The iPad gets the magic keyboard it’s due
The new iPad Pros may feature significant camera and augmented-reality advances over the superb Pro tablets Apple introduced in 2018. But more interesting is the fact they can be paired with Apple’s superlative Magic Keyboard, enabling you to create the most innovative and effective hybrid tablet-laptop yet. The Magic Keyboard features, joy of joys, a trackpad – and a USB-C port that allows you to keep the iPad on charge. A 12.9in iPad Pro docked with the Magic Keyboard is slightly smaller and lighter than the latest 13in MacBook Pro. And with the iPads offering up to 1TB of storage, a Pro-Magic Keyboard combo could now be all you need for work and leisure.
Apple iPad Pro, from £769, and Magic Keyboard, from £299, apple.com
Microsoft’s must-have flexible laptop
What to do if you’re someone who needs a new machine that runs Microsoft Office, has a lighted keyboard, is adept at PC-only business software, is great for Netflix in the evening and gives you the added ability to draw on the screen? Well, Microsoft now has the beautifully designed Surface Pro X. It lacks the processing horsepower to run the latest Photoshop and similar processing-hungry creative packages, but it makes up for that with lightness and convenience, a 13-inch screen and great battery life. I know Mac fans who have made the great leap backwards to Microsoft – and become evangelists for these machines. Don’t rule them out just because everyone you know uses Cupertino’s finest. Think Different, as Apple had it.
Microsoft Surface Pro X, from £999, microsoft.com
One screen good, two screens better
A lot of people say this innovative new Asus laptop is the best they’ve used – and I can see why its earliest adopters love it. Laptops were essentially the same as they were 25 years ago until this. The ZenBook Pro Duo is beautifully built and finished, but its USP is its dual screens – one as normal that folds up vertically, but another on the horizontal above the keyboard. You may consider it a solution in search of a problem. But if, say, you’re working on a boring task on the top screen, and having a Spotify-fest while you do it, it’s refreshing to have Spotify open in full view. To make the ergonomics still better, the bottom screen is touch-sensitive.
Asus ZenBook Pro Duo, from £2,100, asus.com
Sit still and concentrate
If this neat little wearable product hadn’t come out of Cambridge’s startup scene and been trialled by Cambridge students, I might have been less inclined to try it, and I would have missed out on some interesting and useful self-knowledge. Foci tracks the wearer’s focus at the work desk. It’s tuned to differentiate physiological signatures, such as unproductively shifting in your chair, as well as the subtle cognitive changes you aren’t aware of, such as the breathing patterns you can’t avoid if you’re planning to stay alive. After a couple of days of learning, Foci, via its app and AI-based cloud processing, starts providing genuinely useful feedback on how effectively you’re focusing, along with actionable tips on how to avoid the distractions you are encountering. I loved it and won’t be separated from my Foci now.
Foci, from £64, fociai.com
Goodbye to all that background noise
The joys of WFH have grown from being a niche thing for freelancers to a global fact. I used to get looks of piteous non-comprehension when I told office workers about the time I was having a deeply serious video call with senior execs in Tokyo and the cat took a stroll between me and the webcam. Today, you need to worry, obviously, about which books you have on display behind you, but also about extraneous noise. It’s a California startup’s good fortune or good luck to have brought to market a superb noise-killer app, Krisp, which both mutes annoying background noise at your end of a call and takes out unwelcome sound effects emanating from the other end. Krisp works on Windows, Mac, Chrome and iOS, with Android in the pipeline. When it’s working hard and the background noise is ridiculous, I found Krisp adds a slightly robotic quality to the audio, but even then it’s a truly remarkable bit of software. Krisp will also make it possible to have good-quality conversations from coffee shops, trains and even in the street. Sadly, though, it will do nothing to remove an embarrassing title from your otherwise artfully curated Zoom bookshelves.
Krisp, from free to $3.33 per month, krisp.ai