THE GEAR • September 2021
The world of work has transformed, and so have our tech needs, as we opt for more ergonomic and portable iterations. Courtesy of the FT’s tech guru, Jonathan Margolis, here are seven new pieces of hardware that you’ll definitely want in your life.
The hybrid working revolution poses some questions about what tech hardware we need to best adapt to World v2.0. Many of us will be seeking to find a more attractive, less clunky-looking, house-trained version of the office desktop that we now use only now and then.
Hybrid being hybrid, we also need something portable that performs as well as our new, domesticated desktop computer, so that the next time we are welcomed on board a British Airways flight we will have the kit to use our time in the air productively.
And there’s more. From electric bikes, gadgets to help with courier deliveries and other ingenious aids, we present our selection of tech products for a new way of working…
Desktop computers at home have drifted out of use in recent years. It’s been the age of the laptop, because portability has been the main virtue we look for in a computer. A laptop is OK for the extended hours of use occasioned by home working, but a return to a desktop with a screen comfortably at eye-height can seem positively luxurious. It’s far less stressful than squinting down at a laptop screen. Apple’s latest 24-inch iMac range must qualify as one of the best desktops ever made. Performance is extraordinarily fast and fluid, and the sliver-thin, silent machines are wincingly good looking.
The 5G cellular network was a newborn when the pandemic kicked in. It’s being quietly built out and is now becoming a serious option for a home’s main internet use – goodbye router, farewell Wi-Fi. Speeds of 300 Mbps-plus are common in cities across the world. Typically, 5G is also more stable and reliable than archaic wired connections, and almost as good as fibreoptic. Lenovo, which makes some of the best PCs around, has one of the first laptops on the market with integrated 5G – ideal for the return of the business trip as well as home use. The sleek 14-inch IdeaPad 5G – at 1.2kg, lighter than a MacBook Air – boasts 15 hours of battery life, too, so leaving the charger at home is a viable option.
It would have taken a prescient futurologist to predict that a global pandemic would herald a boom in bicycles, but people’s preference for steering clear of public transport has brought about just that. The electric bike has become a particular icon, with new, often unusually designed models launching every week. In keeping with the brand, Britain’s Brompton has come up with a foldable ebike. The Brompton Electric bike folds up to a third of its size – only a little larger than its wheels. It has intelligent pedal assist and a top speed of 15mph. There’s a more powerful model, too, for hilly towns.
Most ruggedised smartphones devised for people working in extreme conditions are massive – too chunky to sit comfortably even in a sizeable paw. This latest in a range of Motorola phones that goes back a decade looks so much like a normal larger screen Android that you might think it’s arrived in the wrong box. But the latest Motorola Defy, although slight, is a fully-fledged rugged device, waterproof in up to 1.5m of water for 35 minutes, substantially drop-proof and able to survive temperatures of 75°C. Its performance is far from magnificent, but perfectly adequate. And, when lesser phones have expired, its adequacy could seem lifesaving.
One of the moderate downsides of returning to the office and taking business trips again is no longer being at home for the parcel deliveries we got so used to in lockdowns. This all-British solution, iParcelBox looks a little cumbersome but is well thought through. A weatherproof steel box, it’s bolted down by your front door and, when it’s empty, a courier can open it at the press of a button with no codes. For subsequent delivery attempts, you will get a phone notification to open the box remotely if you wish. It can accept parcels up 55cm wide, 35cm deep and 39cm high. It is powered by a rechargeable battery, so needs no wiring, but does need Wi-Fi.
Kensington is one of the most venerable and trusted of home-working accessory makers, and its new StudioDock is by some distance the most comprehensive iPad dock offered to date. Another characteristic home office set-up we can expect to carry over into the new world of work is having an iPad as a sidekick to a desktop or laptop, and the heftily-built studio dock has a dazzling range of sockets and connections to assist that working symbiosis. The dock also wirelessly charges AirPods, iPhones and Apple Watches.
When it comes to the perfect headphones for both the home and the office – and for on your way between the two – there are certain essentials to look out for: active noise cancelling, an ambient listening, or transparency, mode so you can communicate with those around you when necessary, and excellent sound. Master & Dynamic’s new MW08 wireless headphones have all of the above in spades, along with a near-jewellery level of craftmanship just for fun. They look much better than competitors’ products, the noise cancelling is best of breed and the six-microphone array in each earbud ensures the best talk quality for calls, even in wind.