Macworld Gear Guide 2006

Gear Guide: For the office and the road

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Macworld Gear Guide 2006

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Gear for the On-the-Go

Travelers, laptop devotees, and other mobile users will want to hold still for long enough to check out some of these gadgets and accessories. We’ve found gear at the following prices:

  • Gear for less than $30: Laptop Desk 2.0
  • Gear for $31 to $60: PowerBlock Travel
    Skooba Skin 1415
    QuickerTek Handle
  • Gear for $61 to $150: RouteBuddy
    Artist’s Canvas Bag
  • Gear for $151 to $300: Timbag
  • Gear for more than $300: Navman N60i
  • Stop feeling the burn

    For many recent portable computers, the term laptop is a stretch—they just get too hot to rest on human legs. So a laptop desk can be a lifesaver—or at least a lap-saver. LapWorks’ Laptop Desk 2.0 is a portable, 22-ounce polycarbonate desk that keeps your laptop safely away from your skin. It also has grooves that let air circulate beneath it, so your portable stays cool. At 20.5 by 11.2 inches, it’s large enough for even 17-inch MacBook Pros, but it folds up to half that size to fit in your laptop bag. And when you’re working at home, a pop-up brace lets the Laptop Desk 2.0 function as an elevated desktop stand.—DF

    Laptop Desk

    Laptop Desk 2.0: $30; LapWorks

    Become a global power

    Apple stopped including a wall charger with the iPod years ago, which makes it tough to recharge your iPod without the help of a nearby Mac. Apple will sell you that iPod charger for $30, or you can buy Griffin’s sleek and capable PowerBlock for the same price. But for a mere $5 more, Griffin Technology’s PowerBlock Travel lets you charge your iPod not only in Omaha and New York, but also in Rome and Beijing. The accessory handles any voltages you’re likely to come across in your travels, converting them to the 12-volt DC needed to keep your iPod juiced. And as a bonus, both the PowerBlock and PowerBlock Travel can be used with many battery-powered devices that charge via a USB connection.—RICK LEPAGE

    PowerBlock travel

    PowerBlock Travel: $35; Griffin Technology

    Let your Mac (finally) be your guide

    If you’re a GPS-using Mac owner, you’ve probably found yourself envying the abundance of Windows software that comes with GPS devices. Sure, Apple’s Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop will let you use your Mac to talk to your GPS, but they’re no substitute for a real Mac app. So Mac users with a penchant for exploration should check out RouteBuddy, a Universal app that provides street-level mapping of most of the United States and Europe, as well as a smattering of Asia. With it, you can transfer routes, waypoints, and tracks to and from your GPS while easily searching for tens of thousands of points of interest. (To transfer map data, you’ll have to use the bundled Windows software.) RouteBuddy can even show you your current position on its map, or use Google Earth or Google Maps to automatically display your current position.—BEN LONG

    RouteBuddy

    RouteBuddy: $100; United States map, $50; other map prices vary; RouteBuddy

    iMac to go

    It’s no secret that the iMac uses a lot of the same parts as a laptop. And even though the 17-, 20-, and 24-inch iMacs weigh in at 15.5, 22.0, and 24.7 pounds, respectively, they’re fairly portable, thanks to their slender form factor. Still, you don’t want to expose such a beautiful veneer to the bumps and bruises of the road. The Timbag is designed to carry an iMac; it has special compartments that hold the keyboard, the mouse, cables, and even a few CDs or DVDs. With different sizes that fit each of the three iMac models, the Timbag is the ideal container if you need to transport your desktop out into the wild.—DD

    Timbag

    Timbag: €179; Timbag

    The just-in-case case

    Most of the time, my PowerBook G4 sits on my desk. I only occasionally unplug it, to take it home or on a business trip. So I don’t really need a dedicated laptop bag. But when I do travel, I want my laptop to have at least some protection. That’s why I like laptop sleeves: they let me carry my PowerBook in a regular bag, but they provide just enough padding that the machine can withstand the rigors of mobility. RoadWired’s Skooba Skin 1415 is a current favorite. This padded envelope can hold any 15-inch notebook (other Skooba Skin sizes are available)—be it a PowerBook or one of those new-fangled MacBook Pros the kids are getting these days—and it slides easily into my Tom Bihn shoulder bag (I bet it will fit inside your bag or briefcase, too). Plus, the Skooba Skin’s top flap can be flipped up to form a handle, and it’s available in a bunch of different colors and materials—from blue ultrasuede to pink vinyl—so you won’t be stuck with boring old black Cordura.—DAN MILLER

    Skooba Skin 1415

    Skooba Skin 1415: $35; RoadWired

    Portrait of the artist as a mobile user

    If you’re tired of all those look-alike laptop bags, check out Timbuk2’s new Artist’s Canvas Bag. Because it’s made of untreated cotton, you can draw on it, paint it, and otherwise personalize it however you wish. (For inspiration, check out the artists’ gallery.) But the Artist’s Canvas Bag is still a Timbuk2 messenger bag, which means sturdy construction, a waterproof liner, and a nice wide shoulder strap. No, it’s not padded specifically for a laptop, but you can take care of that with a laptop sleeve (assuming you can find one that doesn’t offend your artistic sensibilities).—DM

    Timbuk2 Artist Canvas Bag

    Artist’s Canvas Bag: $90; Timbuk2

    See where you’re going

    Google Maps is the best. But you can’t really take it with you. NavMan’s line of tiny Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers—highlighted by the NavMan N60i —are like a live version of Google Maps. Use the touchscreen to tell the NavMan where you want to go; it knows where you are thanks to the orbiting GPS satellites, and its hard drive is pre-loaded with maps that cover North America. The NavMan calculates your destination, shouts out helpful directions (“In one eighth of a mile, turn left!”), and does a remarkable job of calculating your estimated time of arrival. It’s even got a built-in digital camera so you can snap geo-tagged photos of wherever you are. Although the NavMan ships with Windows software, it’s completely unnecessary: there’s an SD slot for your images or you can transfer data directly via USB.—JASON SNELL

    Naviman n60i

    NavMan N60i: $600; NavMan

    Get a handle on things

    Apple laptops are legendary for their superlative design, but one thing’s missing from these otherwise perfect portables—a handle for easy transport. QuickerTek steps into the breach with the Handle, available for 13-inch MacBooks as well as the two-different sized MacBook Pro models. I tried out the $48 Handle for my 15-inch MacBook Pro. (The 17-inch and MacBook versions cost $50.) Attaching four screws into the bottom of my MacBook Pro was a snap—I completed the entire assembly process while conducting a five-minute phone call. Besides providing a safe and secure grip for my laptop, the brushed, anodized handle handle also props up the MacBook Pro at an angle when it’s not in use, helping with heat dissipation.—PHILIP MICHAELS

    QuickerTek Handle

    MacBook Pro Handle: $48-$50; QuickerTek

    [ Photography by Peter Belanger. ]

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