We’re already into the second week of 2015 , and with the Consumer Electronics Show currently being held in Las Vegas, we have a whole new lineup of gadgets to look forward to this year. However, not everything from 2014 is already outdated, especially those gadgets that exceeded our expectations and helped make travel a little more enjoyable. Below, you will see which gadgets made it into my laptop bag, and managed to stay there thanks to their quality, ease of use or just plain pleasure to use.
Bose QuietComfort 20i noise canceling headphones
Already considered one of the best options on the market for noise canceling headphones, Bose continues to churn out fantastic headphones to drown out the noise from engines, seatmates and crying babies. The QuietComfort 20i headphones (or QC20i) are the first in-ear active noise canceling headphones from Bose. They seal very well, are comfortable enough to wear for hours, and even feel great when sleeping on a plane (if you are able to). The headphones charge using a MicroUSB cable, and come in an attractive carrying pouch. The only downside to them? The $300 price tag…
Available from Bose.com and most other electronics retailers.
Toshiba Chromebook 2
What started as an experiment giving away free laptops back in 2010, has turned into a huge success. Chromebooks are consistently some of the best selling devices from the major electronics retailers. Of course, since ChromeOS is essentially just an operating system around a browser, there are definitely limitations to what will work on a Chromebook, but for the vast majority of people, the speed, ease of use and security make it the perfect option. Best of all, there are a lot of great choices in every budget.
My personal favorite (at the moment) is the $299 Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35-B3340. This machine features a full HD screen, great battery life, Skullcandy speakers and of course 12 free Gogo sessions!
Sony Alpha a6000 digital camera
Recent innovations in digital camera technology has proven that you don’t need a large digital SLR camera to make great photos. The Sony Alpha a6000 is an excellent example of this – with a 24 megapixel sensor, fast auto-focus, a nice assortment of available lenses, tilting LCD screen, Wi-Fi and NFC, all in a relatively compact body. The camera is a pleasure to use, operates nice and fast and can be charged with the same MicroUSB cable used for most phones and tablets. At just under $700, it is definitely not a replacement for a cheap point and shoot camera, but a definite option for those who want to travel light(er), without sacrificing the quality of their photos.
Available from Amazon for $699 (with 16-50mm power zoom lens).
Anker 5 port PowerIQ charger
With more gadgets comes the need for more chargers. Anker chargers are some of the best selling power products on the market – for a good reason. Their chargers are affordable, well designed and for those
Anker Astro E4 battery
Like the 5 port charger above, the Anker Astro E4 features smart USB ports that deliver the maximum power to charge your gadgets. The E4 features a 13,000mAh capacity, which means you’ll get around 3-5 full phone charges out of it. The rest is pretty simple; a button to check the charge capacity, several LED’s to show how much power is left, and an LED flashlight. At under $30, everyone who has ever experienced the pain of a dead phone should carry one of these in their bag. Other chargers in the same lineup delivery anything from 3400mAh (around one charge for your phone) up to a whopping 25600mAh (which should be able to keep your phone working all week).
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4
For the longest time, there were two types of tablets – the hugely successful Apple iPad lineup, and a whole host of dreadful Android powered devices. Things have changed, and Android tablets now account for the majority of tablet sales, in part thanks to better designs and innovative features. One of the top tablets from 2014 is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S. Available in 10.5 and 8.4 inch versions, these are some of the best looking Android tablets ever made. With a 2560×1600 WQXGA Resolution screen, fingerprint scanner, 3GB of memory and an speedy 8-core processor, this tablet has what it needs to be productive AND enjoy some entertainment on the go. Thanks to its MicroSD memory card slot, you can even add up to 128GB of storage.
Motorola Hint Bluetooth Headset
You’ll notice a trend in my gadget lineup – Motorola is heavily represented. There is no real reason for this new love other than the fact that they really turned things around in 2014 with some amazing gadgets. One of them is the Hint Bluetooth headset. I’ve covered this tiny headset in a recent review here on Concourse, but all you need to know is that it comes in its own little carrying case/charger, feels extremely comfortable, and has some of the best audio of any headset I’ve tested. At $150, it is also one of the most expensive Bluetooth headsets on the market, but if your job relies on making calls on the road, it definitely won’t let you down.
SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive
Device storage is often at a premium – especially if you travel with your own collection of movies, photos and music. Some devices allow you to expand storage with a MicroSD memory card, but if you have multiple devices, that means investing in several of these cards. One solution I’ve learned to rely on is the SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive. This tiny battery powered Wi-Fi drive is available with 32 or 64GB of storage, and allows you to stream content up to 5 devices at the same time. This means you can load it with movies, and have the entire family share a single device to stream their movies to their devices. If 32 or 64GB is not enough, you can even add a regular SD card, allowing for expansion with up to an additional 128GB of content.
Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter
Watching a movie on your iPad or Android Tablet when traveling isn’t a huge inconvenience, but once you are in the comfort of your hotel bed, it is nice to be able to watch something on a larger screen. Thankfully, many hotels currently offer inputs to connect to the in-room TV, allowing you to watch something off your own device instead of the often overpriced PPV movies. Of course, you can simply use a video cable to get your device connected, but I personally prefer being able to stream movies wirelessly to the TV. To do this, I use the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter. This $60 gadget can receive wireless display content from most laptops and Android devices.
Motorola Moto360 Android Wear watch
From the day it was announced, the Moto 360 smart watch has been one of the most desirable gadgets of 2014. It is one of the first smart watches that actually looks like a watch, and not a Dick Tracy radio. Running on Android Wear, the watch features wireless charging, an integrated heart rate monitor and multiple band options. With Android Wear, you can receive notifications, issue spoken commands and even play simply wrist games. The watch also tracks your steps and other activity. Thanks to a variety of digital watch faces, you can customize it to your own personal style. Available with leather and metal bands, starting at $249.
Motorola Nexus 6
In the final months of 2014, Google and Motorola took us by surprise with the Nexus 6 – the first 6 inch device in the Nexus lineup. This “phablet” is one of the first phones to be released with the new Google Lollipop operating system, one of the biggest updates to this mobile OS in years. The phone is fast, big and gorgeous. Wireless charging, a great display and a decent camera top off the features. By far one of its best features for travelers is the new Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 technology, which allows you to charge the phone to 60% in just 30 minutes using a special (included) charger. Sadly, the phone is also the end of cheap Nexus devices, as the 32GB version of the phone sells for $650.