The Elite Tech Dork Lifestyle
That ultraportable you just bought is perfect. In itself. But you could certainly use a sturdy external USB storage drive to go with it. And how about a power strip for travel, and a backup power pack? Maybe pick up a pocket-size scanner, too. Then, of course, you'll need a stylish sack to contain all this techo-greatness.
That's the way it happens: Before you know it, you’re lugging around a whole lot of gear to complement the supersweet, superlight laptop you’re so proudly pulling out at the coffee shop. In short, you don’t just buy a laptop; you’re buy into an elite tech dork lifestyle. That’s why PC World gives you more than some ho-hum laptop toolbox full of cables and such. Read on for a list of functional--and fun--gear that will meet your computer needs whether you’re on the road or setting up shop somewhere.
My Document Laptop Sleeve
Usually, the My Documents folder hides somewhere inside your laptop. But now you can have it outside, too! The My Document laptop sleeve, designed by 25toGo Design (and available at ThinkGeek.com, $30), fits laptops of diagonal lengths up to 15.4 inches. The folder’s water-resistant neoprene shell and fleece lining do a decent job of protecting your "documents" (heh, heh) from the elements. The bright yellow sleeve also comes with a pixelated-cursor pin, just to amp the nerddom factor up to 11. Guess no one would’ve bought a Blue Screen of Death laptop sleeve.
Cradia Minifit CRF-104 XL Laptop Stand/Cooler
Your notebook's keyboard simply must be positioned at a 51-degree angle, or you need the lower left corner of your notebook to be cooled at a fan speed of 1500 rpm. Seriously. Well, look no further: The Cradia Minifit CRF-104 XL (Cradia.co.kr, Price TBA) is a unique 15-inch laptop stand/cooler equipped with a movable fan (in case your laptop gets hot where other laptops don’t) and movable legs. You’ll never have to buy another laptop stand again--and if you ever need to go analog into the old-media world of print, you can use the Cradia to hold books or other flat objects (though if your books get as hot as your laptop...you have problems even this device can’t fix). The Minifit CRF-104 XL also comes in a non-XL version for laptops with diagonals of up to 12 inches. The Minifit CRF-104 XL is made of aluminum, weighs only 425 grams (just under 1 pound), takes up little space in your bag, and doubles as a great extra layer of laptop protection. Cradia's creation should be hitting U.S. stores soon.
DocuPen Color Scanner RC805
You are standing in your enemy’s lair. On the desk in front of you are a top-secret four-page document and a strange-looking pen. You have 16 seconds until the base is alerted. Lucky for you, that pen is actually a PLANon DocuPen Color Scanner RC805 (available at ThinkGeek.com, $300), a portable scanner that can scan in black-and-white, standard color, or high (24-bit) color, in resolutions ranging from 100 to 400 dots per inch. The DocuPen Color Scanner RC805 can store pages to be printed later via Bluetooth or USB connection, using PLANon Paperport software (included). The pen can scan without being connected to a computer, and it can scan full pages in just 4 seconds each. You scan the document, spot a secret door in the wall, escape through it to freedom, and bask in the glow of a grateful nation's thanks.
Hitachi SimpleTough Drive
If you need to protect important data, and your external hard drives all too often get rained on, fall from heights of up to 3 meters, and/or get run over by 1-ton trucks, then grab the Hitachi SimpleTough Drive (Hitachi.com, starting at $90) . The extra-rugged, sleekly designed external hard drive comes in 500GB, 320GB, and 250GB sizes, and sports a built-in USB 2.0 connector. It may not hit eSATA speeds, but the USB-powered drive runs silently in the background. The SimpleTough comes in a black/gray color-combination, perfect if you ever need to steal away into the night on business.
Mimo 740 7-Inch Monitor
Have more apps than your small screen can handle? Then supplement your laptop's screen with an extra 7-inch touchscreen--the Mimo 740 (mimomonitors.com, $220)--and pretend that you're seated on a less important deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Merely install a couple of drivers on your laptop, and soon you'll have an extra 800-by-480-pixel panel with a touchscreen, built-in Webcam, and mic. Connect it with two USB cables, and suddenly you have an extra place to set up your Skype chats, Hulu-viewing window, or Peggle contests. Neat though it is, the 740 is a little too clunky to take with you on the road. Soon, however, Mimo will release the 720-S Mobile Slider, which promises the same rotating touchscreen as the one on the 740 but is better suited for bagging.
iGo Netbook Charger and Duracell PowerSource Mobile 100
True story: Stranded at New York's JFK International Airport, with a dead cell phone, a dead iPod, and a dead laptop. The chargers? All flown to San Francisco on an earlier flight, in cargo. Not a happy camper. The iGo Netbook Charger (iGo.com, available soon for $70) would’ve come in handy right about then. Available this fall, the iGo Netbook Charger (shown above) carries two plug-in adapters: one for a regular electrical outlet, and one for a car/plane cigarette lighter (though, let’s face it, iGo--planes don’t have cigarette lighters). It also comes with different charging heads that correspond to various netbooks, from Asus to Lenovo. You also get a USB plug-in port for charging other devices, such as iPods, cellphones, and PSPs. Need stand-alone power in a pinch? You won't have to worry if you have Duracell's PowerSource Mobile 100 (duracellpower.com, $150). Duracell's rechargeable power supply houses a standard electrical outlet jack and two USB ports to power whatever devices you have (It promises a 2-hour boost for an average-size laptop.)
Belkin Mini Surge Protector
Though surge suppression is hard to dress up as anything other than what it is, Belkin’s Mini Surge Protector (Belkin.com, $25) is probably the most important addition to any travel bag. Just pop the device into an outlet, and you instantly have three protected sockets and two powered USB ports for charging up your mobile gear. If you don’t happen to have a pass-through charging USB port on your notebook (as you would if you owned, for example, a (Toshiba NB205-310 laptop), the handiness factor of Belkin’s little charger redoubles.
Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX and K530 Keyboard
Anyone who spends far too many hours with a laptop craves a good mouse and keyboard above all else. In this realm, Logitech earns top honors with the Anywhere Mouse MX (Logitech.com, $80). In my hands-on tests, the Anwhere Mouse MX (shown above) lived up to its name by working on every solid surface I tried it on. Reflective metal tables? Yep. Bald heads? Check. It even moused properly on a window--and you never know when you’ll need to do that. Even more impressive is that Logitech finally got its act together with a universal plug that can communicate with other Logitech gear. So if you have this mighty mouse and its tiny dongle is plugged into your favorite laptop, and you get within range of the K530 ($60) wireless keyboard, they can sync up.
IronKey Personal Flash Drive
When you carry important files around, they need extra protection that not just any flash drive can deliver. The IronKey Personal flash drive (ironkey.com, starting at $79) has your back. Inside the rugged casing, a military-grade crypto chip, Verisign VIP-enabled authentication, and a host of security tools (including a secure version of Firefox installed on-disk) shield your USB flash drive from malware. All of that security will cost you, though: The model roomy enough to protect 8GB of your precious intel will set you back $200.
Skullcandy Holua Headset
For the ultimate in phone-call fielding mobility, bluetooth headsets are great. Plus, those wireless wonders come with a blue flashing light and make you look like Lobot. For just about every other purpose (including receiving audio from a laptop), though, you need a wired headset that can work with various devices and sound good while doing it. Over-the-ear noise-canceling jobs like Bose's Mobile On-Ear Headset (www.bose.com, $200) have fantastic sound, but you'll pay for the quality. At half the price, Skullcandy’s ear-isolating Holua headphones (Skullcandy.com, $100) are more affordable, easier to stow, and just as effective--whether you want to make calls on your iPhone or plug ‘em into your PC. The sound quality is due in part to the wooden frame that houses the 8mm speakers. You can plug headphones into a PC, of course, but some laptops, like the Lenovo ThinkPad T400s come with a cell phone-friendly headset jack so the Holua set will work in them as well. Don't have that neat one-plug port in your portable? Get thee to "The Shack" for an adapter that will enable you to plug your headset into a headset and mic jack.
Logitech Wireless Presenter R800
We never thought it would happen, but somehow a laser-pointing, PowerPointing presentation tool got sexy. Logitech’s Wireless Presenter R800 (Logitech.com, $100) smartly packages just about everything you need to wow an audience (except maybe for a favorite Internet meme picture).The green laser is easy to see even in bright rooms on an LCD or plasma screen. A device display lets you set a timer so you can see how much time is left in your presentation--and the device will vibrate when time is up. Big, common-sense buttons like the ones on a remote let you navigate your PowerPoint slides. And to top things off, you get a wireless range of 100 feet, great for working the room.
MiFi Wireless Router
Wi-Fi is swell, but mobile broadband is everywhere (as long as you're in cell range). Whether you prefer to get your wirelessness from Verizon or from Sprint, you can use the Novatel Wireless MiFi 2200, a portable EvDO router. The battery-operated box allows you to tether five Wi-Fi devices to it at the same time, and it supports about 40 hours of Web wandering on a charge. It sounds like a great option for a morning carpool commute, but a couple of strings are attached: Both the Sprint version and the Verizon version cost a pretty penny (the service charge is $60 per month by itself), and you can snag only 5GB of data a month before incurring extra charges. So much for catching a daily dose of the Daily Show on Hulu while you're stuck in traffic.
Laurex Steel Petal Messenger Bag
If you’re looking for an attractive, useful laptop bag, look no further: Laurex laptop bags (available at Bagisbag.com, $65) are made of durable and water-resistant material, have plenty of pockets, and come in an array of fun designs and colors. They don’t look like they hide a laptop, and yet each bag comes with its own removable laptop sleeve, (more prettified laptop sleeves, like the one pictured here, are sold separately). Designed for 15-inch laptops, the bags have adjustable shoulder straps with a removable shoulder pad, plenty of pockets for pens and accessories, rubberized feet to help the bag stand upright, and Velcro fastenings.
Entertainer Tech and Pike Bags
Malcolm Fontier’s Entertainer Tech bag (above left, Malcomfontier.com, $250) marries form and function for people who limit their cargo to a 15.5-inch (or smaller) laptop and just a couple of essential accessories. This pricey but professional-looking bag is a real conversation piece: Strangers stopped us on the street just to compliment us on the test bag we toted around town.
Or go ultramanly with the Pike from Alchemy Goods (above right, Alchemygoods.com, $130). Alchemy Goods’ bags are made largely from recycled parts. In the Pike’s case, it’s 67 percent recycled. Rip up bike tire inner tubes and heat-seal them together! Tear a seat belt out of an old car and use it as the strap! The rubber exterior is fully waterproof with a quick-access pouch on top. Inside, two hidden pockets line the interior while a large pouch accommodates a beefy 14.5-inch laptop, with enough space left over to carry just about every peripheral in this story. The only things Alchemy Goods omitted that would have made this survivalist's dream more macho are a copy of Red Dawn and a free bag of beef jerky.
Today's Best Tech Deals
Picked by PCWorld's Editors