There are countless gadgets an gizmos out there, and in this job I get the opportunity to try and test a lot of them. While some are terrible, and a lot are just mediocre, some are just fantastic, and quickly earn a place on my desk or in my pocket.
Here are a selection of gadgets that have become day-to-day essentials.
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Wow! This tool is a hardcore workhorse. I've used it and abused it doing all sorts of tasks, and it still looks like new and works perfectly. The pliers, main blade, and sww have really been put through their paces, and they're just as sharp as they were when the tool was new.
At the core of the Leatherman FREE P4 are 21 essential tools, from a knife to pliers to scissors, but it features better ergonomics (the multitool feels much better in the hand, especially for extended use), it has a new magnetic catch allowing single-handed access to the pliers, and a new thumb-operated mechanism for accessing the myriad of tools -- which means no more broken fingernails!$140 at Amazon
The pouches that come with most multitools are, to put it as kindly as possible, a bit rubbish. While you can throw most multitools into a pocket, they're big, heavy metal items that don't play well with delicate items such as smartphones. This makes belt carry a good option.
Enter the Clip & Carry Kydex Multitool Sheath. The one here is for the new Leatherman FREE P4, but they make them for a wide array of multitools, in a range of colors (I chose orange because it's the one I'm least likely to lose). A clip allows the holster to be mounted on a belt or other clothing, and the Kydex keeps the tool firmly in place until it is needed for action.$30 at Amazon
At first, I was skeptical about the strength and reliability of the Kevlar cord and retraction mechanism, but after using one for a few months I'm a convert. There are different styles available, but my favorite is the version with the metal loop on the top (you can also get ones with Velcro loop, and a belt clip).
This is not only great for keys, bit also small tools, flashlights, and other things you don't wasnt to drop and lose.$8 at Amazon
If I'm going to be working in a dark spot or at night, I like to attach one of these to things that I might otherwise lose.
This this weighs next to nothing, is tough and not affected by water or chemicals, but emits a fearsome glow that lasts for hours. All you need to do is expose it to a bright light for a few seconds.$10 at CountyComm
It's expensive, but I've taken the Netgear Nighthawk M2 with me to several countries, and it has performed flawlessly. Sure, I could use my iPhone as a mobile hotspot, but using a dedicated tool means I'm not hammering my battery life, while at the same time giving me access to a whole host of advanced features, such as support for up to 20 separate devices.
And for when the signal is a bit poor, I can attach an external 3G/4G antenna and give the signal a bit of a helping hand.$499 at Amazon
It took me a while to become convinced that I needed a bit of tech to help me keep track of my keys and wallet, but a few weeks on the road with the Tile Pro on my keys, Tile Stickers in my backpack and luggage, and Tile Slim in my wallet converted me. It's the sort of tech that you forget is there until you need it.
Also has the added advantage that I can use a Tile to find my lost iPhone!View Now at Amazon
I used to be skeptical of "modern" wallets, but after going through what must have been my twelfth in as many years, I decided to give the Trayvax wallet ago. Not only is the wallet far more robust, and much easier to organize, but I also carry around far less junk and detritus in it.
I love this wallet because I no longer randomly throw junk into my wallet. And the money clip on the back is perfect for banknotes and is far quicker and more convenient to use than a traditional folding wallet.
I've upgraded my wallet by changing the paracord for orange core with a reflective strip, and added a glow patch.$45 at Trayvax
Not the smallest -- it measures 4.7- by 2.9- by 1.6-inches. Not the lightest -- it weighs in at a hefty 17.6 ounces. Not the cheapest -- the retail price is $191.99. But if you travel with a laptop, or you carry several devices around with you, this is the best portable power bank I've tested.
This single power bank can keep everything else I carry with me - from my MacBook to my earbuds - charged up and ready for work (or play).$192 at Amazon
The AirPods Pro are also beautifully engineered. Small, sleek, comfortable, have great audio output while at the same time doing a magical job of shutting out the rest of the world, and are insanely easy to use. Everything from the initial set up to operating the buds is just mind-blowingly miraculous. The clicker for operating different modes is brilliant, and so much better than the touchpad that other companies seem to be using. It offers all the tactile feedback of a button, without being a button.
While I like them -- a lot -- I also have some reservations. But these are the best earbuds you can currently buy.$249 at Apple Store
Hardware-based two-factor authentication is the perfect way to secure your digital life, and authentication keys don't come any better than Yubico hardware.
The YubiKey 5 NFC is FIDO certified and works with Google Chrome and any FIDO-compliant application on Windows, MacOS, or Linux.
YubiKeys have allowed me to secure my various online accounts, such as Gmail, Facebook, Dropbox, LastPass, and such, eliminating the need for clumsy and potentially insecure SMS-based two-factor verification.View Now at Amazon
I know that it's an overpriced, overengineered box cutter, but it's an absolute pleasure to use. Everything about this is just perfect, and having the ability to tune the locking mechanism to my own preferences turns a great product into what is close to being perfect.
The Maker Knife 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
I'm beginning to think that this will be my favorite gadget for 2020.
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.
I have accumulated quite a collection of these, 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.$24 at Amazon
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