Gadget of the Year 2014

It’s been a funny year for gadgets. I tend not to acquire a gadget unless I’ve got a really good use for it, and it fits in my bag. After something of a drought for a year or two, I’ve found myself picking up more than usual this year. But there have been some outstanding bits, worthy of a round up. So here they are…

Honourable Mention – Iteration Over Revelation – Kobo Aura H20

Two years ago, I picked up a Kobo Touch. I’m married to it despite it having it’s share of quirks. I tend not to buy replacements to tech unless they’re honest to Gods obsolete or broken. As such, despite the touch being three years old, I had no current intention of replacing it, despite the niggles.

So I was pleasantly surprised when Cat bought me a Kobo Aura H20 for Christmas. It’s not a revolutionary product, the core functions are the same as the Touch. Funnily enough, you still read books on it. Its a little bigger, quite a bit faster, has “retina” resolution (seriously – you can’t see the pixels anymore) and front lighting. Oh, and it claims to be waterproof (which I’ve not tested yet). It still supports Adobe Digital Editions DRM and a whole range of open e-book standards, which makes it great for reading content from O’Reilly and Pragmatic Publishers. Since I’ve not had it that long, I’ve not had a chance to try the CRB or PDF support. It’s a lovely upgrade from the Touch.

Second Honourable Mention – North Face Recon

Not a gadget per-se, but something to put gadgets in. I’ve had a hell of a time finding a perfect carry bag. My cupboard is a graveyard of bags that haven’t quite made the grade. My ideal bag is not necessarily a laptop bag, but something I can throw my laptop in, and still have enough useful capacity to carry additional gadgets, chargers and a few changes of clothes.

The North Face Recon is the closest thing to a perfect bag I’ve ever owned. Padded laptop compartment, main single compartment a front compartment with some organiser sections, decent shoulder straps, a chest strap and a waist strap that can be hidden away when not in use. It’s comfortable enough that I use it for long work days and long day hikes.

It also has the added advantage of just looking like a rucksack, rather than advertising itself as a laptop bag. Considering one of my previous bags was stolen, this is no bad thing.

Runner Up – Zojirushi Stainless Mug

I like tea. I like coffee. And since I’ve started working at a new office, it’s nice to have a hot mug of something decent that can last me for a chunk of the day. I’ve had a few flasks, from cheap five pound stainless steel IKEA flasks up to glass vacuum Thermos flasks. And they’ve universally sucked.

So I read all the reviews I could find and found they all pointed to the same thing, the product to get is the Zojirushi Stainless Mug.

They also all claim it’s available for thirty dollars, except that in the UK, due to low demand, import charges and being on a frickin’ island, it’s around thirty to thirty five pounds from specialist Asian importers.

*sigh*

Regardless I bought one, and it’s worth every penny. The bigger size holds enough tea for half a day of working. The really miraculous bit is that whatever the hell you put in, it’s still at the same damn temperature when it comes out. Which is sort of the purpose of a flask, but never what you come to expect. Eight hours later from off the boil, and liquids are still too damn hot to drink. I now have to let my drink cool before putting it in the flask.

Winner – Leatherman Squirt PS4

The odd winner is possibly the smallest acquisition of the year. A knife is a useful thing to have, a knife, pair of scissors, screwdriver and pliers are near invaluable to a geek. A set that lives on the key chain that’s always in your pocket is even more invaluable. The Leatherman Squirt PS4 is the smallest in the Leatherman range with a full compliment of tools. And when the scissors broke earlier in the year, Leatherman replaced the whole unit under their 25 year warranty. The Squirt makes the top of the list because it’s used a dozen times a day, and it’s always there when people ask for it. Other gadgets may get used occasionally, but when I had to tear a sofa apart (no joke), the Squirt did most of the heavy lifting. When I’ve needed to cut dressings, it’s been there in the pocket. Secure an épée point? It’s there. Put screws back in to a laptop? You get the idea.

It’s small enough and useful enough that it’s always there and always useful, and that’s why it’s the top of this year’s list.