Wi-Fi Planet 2007 Holiday Gift Guide
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It's the holiday season again, the time of year when much of our attention inevitably turns to gift giving--or receiving. If you're looking for technology items to round out your shopping list, check out our collection of Wi-Fi-enabled products (all prices listed are MSRP) for use at home, work, while traveling, or for no particular reason other than fun. If you see something you'd like for yourself, feel free to drop a hint to a friend or loved one...
At the office
HP's Officejet Pro L7780 can print, copy, scan, fax in both color and black-and-white, plus it sports an automatic document feeder, two paper trays, and a duplexer that allows printing on both sides of a page. Best of all, built-in Wi-Fi lets you put the L7780 anywhere in the office you want, not just within reach of an Ethernet port.
Using Skype's VoIP service is a good way to save a business money on long-distance and international phone charges. Since it works over Wi-Fi, Netgear's SPH 200W lets you make your Skype calls without being tethered to a PC--you can even use it from hotspots when you're out of the office.
Nokia's E61i GSM smartphone is a tad larger than most, but the extra size nets you a large widenot tall--screen and a pretty spacious keyboard for working with documents and e-mail. When a cellular data connection isn't available (or you just want a faster connection than you can get through EDGE), you can use the E61i's Wi-Fi.
Around the house
The Acoustic Research ARRU449 Universal Wi-Fi Remote can control every device in your audio/visual arsenal, and the wireless capability means you don't need to connect the remote to your PC to program it. The ARRU449 can also use its Internet connection to display program guide information and other data.
Nobody ever said wireless gear had to be housed in a bland box with nondescript blinking lights. Belkin's N1 Vision is an 802.11n wireless router that sports a large LCD display providing easy access to information like your network's wireless data rate, what devices are connected, and even the upload and download speed of your broadband connection. [Read our full review.]
The first step to uploading photos to a photo sharing site is usually to download them from your digital camera to a PC, but the Eye-Fi can cut out the middleman. This 2GB SD card also has Wi-Fi built in, so it can transmit your photos directly from the camera to one of over a dozen different sites like Flickr, Picasa, or Snapfish.
There's no need to enjoy your vast music collection camped out in front of your PC, because when you hook the Squeezebox up to either an audio receiver or a dedicated set of speakers, you'll be able to wirelessly stream music from your PC to any other room in your home. The large OLED display and remote control makes browsing your music easy, and you can even use the Squeezebox to listen to podcasts, Internet radio stations, or access your Real Rhapsody account.
On the road
Asus Eee PC, $399 (for 4 GB model)
A conventional ultraportable notebook can easily set you back $1,000 or more, but the $399 Asus Eee PC can be an inexpensive, yet still lightweight compact traveling companion. Weighing only 2 pounds and Wi-Fi equipped, this Linux-based (but Windows XP compatible) notebook comes with everything you need to browse the Web, check e-mail, or work with Microsoft Office documents. While it doesn't offer much storage capacity (8 GB is the maximum) it does come in the form of a speedy, quiet, and battery-friendly solid-state disk drive.
If you're tired of hotels that don't provide in-room Wi-Fi access (or charge a fortune for it), then check out the Linksys WTR54GS. This portable router/access point can provide wireless access for one or more systems from any wired Ethernet port. Its compact size makes it easy to pack, and since it plugs directly into a wall outlet for power there's no AC adapter to lose.
Pinnacle PCTV To Go HD Wireless, $249.99
With the Pinnacle PCTV To Go HD Wireless, there's no need to miss your favorite TV shows just because you're away. Connect it to your cable or satellite set-top box and then link it to your home network via Wi-Fi, and it will stream live or recorded television to a PC anywhere you happen to be. Plus, there are no monthly service fees to deal with.
With the ZyXEL AG-225H you can sniff out wireless networks without having to drag out your notebook. It will not only indicate when there are WLANs (802.11b, g, or a) nearby, its LCD display will tell you the name, signal strength, and type of encryption used by each one. You can recharge the AG-225's battery by plugging it into a USB port, in which case it can also be used as a wireless network adapter.
Just for kicks
Apple iPod Touch, $299 and up
You don't (necessarily) have to be an Apple fanboy to appreciate the capabilities of the iPod touch. It's large and wide display makes it equally adept with photos and movies as it is with music, and you can use the integrated Wi-Fi to download music or browse the Web. [Read our full review.]
Archos 605 Wi-Fi 30 GB, $299
If you're more interested in video than music or pictures, then you'll appreciate the Archos 605 Wi-Fi's spacious 4.3-inch screen and capacious 30GB hard drive. The 605 Wi-Fi can browse the Web or download content, and an inexpensive add-on will turn it into a DVR.
Nabaztag Wi-Fi Smart Rabbit, $79 (plus variable subscription fees)
Talk about a rabbit ears antenna--the Nabaztag Wi-Fi Smart Rabbit can move its ears, change colors, play music, and talk. It's wireless Internet connection can keep you up-to-date on the latest news, weather, and stock market info, monitor your RSS feeds, or read your e-mail aloud. Best of all, you don't need to feed it or clean up after it.
Sony PlayStation 3, $399 and up
If you're looking for a game console that offers wireless capability without the clumsiness and expense of an add-on adapter, check out the PlayStation 3, which gives you Wi-Fi right out of the box--except for the originafl 20GB models, which lack the feature. (We'd suggest a Nintendo Wii, which also has integrated Wi-Fi, but due to extremely short supply, you're more likely to see Elvis at your retailer than a Wii for sale.)
Joe Moran is a regular contributor to Wi-FiPlanet.