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Best tech gadgets for your home office or workshop in 2020: Brother labeler, Firewalla, and more

Upgrade your office or workshop with these gadgets that will boost your productivity and allow you to get more done in less time.

Having "the right tool for the job" can make all the difference. Not only are the right tools a pleasure to use, but they can also help you be more productive and efficient.

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn an affiliate commission from some of the products featured on this page. ZDNet and the author were not compensated for this independent review. 

Brother Mobile PTE500 Handheld Labeling Tool

Industrial labeling tool that's packed with amazing features

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I've had an old Brother labeler for years, but the other day I came across a video on YouTube by prolific electronics YouTuber Big Clive featuring the updated Brother labelers aimed at electricians and other pros that need to print labels, and I had to get one!

Not only does this labeler print amazing quality laminated labels, it can print a variety of different styles of labels, and you can even get special shrink wrap tape labels.

A brilliant bit of kit!

$153 at Amazon

Firewalla Blue

Tiny firewall that fits in the palm of your hand.

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I've been testing the Firewalla Blue for a while now and it's a very versatile bit of kit. Firewalla is an all-in-one, simple, and powerful firewall that connects to your router. And it really is that simple... connect it and away you go!

It comes in two flavors, Blue and Red, offering 500 Mbit and 100Mbit processing power, respectively.

For a small box, Firewalla is packed with features:

  • Protects your devices from cyberattacks
  • Advanced insights into your network
  • Safeguards your personal and business data
  • Dynamic content filtering
  • Monitor and control internet usage
  • Blocks unwanted ads
  • Build-in VPN server and VPN Client
$179 at Firewalla Firewalla Red at Amazon

KEY-BAK SECURIT XD Retractable Key Holder

Make lost keys a thing of the past!

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Great not only for preventing keys and ID badges and such from getting lost, but also a very handy way to keep things like flashlights close to hand. I've been using one for a few months now and it's truly revolutionized the way I carry my keys, and has made misplaced keys a thing of the past!

$13 at Amazon

Amflo 900 Key Ring

A pneumatic coupler that's been transformed into a quick-release keyring.

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This is one of those things that initially I was skeptical about -- an airline coupler that's been made into a keyring. This goes well with the KEY-BAK SECURIT XD retractable key holder, offering a super convenient, yet secure quick-release key ring.

They're not cheap, but are infinitely better than the cheaper quick-release keyrings I've tried. I actually trust this one with my keys!

$8 at Amazon

20-Pin USB-C Magnetic Breakaway Connector

MagSafe everywhere you use USB-C!

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Oh, how I love this simple bit of kit. 

The MagSafe connectors from days gone by saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in repairs and new MacBooks by preventing me from dragging my expensive yet fragile laptop to the ground thorough my occasional chimp-like clumsiness. But my MagSafe MacBooks became old and I eventually had to upgrade to a newer model featuring USB-C connectors.

Fragile USB-C connectors. USB-C connectors that cling on enough to allow my MacBook to be pulled off a table and placed into Isaac Newton's cold, indifferent hands.

Then a reader pointed me in the direction of the 20-pin USB-C magnetic breakaway connector. I was skeptical, not only because they were sold under no-name branding, but also because of the price. $25 seemed cheap.

But they are great. Fantastic. I have accumulated quite a collection, and they are perfect not only for MacBooks but any gadget with a USB-C port. The magnet is strong enough to keep the two parts of the connector snugly attached, yet will give way if the cable is tugged hard enough to endanger the attached device.

I recently discovered that there is also a version with a USB-C cable attached if you want a more compact solution.

The adapter supports 100W (20V/5A) charging, which makes it perfect for all MacBooks and other laptops and USB-C devices, and even supports up to 10Gbps data transfer and 4K@60Hz video output.

Highly recommended!

$26 at Amazon

USB Rechargeable AA Batteries 1000mAh with built-in USB Ports

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I love these because they are so convenient to charge up -- no need for some separate charger sitting on the desk. Capacity seems good, and they are durable, and the perfect solution for those devices that need an AA battery (the company also makes AAA versions, which are equally good).

$13 at Amazon

DSO213 Pocket-Sized 4-Channel Digital Oscilloscope

A decent 4-channel oscilloscope that won't break the bank!

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I've used a similar 2-channel oscilloscope for some time now, and have been very pleased with it, so when I found a 4-channel version I thought it a worthy upgrade.

A great little oscilloscope that is handy for diagnosing problems with low-voltage electrical gadgets. There are better out there, but they'll cost you.

Bear in mind that the documentation for these units is pretty poor, so getting to know how to use it can be a bit of an adventure -- Google is your friend – but once you have the basics down, it is pretty straightforward.

A staple of my repair kit. 

$190 at Amazon

Maker Knife V1.1

Yes, it's a pricy box cutter, but it's such pleasure to use

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What I like about the Maker Knife is that it oozes quality. This hasn't been made, it's been engineered. It has been designed to stay closed when you want it closed, and to open and stay open when you want to use it. The pocket clip keeps the knife secure when carried in the pocket, and the finish is durable and will survive daily carry.

It also comes with a screwdriver for tuning, detailed instructions for tuning the knife, spare screws, and a Band-Aid for that inevitable cut that you will likely get using it.

I also bought ceramic blades. While these are prone to chipping and snapping, used property they will outlast steel blades for general cutting.

$39 at BackerKit