Looking back at 2015, there were a few gadgets that became quite useful in my daily routine. A few were helpful at tech conferences and on a plane, some helped me stay productive in my own office. Here are my top picks of the year.
It’s massive with a 12.9-inch screen and meant more for movies than anything, but the iPad Pro is also a powerful tablet for business folks. Magazines look amazing, as do most sites, but the biggest win for business users is that this tablet has the most powerful processor of any mobile product from Apple. It handles processor-intensive apps for movie editing, statistical analysis, and that one business dashboard you really need with ease.
This innovative tablet-notebook hybrid has a hinge that helps you adjust the screen to the perfect angle. It also snaps off so you can reverse the screen and use it for a sales demo or presentation (facing the crowd). Microsoft improved Windows 10 and made it just as touch-friendly for apps like Evernote and Skype as it is for productivity chores.
Let’s skip all of the debate about the Chrome OS and whether it works in the enterprise (since it only runs Web apps). The keyboard on this improved touch version of the Pixel has one of the best keyboards I’ve ever used. It just works. I can type incredibly fast, and the screen is particularly bright and clear compared to lower-end laptops. Chromebooks include some handy perks, too. Most include three free Google Play movie credits, extra cloud storage, GoGo credits for in-flight Wi-Fi, although I’ve been told the credits sometimes don’t work.
Taking notes on the Note 5 is easier thanks to the included stylus (called the S Pen), which proved responsive and accurate in my tests at a tech conference. (It also proved problematic for some; if you replace the stylus the wrong way, you can damage the phone.) Previous “phablets” used a stylus that would sometimes produce stray markings and other glitches. I liked that the 5.7-inch screen was big enough to see my chicken-scratches.
Just the right size for speed typing, with a screen that extends almost all the way out to the bezel that looks super-crisp and colorful, the XPS 13 is the one you want for serious work. I like the XPS 13 better than the newer XPS 15 model, which is more suited to movies and games. At 2.8 pounds for the touchscreen version, it’s just about perfect for portability but not so feather-light that it slides around on a table at Starbucks. More than anything, the quality construction feels like it would last a few years of my heavy-fingered speed typing.
A late-to-the-game contender, this powerful Windows 10 smartphone has an “octo-core” processor (eight cores) to make it speedy enough to handle browsing, document editing, and even editing photos and video. And, you can run the phone in “desktop mode” (aka, Microsoft Continuum) by syncing it to the Microsoft Display Dock and using a wireless keyboard and mouse. The phone pops up on a monitor like a normal desktop computer.
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