It's no secret that the modern office is becoming increasingly populated with gadgets and tools aimed at improving connectivity, efficiency and productivity. But how can you spot the products that will give you that extra boost?
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.
An elegant docking and charging solution for your Apple notebook
Another Indiegogo/Kickstarter campaign brings us a product range that will put a smile on owners of Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops. The DockCase adapter is essentially a docking station that expands the number of connectors that the aforementioned notebooks offer.
Unlike previous attempts, the designers have opted for a enclosure that wraps around the Apple power supply unit and essentially augments its capacities: think of it as an exoskeleton for the USB-C power adapter. The 30W MacBook adaptor gets a HDMI connector (v2.0, so capable of handling 4K) and a USB 3.0 port, the 61W MacBook Pro 13-inch model gets an additional USB port while the 87W dock for its bigger sibling adds another two.
We had access to one of the first finished units and we’re glad to report that, after a few hiccups, it worked as advertised. Check if the Apple power brick is well connected with the product; the light will be lit up once DockCase Adapter is connected to the MBP. Also use the cable in the box, rather than your original cable as the Apple cable for MBP can only transmit power, not data.
We’d love if DockCase’s bundle cable could be a tad longer and would wish that Seesaw use a sturdier white plastic case for the dock design. One thing we can't really complain though is how affordable it is, at least during the early bird period.
The MacBook HDMI model costs a mere $40, reaching $47 for the MBP 13 and $52 for the MBP 15 (costs are without shipping) with adding a pair costing $30, $35 and $44 respectively, great if you work at home and in an office.
Active noise cancellation with Qi-charging but watch out the price tag
Logitech’s new wireless headphones, Zone Wireless, is aimed squarely at the office end user with a pull out microphone boom, active noise cancellation and the ability to move seamlessly between a smartphone and a computer.
At 181g, it is light enough to be carried around; Logitech provides with a soft plastic pouch; we’d have preferred something a bit sturdier given its premium price (£200). Other accessories include a USB-A dongle, a long (1.3m) charging USB cable. You cannot switch to wired connectivity should the battery run flat.
Speaking of battery life, Logitech promises up to 14 hours of talk time with active noise cancellation (ANC) on and 15 without. Listening time varies between 14 hours (ANC on) and 16 hours (ANC off). We didn’t reach those numbers. With ANC on, we topped eight hours at 70% charge (or under 11 hours 30 minutes).
Logitech also claims up to 30m wireless range (line of sight); that number depends partly on the receiving unit as well so your mileage will vary.
Controls on this premium on-ear wireless headset are kept to a strict minimum: all the controls are located on its right hand side. A white status LED shows when the Zone Wireless is connected or connecting to a device. It provides with a simple interface to adjust volume, play and pause music, start and end calls, activate/mute the microphone, plus button controls for power, active noise cancellation, and wireless Bluetooth pairing.
The headset also supports wireless Qi charging (or via a microUSB port) and comes with a handy mobile companion app (Logitech Tune) that allows you to control headset functions like mute, ANC and EQ presets as well as the side tone, which lets you hear your own voice during a conversation.
The Zone Wireless is more expensive than most of the competition but there’s a good reason; it comes with a two-year warranty and its built quality is better than cheaper models: silicone-padded headband and soft leatherette will improve your comfort over long sessions and allow your skin to breath and reduce sweating in hot environment.
ANC worked reasonably well and the audio performance of the set was subjectively good with plenty of details in the mid-frequencies but lacking when it comes to lower ones.
Not a surprise there given the nature of the product. Call quality is equally good thanks to a dual MEMS microphone array in a proper microphone boom that also uses a proprietary algorithm to filter out ambient background noise during conversations.
Is this the most secure flash drive ever?
We don't often get Indiegogo projects on our list but we're making an exception for the EyeDisk, which hails itself as the first unhackable USB flash drive. The concept is pretty simple; use your iris as your password rather than cumbersome passwords.
Research has shown that iris recognition is more secure than facial recognition and fingerprint encryption and as a working prototype, it works perfectly well even with the dark. It boasts a binocular registration method and a monocular/binocular verification one.
It is compatible with Windows and Mac but not Linux and you will have to run an app every time you plug it in a client. There's no password to log though, just your iris to be scanned and this takes a few seconds to be registered. You just need to look at a mirror on the side.
We'd prefer to have a sturdier model as this one is made of plastic and would probably not last long in a rugged environment. You will also need to carry a USB type-C at all time to activate the drive as it doesn't have an actual male connector. Other than AES256-bit encryption to keep your data secure, the EyeDisk flash drive consumes only 2W of power and weighs a mere 20g.
It managed some very decent numbers on CrystalDiskMark (130MBps transfer rate on read and 84MBps on write) which means that it won't keep you long. At the time of writing, you can only pre-order it via Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform, and it is scheduled for delivery from March 2019.
With a starting price of $59 plus shipping for the 32GB version and $99 for the 128GB, it is reasonably priced although the prices are likely to go up once the early bird offer ends.
We'd love to see something similar come to Windows laptops equipped with a Type-C connector although one has to say, competition is likely to be far more intense.
A pin-sharp yet bulk display that could be a great addition to your office
Having a great display is becoming increasingly important in many home offices, especially as more of us move to a multi-screen environment. Dell's newest 32-inch 4K monitor, the Dell U3219Q. offers a bright and vibrant Ultra HD display that is perfect not just for video or gaming, but for workplace applications such as video-conferencing and data modelling.
The unit is fairly bulky once unpacked, but when set up can be adjusted to fit a number of different space allowances, and thanks to an moveable height option, should mean it's not a strain on the eyes or neck.
The U3219Q features an incredibly useful collection of connectivity options, sporting not just HDMI, USB and DP ports, but USB-C as well, meaning it'll easily slip alongside your existing laptop or PC. The unit even ships with a USB-C and HDMI cable, meaning set-up is quick and easy - just what you need to smarten up your office.
A decent laptop battery charger in a very crowded market
The Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL looks like no portable battery we've seen before. It uses a soft fabric finish and while it has some hard edges, it minimizes the risk of getting your items scratched by eliminating pointed corners altogether. At $149.95 though, it will be a tough sell with so many choices out there in the market.
Its relatively low capacity (19,500mAh) will be a concern when competitors routinely offer 30,000mAh or more. That said, Mophie claims that the battery will be able to add up to 14 hours to the battery life of a USB-C Macbook which is no small feat especially as Mophie says that this would be additional video playback time rather than having the laptop just sitting idle.
Apple states that the MacBook has a battery life of up to 10 hours so you'd be more than doubling that. The battery charger also supports Fast Charge and can send 30W of power to any compatible devices. At 390g for a thickness of merely 23mm, it is very portable.
Add in a two year warranty and it looks like a decent deal. Bear in mind though that it has only two ports (one USB Type-C and one USB-A) and that the competition offers more features at less than half the price (albeit without the cachet).
Jackery, for example, offers a 19,200mAh battery with a 45W output that can charge bigger laptops, ditto for the RavPower Turbo series which packs a larger 20100mAh battery. Both have three USB ports and come with a very significant discount compared to the Mophie (up to 67% off).
Note that there is an even bigger (and even more expensive) Mophie 3XL battery that comes with an additional port and a third extra capacity.
Premium security that comes at a (very) steep price.
The D300S was announced by Kingston and is an updated version of the D300, launched in 2016, with the suffix S standing for Serialised; more on that later. The drive looks like a standard USB drive but sturdier and much, much more expensive. The smallest capacity - 4GB - retails for £100 while the largest one - a 128GB one - sells for a staggering £520.
Now there is a reason why the D300S carries such a premium according to Kingston. The drive uses custom hardware for encryption (FIPS 140-2 Level 3 256-bit) and decryption which eliminates vulnerabilities associated with any process done on the host system.
That chip and the rest of the hardware is sealed in a tamper evident epoxy material that hardened when it dried.
The drive is also waterproof up to 120cm and should handle bumps and falls easily. The D300S also uses a digitally signed firmware which makes it impervious to the BadUSB attack and it will delete the encryption key after 10 invalid attempts, thwarting any brute force attacks.
Two additional features that separates the S model from the standard model is a barcode and a unique serial number; together they allow system administrators to scan or read the code when configuring the drive.
There's also a virtual keyboard that reduces the risk of having a keylogger storing the password. Sadly though, it does suffer from the fact that you need to install an application prior to using the drive on Windows and the write speeds claimed by Kingston are shockingly low at 40MBps. Read speeds are better at 250MBps.
All in all, Kingston delivers a solid product but this is a very competitive market with the likes of Aegis, Secure Data or Datashur providing some interesting alternatives.
Note that a Serialised Managed (SM) model will follow shortly if Kingston's website is to be believed.