Multiple headphone jack
If you are using your laptop to play a movie or for listening to music while traveling, the chances are that ambient noise is going to drown out the music. Consequently, you are likely to play at as high a volume as possible, which is going to drain the laptop rapidly. The best way to combat this is to use a multiple headphone jack. Ones with two or three are pretty common. Shown here is the Belkin Rockstar, which allows up to five headphones to connect to it. Of course, it’s a good idea to carry along some headphones as well.
Travelers often have to use dubious electrical connections. A sudden change in voltage can fry the components of a laptop, or damage the data. To protect your laptop and your data, it is a good idea to pick up a surge protector. Instead of purchasing a cheap one for around Rs. 350, pick up the more reliable ones that start from Rs. 750. If you are travelling overseas, it’s a good idea to choose a surge protector that is designed to work for different source voltages. Surge protectors also come with connectors for telephones and ethernet cables. Some surge protectors have just one port, and are ultra-portable. Since you are bound to have a few gadgets with you, it’s better to choose variants which have anywhere between four and eight outputs.
A security cable is a length of steel chord, along with a lock that prevents your laptop from theft. There is a security slot available in most laptops, which is used by the security cable. Some cables use a standard lock and key, while others have a combination lock. Choose one with cabling that is as long as possible, which gives you greater versatility when it comes to locking your laptop down.
A common frustration that travelers face is to go hunting in the local markets for plugs that will allow them to connect their devices to the power sockets at their local hotels. A universal adapter is a plug that can dock into any socket. These can be made up of a number of plugs, or one plug with pins that slide out. The multiple-plug design is not recommended as the individual components are bound to get lost. The design with the slide out pins is preferable. These have sockets where any kind of plug can be connected; and up to four sliding sets of pins in the front, depending on the type of power outlet you have.
Those who use their laptops for long periods of time are bound to experience what is known as “lap burn”. This is when the laptop heats up to uncomfortable levels. The best way to cool the laptop is to use a cooling pad. There are a wide variety of cooling pads available in the market. The cheaper ones are just sheets of aluminum, acting as a heat sink. The costlier variations however, have fans built into them, which actively cool the laptop. It is preferable to pick up one made of aluminum rather than one made of fabric or plastic, as aluminum is more effective as a heat sink.
...for home use
Many notebooks and netbooks come without a built-in DVD writer. Writing a DVD is a necessary tasks for most people, even when they are on the go. A portable DVD writer is a great option, as these can be used with any kind of computer with a USB drive. There are many small and sleek models available. If possible, pick up a version that plays Blu-ray disks, if not write them. If you burn a lot of DVDs to share with people, or give to clients, it’s a good idea to get a LightScribe drive. Such a drive can imprint a black and white pattern on the face of a compatible DVD. The LightScribe variants are only slightly costlier than the regular drives.
Portable hard drive
Laptops come with very limited storage capacity. Most people use laptops that have less than 80 GB of storage space. An external hard drive is the solution for this. Although portable hard drives with power supplies are far cheaper than portable hard drives without power supplies, it is a good idea to go for the ones without power supply. These come in handy in the long run, and ensure that the hard drive is as portable as the laptop.
The built-in speakers in most laptops are not adequate for listening to music or playing movies. When it comes to movies particularly, the built in speakers considerably dampen the experience. Most people connect speakers to the laptop, but these require an additional power supply, and the cabling can be a hassle to manage. USB speakers draw power from the USB port of the computer, and considerably improve the experience of multimedia on laptops. There are a wide variety of USB speakers available, offering variety in design, size, to sound output.
Just like RAM, you can never have enough USB ports. A USB hub partially takes care of this problem. USB hubs are anywhere between two to eight ports attached to one cable. Make sure that the model you pick up are at least USB 2.0, as there are a lot of old hubs in the market. There are also USB “squids” available, which are USB ports with long cables attached to them, this allows for greater mobility.
The trackpad is not the best way to navigate through the virtual world. A cabled mouse is good, but a wireless mouse is even better. There are a range of models available in the market, pick up one that is light and fits comfortably in your hand. The lack of wires eliminate clutter, and you don’t have to keep going to the back of your laptop to connect or disconnect the mouse. However, most wireless mice use batteries which have to be changed every now and then.
...for the Businessman / Executive
Using laptops in public areas, and while travelling can be problematic. The shifting lights can make you constantly change position. You also have to be mindful of snoopers looking over your shoulder or glancing in the direction of your screen. An anti-glare screen takes care of both these problems. It reduces the glare, and makes the LCD opaque if viewed from an obtuse angle.
Taking around your own projector may seem a good idea for those who have to present a lot. Although there are models available that run right of the USB, and fit in the palm of your hand, avoid these models. They are not powerful, and their performance is not impressive. It is better to pick up a smaller, and lighter version of a conventional projector.
A portable printer is a must have accessory for the travelling executive. The printers are sleek, and light. The speed of the printers may not be too great, but that does not mean that they don’t offer quality. They are a convenience, but it is unwise to depend on them for important matters. Replacing the ink cartridges for example, can be a little bit of a hassle – especially if you run out while you are travelling.
For a businessman, it is vital to stay connected on the go. Instead of connecting through your phone, it is better to carry around a dedicated connection through a USB drive. Most telecommunication companies have schemes for such a connection. Be warned though, the speeds are not that great, and the connections are relatively costly when compared to other types of internet connectivity. Use these only if you travel to remote areas frequently, and absolutely need an always-on net connection. You will at least need to be near an area with a network of some mobile phone service provider, and roaming charges apply.
Often, you might have to work on while others are asleep. The screen of the laptop throws some light, but is not enough to light up the keyboard. Though experienced users hardly ever look at the keyboard, an odd glance now and then is necessary. A cheap USB light solves this problem. Models typically have bright and powerful LEDs. There are variants with clip-ons or a sturdy stand.