10 great Wi-Fi gadgets for work and play

Add these Wi-Fi devices to your network for a new world of wireless productivity and entertainment
  • (Computerworld)
  • — 25 September, 2008 10:16
  • The Grace Wireless Internet Radio lets you listen to Internet radio shows, podcasts and music on your PC from anywhere in your Wi-Fi zone, providing a surprisingly rich and clear sound.
  • Left: The Eye-Fi Share card pops into any camera with an SD card slot and automatically beams your photos over your Wi-Fi network to your computer and/or to any of two dozen online photo services.

Right: If you're in the market for a new camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ50S sends your pictures wirelessly to Google's Picasa service.
  • The HP OfficeJet J4680 multifunction printer has a wireless print server built right in.
  • At $400, the Panasonic KX-WP1050 Wi-Fi phone for Skype is pricey, but coupled with one of Skype's inexpensive VoIP calling plans, it can save you money in the long run.
  • The eStarling WPF-388B digital photo frame uses Wi-Fi to pull photos off an online photo service, displaying them at a sharp 800-by-600 resolution.
  • The Linksys Wireless-G PTZ Internet Camera watches over your home or office without the hassle and expense of running video cables throughout the building. You can even pan and zoom it remotely.
  • The HP MediaSmart Connect x280n wirelessly connects your Windows Media Center PC to your HDTV, meaning you can surf the Web, watch online videos and listen to Internet radio on your TV.
  • The NEC NP905 wireless projector creates a vibrant 1024-by-768 image on the screen while freeing you from clumsy cables.

Wireless projector: Beaming the big image

NEC NP905 wireless projector

Digital video projectors are great for everything from work presentations to Super Bowl parties, but connecting one up can be a hassle. NEC's NP905 wireless projector replaces the clumsy cables with a reliable Wi-Fi link.

The 8-lb. NP905 is rated at 3,000 lumens and creates a vibrant 1,024-by-768 image on the screen. Along with a multitude of wired connection possibilities, the projector has a built-in 802.11b/g radio. (The wireless connection requires Windows.) Best of all, the projector has a USB port that works with an off-the-shelf keyboard to make quick work of entering the Wi-Fi codes and passwords.

After loading the needed applications on my PC, I configured the Wi-Fi link and had it all working in 10 minutes. NEC's Image Express program sends whatever is on the screen of my PC to the projector. Unfortunately, there's an annoying control panel at the bottom of the screen, the image is slightly delayed, and occasionally the video stutters, particularly as you get close to its 70-ft. range.

At US$2,000, the NP905 costs a couple of hundred dollars more than traditional video projectors, but the freedom of motion that it creates is well worth it.

Wi-Fi photo frame: Bottomless pit of snapshots

PF Digital eStarling WPF-388B digital photo frame

If you're like me, you have thousands of digital photos just sitting around on your computer. That's where PF Digital's US$250 eStarling WPF-388B digital photo frame comes in, setting them free so they can be viewed in any room you want via an 802.11b/g Wi-Fi link.

Although the original eStarling frame released in 2006 had some infamous defects , the current model has ironed out the kinks. Built around a black plastic frame with clear edges, the eStarling's 8-in. LCD seems to float in air as it displays up to 256MB worth of pictures. The 800-by-600 resolution is a little skimpy, particularly for 8- and 10-megapixel images, but the device downsizes the images to fit. Downsized images look excellent, with no jaggies, snow or artifacts.

The frame comes with a tiny remote control that lets you adjust the timing of the slide show and choose from six transitions, including a dissolve and various wipes.

After plugging in the frame, I connected it to my PC with the included USB cable so that I didn't have to use the frame's screen and buttons for entering my network's security key. It was all connected in about 5 minutes. The frame has a range of 100 feet from the router, but annoyingly takes a couple of minutes to start displaying the images.

Rather than lifting the photos from your PC, the frame works with PF Digital's SeeFrame online picture service , which provides unlimited free storage. You can e-mail shots one at a time or upload them in groups directly to the site. The frame also works with nine other online photo services, including Flickr and Picasa, as well as RSS image feeds. All told, it's a great way to get photos out of your PC and into your living space.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brian Nadel

Computerworld
Topics: peripherals, Printers, WLAN, consumer electronics, personal storage, wireless, entertainment, digital cameras
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