12 Must-Have Gadgets for Digital Nomads
Calling all digital nomads -- you may not be wearing a dark suit, a tie and shiny shoes, but you're out there with at least a full day of work to get done. Chances are that, more times than not, your workspace is a table at Starbucks, a hotel lobby couch or a client's lunchroom. In other words, you labor where and when you can, without the kind of resources that a more office-bound employee can call upon.
As a result, your mobile gear has to be small, light and able to come through for you while making you look good. Regardless of whether it's a Wi-Fi smart phone, a solar-powered battery or a portable printer, it has to get the job done without making you work up a sweat. After all, appearance counts for a lot these days.
Here are a dozen great gadgets that no self-respecting digital nomad will want to be without.
Print Shop to Go
Forget about waiting at a Kinkos to print out that hard-copy report. Planon's Printstik PS910 is a go-anywhere print shop. At 1.5 pounds and powered by a lithium ion battery, the PS910 easily fits into a notebook bag, yet it can print from a smart phone, handheld or notebook, either through a USB cable or wirelessly via Bluetooth. The $300 printer uses thermal technology; a package of three rolls of thermal paper costs $25. It means that you only get monochrome documents, but if you need a quick sales letter, a map or a proposal, this could be just the thing.
So much work, so few power outlets -- it's the nomad's nightmare. Belkin's Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger turns a single AC outlet into three, delivering electricity to you and those around you (sharing that outlet may get you good karma, or even a free latte). It also provides a pair of USB ports for charging phones, handhelds or media players. At 6 ounces, the Mini Surge Protector is worth its weight in batteries, and it rotates so that it won't block the second outlet on the wall. The device costs $25, but is well worth it -- not the least because it carries a $75,000 warranty against damage from a power spike.
It may not be able to stop a coffee cup from tipping over, but Zagg's InvisibleShield keyboard cover can keep a spill from turning into a digital disaster. Made of an ultrathin plastic film, the type-through cover keeps liquids, dust and who knows what else out of your notebook's delicate keyboard. When it gets dirty, wipe it clean. The $35 cover has been precision-cut for a wide variety of notebooks and comes with a lifetime guarantee not to scratch or wear out.
Lean, Green Machines
Why spend valuable work time searching in vain for an AC outlet when the sun can power your phone or other equipment? Solio's Magnesium portable solar charger has three photovoltaic solar panels that slide out to provide up to 8 watts of power. It's enough to provide 15 minutes of cell phone talk-time for every hour in the sun. Solio's Magnesium charger comes with a USB tip and a coupon for another iGo power tip of your choice. If you'd rather simply power your backpack, you can go green for $249 with Voltaic's solar backpack. It puts out 4 watts of juice, has its own battery and comes with 11 power tips so it's sure to fit your equipment.
The Fellowes Monitor Filter is essential equipment for digital nomads trying to keep a secret. Regardless of whether it's a spreadsheet for your company's upcoming IPO or the private portion of a friend's Facebook page, the filter will prevent those around you from seeing what's on your screen. Only those looking straight at the screen can see anything, so digital Peeping Toms peering sideways over your shoulder will see only black. Available for 12.1- to 15.4-in. displays, the filter costs about $35.
When recording a meeting and taking notes is not enough, Livescribe's Pulse Smartpen lets you do both by linking your handwritten notes to what was said live. The Pulse Smartpen can play back exactly what was said and when by pressing the pen to any place in your notes. The only catch is that you need to use one of Livescribe's special 100-page notebooks, which cost $20 for a four-pack. The $150 charcoal blue pen looks and feels good when held, weighs 1.3 ounces and can record up to 200 hours of meetings, brainstorming sessions and contact info. The software puts it all together, along with cool apps like a translator and transcription service, but it only works with Windows computers.
A Good Call
HP's iPaq 910 Business Messenger may look like an ordinary smart phone with a screen on top and a thumb keyboard below for tapping out e-mails, quick memos and instant messages. But on top of calling and Web surfing over a 3G GSM quad-band mobile phone network, this 5.3-ounce smart phone can link with an 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network at a connected coffee shop or client's office. Other features include built-in Google Maps with Multimodal GPS navigation, mobile versions of various Microsoft apps and an alphanumeric QWERTY keyboard. An unlocked iPaq 910 handset costs about $500.
Make the Connection
Never seem to have the right cable (or it's buried in the bottomless pit of your notebook bag)? Meritline's Ultimate Cable Kit ($26) can make the connection with retractable FireWire, USB, telephone and Ethernet cables and all the tips needed to plug just about any peripheral into your computer. It all fits into a black-padded travel case and comes with a travel mouse and headphones. For those who never seem to have the right AC adapter, IOGear's GearJuice ($40) can charge up just about any phone, anywhere. The kit includes a power adapter and seven tips that work with an assortment of popular cell phones, media players and handhelds, along with a 2,000 milli-amp hour battery; enough power for several extra hours of talk-time.
When it's time to pop a video clip into a presentation, onto your blog or up on YouTube, Pure Digital's Flip Mino does the trick. A mini mite of a camcorder, Mino weighs 3.3 ounces, but can capture a whole hour of TV-quality clips at 640-by-480 resolution video and 30 frames a second. For those in a hurry (and what digital nomad isn't?) the $180 Mino can transfer clips directly to online video services such as AOL Video, YouTube and myspacetv. And if you're really in a hurry, you can buy an "action mount" that lets you attach the camera to your handlebars or helmet. Pinching pennies? The Mino is actually the head of the Flip class. If you want to save a few bucks, you can opt for the slightly less sleek $150 Flip Ultra and the basic $130 Flip Video.
Nomads need to work wherever and whenever they can, but the world is a noisy place. Aliph's Jawbone Bluetooth headset uses advanced digital signal processing technology to block out the racket going on around you and let your voice shine through on calls. It can't silence crying babies, traffic sounds or ringing phones, but at least with Jawbone, the people on the other end of the call won't hear them, making you sound better. Lighter and smaller than other headsets, the latest version of the $130 Jawbone weighs one-third of an ounce, yet it's stylish, with a leather-covered ear loop and a variety of finishes.