More than most, those who regularly travel on business appreciate the value of good technology. Having the right piece of gear at the right time can save hours of wasted time and frustration, or even get a deal across the line that otherwise would have fallen through.
Of course, the key word there is the right piece of gear. A lot of the equipment marketed towards business travelers weighs too much, performs poorly, or isn't robust enough to handle being thrown into your carry-on day after day for months or years on end. It often doesn't have good enough security to recommend, or requires time-wasting accessories like disposable batteries.
To that end, here's a short list of tech gear that really does make the grade. From improving your Wi-fi to scanning documents from anywhere, dealing with terrible ergonomics and more, these are the gadgets worth their place in your carry-on.
The Hootoo Wireless Router is one of those rare business travel gadgets that seems under-priced for what it does. The two most useful features for business travelers are the 10,000mAh portable battery, and the wireless hotspot.
The first is self-explanatory. If your phone or other USB-powered device is running out of juice, just plug it into the Hootoo and carry on. It's got enough capacity to deal with even the longest travel day.
The wireless hotspot, though, is where the Hootoo shines. Stuck in an old-school hotel room that only has a network cable? These days, most laptops don't even have an Ethernet port -- but the Hootoo does. Plug in the cable, and it'll turn it into a (password-protected) wireless network you can connect any of your devices to.
If you've got terrible Wi-fi signal in your hotel room, office or workspace, the Hootoo can amplify it and make it useful again. If you're stuck with one of those incredibly-annoying networks that only lets you connect one device at a time, it'll get around that problem as well.
It's a compact device, albeit with a bit of heft to it (a little over eight ounces), and fits into a large pocket. Given everything it does, and how little it costs, there's no reason not to take it on your next business trip.
While you can use your smartphone camera and one of a variety of apps to scan a document in a pinch, the results typically aren't great. If you've got several pages to scan, it's also very time-consuming.
Enter portable scanners like Brother's DS-620. The idea behind all decent mobile scanners is similar. It's a roughly foot-long device that doesn't weigh much, can handle two-sided documents without manual intervention, and creates an image barely discernible from the less-portable versions.
The DS-620 fits the bill all round and adds enough extras to push it to the front of the pack. It weighs just over a pound and measures a small-enough 1.6 inches x 2.6 inches x 11.4 inches.
The duplexing system deals with double-sided documents automatically, and the unit scans at up to 8 pages per minute in either color or black and white.
It's USB-powered and scans at up to 1200dpi to a variety of formats and destinations, including the creation of searchable PDFs. If you've ever had to manually look through several multi-page scanned documents to find a particular section, this is a feature you'll appreciate.
The bundled software includes an app to automatically copy business card details into your Outlook and other contacts. When you've just spent a few days at a conference or other networking event, this one aspect alone can save you hours.
If you regularly find yourself needing to scan physical cards and documents on the road, this is the gadget you want to do it with.
Until recently, portable drives were all much the same. Sure, they worked, but they were kinda bulky, and all those moving parts didn't play well with the rigors of travel.
That all changed when Samsung introduced its solid state portable drive range. Weighing an insignificant two ounces, and measuring merely 2.9 x 2.3 x 0.4 inches, it'll find a place in even the smallest of carry-ons.
Despite being so tiny, the T3 can handle being dropped from six feet and still come back for more. Try doing that with a traditional hard drive. Actually, don't, at least if you want it to keep working afterward.
The latest T3 model comes in capacities up to two terabytes, with blazing transfer speeds of up to 450Mb/sec. AES-256 encryption is built in, making it almost impossible for anyone to steal your data off the drive if it ends up in the wrong hands.
Whether you're carrying around huge client files, or just keeping your laptop backed up regularly, the Samsung T3 is the top of the line in portable storage right now.
For many workers, the days of being tethered to a desk five days a week are long gone. Now, we find ourselves working from anywhere -- coffee shops, departure gates, and pretty much any other flat surface we can find.
With that flexibility, though, comes a few problems. Ergonomics is a big issue since hours spent hunched over a laptop is a recipe for sore backs and other overuse injuries.
Making a portable office setup helps deal with this problem, and it doesn't have to be big, heavy or expensive if you do it right.
Start with the Roost Laptop Stand, a lightweight portable stand that can handle any laptop you're likely to be traveling with. It lifts the screen up to the same level as your eyes, with three different height positions, so you're not continually craning your neck.
The Roost weighs under six ounces and folds down to little over an inch wide. Despite its diminutive size, though, it holds the laptop securely in place, with no risk of it sliding or falling out under normal use.
To complete your portable office setup, you'll need a keyboard and mouse to go with your stand. There's a huge variety of so-called "travel" versions of these, but many suffer from one or more major problems.
Size and weight are obvious concerns, but battery life, durability, design, and ergonomics are equally problematic. You tend to very much get what you pay for.
For PC users, the best portable keyboard I've come across is the Logitech K810 Bluetooth model. The key size, travel, and spacing are similar to most laptops, meaning typing speeds aren't compromised.
The rechargeable battery lasts several weeks with the keyboard backlight turned off, and only takes a few hours to fully charge via USB. While making space for any solid, foot-long gadget in your carry-on isn't always easy, it's thin enough to slide into any unused space easily enough.
There's a similar version for Mac users, or the Apple Magic Keyboard does an equally good job at a similar price. All of the models I've mentioned also work with smartphones and tablets if that's something you need.
The final piece of the puzzle is a travel-sized mouse or trackpad. Almost any wireless model will do, although if you're short on USB ports, look for one that connects via Bluetooth rather than its own dedicated adapter.
Try to find one that's long and high enough to comfortably fit your hand, without it being excessively large.
Roost makes a nice carrying case that protects the stand, keyboard, and mouse, and keeps everything together without adding too much extra bulk.
Sometimes it's the simplest things that can be the most time-consuming -- and the most irritating.
Sharing files between different people, with all manner of phones, tablets, laptops and who knows what else, can be painful when you have an Internet connection, and downright impossible when you don't.
That's where the Sandisk Connect Wireless Stick comes in. At its heart, it's a normal USB stick, so you can copy files to and from it as you usually would.
The smart piece, though, is its wireless ability. The stick creates its own Wi-fi network, and you connect whatever device you want to use. Once that's done, an accompanying iOS or Android app lets you move files backward and forward as needed.
The device comes in capacities up to 200GB, so there's plenty of space to store whatever you're working on. When the workday ends, you can also stream audio and video to up to three devices simultaneously, so you can watch movies in bed on your tablet if desired.
The only thing to note is while the wireless network can be protected with a password, there's no encryption built into the wireless stick itself. If you're storing confidential information on it, be sure to encrypt or password-protect the file before copying it across.
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