Gadling Gift Guide: Tech For Travel

From keeping us entertained on a long flight to helping us stay connected with friends and family while on the road, technology has had an undeniable impact on the way we travel. Whether we’re going across the state for an important business meeting or around the globe to experience a foreign culture, our favorite gadgets have become indispensable gear for modern adventures. If you have a traveler on your holiday shopping list, here are a few suggestions for tech toys that may make their next road trip a more enjoyable one.

Samsung Galaxy Camera ($499)
If you’re looking for the latest and greatest development in in the world of point-and-shoot photography, then you’ll certainly want to check out the brand new Samsung Galaxy Camera. It features a 16-megapixel sensor, 21x optical zoom, 8 GB of built-in storage and a bright 4.8-inch super clear LCD display. But what really sets it apart from the pack is that it runs an advanced version of the Android operating system (4.1 Jelly Bean), giving the camera access to thousands of apps that will help extend its functionality beyond just snapping pictures. Add in GPS functionality, the ability to give voice commands and on-board photo editing and you have yourself a powerful device. It even comes with the option for full 3G and LTE wireless connectivity, allowing photographers to share their images on social media or save their photos to cloud storage immediately after taking them.

Mojo Battstation Tough Dual Pro ($29.90-$39.90)
The new Battstation Tough Dual Pro sets a new standard for portable battery chargers for power hungry devices. Not only is it tough and durable, it also features two USB ports for charging more than one device at a time. Available in two configurations, one with a 7200 mAh and the other with an 8400 mAh battery, this little box is capable of providing plenty of juice for your smartphone, camera, GPS device or just about anything else you can plug into it. It’ll even charge the new iPad, which is no small feat considering the amount of power it takes to fill its massive batteries. Best of all, the entire package weighs less than 7.5 ounces, which makes it the perfect travel companion for those trips when power outlets will be few and far between.Incase iPhone Cases ($29.95-$59.95)
If the gadget lover on your holiday list also happens to be an iPhone owner, then a stylish new case from Incase may be just what they’re hoping for this holiday season. The company’s offerings come in a variety of colors and styles that will give any phone a unique look all of its own. Better yet, these cases provide a fantastic level of protection without detracting in any way from Apple’s iconic design. That means the phone will remain light and thin but will still be well protected from accidental drops and other hazards. Considering how fragile – not to mention expensive – modern smartphones can be, one of these cases may be the best investment for the accident prone traveler too.

Google Nexus 7 Android Tablet ($249)
Android has dominated the smartphone market over the past couple of years and now it has a viable option in the tablet space as well. The Nexus 7 makes a great alternative to the iPad and comes packed with plenty of features that are sure to appeal to any gadget fan. The device includes 32GB of storage, a beautiful 7-inch display and a battery with enough power to keep it running for up to ten hours between charges. Thin and lightweight, the Nexus 7 also has access to a growing library of apps, movies, books, games and more via the Google Play Store. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, you can even get a model with 16GB of storage for just $199, although I recommend springing for the extra space. You’ll need it when you start filling up the device with travel photos.

Timbuk2 Power Commute Messenger Bag ($199)
While on the road, there are two things that every techie traveler needs. The first is a great bag to securely carry their laptop, tablet, and other items and the second is a source of power to keep all of their devices fully juiced up. Fortunately Timbuk2’s Power Commute messenger bag has us covered in both areas, giving us a great over the shoulder sling pack for hauling our gear while also cleverly integrating an energy pack for recharging batteries. The Power Commute’s battery pack is capable of charging most smartphones and tablets through its USB port, providing quick and convenient energy when needed. Other nice touches include a TSA compliant laptop sleeve, plenty of organizational pockets and water resistant fabrics to help keep important gear safe from the elements.

Jawbone Jambox Portable Speaker ($199)
Over the past year I’ve been lucky enough to test a number of good Bluetooth portable speaker systems and out of all of them, the one that I continue to enjoy the most is the Jawbone Jambox. Compact and lightweight, the Jambox is small enough to slip into your bag on any trip and yet its speakers have the power to fill a room with booming audio. Sound quality is exceptional and the ten hour battery life keeps the music flowing far longer than expected. The Jambox’s built-in microphone even allows it to serve as a speakerphone, which can come in handy for those impromptu business meetings that sometimes arise while we’re on the road. Music lovers and podcast junkies will absolutely adore the Jambox whether they are traveling or at home. The device is available in a variety of colors, but the most fun comes from completely customizing the look yourself.

Belkin Wireless Travel Router ($80)
Sharing an Internet connection in a hotel room can be a major challenge, particularly when Wi-Fi access is limited or even non-existent. Belkin’s wireless Travel Router can save the day however, turning a single Ethernet jack into a wireless network for multiple devices. The router supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, can be password protected and even has VPN functionality. Built with travelers in mind, the router is compact and even comes with a travel case to safely store the device, its power supply and an included network cable while in transit. This is the kind of gadget that many travelers don’t even know they need until they actually have one.

Lenovo Twist Ultrabook Laptop ($745)
Ultrabooks have been a godsend for frequent travelers over the past few years. These lightweight and super-thin laptops have shaved a considerable amount of weight from our packs, which is always a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Now Lenovo has taken the design one step further, creating an Ultrabook that converts into a fully-functional Windows 8 tablet. The Twist derives its name from the fact that the screen is capable of rotating a full 180 degrees, easily converting it from laptop to tablet mode. This gives it a level of versatility that few other notebooks have, making it incredibly useful in a variety of situations. The base model comes with 4GB of RAM and a 1.8 GHz i-3 processor. Performance in that configuration is snappy and fun, but there are options to expand the hardware for those that truly need it.

Be sure to check out Gadling’s other Gift Guides for more holiday shopping ideas.

[Photo Credits: Samsung, Incase, Timbuk2 and Lenovo]

Gadling Gear Review: Satechi Portable Energy Station

I think it is safe to say that we now travel with more gadgets than ever. Between laptops, iPods, smartphones, tablets and digital cameras, we tend to hit the road with more technology at our disposal than James Bond. Keeping the batteries on all those gadgets fully charged can be a real challenge, however, particularly when you’re away from a power outlet for an extended period of time. But the Portable Energy Station from Satechi hopes to alleviate those issues, allowing us to recharge our tech toys whenever and wherever we need it.

The Energy Station is surprisingly small and lightweight. Judging from the photos I’d seen before testing it out, I wasn’t sure exactly how portable it would be, but the unit is roughly five and a half inches in length and weighs less than 8 ounces, which makes it easy to slip into a carry-on bag, or even a purse, as you head out the door. I’ve been carrying the review unit in my laptop messenger bag for several weeks and I’ve barely noticed it was there, although it was nice to know I had it on hand just in case I needed it.

The device includes two standard sized USB ports and one mini-USB port. The mini port is used to actually charge the Energy Station’s built in battery, which is rated at an impressive 10,000 mAH. The two regular USB ports provide different levels of power with one rated at 5V/1A and the other at 5V/2A. For the most part, this won’t have any effect on your ability to charge, but if you’re connecting a device that requires more juice, such as an iPad, you’ll want to plug it into the more powerful 5V/2A port. Both ports can be used at the same time, providing the ability to charge two devices simultaneously.Charging the Energy Station is accomplished by either connecting a USB cable to the included AC wall adapter or by plugging the device directly into your laptop. It took about four hours to fully charge the internal battery using the AC adapter, which is not surprising considering its rated capacity. Charging via USB on a laptop can be potentially more convenient when traveling, but expect it to take considerably longer. Many laptops have low power USB ports and while they can trickle out enough juice to charge the Energy Station, it can be slow process. Charging it from my MacBook Air took about six hours.

Once the battery is fully charged it’s ready to be used with your other gadgets. Satechi has included a set of six interchangeable adapters that will work with most smartphones, cameras, tablets and other electronic equipment. You simply attach the adapter you need to the cable and then plug it directly into the device you want to charge. A set of blue lights on the top of the Energy Station tells you how much of a charge it still holds. Five lights indicate it is at full capacity while one indicates that it is time to plug it in again.

I tested the Energy Station on my iPhone 4S, third generation iPad and a point-and-shoot digital camera and it worked exactly as advertised. My iPhone and digital camera were both recharged rather quickly and it was great to know that I didn’t have to worry about either of them running out of power when I needed them most. On the other hand, the iPad 3 took a lot longer to charge, even when plugged into the more powerful USB port, and the Energy Station ran out of juice before I could fully top off the tablet. This is more of an issue with the iPad itself, however, as its high capacity batteries take awhile to charge, even on its own AC adapter. Owners of the iPad 1 or 2 will see much better performance from the Energy Station as those devices have much smaller battery packs.

Carrying the Energy Station while traveling is a great option, particularly if your favorite devices don’t exactly have the battery life you’d like. Satechi’s device is small, lightweight and highly packable, and I found it very convenient to have it in my bag when my phone started to die. If you’re one of the many travelers who now hits the road with plenty of electronic gadgets, then the Energy Station just might be something you’ll want to have on your next trip. The unit I tested comes with an MSRP of $59.99, which I found to be a great price for the convenience it provides. Satechi offers a lower capacity unit with about half the capacity for $39.99 as well, but if the twenty bucks difference doesn’t break your budget, I’d suggest springing for the larger Energy Station. The increased capacity is definitely worth the money, particularly if you intend to use it with an iPad or other high capacity device.

Review: RichardSolo Portable Power Max 16,000 mAh Backup Battery

In our gadget reviews, we regularly introduce the latest and greatest in portable power – quite simply because mobile power is more important than ever. Today’s review will introduce you to the largest capacity mobile battery pack we have ever seen – the RichardSolo Portable Power Max.

Inside the Power Max 16,000 mAh battery pack is (as the name implies) a whopping 16,000 mAh Lithium Polymer battery. To put this in perspective, the battery pack inside most current smartphones is around 1150mAh.

The Power Max doesn’t only excel in power – it also provides five USB charging ports, and an included mini/micro USB charger cord means you can actually charge six devices at the same time.

Needless to say, this is not a lightweight battery pack – at 14 ounces, it weighs about the same as an average laptop battery. That said – with the capacity of this battery pack, you carry enough juice to keep an iPhone fully charged for up to ten days of really heavy use. Alternatively, you can power an iPhone, bluetooth headset, GPS unit and gaming unit for 3-4 days of heavy use.

Using the Power Max is simple – plug your devices in, and turn it on. The internal protection circuit prevents overloading the USB ports. The other controls show the battery status and turn a built in flashlight on – a nice extra perk.

Included with the Power Max 16,000 mAh battery pack is a carrying pouch, Mini/Micro USB splitter cable and an AC adapter (rated for 100V-240V).

The maximum power output from the battery pack is 2.4A – which means you can charge four full power (0.5A) devices and one low power device at the same time. The power output also makes it possible to charge an iPad, but with its higher power draw, it’ll suck up 2.1A of the output.

We have covered plenty of other battery packs in the past, but this is the first one specifically designed for mobile gadgets with such a high capacity battery. The Power Max 16,000 mAh is perfect if you know in advance that you’ll be away from the power grid for several days and can’t rely on solar power.

The Power Max 16,000 mAh battery pack is available directly from Richard Solo and retails for $79.99. If you apply coupon code “gadling”, you’ll knock 15% off the price, bringing it down to $67.96. This coupon code is provided as courtesy to our readers and in no way benefits Gadling.

To learn more about this product, or to place an order, head on over to

Review: Technocel Battery Boost

In our neverending quest for the best way to keep your gadgets powered, we came across the Technocel Battery Boost. This compact battery pack can hook on to your key chain, and includes a 600mAh battery pack, a retracting USB plug and a MicroUSB card reader.

The charger cord is MicroUSB – which means it’ll work on almost every recent mobile device with the exception of anything from Apple.

Obviously, 600mAh is not a huge amount of power, but it is enough to provide an hour or two of talk time on most phones, or several hours of music.

The charger plug is on a flexible cable, and stores neatly inside the unit itself. To charge the Battery Boost, you simply plug it into any USB power source or one of the USB ports on your computer. Its card reader slot is the perfect place to store important files, or as a place to keep a backup of photos you made on a trip.

The Technocel Battery Boost is one of the most innovative power products I’ve seen all year – and at just $29.99 it is also one of the cheapest. Better yet, Sprint is currently selling it for just $23.99! At this price, you’ll have a great stocking stuffer for anyone that travels with their smartphone.


Tekkeon myPower for iPhone 4 offers swappable batteries – up to 50 hours extra usage

Tekkeon just unveiled their newest iPhone power solution. Their myPower for iPhone 4 combines a slim rechargeable battery pack inside a case – offering power and protection in a single product.

Now, iPhone charge cases are not really a new innovation, but the Tekkeon case is unlike anything else on the market – its battery pack is swappable, thanks to their eSwap technology. eSwap allows you to exchange the battery pack in the case for a fresh module. Packs are available in 1200mAh and 2200mAh.

These high capacity batteries can provide between 7 and 12 hours of extra video playback, up to 50 hours of audio or up 18 hours of talk time. The battery packs don’t actually charge the iPhone – they merely power it, which reduces wear on the internal iPhone battery pack. When plugged in, the charger cord charges your iPhone and the myPower at the same time.

The MyPower for the iPhone 4G retails for $79.95, and additional battery packs are $39.95 (1200mAh) and $49.95 (2200 mAh). The new myPower is available directly from Tekkeon.