Four ways to supercharge your laptop

Pimp your home office with these four great gadgets, says Jonathan Margolis

Logitech StreamCam web camera, £139
Logitech StreamCam web camera, £139

Logitech StreamCam web camera

We have grown accustomed over recent weeks to TV interviewees appearing in fuzzy vision, with their web camera pointing up their nose. It’s understandable that few of them are great camera operators, and the fact that most are using the built-in camera on their laptop makes this awkward shooting angle near-universal. A separate webcam is a bit of a retro accessory. But the StreamCam has been introduced by Logitech with perfect timing and is probably the best you can get. It can be mounted at heights and angles more flattering than the dentist’s-eye view; a tripod is a good way to keep the view natural, as is clipping it to the top of a laptop screen. It’s also exceptionally easy to set up and use. £139, logitech.com 

Ifi xDSD wireless headphone amplifier, £399
Ifi xDSD wireless headphone amplifier, £399
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Ifi xDSD wireless headphone amplifier

How can you extract the best possible music quality from a laptop, tablet, smartphone and more? A great pair of headphones is one way, but if they’re too good, they’ll make compressed phone music sound mushy and flat. Now there’s another way, thanks to a Merseyside audio company with a growing reputation. Ifi’s creations are audiophile, verging on geeky. Its multi-award-winning xDSD wireless headphone amplifier is nothing less than an audio turbocharger for your devices. You can use it wired, like other DAC/headphone amps, but the fabulous USP is that the xDSD works via Bluetooth. Here’s the scenario: you connect it wirelessly to your music source; you plug your headphones into the xDSD; you can then roam around your home with just the xDSD in your pocket, listening to music not only with the last molecule of quality squeezed out of it, but amplified as loud and as bold as you like. It will drive big, studio-quality headphones that a phone can’t. And the quality it produces, especially if the source is better than the smartphone average, is not far off what you get from a high-definition Astell & Kern-type player. You can’t skip tracks or repeat from the xDSD, but it’s a remarkable machine and a beautiful bit of industrial design in its magnesium-alloy casing. £399, ifi-audio.com

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 mesh router

It’s never felt more important to have the best home WiFi possible. Netgear’s Orbi system distributes signal around the house using the “mesh” system, where a central router pumps out internet to satellite routers in strategic spots and these satellites further splay it out. Mesh is the best solution to local dropouts and coldspots, and the Orbi mesh, which I first tried in 2018, is the best I’ve come across. It’s a WiFi blunderbuss. But the latest Orbi uses the new WiFi 6 protocol, which quadruples the max capacity of 2018. Up to 12 people can stream at the same time – if your connection is up to it. It will work with all your old gadgetry and the devices of the future too. Nothing not to love here. £700, netgear.co.uk

Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 mesh router, £700
Netgear Orbi WiFi 6 mesh router, £700
WD Black P50 miniature hard drive, from £171.99
WD Black P50 miniature hard drive, from £171.99

WD Black P50 miniature hard drive

Cloud backup is great and, so long as you have a good broadband or 4G internet connection, seamless and reliable. But I still feel more secure with a hard drive to back up the cloud. External hard drives are mechanical and unreliable. But, in the past year, a new generation of SSD (ie no moving parts, hence more reliable and shockproof) miniature drives has appeared. In the memory business, it pays to rely on the big two memory makers, Western Digital, which owns SanDisk, and Kingston. This, from WD, isn’t just a roastingly fast SSD (how about a write speed of 120GB a minute?), but also a fabulous bit of design. Available in up to 2TB, the WD Black P50 is made for gamers who want to keep entire games on an external drive and access them free of latency. So while this beauty is a bit overspecified for non-gamers – do buy an SSD external of some reputable manufacture to replace your old one. From £171.99, shop.westerndigital.com

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