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back to article Ten... laptop accessories

Those of you with laptops will undoubtedly agree that even with all convenience of portable computing, there remain compromises aplenty. Yet add a gadget here and there and mobile working can be improved tremendously. Whether it's a tool to keep it cool, a way to boost the audio or simply better ways to keep the darn thing …

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Anonymous Coward

I opened the article expecting to see small, carry-with-laptop type shiney things, but most of these seem more the 'luggable' variety, and whilst I shall look to order the USB/ card reader hub... it looks to me as though it's meant to be mounted in a 'through desk' hole....

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Worse - there are much smaller printers, much smaller projectors (some stupidly tiny), much smaller USB hubs, much more efficient and smaller car chargers for laptops (even generic, multi-voltage ones), and things like the mouse are an abomination.

I was hoping to see a small USB scanner for a half-decent price. I can safely say I would never buy any of the products listed there (£700 USB keys? Buy a fecking external 1Tb hard drive, or even 10, ffs). Even the soundbar is just a nice way to put extra leverage on your screen hinges, and hardly any of it is "portable".

If you want something to be a "laptop accessory" I have to be able to reasonable carry it in an ordinary laptop bag with all my other accessories. I don't think any of those items except the stupidly-expensive USB key would fit that bill.

No TV-tuners? (just bought a DVB-T and analog dual-tuner - so can watch / record two digital channels simultaneously - model for less than £20) No scanners? No external hard drives? No fancy gadgets like, I don't know, some sort of joypad/joystick that folds away? No mention of things like the wireless presenter controls that can slip into an Expresscard slot for storage, etc.? Disappointing, and very misnamed, round-up of useless and expensive products.

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Second The USB Hub

Brilliant idea, just ordering mine now.

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Although I agree that many of the "accessories" in the article are rather useless, I believe that the Canon printer reviewed here and the similar one from HP are indeed the smallest A4 printers you can get. I had the HP 460bwt printer for about 4 years now and it has been very useful to me. If printing for business purposes, A4 is pretty much a must - and the HP version has a battery and wifi or bluetooth as well (depending on which model you are buying).

Also, a universal laptop external battery would have been a useful addition. I have a 133W/h one I bought on Ebay (new) - and I find it brilliant - specially for long journeys. Plugged into a netbook gives about 12 hours of solid work, movie watching or listening to music - a bit less on my sublaptop. And those hours are in addition to the internal battery of the laptop. Yes - it is heavy, but well worth it. It comes with about 20 different plug adapters, and even has a usb connection to charge things that can use it.

I also agree with the comment about portable scanners. I have one of those feed-through, usb powered, "Toblerone" size scanners - and found it really useful on the go - if quite slow to operate.

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wow

How expensive are USB 3.0 pens??

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You're not wrong!

I've lost two 16GB flash drives over the past few years which has left me a little cheesed off (nothing of importance on them) but they only cost me around £16 each, if I'd spent 10x that on one of those USB 3.0 drives I'd certainly be be 10x as cheesed off if it went missing.

I got a replacement for the two lost drives recently, a Play.com 32GB stick for £16.01 on a 1-day sale, it's always nice to see the price of perfectly adequate quality flash drives from reputable sources dropping year by year.

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Facepalm

mouse

WTF is that monstrosity!

And why oh who do they keep making stuff that is right handed!

We are 15% - What sort of F*ckwitted company eliminates 15% of sales immediately ?

And I'm sure it's no coincidence that the products tend to be hideous - probably designed by plodding right handed fools with no imagination...

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Anonymous Coward

If all you sinister folk weren't so contrary and just learned to use things with the correct hand the problem would go away.

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Trollface

I think you'll find it's closer to 9% than 15%. 10% percent at the outside. I'd link to wikipedia but people keep telling me there is something wrong with the internet when I do.

/pedant

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Les than 10% of the market, much less.

For example, I, like many lefties, use the mouse right-handed.

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fah!

you are forgetting about all the right handers who aspire to being left handed and train themselves with left handed mice!

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Anonymous Coward

The Left-handed...

Some say that they have no souls.

Or is that the Gingers?

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Anonymous Coward

So if I was ginger as well as left handed (I am) I'd be ideal for a sales job then?

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Mains inverters are silly for laptops

Converting to mains and back is inefficient - might not be a problem for charging while driving but can be if using when the engine's off. Far better and more portable to get a dedicated laptop car adaptor (not much more than £5 on eBay). I know you can't plug other things into it but this article is about laptop accessories.

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Anonymous Coward

Agreed - get a dedicated supply

Agreed, you are better off with a dedicated 12V brick for your laptop.

Failing that, you can ALSO save yourself a bit of space in your bag by:

1) getting a US power lead for your current brick (nearly all bricks are dual voltage now-a-days).

2) Getting a small US power adapter (due to the US power plug being quite a bit smaller than the UK style plug, and the lower voltage requiring less safety measures). You can get US inverters that are just a bit larger than the lighter socket itself.

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Boffin

US Voltage > Touch Voltage > Fatal potentially

Touch voltage ie the level, which can penetrate the resistance of dry hands is 50V AC, US voltage is 120V AC, so could penetrate your skin and kill you, especially in one hand, out the other, frequency is also closer to your heart rhythm so more likely to induce fibrillation also than 240V at 50Hz AC.

120V DC is touch voltage, so you could touch 120V DC and potentially be ok, unless your hands are moist or sweaty where touch voltage drops to half dry hand touch voltage for both AC and DC.

Also many of those dedicated chargers especially on Ebay from China are VERY poorly built, (CE also stands for Chinese Export and many marks are forged, the Chinese have a triple C mark, however many of those are likely forged on ebay also) have under sized wiring and poorly connected wiring, which can and does melt, no internal fusing leading to damage to your laptop or your cars ECU (3 figure repair bill or more) and electrical systems or a fire in the event of a fault. Not withstanding that, many struggle to put out a steady voltage and current and many massively fluctuate, leading to laptop stability problems.

Best solution is an AC inverter with the OEM charger plugged in, bought from a reputable retailer, which as per the inverter in the article will shut off if the car battery drops too far (still allowing you to start the car), cut out if they overheat (something many ebay jobs never do) and produce steady voltage, which the charger for the laptop will even out further.

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Bronze badge

What? 120VAC might be enough to penetrate skin, but it being half the voltage of the UK's supply, the resultant current flow would be rather less. You'd be really unlucky to end up dead. Telephone engineers work live on phone lines in the UK that carry a ringing voltage of over 100VAC with no precautions. It stings, it's not dangerous. You've not explained how someone would actually be exposed to such a hypothetical risk anyway - I believe even US mains leads tend to come with their conductors insulated.

!2v adaptors damaging your car? How so? Your fag lighter socket is fused and it floats straight across the battery. If you think plugging in an adaptor lead can generate electrical nastiness, just think what horrors could result from something like a, ooh I don't know, solenoid and high powered starting motor could do.

Fluctuating output doesn't matter, because the voltage is floated across the laptop's battery. If it gets too high it'll blow the fuse in the laptop's charging circuit.

I've been using a £5 eBay lead to run my Acer Aspire One in the car for the last three years. It was made in China, it is fused, it's well built. I have an inverter too, but I've never used it to power my laptop - it's crazy inefficient to convert 12VDC to 240VAC just to go back to 18VDC.

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Canon Printer, and that soundbar...

I have a nifty Canon BJC-50; it's markedly smaller and lighter than the Pixma iP100, albeit not photo quality, and not very fast.

If you can find one, there's was a very cool print scanning print head available for it. You remove the regular printhead, put this one in, and voila!, you have a scanner. Yeah, it's slow but it has all the coolness of a vintage Minox spy camera.

http://www.itreviews.com/hardware/printers/canon-bjc-50/

BTW, logitech doesn't make that speaker bar any more.

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Boffin

Double Plug!

The most import bit of kit I carry around is a double plug.

Great on trains when there are a lack of plugs......also great in the odd office you visit where they sit you on the end of a set of desk where all the power sockets are being used!

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A double UK plug?

Had to smirk at the DC/AC converter with that stupid huge UK socket on it.

So you'll also need a carry case for the PS with the UK plug and your double plug/socket....

btw. does the UK plug on a laptop PS still need a fuse in it? Duh.

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WTF?

The thing about the DC/AC converter is that it's really designed for use in the car (as if the cigarette lighter didn't give that away). Why would you need a carry case? Taking it into the hotel with you?

I have this exact model in my van, tucked under the passenger seat. I then have a 6 way mains block connected to it and mounted to the bulkhead between the front seats. Now I can charge my laptop, two mobile phones, a bluetooth earpiece, my sat-nav and a rechargeable lantern all while staying under the 150w rating.

So convenient, cheap, and it's saved my bacon a few times when out in the field.

I've mistakenly left it plugged into the lighter socket over the weekend (which remained powered for almost 60 hours!), and my van started first pop, so this thing doesn't draw any more power than it needs to.

Could I have done this with just a dedicated laptop jack? No.

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Plug extender and pico projector

Three-way plug extender from Poundland - perhaps the most useful bit of kit in my travelling pack. I just keep an EU adapter plugged into it, so I know I have one when I'm travelling.

Projector-wise, I picked up a Samsung SP-03 for just over £100 on eBay some time back - a fantastic piece of kit and, with a VGA cable, adapter for my laptop and its power supply (1.5 hour battery not something I'd rely on), it fits into the small pocket of my bag with ease — the whole package, standing on its end, is a mere 1/453 of the size of Nelson's column. Image is no good in a bright room but, dim the lighting, and it's more than useable.

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Pint

Stuff for on the move

I have one of the Maplin units in the back of the car. Plug that into a 4-way extension lead and ALL your gear can be charing as you drive. What gear you might say?

Laptop

Camera Batteries

Flash Gun Batteries (AA and special ones for the Macro Flashes)

and lastly,

The Mini Fridge

Gotta keep the food & drink cool

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The Modern-Tech USB Hub is hardly "modern" - USB2 only.

I only buy USB3 devices now.

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Mushroom

Oooooo

Get you, upper class snob :-)

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I imagine your printer must run oh so fast.

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Re: the mouse

I thought the same (it's huge and ugly), but have a look at the original review where there's a picture of it being held.

It's about the size of your index finger...

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Hubs like this

http://www.maplin.co.uk/cerulian-4-port-usb-2.0-metal-hub-513858

seem to be more compact. I've got a similar one that is square rather than rectangular.

It is dual bus/external powered, using a 5V powertip.

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Mouse

Once upon a time I'd have thought it'd be a distinctly chilly day in hell that I'd be recommending something from Microsoft, but the MS Arc mouse is a really nice bit of design, and works well. It folds down into a fairly teeny package to put in a laptop bag, and when unfolded (also powers it up) is really comfortable to use. It's symetric too, so should at least be a bit leftie friendly (don't quote me on that though).

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Like the USB Hub/SD Card Reader

The idea to produce a usb hub and card reader which sits in the surface of the desk is just brilliant. I've seen plenty designed for side and under desk mounting but not this style before. It's using a standard cable port size too so there's no problem with restoring it back to a cable entry or blanking it off in the future.

Only one thing bothers me and that's dust which is a real problem in my old house. I'd have to keep a handheld vacuum around to prevent the slots becoming fouled. That said I'll probably still be digging out the hole saws from the shed this weekend.

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Anonymous Coward

Missed the point on the hub

The reviewer seems to have missed the point on that USB hub. Far from being intended as a portable device to take around with your laptop, it's intended, as others have noted, to be fitted into a desk top and more than likely connect to a tower beneath the desk (since that it where the cable will be).

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Give me the mouse!

"Trackpads are treacherous at the best of times and even multi-touch gesture support does little in the ways to compete with the reliability of a regular mouse peripheral."

Thanks for telling them how it is. Trackpads suck. Especially the ones without buttons.

I've heard that some company even makes a magical trackpad to be used with desktop computers. Now explain that to me. Why would anyone downgrade from a mouse to a trackpad?

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