In the Bag

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Just because you’re away, it doesn’t mean you have to leave the office behind. Steve Dinneen rounds up the gadgets you need in your mobile armoury, to ensure that your access to that all-important work is never more than a click or touch point away.

There is nowhere to hide. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, you could be working. Long-haul flights are no longer a guilt-free ten hours spent watching movies and drinking wine – you could quite easily have finished writing a paper, or created a presentation and printed off an accompanying press release, in the time it took to fly from A to B. Until recently, there was some respite – while there is no excuse for not checking your Blackberry every five minutes, you could hardly be expected to take the entire office away with you. Not anymore. Everything you could possibly need can be chucked into your carry-on luggage. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to pack a change of clothes too. Today’s mobile office equipment isn’t just compact – it also syncs seamlessly across your devices. A wireless scanner will connect to your tablet PC by Bluetooth. You can use the tablet to send an email to a printer 5,000km away, telling it to print the document you just scanned for your staff back in the UK. You can create a presentation on your iPad and use your phone as the projector to screen it. Your portable mouse can double up as the clicker to control the slides. With today’s technology your office really can be wherever you happen to be standing. Here are the latest essential items you should have at your disposal.

SAMSUNG GALAXY BEAM

$600 SIM-FREE

A mobile phone isn’t so much an office essential as a life essential. Taking it with you is as natural as remembering your keys or putting on underpants. It makes sense, then, for the mobile worker to look for a phone with as many useful features as possible. The Galaxy Beam has one neat trick you won’t find elsewhere – an inbuilt 50-inch projector. Beamed from the top of the handset, the HD image is bright enough to use outdoors. For those moments when you’re called upon to make an impromptu presentation, this could be a lifesaver. You can beam photos, videos and PDF files on to a screen big enough to see from two metres away – and when you’re not working, you can play Angry Birds on it. The Android handset is remarkably svelte, at 12.4cm x 6.42cm x 1.25cm, considering what it has inside. It has just been released in the UK.
samsung.com/uk

HP OFFICEJET PRO 8600 PLUS

$360

Measuring 49.4cm x 41.28cm x 31.5cm and weighing 12.43kg, you’re not going to get this all-in-one printer, scanner, photocopier and fax machine into your suitcase, but its ability to interact with your mobile devices while you’re away makes it a useful tool for your home or office. Its inbuilt Wi-Fi connection allows you to send documents straight from your phone or iPad, meaning you won’t have cables draped all over your house. Even better, the printer is assigned its own personal email address, which you can contact from anywhere in the world with your printing requests. Hit ‘print’ in Singapore and your documents will be waiting for you when you get back. Or install the printer in your office and you can make sure everyone is up to date with the latest figures for when you get back from the big meeting overseas.
hp.com/uk

LOGITECH CUBE

$63

Logitech claims to have “redefined the mouse” with the Cube, which is overstating matters somewhat. What it has done is make the mouse very portable. The wireless device – more of a brick than a cube – is touch sensitive, meaning you can scroll through pages with a swish of your finger. Its USP is that it also doubles as a presentation clicker, meaning you will be able to scroll through that keynote presentation you just made without having to keep returning to your laptop. The USB receiver it uses can handle up to six wireless devices, so you can also use a wireless keyboard without having to worry about running out of slots. The Cube is very much an on-the-go mouse – the edges get uncomfortable after using it for too long – but it is small enough and useful enough to earn a place in your luggage. It also looks great.
logitech.com/uk

THREE MIFI (HUAWEI E586)

FROM FREE WITH CONTRACT

Only relevant for UK users. If you carry web-enabled devices around, you should think about investing in one of these. The portable Wi-Fi hotspot will allow your phone or tablet to connect to Three’s wireless network at speeds well in excess of regular 3G and other dongles. Connect to the web through this rather than your network’s 3G signal, and it will save a few quid. It is great for small teams that regularly work on the go, but need to stay in touch with the office – the Mifi easily copes with four people accessing it. The drawback is that you can’t guarantee a strong Three signal in some parts of the UK. Beware that outside the EU there is no limit on data charges.
three.co.uk

MAGIC CUBE

$222

This impressive device syncs with phones or tablets to beam a virtual keyboard on to any surface, allowing you to type wherever you are. Once you see the red laser keyboard you’ll want to use it everywhere, just to show off. Its maker, Celluon, claims you can type at a rate of more than 50 words a minute, with an error rate similar to a regular keyboard – although if you manage that without getting numb fingers, you’re doing better than me. It also acts as a virtual mouse, recognising finger gestures for easy scrolling. It can connect to your phone either by USB or Bluetooth, is compatible with Android, Windows or iOS devices, and has a battery life of two and a half hours.
expansys.com

PLANON PRINTSTIK

$395

In a digital age, it is amazing how many things still need to be printed out. Enter the Printstik from Canadian firm Planon, which claims its printer is the smallest portable model on the market. Its diminutive size (2.5cm x 27.3cm x 3.8cm) is impressive – it will fit easily in a briefcase – and that includes the roll of paper somehow squeezed inside. It uses similar technology to a fax machine and requires special thermal paper (which is rather expensive – a pack of six 20-page rolls will cost about $30). There is a drawback, though – you will get printouts that look like they have arrived straight out of the 1970s, complete with slightly curled paper and streaky marks. Slightly counter-intuitively, the Printstik currently connects to smartphones if you happen to be using either a Blackberry or Windows Phone, although it promises more devices will be supported in the near future. pixmania.co.uk

SCANSTIK

$265

This handheld scanner is a great gadget for anyone who wants the luxuries of the office on the move. The pen-shaped Scanstik will let you scan a document up to 600dpi just by sliding it across a sheet of paper. Capturing a file, which is then stored on the device’s internal memory, takes just a few seconds in low-resolution mode (150dpi), although it requires a steady hand for higher quality jobs. The stored jpegs can be converted into editable files using the software included. It has both full colour and black and white options, and charges from a regular USB port. It also has the option to insert a micro SD card to increase its storage capacity and is compatible with both Windows and Apple’s OS X. The device went on sale in the UK in May.
scanningpens.co.uk

TOM TOM GO LIVE 1005 WORLD

$390

If you plan on driving while you’re away, a Tom Tom should be the first thing in your suitcase – getting your head around driving on the wrong side of the road is difficult enough without adding being hopelessly lost into the equation. Tom Tom has felt the squeeze from smartphones with built-in GPS capability, but for reliability and functionality, this model can’t be beaten. It comes with a year’s subscription to the firm’s Live service, which is usually $74 a year. It is worth paying a premium for features such as the ability to find the quickest route through rush-hour traffic (it takes elements such as zebra crossings and shopping crowds into account), and the clever integration of services such as Trip Advisor. But the clincher is the wealth of world road maps that come pre-installed. Whether you’re in Russia, Australia or South Africa, you will be on the right track with this device.
tomtom.com

SPOT SATELLITE GPS MESSENGER

$200

This satellite messenger is for the mobile worker who plans on straying far from the beaten track. If you’re going up a mountain, through a forest or into the desert – or just somewhere without mobile coverage – and want to let the folks back home know you’re still in one piece, this is the equipment for you. The Spot will let you signal for help should you run into trouble. It can also send a pre-programmed message via email or SMS, or a customised message and your location, so your family – or your boss – knows you are okay. A particularly useful feature is the ability to allow contacts to track your progress using GPS, which can be added to a Google Map. If you’re in a tight spot, this could save your life, and there probably aren’t too many gadgets in your office you could say that about. The device will give you a connection almost anywhere in the world.
amazon.co.uk

APPLE KEYNOTE

FROM $11

It may be in vogue to make two-hour presentations without a single sheet of paper to guide you, but for anyone human, Apple’s Keynote software for Macs and mobiles is a godsend. Pick a theme, create some graphics, throw in a bit of animation and even a complete novice can rustle up a professional-looking presentation. Useful features include a separate display for you and your audience, meaning you can keep an eye on your current and next slides, your notes and a timer while the audience gawks at your animated pie chart. The software can sync between your devices and creating slides on the iPad is intuitive. You can even upload your presentation straight to You Tube from within Keynote, if you decide your creation is too good not to share.

itunes.apple.com

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