The scoop: N800 Internet Tablet, by Nokia, about US$400.
What it is: This is a very small, thin and portable handheld device with a large color touchscreen (800 by 480 pixels) and the ability to perform Web browsing, play multimedia (music, photos and videos), read e-mails and access other applications (games, calculator, etc.). While this is a Nokia device, the N800 doesn't access a cellular network, instead it uses Skype to perform VOIP calling through the device's Wi-Fi connectivity.
Why it's cool: This is a great device to have at home as a quick and easy way to access the Internet without having to boot up a PC or notebook. It's also the closest thing to an Apple iPhone that I've seen from a cell phone vendor. Its HTML Web browser has very good zooming features -- even without having to use your fingers to zoom in or out. The high-resolution screen displays photos and videos brilliantly, and it has external speakers for good music playing ability. The user interface is easy to use, offering me the ability to customize my "desktop" to display widget-like applications that I could access quickly, such as a quick Google search or just looking at the "clock" application to see what time it is. An Internet radio application streamed music feeds from the BBC, but with some additional work I could add my own streams.
Some caveats: I would have preferred an easier method for accessing Internet e-mail, such as a Yahoo or Gmail account (I tried to use the device's wizard but couldn't access the account correctly). Unlike other mobile devices that do the heavy lifting for you in terms of accessing Internet e-mail accounts, the N800 makes you do all the work. I'm also not sold on relying on a Wi-Fi connection and Skype for making VOIP calls -- I wouldn't use this device as my primary cell phone, I'd probably hold onto that for making phone calls.
Grade: 4 stars (out of five)
The scoop: Copy Cruiser Plus, by Aleratec, about US$45.
What it is: This handy gadget is much more than a standard 8-in-1 media card reader (support for SecureDigital, Multimedia Card, SmartMedia, MemoryStick, MemoryStick Pro, CompactFlash, Microdrive and USB drives), although having that many formats makes it cool to have. The really cool feature is its ability to copy data from one card onto a USB device, or between two USB devices, without needing a PC as the middle man.
Why it's cool: A lot of data transfer these days is done with USB devices (portable hard drives, USB flash drives) and memory cards, and in order to extract the data on the devices you have to run to a PC, plug in the device and then copy the data. If you're then transferring that data to a second portable device, you have to then transfer it from the PC to the second device. Eliminating the PC saves a bunch of time and effort in the data transfer process. The Aleratec Copy Crusier Plus runs on three AAA batteries and has an easy-to-understand menu that lets you copy data or delete data from the devices plugged into it.
Some caveats: The navigation controls take some getting used to -- the right arrow button, for example, represents "Enter" and the left arrow represents "Escape", which can cause some problems if you accidentally select the wrong button. Also, if you're looking for major data transfers, I'd recommend sticking with the PC, which is safer and faster. But for simple file transfers, this device is great.
Grade: 4 stars (out of five)