Essential Gadgets for the Road Warrior: Remix
No matter where your business responsibilities take you, you can always be ready for work or play. Stay connected, productive, charged up, and entertained with these tools. Because there are so many useful gadgets to make business traveling easier, more productive, or more fun, we couldn't fit them all into our previous slideshow. Here are some additional options to help you make the most of your travels.
Have the Internet Wherever You Go
Wi-Fi may be available in a lot of places, but it's not everywhere. A fast, stable, and reliable mobile hotspot is an essential tool for staying connected. The Verizon 4G hotspot from Samsung finished on top in our tests and we featured it, but having options is desirable, and the Novatel MiFi ($270 retail, $30 with a two-year contract, $130 prepaid at Virgin, free on contract at Sprint) remains a solid choice.
Present From Anywhere
Having a projector of your own that works well with your laptop can save time and hassle when you want to set up a presentation at a remote location. Small projectors can be fun for watching movies back at the hotel, too.
If you value portability most, consider the Optima PK 102 ($250, at lower left), which is about as big as a deck of cards. With 4GB of storage and built-in presentation software, it can function as a stand-alone projector for even fairly large presentations. It's bright enough for dim rooms and medium distances; but when we used it to project at distances of more than 6 feet from the screen or wall, it produced weak images.
For a brighter presentation with clear and readable text, the Aaxa P2 ($350, at upper left) is a good choice. You can expand its 1GB of built-in memory via MicroSD, and built-in speakers allow this unit to function as a stand-alone presenter. But the increased brightness comes at the cost of battery life; you'll want to keep your presentation to under 50 minutes.
Mouse Around Without Giving Up a USB Port
Save a USB port by connecting your mouse over Wi-Fi. No need to mess with hassles of Bluetooth pairing--the HP Wi-Fi mouse ($45) will push the cursor around your screen over Wi-Fi. It has plenty of extra programmable buttons and comfortable, easy-to-grip rubber sides. This mouse also promises 9 months of battery life--nearly twice the duration that Bluetooth mice offer.
Present With Lasers
What's a presentation without a laser pointer to drive your point home? The Kensington Wireless Presenter with Laser Pointer ($50) gets strong reviews from PCWorld users who give lots of presentations. Thanks to its good ergonomic design, the device fits easily in your hand, with all the controls in one place.
Bonus capability: If a rogue Internet cat should wander through your presentation, you can distract it with the laser pointer.
Never Get Lost
Getting where you need to be in an unfamiliar city is much less of a problem than it used to be now that GPS seems to be built into everything. But your cell phone has only so much battery life, and you don't want to kill it halfway through the day. The TomTom XXL 550-TM ($160) stores much of its information locally, reducing your data-transfer expenses; it also has a 5-inch screen--larger than the screens on most cell phones. And the 550-TM will keep you up-to-date with live traffic and map updates for the life of the device.
Charge All Those USB Gadgets
Many small gadgets charge via USB port. So, what do you do with a bazillion USB-based gadgets when your laptop only has two USB ports and you don't want to tie it to all those gadgets anyway? Just plug in the Kensington 4-Port USB Charger for Mobile Devices ($30), and you're good to charge four USB gadgets. Beware though: Kensington's device doesn't supply enough juice to charge an iPad or larger gadgets.
Plug Into a Smarter Headset
Though Bluetooth headsets have become less common, you may still need one at times. The Plantronics Voyager Pro ($100) has a strong set of features that make it worth hanging off your ear. This headset comes with a suite of software for integrating with your PC. It works with programs such as Skype and Microsoft Lync, as well as in tandem with cell phones. A sensor on the headset can tell your software to change your status from "offline" to "available" whenever you place it in your ear.
Plug Your Ears to Block Out the World
In our tests of the Logitech UE 500vi ($80), the earbuds delivered crisp audio with good midrange sound. The treble and (especially) bass tones were less prevalent, but overall performance was strong. The buds also feature a microphone with on-chord controls for phone calls. A choice of five sizes of ear cushions ensures a snug fit for optimum noise-isolation.
Block Out the World Without Sticking Things in Your Ears
If you're not comfortable sticking buds in your ears to block out noise, and you don't want to carry bulky over-the-ear cans, the Sennheiser PXC 310 ($230) may be just right. They rank among the most comfortable on-ear headphones I've tried, delivering rich sound with good balance across the full range of sound. Even after several hours, my ears didn't feel squished and the active noise-cancellation feature didn't build up too much pressure. The headphones also fold down into a reasonably small package for stowing in a bag.
The PXC 310 headphones are also available in a Bluetooth version ($300) that includes an optional cable for connecting over Bluetooth at the office, or by cable on a plane.
Know Who’s Calling
Some people pull out their phone to check the time, but if you have a Bluetooth watch with Caller ID display ($80), you can check the phone from your watch. With the watch vibrating on your wrist, you're unlikely to miss a call; and when you see who's calling, you can mute it right from the watch. Full-on watch phones may not have caught on yet, but this is a step in the right direction.
Give Your Phone a Boost
If you're nearing the end of the day with a dying phone and no outlet is nearby, the Kensington pocket battery ($40) can save you. With micro- and mini-USB ports built in, the battery can add 3.5 hours of talk time to practically any smartphone. It's small and light enough that you'll hardly notice it in your bag until you really need it.
Always Have a Charging Option
When you need a mix of regular power outlets and USB ports, this Monster Outlets to Go USB power strip ($15) is the perfect companion. I've made many friends at airports while sharing a power outlet as we waited to board a plane. Regrettably, the USB ports on this strip aren't strong enough to charge an iPad or other large gadget, but they should top off your cell phone just fine.
Charge Your iPad in the Bag
The two USB chargers mentioned so far don’t generate enough juice to charge an iPad, so you may want to turn to the Spark Tablet Case ($299) to keep your iPad or other tablet running off the power of the sun. With its streamline design, you can even throw this charger into a larger bag when you don’t need it to be out in the open, soaking up rays. The solar panel charges an internal battery that can hold more than an iPad’s worth of charge. Voltaic Systems (the maker) estimates that 1 hour of exposure to direct sunlight can give the Spark Tablet Case energy to support an extra hour of video playback.
Carry It All in Comfort
There are so many bags to choose from, that it's hard to recommend just one. Frequent fliers are all too familiar with the security line dance of taking off shoes and jackets, emptying pockets, and pulling out the liquids and laptops. A TSA-approved travel bag with a fold-out laptop component can eliminate one of those steps. I've witnessed more than a few laptops left at the X-ray station when a harried business traveler runs off too quickly. Keeping the laptop attached to the main bag will help ensure that you have everything with you as you rush off to the gate.
Among my favorites are the Commute 2.0 by Timbuk2 ($110, at far left) and the more executive-looking Instrumental from Ful ($70, at near left). Targus has a wide variety of high-quality bags, too, from backpacks to roller bags.