, Pham’s kitchen table was surrounded by his top purchases:

• Google Home Hub connected video speaker ($149) 

• Google’s Pixel 3 XL smartphone ($899)

• Google Pixel Stand charger ($79)

• Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptop ($1,300)

• Multiple earbuds, including Sennsheiser Momentum ($299) and RHA TruConnect ($169)

• Roku Ultra streaming player ($99)

• A pocket-sized JBL bluetooth Clip 3 speaker ($29)

• Wacom tablet Intuos ($69) for drawing

• The Light camera ($2,000) with multiple sensors 

• Charmast USB-C power band, for bringing juice to the phone ($29.99)

• Hypervolt, which calls itself “a cordless state-of-the-art vibration massage device,” from HyperIce ($349)

• The Oculus Go virtual reality headset ($199)  

And two new type of ovens, from Brava and June, that feature a built-in camera to monitor your cooking and relay video back to your smartphone app. More on those in a minute. 

In the dining room, a 55-inch Samsung Frame TV ($1,499) hangs on the wall, while in another he’s installing a 120-inch Ben-Q 4K laser projection system ($6,500). Upstairs is Tonal ($3,000), a home gym with video workouts and the Naked Labs “Naked” body scanner ($1,400), a combo of scale and mirror that monitors your body mass.

Before we jump into his favorite gadget of the year, let’s dive back into those ovens. 

The Brava ($999) sells itself as a new type of oven that can get to 500 degrees Fahrenheit within one second, offers the ability to cook three different foods at once, at different temperatures, and has a companion app that lets you not just set the timing but also lets you watch the cooking on your phone via the 5-megapixel camera oven and an app. 

Pham calls the category a cross between “a really smart toaster oven and a microwave,” with a big difference. “The idea is perfectionist cooking. Microwaves don’t cook very well. These devices do a way better job.” 

Pham also has the smaller, less expensive June oven ($599), and during our interview said he hadn’t decided which one he likes better. The June, which will be officially released in February (Pham got an early copy) has many of the same features, plus an auto cook feature that has the camera sensing what foods have been inserted, and thus can automatically set the timing and temps. Plus, it’s Alexa-enabled, so if you have an Amazon Echo speaker, you can ask June to cook things for you via voice.  

On Facebook this week, Pham announced his decision: June. 

“Now we are using the June daily … You pop in bacon, chicken nuggets, bagels etc. and it recognizes what you are going to cook which makes everything set it and forget it. I liked the idea of the Brava, super fast cook times and multi zone cooking but it’s not quite there yet. I think Brava is better at fancy dishes (crispy skin salmon, searing steaks) & meal kits but the June is better at all around daily use.”

For laptops, he wanted to get a new Apple MacBook Air, but when he noticed the specs of the Lenovo ThinkPad, which has a 14-inch screen compared to the Mac’s 13-inch and weighs a pound less, he was sold. “Weight is everything,” Pham says. “Plus it’s bright enough that I can work outside and see it.”

Upstairs, he’s installed Tonal, a compact home gym he describes as “like a plasma TV sideways with two arms that come off it,” and allow him to “lift weights without going to the gym.” The Tonal has instructor-led workouts, via the video screen. 

Beyond exercise and cooking, Pham is huge on earbuds. He’s a frequent traveler, so earphones are important to him. He’s never found the right pair, but thinks he’s closest with the Sennheisers, which are pricey, but he says do a great job of canceling noise from the outside world.

Speaking of smartphones, in last year’s installment, Pham was a triple phone user, switching out the SIM card from a Samsung Galaxy S7, Pixel 2 and iPhone X because he couldn’t make up his mind which he liked better. 

This year, his mind is made up. The Google Pixel 3 is the best of the bunch, and the best smartphone out there, he says, because of the camera. 

The improved optics of the Pixel uses “computational photography” for algorithms to better a shot, through lighting and cropping. Specifically, it allows him to shoot in practical darkness, and still get great images, as demonstrated on a recent trip to Helsinki. 

“The camera is everything for me,” he says. 

Until January, when he’ll begin his shopping spree again. 

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Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. 



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