We’re bombarded with a constant stream of new gadgets and gizmos. However, devices that are actually useful, and don’t just serve as eye candy, are much harder to find. On that front, these 10 products could serve to increase overall productivity and work efficiency in your small business or home office. Our list includes chargers, scanners, routers and storage devices.
The Griffin MultiDock ($699.99) is the charging station you didn’t know you needed. It’s capable of storing, charging and even syncing 10 Android or iOS tablets or smartphones without having to remove them from their cases. With a relatively compact footprint – it’s only slightly larger than a laptop computer – the MultiDock comes with individual LEDs to show the charging status of each bay, and a locking panel that works well for securing devices overnight. ChargeSensor technology detects the charging characteristics of each connected device and supplies the optimal charging rate of up to 10 watts of power per bay.
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The NeatConnect ($469.95) is a wireless, standalone scanner that works without the need for a controlling PC by connecting directly to your Wi-Fi network. It can scan in color and can ge both sides of your documents with a single pass. More importantly, the NeatConnect can be easily preconfigured to digitize paper documents directly into a number of cloud services (EverNote, OneNote, Dropbox, Box and Google Drive) as well as FTP and email attachments. Users select scanning parameters, output destination and other operations using NeatConnect’s intuitive color touchscreen.
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The Transporter ($199 with 500GB drive) networked storage drive operates somewhat differently from the traditional Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliance. The Transporter hooks up to the local network to create a private cloud that can be accessed both on the network and globally. Files are synced automatically from desktops or laptops for data backup purpose, leaving less frequently used files to be stored on devices with less storage space. If desired, a second Transporter can be added in another location for a second copy of files to offer geographical protection against disasters.
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The Dropcam Pro ($199) is a beefed-up version of the Dropcam Wi-Fi video monitoring service that offers two-way talk and remote viewing. It’s perfect for keeping track of goings-on in the office. The wireless camera streams 720p HD video to servers operated by Dropcam for recording and viewing from a Web browser or mobile device. The Dropcam Pro offers a superior 130-degree field of view, 8x zoom, and 5GHz Wi-Fi operation. Note that a separate cloud recording plan is required to store a copy of your video recordings in the cloud, ranging from $99 per year for 7 days’ worth of recording to $299 per year for 30 days’ worth.
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The Lantronix xPrintServer is a networked appliance that works with legacy printers to offer printing capabilities from smartphone and tablet devices from their native print menus. With support for both USB printers and network printers, this eliminates the need to buy an expensive new printer or to take cumbersome approaches such as using third-party apps or emailing documents for subsequent printing on a PC. The xPrintServer is available in iOS edition ($199.95) and Cloud Print edition ($149.95). The former works with the iOS platform, while the latter supports printing from the Chromebook, Android and Kindle Fire devices.
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Belkin WeMo Insight Switch
The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch ($59.99) is part of the WeMo family of home automation gadgets. It offers the capability to track their energy consumption on top of its ability to turn connected devices on or off. The WeMo Insight Switch connects to a Wi-Fi network and is managed from the free WeMo app from an Android or iOS device. Predefined schedules can be created and uploaded – which is perfect for use with devices such as space heaters, wall air-conditioning units, or perhaps even the Griffin MultiDock to track how much is spent recharging devices.
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Peplink Balance 30 LTE
If Internet connectivity is crucial for your small business, then the Peplink Balance 30 LTE ($569) could make for an indispensable appliance. The Balance family of Internet routers comes with two or more built-in Ethernet wide area network (WAN) ports, allowing for the capability to load balance between multiple Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for maximum Internet reliability. As its name suggests, the Balance 30 LTE comes with an embedded LTE modem for 4G and 3G wireless mobile fallback should there be an outage on your wired Internet service.
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Logitech Mobile Speakerphone P710e
The Logitech Mobile Speakerphone P710e ($169.99) is a sleek speakerphone with an integrated stand for hands-free access to a mobile phone or tablet. The device works with PCs and Macs, as well as wireless Bluetooth and NFC devices; it’s also optimized for Microsoft Lync and Skype certified. The P710e essentially transform that unoccupied room into an instant conference room. The speakerphone offers up to 15 hours of battery life, and its internal battery can be charged either via USB or an included AC adaptor.
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TwelveSouth HoverBar 3
The TwelveSouth HoverBar 3 is a flexible arm designed for the iPad tablet. The HoverBar attaches to any ledge up to 1-inch thick or can be clipped to an iMac for hands-free use. All iPad models are supported, other than the first generation iPad. Included iPad Fit Clips affix to your tablet and snap onto the HoverBar using an enclosed clasp. The HoverBar package also includes a handy display stand that works with the iPad Fit Clip to convert it into a hands-free tabletop display. Additional clips can be purchased for colleagues around the office.
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The BlueLounge CableBin ($89.95) offers an elegant approach to cable management that all small offices no doubt faced. The cylindrical bin offers a simple way to gather and organize the inevitable clutter caused by electronic devices. Its ample internal space allows for small appliances and cables to be kept neatly out of sight without having to wrestling with cable ties or Velcro fasteners. The CableBin comes with a number of adhesive hooks that can be affixed internally to aid in the placements of power extension switches and excess cables.
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