With the holidays coming fast upon us, it’s time to start thinking about presents. I scoured the review pile to see what might be appropriate to update your office, or to gift to staff. Here are some interesting items I came up with.
Given the paradigm of work-from-anywhere, I’m pretty sure that most of you have webcams for videoconferencing. Cyber Acoustics has a new offering that might be worth looking at. The WC-FLEX works pretty much like a regular USB webcam. Mount it on the top of your display or laptop, plug it into a USB port, and there’s not much of anything else you need to do. What makes the WC-Flex different is the mounting. The webcam itself is on the end of a short pole, and can be extended to position the cam over your desk, with the cam pointing downward to display a document or other object sitting on the desktop. You can also move the camera head down toward the middle of the display to give a better view of objects in the center of the field of view. With resolution of 1080 pixels and HD autofocus, you can be sure that your transmitted video is of good quality. At $129, the WC-FLEX isn’t a must-have, but it’s an interesting addition to your office if you frequently need to include documents and other desktop objects in your videoconferencing.
Another nice piece of kit is the 100-watt Laptop Charger from Monoprice. Monoprice is one of those companies with products from guitars to 3D printers, with lots in between. I have often used them in the past for things like cables. The 100-watt Laptop Charger doesn’t have any bells or whistles. You plug it into an AC outlet and into the power-in port on your laptop. That’s pretty much it. At $25, it’s great to have a backup if you misplace your charger, or if the charger that you do have decides to suddenly go to charger heaven. Two things to keep in mind, though. The first is that the charger is a power brick style. It may be considerably larger than the charger that you currently have, through most of my laptops have chargers about the same size. The second consideration is the power connector. The one on this supply is a USB-C connector, which is what many newer laptops use. But if you have an older style supply, the USB-C connector may be incompatible with your particular laptop, so take a quick look before you order one of these. A side benefit is when you’re not using the power supply with your laptop, you can use it for charging a phone or tablet, and quite possibly a small desktop PC if they use a USB-C port for power input.
Next on the list is a pair of external USB drives. The first one of these is a Seagate Ultra Touch HDD. Please note that this is a hard disk drive, not an SSD (solid state drive). For many of you, the difference is academic. A rotating hard drive and an SSD are about the same size and weight, and for all practical purposes, about the same capacity. The one Seagate sent me is 2 terabytes, but the Ultra Touch HDD comes in capacities up to 5TB. Right now, I’m using mine for system backup as an additional backup to Cloud-based backup from Acronis. In the past, I’ve used a Synology NAS for this, but with the Acronis backup, the 2TB drive serves well as a secondary backup device and takes a lot less room than the NAS, though it doesn’t have the drive mirroring that the Synology offered. The Ultra Touch HDD comes with six-month subscriptions to Mylie Photos and Dropbox backup plan, neither of which I use. The 2TB version Seagate sent costs about $100 or so.
If you need to take a backup drive on the road, consider one that offers security functionality. Kingston Ironkey drives offer 256-bit encryption and the ability to set multilevel passwords for a user and administrator. The Ironkey Vault Privacy 80ES Kingston sent is a 1.92TB model, though Kingston offers lower capacity (and lower price) models. Physically, the Ironkey drive is about the same size as the Seagate drive above, but it is both slightly thicker and a bit heavier to accommodate a touchscreen keypad and additional circuitry. The drive also features an adjustable auto-timeout feature, so if you happen to leave the drive unattended for a time, it will lock out anyone who attempts to access it while you’re gone. The drive comes with a very nice padded carrying case and two USB cables, one for use with a USB-A jack, the other with a USB-C jack, so you’re covered regardless of which kind of port your laptop offers. The 1.92TB model sells for about $270, which is considerably more than a portable drive of the same capacity without security functionality, but if you often travel, the extra money is well spent for greater peace of mind.
Like many of us, I use a double screen configuration in my office. I want the same capability and convenience when I travel. A portable USB monitor provides just that. I’ve had a few of these over the years, and I find they really make it a lot easier to work when I travel. For example, I often have to summarize a meeting or keynote. I generally record these using the Voice app on my Lenovo laptop, then transcribe the recording using the transcribe function in Word365 (it’s on the drop-down menu under Dictate). I like to have the transcribed file open so I can cut-and-paste quotes to make sure I’m accurate. The second screen lets me have the document I’m working on the laptop screen, and the transcription on the second screen.
The Viewsonic VX1655 is the latest addition to my travel kit. It offers a 15.6-inch screen, and USB (or HDMI if your laptop offers it) connectivity. It has two USB ports so you can charge a phone or other device is you wish. In most cases, the VX1655 is powered off of the laptop, but if your laptop doesn’t have power pass-through, or has an anemic power supply, you can use an eternal power supply with the second USB port. Or you can get a more powerful supply like the Monoprice detailed above. There’s really not a lot to say about the VX1655, it’s a nice size, thin enough to fit in my laptop case, and a no-brainer to use. One of its best features is the price; a little over $140.
That’s about it for now. If you have enough money left over from your gift shopping, be sure to get something nice for yourself. And have a great holiday.
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