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The Most Useful Gadgets of the Year

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In the second of a two-part feature on his gadgets of the year,
ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK looks at some of the most useful gadgets of the past year.

There is nothing bright, shiny or glamorous about getting one’s work life organised, or about the gadgets that contribute to this cause.

While the focus of gadget watchers is usually on flashy new consumer devices, practical workhorses and accessories tend to be the unsung heroes of the working world.

These are some of the serious, but often unknown, gadgets that made the biggest impact on me this year:

Productivity Gadget of the Year: Samsung DeX Station

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Out of the box, the DeX looks like a simple, if elegant docking stand for a smartphone. But plug it into a keyboard, mouse and monitor, and it turns the handset into a fully functional Android computer. As opposed to the relatively small screen of a smartphone, only the size of the monitor limits the desktop real estate. From there, one can access apps and work on documents, watch videos on a more comfortable screen, and browse websites in desktop mode.

If preferred, a Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse can also be used. Samsung has had a fold-out keyboard with built-in trackpad designed to go with the DeX. The X-Folding Touch Pro adds a serious cost to the overall price, but is the ultimate in portable productivity.

Samsung also collaborated with Microsoft and Adobe to ensure compatibility with Microsoft Office and Adobe apps, as well as with virtual desktop software makers like Citrix, VMware and Amazon Web Services.

Presentation Gadget of the Year: Logitech Spotlight Presentation Remote

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A standard tool at conferences nowadays, remote clickers allow presenters to move about a stage or room, using a built-in laser pointer to highlight elements on the screen. Now, that is about to look very 20th century.

Logitech has produced a remote control for presentations that is both stylish and highly practical, adding a new dimension to the information on screen, without the content being altered in any way. The Spotlight not only highlights an element on the screen, but also magnifies it, allowing the presenter to zoom in on more interesting or complex content.

It is compatible with all common laptop operating systems, and has a range of 30 metres for the serious pacer.

It has built-in cursor control to activate a video on screen, saving the presenter having to dash back to the laptop computer to press play. The three buttons on the front can all be programmed to perform functions specific to an individual’s presentation content or approach.

Finally, it has one of the most needed features in the world of presenting, namely a timer with vibration alert. Now you’ll know why the audience is fidgeting despite your dazzling presentation style and content.

Projection Gadget of the Year: Sony Xperia Touch

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If smartphones and computers ever vanish into other devices we carry, like earphones, smartwatches and smart-glasses, the Xperia Touch will have played a small role. The second generation interactive projector from Sony, it turns a wall or a desktop into an interactive touch screen.

It is half the size of the first iteration, and we expect the size to keep dropping, even as its functionality increases. That means that any surface – even a writing pad – can be turned into the equivalent of a computer or smartphone. Make it small enough, and it’s all one would need to carry.

Office Decluttering Gadget of the Year: Bluelounge Soba Cable Director

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In busy offices, the bane of everyone’s lives tends to be the clutter of cables that snake, tangle and trip up around most desks where serious technology is in use. Enter the Soba Cable Director from Bluelounge, which promises to “show your cables who’s boss”.

Up to three loose cables can be consolidated into the Soba tube or Vortex, which zips open along its entire 3-metre length. A Y-split allows cables to be routed in several directions, and mounting caps allow the cable to  be fitted along walls or under desks.

This is more than just a conduit for cables, with its innovative zipper allowing for both flexibility and manageability.

The Soba was such a hit for the Accessory Lab last year, it has sold out. However, the rest of the Bluelounge decluttering range can be found at: https://accessorylab.co.za/collections/blue-lounge?utm_source=Gadget.co.za_BlueLounge&utm_medium=Post

Smartphone Accessory of the year: Belkin BOOST UP 

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As more and more smartphones are released with wireless charging as a standard feature – and with the charging technology based on an industry standard – we can expect to see charging pads become as commonplace as portable power banks.

Chances are, the prices will drop as fast, if the Belkin BOOST UP is any indication – it sells at less than R600 at the iStore. It uses the Wireless Power Consortium’s

Qi wireless charging, the standard for most flagship smartphones, meaning that one doesn’t have to dump the pad when one moves to the next handset.

The pad remains plugged into a power supply, and compatible phones begin charging the moment they are placed on the pad. Expect to see them in a coffee shop near you this year.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2geeand on YouTube.

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Huawei Mate 20 Pro matches camera benchmark record

A benchmark by DxOMark sees the triple-cam handset tie with the P20 Pro for best smartphone camera on the market.

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The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has come out top in a camera benchmark test that assesses all aspects of smartphone camera performance.

DxOMark, which conducts rigorous hardware testing and is trusted as an industry standard for image quality measurements, has just released the results of its in-depth analysis of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone camera. 

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest top-end device. Building on the P20 Pro’s camera technology, the Mate 20 Pro comes with a Leica-branded triple-camera setup, but swaps its stable-mate’s monochrome camera for a super-wide-angle module, offering a 35mm-equivalent focal length range from 16 to 80mm—the widest of all current smartphone cameras.

The handset is in direct competition with the Apple iPhone XS Max, the Google Pixel 3 XL, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, among other. How does it fare?

“With a total photo score of 114, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro ties the record-setting score of its cousin, the P20 Pro,” says DxOMark. “The overall Photo score is calculated from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions.”

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro achieves a photo score of 114 points. In stills mode, the Mate 20 Pro’s triple camera captures images with good target exposure and a wide dynamic range, recording both good highlight and shadow detail even in difficult high-contrast situations. Noise levels are well under control down to low light levels, and the camera’s white balance system and colour rendering settings produce a pleasant colour response in almost all circumstances.

At 97 points, the Mate 20 Pro is very close to the best for video as well, thanks to a fast and smooth autofocus system with good tracking performance, accurate white balance as well as pleasant colour rendering, and low levels of noise, especially in bright shooting conditions. Our testers also liked the exposure system’s ability to adapt quickly and smoothly to changes in illumination.

It was not all good news. DxOMark also had some criticism for the device.

Click here to read about the drawbacks of the Mate 20 Pro camera, and other positives.

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SA car wins
Dakar Rally

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The final stage of Dakar 2019 drew to a close at the bivouac in Pisco, Peru, and saw Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel bring home their South African-built Toyota Hilux for an historic victory. Not only was it a first win for Toyota, but it was also the first petrol-powered car to win the Dakar in the South-American era.

The Qatari driver ensured his French navigator, who turned 43 years old on Thursday, 17 January, received a great birthday present, when the pair arrived at the final time control of Dakar 2019 with teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in close formation. The two Toyota Hilux crews completed the entire stage together, as De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz waited nearly 55 minutes for the leaders to start the stage, in order to shadow them to the finish.

The emotions bubbled over for Team Principal Glyn Hall, who found himself without words as his two crews drove into the media area after the time control. “This victory was long overdue,” he finally managed, before being swamped in a sea of well-wishers.

The winning driver, however, was much more vocal: “We are so happy to win the Dakar – not only for ourselves, but also for Toyota and the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team. Everyone has worked so hard for so long, and really deserve this. Thank you for letting us drive this car.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA led Dakar 2019 from the first to the last stage, with Al Attiyah/Baumel drawing first blood, before handing the mantle to De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz during stage 2. But then a disastrous Stage 3 saw the Qatari retake the lead – a lead he didn’t relinquish despite some of the toughest stages yet seen on any South-American Dakar.

“When we first heard that the rally was going to take place only in one country, we were skeptical,” said Hall after regaining composure. “But the organisers made sure that this year’s race will long be remembered as one of the toughest tests in the last decade.”

Al Attiyah / Baumel’s victory at Dakar 2019 means that Toyota Gazoo Racing has now won both of the world’s toughest automotive races – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the DakarRally.

Click here to read Glyn Hall’s comment on winning the Dakar Rally, as well as the rankings.

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