Laptops have overtaken desktop PCs as the preferred workhorse machines for most companies, regardless of the size, and it is easy to see why.
The performance, feature, and price gap between the two have shrunk considerably, so much so that other than for niche use cases that require a fixed workstation, a laptop is generally preferable to a desktop computer.
But while laptops are mobile computers, they do rely, sometimes, on accessories to boost their capabilities.
We’ve rounded up some of these clever extras, from an ultra-secure USB drives, through a tiny docking station, to one of the weirdest gadgets ever to land on Techradar Pro, courtesy of a Kickstarter campaign.
A stylish and portable way to turn any room into a boardoom – but at a high price.
Quick and easy to set up
Good audio quality and pick-up
Many of us know the pain of conference calls being ruined by poor connection or call quality, and with many businesses today choosing to embrace mobile working ideas and services, the need to stay flexible yet connected is paramount.
Sennheiser is looking to solve these woes with its ultra-mobile TeamConnect Wireless – in essence a portable conference room, which can be packed up and carried around for workers on the go. Made up of four speakers, all carried around in a stylish case which doubles as a charging hub, the system can be connected to any laptop, smart device or VC system via Bluetooth, USB or 3.5mm jack. Set-up is quick and easy, allowing users to get up and running in a matter of minutes, with Sennheiser saying the kit can support up to 24 participants at once. Our tests showed the audio quality to be very effective, even with multiple participants on different lines, with no connectivity issues.
The ultra-portable design of the TeamConnect Wireless is the major selling point here, as the stylish case is able to charge up the speakers to ensure you’re never caught short, and takes up less space than a rucksack. However this stylish product doesn’t come cheap, costing £3,940, meaning it may be out of the price range for some SMBs. For those that can splash out though, this is an eye-catching piece of kit that allows you to stay connected and conversant with your team or customers wherever you are.
A slim and stylish presentation tool, but quite pricey
Long batter life
If you’re looking for a slim and stylish accessory to help guide you through your presentations, then Logitech may have just the tool for you. The company has released a new edition of its Spotlight presentation remote, promising “a whole new standard” in presentation control.
The new product offers a stylish minimalist design made out of polished metal, weighing in at just 49g, with the slim build meaning it sits nicely in the palm of your hand. Three programmable buttons on the front giving you the opportunity to control your presentation however you like. The remote is able to highlight and magnify certain areas on screen, allowing you to focus on specific items or points, and has a range of up to 30 metres for those grander presenting occasions, connecting via Bluetooth to your Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS or Android device.
It even comes with a timer, which can show how long you’ve been speaking for and vibrate to tell you if you’re about to run over your allotted presentation time. Battery life is substantial enough to last you through a working day, and is quickly recharged.
The only downside is the price – at £119.95, it is quite an expensive option, but if you’re looking for an effective and stylish presentation helper, this is the tool for you.
A hugely flexible, but slightly bulky, laptop power bank that will keep you online all day.
If you’re someone who travels for work a lot, staying powered up on the move may often prove a challenge. Although power banks for mobile devices have been popular for some time, anyone looking for a laptop equivalent could be caught short. However Orico’s new SC28 offering provides a huge capacity that should be perfect for staying charged up on a trip. With a capacity of 28,800mAh, the SC28 provides easily enough juice for even the thirstiest laptops, which can be quickly recharged via USB or power socket.
The latter features a number of adaptors for different markets, meaning you should never be caught short, with Orico promising five hours of life for a 13in laptop. The SC28 can charge up to three devices at once, meaning you can power your laptop, phone and router all at once for the ideal mobile working solution. The device itself looks stylish, with a sleek aluminium alloy body that weighs in at just under 1kg, but should still easily slip into a rucksack or laptop bag.
A stylish and premium noise-cancelling headset that’s perfect for meetings, and music.
Excellent audio quality
Long battery life
Some volume level issues
In modern busy offices, it can be tricky to get some quiet – particularly if you’re trying to carry out a conference call or video meeting from your desk. Sennheiser, which is perhaps better known for its consumer headphone line, is looking to address this with a new headset targeted at business customers.
The MB 660 may resemble normal ‘cans’ style headphones, but in fact can act as a Bluetooth-enabled wireless headset, allowing you to use them as a meeting accessory in today’s UC-dominated workplace.
As you would expect from a brand such as Sennheiser, the audio quality is excellent, whether that’s with a voice call, watching video or even listening to music. This is complimented by the noise-cancelling ability of the headset, which comes with three separate settings that allow you to select your level of isolation. This high-standard audio quality does come at a price, but if you value your calls and media, it may be worth shelling out.
The headset comes with its own stylish and compact carry case, which also house the charging cables and USB connector. Battery life was excellent, with the headset not needing a recharge during our week-long test – and when we did plug it in, recharging was quick and effective.
Take the notebook into the 21st century with Moleskine’s Smart Writing Set.
Overly complex compared to low-tech alternative
If you thought that the era of writing stuff down using pen and paper was dead, then Moleskine is here to prove you wrong.
The iconic notebook provider, well-known for its leather-bound pages, is embracing the technology world with its new Smart Writing Set, which it says combines the pleasure of writing with pen and paper with the ease and speed of editing offered by modern word processing software.
The kit consists of a smart Pen+ tool, which, when used to write on the accompanying ‘Paper Tablet’, will also display what you are writing on an accompanying phone or tablet device. Connected via Bluetooth, your device, boosted by the Moleskine Notes App, then allows you to record and edit your scribblings, meaning you can add extra colour, highlights and more.
The app, which is available on iOS and Android devices, stores all the writing done in your Paper Tablet, meaning you can delete or move pages across devices, and even sync using your Google Drive or Evernote account.
As for the kit itself, it resembles your traditional writing tools, with the Pen+ taking after a standard fountain pen – albeit with a hidden camera by the nib which traces and digitises everything you write. The Paper Tablet is slightly thicker than a usual Moleskine, but features NCode technology embedded in every page to allow the Pen+ to pick up your writing or drawing.
All in all, the device works well – once you’re registered on the app, using the Pen+ is smooth, and the data transfer is effective, even if like us, you aren’t particularly artistically-minded. But whilst this is clearly a clever product (and at £199, a premium one too…) there remains a slight nagging question about what it’s trying to achieve.
Those of us used to writing with a pen and pad will find some advantages, most notably the chance to edit and remove notes, but with tablet devices and lightweight laptops so commonplace today, it still seems like an odd choice of platform for Moleskine.
A stylish battery charger that can power a MacBook
Three ports that can deliver at least 3A
Can power a MacBook
Jackery is a little known company that focuses – like so many out there – on producing portable laptop and smartphone chargers. Its flagship product is the massive PowerPro, a 500Whr/140Ah Portable Power station rechargeable battery pack, The Jackery Titan S is a portable battery (72.4Whr) that can not only charge your mobile or tablet but also, according to its manufacturer, the popular laptop.
We didn’t have one at hand to test that claim sadly; note that it is also available in orange which for some reason has a lower capacity. Its black metal aluminium casing ensures that it will survive more than a few drops and it does feel very solid. Shame though about the sharper-than-usual edges on both sides and we’re not fans of the curvy profile of the Titan S as this caused it to slip a few times.
This is a portable charger/battery pack so don’t expect too much innovation; it doesn’t switch off automatically but does identify the connected device by itself, charging it at the maximum permitted power.
Other than a big power button and a 4-led battery status indicators which means you will never really know when the item will be fully charged when you reach four blue dots or discharged when it shows one blue dot.
There are two full size USB ports – a 15W one (5V, 3A) and an 18W one (supporting variable voltages thanks to Quick Charge, up to 3.4A) – and a USB Type-C one that can deliver 15W power (5V, 3A); the latter can also be used to charge the battery.
At 155 x 80 x 22mm for a weight of 435g, it is a tad smaller (volume wise) and lighter than the although the latter has a far superior capacity (30Ah compared to 20.1Ah). The Jackery Titan comes with a micro USB charging cable and a two-year warranty but no carry case. The item is out of stock in the UK at the time of writing.
An PIN-protected way to make sure your data stays secure.
High-levels of security
Powerful encryption protection
Hard-wearing design, but light and portable
Works across multiple operating systems
High price tag
Some availability issues
With data security becoming paramount for many of us these days, the diskAshur Pro looks to offer a comprehensive security offering to ensure your important data stays intact.
The key selling point of the diskAshur Pro is its obvious physical security – the device comes with a keypad that will only grant access to the data stored within upon entering a PIN number. Far from your usual ATM PIN number though, the device requires an identifier between seven and 15 digits, offering far tougher security, with the number able to be quickly personalised and changed, in order to keep your data safe.
Asides from the physical security (which extends to IP56 water and dust resistance and even a self-destruct feature), the diskAshur Pro also comes with some enviable encryption, sporting XTS-AES 256-bit real-time full disk hardware encryption and EDGE technology to offer even more levels of safety.
This version of the drive offers 500GB of storage, which should easily be enough to store all your vital documents, media and more, and connects to your PC or laptop via a standard USB 3.1 port.
The diskAshur Pro works across all major operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux, and requires no extra additional software to be installed, meaning using the device is incredibly easy.
Getting hold of the product may be the main issue with the diskAshur Pro, with the company manufacturing and selling many other models of the device on its site. We found this particular model for sale on Amazon for £211.96, and on iStorage’s own site for £209.
If you are able to get one, however, the diskAshur Pro is unparalleled in both its physical and internal protection, and the compact build and hard-wearing design make this a must-have for the security-conscious.
A majorly fast, and simple to use, compact mobile Wi-Fi hotspot
Slim yet tough design
Fast download speeds
Excellent battery life
Simple set up
Tough to track down in the UK
TP-Link says that the M7650 is the fastest Wi-Fi router it has ever made, offering speeds of up to 600MBps, which is easily enough to stream video to your laptop or tablet whilst on the move, as well as high-quality VoLTE audio through your phone – useful if you don’t want to miss that conference call.
Our tests found that the device often reached speeds of over 500MBps, which is impressive for central London, and more than enough to enjoy reliable connections whilst on the move.
The M7650 can support up to 32 devices at once, meaning you can set up multiple connections around the home, or even in a small office if needs be – although speeds will drop if you do so. Set up is remarkably easy, requiring you to just insert the SIM card and turn on, making this much more straightforward than other similar devices.
Battery life for the device was excellent, lasting a full working day with ease, as TP-Link says that the M7650 can offer up to 15 hours of juice, and recharging the huge 3000mAh battery is also quick and easy using the microUSB port.
The M7650 is also light and portable, being small enough to fit inside a jacket pocket, and its rubber build will help protect from any accidental drops or bumps.
However buying the device in the UK is a bit tricky, as you’ll have to go through a reseller. This means you’ll also need to be on the lookout for differing price options, but if you get the right deal, the M7650 is a must-have.
A slim and stylish offering, but not quite perfect
Good colour range and resolution
Monoprice’s latest 27in monitor looks to offer a premium display without the high price, and for the most part, it succeeds.
The Monoprice 18545 comes with a 27in LED backlit IPS display sporting a 16:9 2560×1440 maximum resolution – equating to 1440p. This does mean it isn’t 4K-equipped, however our tests showed the display to perform well with HD video content as well as regular day-to-day use.
The device comes with 178° viewing angles and the company’s Pixel Perfect guarantee, which promotes the wide range of colours. Thanks to a flexible rear hinge, the device can also be angled for your viewing preference, with a tilt range from +15 to -5 degrees, which can be useful if you sit near a window.
The monitor comes with an incredibly slim build which is just 2.1in thick, meaning that the screen should easily fit into most workplace desktop environments – and the metal base is pleasingly solid, meaning you shouldn’t be able to accidentally knock it over.
The polished grey metal design of the Monoprice 18545 should help blend in to your home or office, but be warned though, the corners of the aluminium build can be remarkably sharp if you catch it unexpectedly. The rear of the display was also quick to warm up quite alarmingly on several occasions, although this did not appear to impact performance.
Given that it isn’t 4K-ready, the $279 price tag for the Monoprice 18545 is certainly reasonable, however if you are looking for a truly top-of-the-range offering, it might be worth spending a little more money elsewhere.
Everything you need to get your meeting room up to scratch – all in one box.
Easy to unpack and set up
No standalone mouse
Need to buy as a package
If you’ve just started your own business, or need to work from home often, having a flexible and reliable technology set-up should be one of your top priorities.
In order to keep you from wasting time setting up complex systems, teleconferencing experts GoToMeeting have you covered with an all-in-one box of tools that should allow you to get up and running quickly.
The pack contains an Asus Chromebox PC, Logitech wireless keyboard, Logitech 1080p HD webcam and a FLX UC 500 conference phone from Revo labs – pretty much everything you need to get started.
The products have all been specially selected to work seamlessly together, meaning most of the usual set-up process can be sped through quickly and easily – even if you’re not particularly tech-savvy.
Setting up your new kit can be done in a matter of minutes – all you need is a monitor to hook the PC and webcam up to, with all the rest of the hardware able to just plug and play.
The tiny Chromebox PC is incredibly powerful for something so small (at just 12.4cm wide and 4.2cm tall), coming with a powerful 1.7Ghz processor, 4GB of RAM and 16GB storage, making it a great choice if you are strapped for space in your office. The PC also features 4 USB ports alongside DP, HDMI and LAN connectors, offering everything you should need to get started.
Space saving is also helped by the Logitech wireless keyboard, which connects to the Chromebox via USB tracker, and also includes a trackpad in place of a mouse. If you do prefer using a physical mouse, you’ll have to splash out on a separate piece.
All the devices work together quickly and easily, meaning you’ll be able to start working, calling and even videoconferencing in no time. The webcam is once again surprisingly powerful for its size, offering a smooth video experience, although we did see some slowdown in some cases.
The only minor downside is the need to buy the entire package, meaning that if you only need a conference phone, or a compact PC, you may be better off buying these separately.
At the time of writing, the kit is only available to buy in the USA, costing $999, with a subscription fee of $99 a month, making it a fairly pricey proposition – however if you’re , it can be built into your current subscription.