The best new gadgets for business

The best new gadgets for business


    By Kim Thai

    Our correspondent goes to a geekfest and reports back on five new tools you need now.

    I was in gadgetry heaven.

    The Pepcom Holiday Spectacular in New York Thursday night was buzzing — and it wasn't just the sensation of mobile devices on vibrate mode.

    With 80 companies — from Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) to Samsung — showing off their goods for the holiday season, the room pulsated with enthusiasm, competitiveness and innovation. It was like the recession didn't exist!

    I can't go through everything I saw, but here are my top five picks of the most interesting, unique technology solutions for business (and then some honorable mentions).

    What: Seagate's Free Agent Dock Star

    How much: $99. For external access, the first year is free, and then $29/year.

    When it hits stores: October

    Why it's cool: Usually, when a company rep tells me something is going to be a "game changer," I shrug it off, but I was thinking the same thing this time. Seagate (STX) has produced something incredibly simple for file sharing. All you need is an Ethernet connection and a storage device — of any brand — and you can pretty much share your files with anyone, anywhere. It doesn't matter the size or type.

    Just think about that for a second, because it's pretty incredible. You just log into your account to access your storage device(s) and send your boss that huge file that's too big to attach in an email. Your boss will receive an email that says "click here," and it'll reroute her to the page where she can download those files straight to her desktop. It's that easy. With lingering concerns of cloud computing and network limitations, this might be the product that'll revolutionize the way we share files — both at home and at the office.

    What: Pong iPhone cover

    How much: $59.95

    When it hits stores: Available now at pongresearch.com

    Why it's cool: The debate of whether cell phone radiation causes cancer has been ongoing for years. Now after the advent of new technology from UCLA physics professor Alfred Wong, Pong Research has made an iPhone case that actually reduces the radiation transmitting to your brain by 60%. The cover basically bounces the radiation waves back into the air, away from you. It's the first Federal Communications Commission-certified product to do so.

    Now some of you might question whether this will affect reception quality during all those important business phone calls. I made a quick 10-minute phone call with the cover on and the quality was normal, if not perfect. It's a hard case with the technology pressed on the inside cover, making it look like any other case. (It's available in black and lime green.) Considering how much cases for Apple's (AAPL) iPhone cost, this is a very competitive offer. And don't worry BlackBerry folks, a case will be coming your way in November — along with most smartphones next year if sales are good.

    What: Duracell My Grid

    How much: $85

    When it hits stores: October

    Why it's cool: Basically, Duracell has made a charging grid that's compatible with the iPhone, BlackBerry and most Motorola (MOT) and Nokia (NOK) phones. From far away, it kind of looks like a solar panel. But a typical "grid" can hold four phones and all you have to do is attach a special clip onto your phone, and then you can throw your phone on there and the clip will create a conductive connection with the phone and start charging. Some phones will require an actual case, which you have to buy separately — which is a pain.

    But it's still a good idea, especially if you have multiple phones in the household or at your desk and don't want to deal with tangled cords. The grid charges pretty much at the same rate as a regular charger and is even a bit more energy efficient since it's coming from one power source.

    What: Logitech Performance Mouse MX

    How much: $99

    When it hits stores: Available now

    Why it's cool: Logitech (LOGI) has always been one of those companies that have produced solid computer accessories, from mouses to webcams. And now it's continuing to champion what it's known for by creating a mouse that actually tracks on glass. And here I thought its cordless air mouse was cool (it basically functions like a remote for your computer).

    It is powered by the company's Darkfield laser technology; although the Darkfield seems like a necessary evolution in mouse technology, Logitech's attention to detail is what makes this product stand out. Take the programmable buttons that'll give you easy access to whatever you'd like. Or the adjustable scroll, which can move with clicks or can spin freely — making editing long spreadsheets all the more easier to navigate. There's also a mobile, smaller version of this product for $20 less, if you want a cheaper option.

    What: Asus AiGuru SV1

    How much: $269

    When it hits stores: Available now

    Why it's cool: The Taiwan-based company has made a seven-inch touchscreen video phone for Skype users. It's kind of clunky and is about a foot tall, but my goodness, it's a video phone! Asus says it's trying to target older folks who don't like messing with technology. But there's a strong possibility for business here, especially since more companies are making Skype-based phone calls for video conferences. Asus has to work on the video quality, for sure, but if it were to improve that and open up to other messengers in an different model, businesses could latch on.

    Honorable mentions

    What: HP 5310 Probook/Toshiba Portégé R600

    How much: $699/ $2,099

    When it hits stores: October/Available now

    Why they're cool: HP debuted its new line of laptops for the holiday season that'll go with Windows Live 7 last night. It was a solid line-up as always. But the Probook was its notebook targeted specifically for professionals. With a 13.3-inch screen, it's only 3.7 pounds, 0.9-inch thin but yet has a full-performance processor. That's pretty cool. Considering the portability, I wish the battery life would have been more than six and a half hours, but it'll do. The coolest business feature is definitely the HP Quicklook, which allows you to sync your office calendar to your computer and edit at your convenience with a push of a button.

    The other notebook worth mentioning is Toshiba's Portege R600. Now, unless a computer will cook and clean up after me, any price tag of more than $2,000 is absurd these days. Regardless, it was a neat product. At 2.4 pounds, Toshiba still managed to keep the optical drive in the unit. That's unheard of. It's under an inch thin, as well, and has a seven-hour battery life with a 12.1-inch screen. The two coolest features? It has no moving parts, and you can still see all your work even if direct sunlight is hitting the screen.

    What: HTC Hero

    How much: $179.99 with a two-year Sprint contract

    When it hits stores: October

    Why it's cool: It's been talked about for awhile, but this was the first time the HTC Hero has appeared in the public. It has a touchscreen interface that's similar to the iPhone (no keyboard), has a scroll wheel like the BlackBerry Curve and has a desktop that's reminiscient of the Palm Pre — not to mention it's running Google's Android. Could the HTC Hero be the love child of all other smart phones? Maybe, but it was user-friendly, has a full HTML browser (of course), a 5.0 megapixel camera and vibrates when you type, giving it a nice, simple tactile feel. And it was probably the most comfortably smartphone I've held, so it's got that going for it.

    What: Jawbone Prime

    How much: $129.99

    When it hits stores: Available now

    Why it's cool: Oh, the Jawbone. With a new line the company refers to as "ear candy" and a hefty price tag, it's obvious what kind of consumer Jawbone wants to appeal to. But it's a good product. The Prime is a sleeker version of the original Jawbone — now available in seven colors! The Jawbone Prime has improved sound quality and now reduces noise and wind. It's known to be uber comfortable, resting inside your ear instead of having to do that hook business and agitating your skin. What caught my attention was how it could connect to two phones, so you can easily switch from your personal to professional phone without having to take off your headset.

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