We're in our post-holiday, post-CES cleanup (pre-spring!) in the Cool Tools offices, so here are some rapid-fire reviews of things we've been toying with over the past few weeks:
Acer Aspire S7 ultrabook: If you're looking for a super-thin yet powerful Windows 8 notebook, check out the Aspire S7 series. The S7-391 model I tried includes a 13.3-inch high-definition touchscreen, aluminum case and Gorilla Glass 2 screen/cover, all in a very small 12.2 mm package. The S7's screen can open up 180 degrees, letting you lay it flat to do more touch actions, and the system's cooling system has a fan pulling in cool air while another one releases the hot air (although this tends to make the notebook a bit noisier than you might expect). The system starts at $1,400 (for a core i5 processor, but you can upgrade to a core i7), and comes with a Bluetooth wireless mouse and two adapters (for connecting to a VGA monitor/projector and wired Ethernet).
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HP EliteBook 2570p: It's not the fanciest notebook in the shed, but rather a solid notebook aimed at the frequent traveler. This 12.5-inch notebook (starts at $949) features an aluminum magnesium case that helps it survive the normal "bumps" from a business travel (HP calls it "business rugged"). The choice of an integrated optical drive or additional storage make this notebook pleasing to business users (some need the optical drive, some need the space) who might not find these options on smaller ultraportable notebooks. An optional docking station ($149) allows for additional USB ports, network connectivity and display adapters, making it useful for the office as well as the road.
Kanex Gigabit Adapter (USB 3 to Ethernet): If you own an ultrabook (or MacBook Pro with Retina display) and are annoyed at the lack of an Ethernet port, be sure to pick up this handy adapter ($49), which uses a USB 3.0 connector to create an Ethernet connection (handy for conference rooms or hotel rooms that only provide a wired connection). The device does require a one-time driver install, but after that you're fine.
Wicked Audio Evac headphones: There are about a billion different headphone companies these days, but I still hold a special place for over-the-ear headphones that are comfortable, yet also travel well. While I prefer earbuds for exercising, for everything else (video editing, game playing, iPad viewing, etc.) I prefer an over-the-head style. This pair from Wicked audio (about $30 online) fills most of these needs -- providing comfort for long stretches, and an easy-to-fold method for packing in a travel bag. The braided cord is also an excellent touch, preventing cord tangles that always seem to occur with my other headphones/earbuds. The only issue -- I'm still getting used to the Army Green style (the company does offer other colors).
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith.
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