Cool Yule Tools for Work

Make the drudgery of the office go by a lot faster with some cool work gadgets this holiday season

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USB cameras are not quite to the dime-a-dozen level yet, but many sure seem that way in terms of video (and audio, if they support it at all) quality. Professional videoconferencing settings require high-quality video and real PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) capability, but many camera systems with these features have been difficult to use and often surprisingly disappointing in terms of the aforementioned quality. The Aver VC520 is designed to remedy this situation in midsize-to-large conference rooms – but note that this is an enterprise-class product, so it’s only for the very special people on your holiday gift list.

The VC520 features 12x optical zoom, a 2-megapixel sensor, 1080p video (although check with your conferencing or other software supplier for compatibility), a full-duplex speakerphone (and the ability to add an optional additional speakerphone for even larger rooms) with echo suppression and noise cancellation, and an RS-232 port for control via AV wall panels (yes, many of these still use serial ports). There’s also a hand-held remote control, a bracket for permanent mounting (desktop, ceiling, wherever), and there’s a Kensington slot as well. The VC520 can even be mounted on a tripod if desired - standard mounting included. AVer offers a three-year warranty with 72-hour advance replacement in the first year.

But the best feature might just be that the VC520 is connected via USB, and supports Skype, Lync, WebEx, GoToMeeting, and more. In most cases, the VC520 should be literally plug and play. Setup is very easy thanks to the color-coded cables. On my Mac, I just selected the VC520 in each app I tried, and everything worked just fine.

Using the Facetime app, the party at the end of an iPhone reported improved video quality when I switched from the MacBook’s built-in camera to the VC520. Audio quality was also excellent, and I used the remote control to scan around the room. In fact, this is the best corporate-setting camera and speaker system I’ve ever used - highly recommended for anyone looking for an easy-to-use, high-quality conferencing solution.

-- Writeup by C.J. Mathias

Lander Powell Case for Apple iPhone 6/6S

$34.95

Having a new smartphone without a case these days is like driving in a car without a seatbelt - sure, you could do it, but it’s a lot safer if you use/have one. For outdoor types, having a ruggedized case usually means adding a lot of extra weight to the phone in order to receive the protection from drops, etc.

Not so with the Powell case from Lander. The slim fit adds only a slight amount of heft to the iPhone (we used it with our iPhone 6S). The raised bezel offers some protection from screen cracks (with the theory that if you drop it, the impact will hit the case before it hits the screen), and the back has a nice grip to it (to prevent drops in the first place).

The case is Mil Std-810 certified, and comes in a choice of four different colors (black, blue, white and red).

 — Writeup by Keith Shaw

refuel digipower620 DigiPower

 

Re-fuel by DigiPower Dual USB Rechargeable Power Bank (RF-A78)

$39.99

Rechargeable power packs for your smartphone or other mobile devices are a lot like car insurance or your AAA membership card - you’re never really appreciative until you need it.

Such is the case with this device, a tiny flask-sized unit that lets you recharge two devices via USB cable (you have to have the cable), at either 1A (phones) or 2.1A (tablets). The 7800mAh battery can recharge your devices up to 3 times per full charge, which means you don’t have to constantly scramble around looking for an extra power outlet if you’re in an airport, for example. You can also be that better friend or colleague when their device runs out of power, by offering them to recharge via your machine (people, let’s be generous with our extra battery life).

The unit comes with its very own tiny USB cable that can be used to recharge itself, via another USB device (such as a laptop or other charging unit). It doesn’t come with a power adapter, though, so you’ll need that as well if you are looking to recharge somewhere that only has power outlets available. The on/off button also provides you with four tiny LEDs that let you know how much relative juice is left inside the Re-fuel unit.

— Writeup by Keith Shaw

This story, "Cool Yule Tools for Work" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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