Get the most out of your gadgets with products that undo the snafus of today’s high-tech gear.
By Crispin Boyer
Dell • $550
Notebooks are perfect for work. Tablets are made for play. Both worlds collide with this novel Windows 7 laptop. It quick-changes into a tablet with a 10.1-inch high-definition touch screen for watching movies, reading e-books, and mucking about online. Unlike the iPad, it supports Flash-based browsing and comes with a webcam. It weighs twice as much as Apple’s tablet, however, which turns e-reading into a real forearm workout. The Duo’s weight and sluggish interface hold it back from being a jack-of-all-trades, but it’s a happy middle ground.
Bottoms Up bottle-opening watch
Happy Hour • $100
You’ll never find yourself unprepared for beer o’clock with this watch, which boldly marks the beginning of happy hour on its face and comes with a bottle opener built into its band. The opener cracks off bottle caps with a flick of your wrist, with no need to unstrap the watch first. It’s stylish enough for all casual occasions (except AA meetings), snaps into a calf-leather strap, and features a cool gradient face. More important, its stainless steel case is water-resistant to 130 feet, useful in the likely event you break open a gusher.
WD TV Live Hub
Western Digital • $200
With cable and broadband companies charging more for less, jilted couch potatoes are turning to media streamers. This one is geared toward the torrent-savvy among that crowd. Its cinch-to-use interface lets you stream content from Netflix, Blockbuster On Demand, Pandora Internet Radio, YouTube, etc., although it lacks access to the network programs available via the cheaper Apple TV streamer. But the Live Hub plays nearly every movie format. Cram its one-terabyte hard drive with your own media and stream it to multiple boob tubes in your home. The only downside: You’ll need a separate adapter to connect wirelessly to your home network.
Jorno Bluetooth keyboard
Jorno • $99
Virtual keyboards on smartphones and tablets are responsible for more misspellings than the public school system. Jorno’s pocket keyboard mixes practicality with portability. It folds to the size of a pack of smokes for transport and expands into a nearly full size keyboard with a rigid back so you can rest it on your lap. Any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or tablet will work wirelessly with it, or you can snap your mobile device into its detachable cradle and work in either portrait or landscape mode. Android-based phones, iPhones, and iPads will work more like full fledged laptops, and any spelling mistakes you make will be your own damn fault.
Jawbone • $199
It may look like an artsy-fartsy stainless-steel box no bigger than a package of Velveeta, but this is anything but your typical cheesy external speaker. The Bluetooth-connected gadget, billed as the first-of-its-kind “intelligent wireless speaker and speakerphone,” pumps out a wall of loud and ludicrously crisp sound for its size. As you’d expect from its not-cheap price, it functions as more than just a twenty-first-century boom box for your iPhone, iPad, or laptop. It actually works as a high-end speakerphone, and a bevy of apps add new functions, such as battery life announcements and caller ID in any language you like.
Panasonic • $100
Now that many folks have given Ma Bell the middle finger and excised landlines from their homes in favor of mobile phones, call quality has reached an all-time low. The Link-to-Cell handset comes to your rescue, delivering loud-and-clear land line like signals for your cellphone. Just place the base unit and your phone anywhere in your house that gets a beefy cell signal, then link them via Bluetooth. The base unit broadcasts your phone’s calls to two old fashioned wireless handsets that you can stash anywhere in your home, giving you both the freedom to roam and call quality you haven’t heard since you cut the cord.
F48 Hazzard backpack
Freitag • $363
Because backpacks are boring, Swiss bag maker Freitag created the F48 Hazzard, a boxy-but-cool rucksack that features the extreme durability and hip design of a messenger bag. Sling it over your shoulders for the commute, then stow the straps and heft it like a briefcase when you reach your destination. The Hazzard boasts enough pockets for all your documents and digital toys, as well as a padded laptop sleeve that can accommodate notebooks up to 17 inches. And since it’s stitched from reclaimed seat belts and truck tarps, it’s tough enough to survive bike-lane mishaps with rogue vehicles.