We write about hundreds of products a week. Here, in our version of the Sunday circular, we’ve plucked out some of our favorites — expert-recommended essentials, life-changing stuff you didn’t know you needed, newly launched gizmos, and the very good deals we uncovered while trolling through the vast online-shopping universe this past week, including an under-$200 watch that rivals one collector’s Rolex, a better version of the best noise-canceling headphones, and a T-shirt designed by Jake Gyllenhaal.
A desk compact enough you can work from a hallway
When junior writer Chloe Anello spoke with Queer Eye’s interior-design guru, Bobby Berk, about things to make a slapdash home workspace feel a bit more suitable for this sustained period of working from home, he told us that “it’s really important to have a dedicated workspace. Getting a desk instead of using, say, your couch or kitchen table, will be an instant upgrade. This is a really great one — especially for those with limited space. You can even use it in a hallway. The desk part — the table that you work on — comes out, but can be closed up. So you can keep your stuff inside it, like your laptop and accessories and whatnot, and then close it up at the end of the day. When it closes, the office is closed and you’re done.”
The vitamin C–infused eye cream that got our writer off Banana Bright
Cursed by genes that gave her dark under-eye circles for as long as she can remember, writer Dominique Pariso says she’s tried “just about everything to brighten those circles” and “thought I had found my holy grail in Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Creme (beloved by many, including, at one point, Rio). After years of using it, though, I realized that Ole Henriksen was like my seventh-grade boyfriend: Someone I stuck with because I didn’t think there was a better option out there. But just as I was wrong about that boyfriend, I was also wrong about that eye cream.” Unlike Banana Bright, this one, from Black-owned brand BeautyStat, “actually states its concentration of L-ascorbic acid (or vitamin C) on the bottle,” writes Pariso, noting “the Eye Perfector’s formula includes 5 percent L-ascorbic acid and hyaluronic acid to brighten and hydrate under-eye skin.” Beyond that, “BeautyStat’s Eye Perfector is free of fragrance, something the Banana Bright is not (which could be a reason that some of its users report it has caused irritation and allergic reactions),” she adds. And “unlike many eye creams, which are often packaged in messy jars, BeautyStat’s comes in an opaque bottle with a pump.” She says “the lightweight cream initially has a slightly sandy texture, but instantly sinks into the skin and leaves a velvety finish” with no “greasy residue,” and that it “also seems to stay put during workouts, making it even more effective and worth its slightly higher price tag.”
An under-$200 watch that rivals one collector’s Rolex
While time — and keeping it — has proven to be quite challenging in the blur of quarantine, one tool that can always help is a good watch. But even when shopping on a budget, for every good watch, there are dozens that aren’t worth your time (or money), according to the collectors writer Louis Cheslaw spoke to about the best under-$500 men’s watches you can buy. This sleek Swatch style (which is technically unisex) comes recommended by author and watch connoisseur Gary Shteyngart, who told us its “mesh bracelet is even more comfortable than the famously comfortable Rolex Oyster bracelet.” Plus, he adds, it “has these incredible features you would not expect from a $125 watch,” including “a beautifully thin case and a not-oversize dial.”
A T-shirt designed by Jake Gyllenhaal
For those looking for ways to support the restaurant industry beyond ordering takeout or dining in person, two New York City institutions — Russ & Daughters and Jake Gyllenhaal — recently teamed up to release this limited-edition tie-dyed tee that gives back. “For the next month,” we wrote in Don’t Dillydally, “100 percent of proceeds go to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a nonprofit group that’s lobbying to save independent restaurants.”
A better version of the best noise-canceling headphones
Since they debuted in 2018, Sony’s noise-canceling over-ear WH-1000XM3 headphones (XM3 for short) have been the favorite of tech folk and everyday users for their superior sound quality and design. Last week, the brand released the headphones’ next generation — the WH-1000XM4 (or XM4s) — promising an even better listening experience. But longtime fans, including Cheslaw, were curious: Could the already well-regarded headphones really get any better? “After a few weeks of wearing them,” Cheslaw writes, “I am happy to say that, even if marginally, they can.” Perhaps the biggest upgrade? “The XM4s can maintain a connection to two devices at once, with the headphones automatically noticing when you switch between the two. This has been a game changer for someone like me, who switches between my phone and laptop all day as I get through phone calls, Zoom calls, Spotify playlists, and Twitter alerts,” he says. The XM4s, “like AirPods, can also pause whatever you’re listening to when you raise or slide back the left earphone,” adds Cheslaw, who notes that, importantly, some things haven’t changed — including the headphones’ 30-hour battery life and their price, with the newer model costing the same as its predecessor (which we’re already starting to see get heavily discounted.)
A not-cheesy-way to display your instant Instax photos
According to photographers, FujiFilm’s Instax Mini instant camera is the Polaroid of the present day, in part due to its simplicity and accessibility. But anyone who’s used one knows that you’re often left with a stack of tiny photos that can be hard to display in ways that don’t look too DIY. Which is why we were particularly delighted to see this minimalist made-for-Instax frame on writer Nikita Richardson’s list of 10 photo albums, vetted 10 different ways. Richardson writes that the frame, which can display an impressive 56 photos, “allows you to flip through your pictures at a moment’s notice,” adding that “Urban Outfitters happens to have quite a selection of Instax photo albums” if you do not like this particular style.
And a fridge that’ll ‘run for decades’
Buying a fridge comes with lots of things to consider, from the space you need to fill, to the style of the appliance (top freezer, side-by-side, French door, oh my!), to the bells and whistles you may need. Contributor James Lynch recently spoke to a group of refrigerator repair experts, salespeople, and appliance-store owners to find out what models are worth the money, and this top-freezer fridge — the least expensive of those mentioned by the pros — came highly recommended by a store owner for its reliability and crowd-pleasing design. “Top freezer is the most basic style, and it’s thought to be one of the most reliable configurations,” says the expert, adding, “I always recommend buying GE products. They make the best top freezers that ever existed. And it can run for decades.” Even though it’s on the affordable end, it boasts a respectable set of extra features, including a built-in ice-maker, glass shelves, and LED interior lights.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.