Its spring again, the time of the year again when students, diplomas in hand, head out in search of employment—or more education. What better way to reward a hard-working graduate than with the gift of wireless technology? For some ideas, check out the following products, which we’ve listed in escalating order of price.
Starbucks Card, various denominations
If there’s one thing that goes good with Wi-Fi, it’s coffee–or is it the other way around? In any event, a Starbucks card can now help keep someone both wired and unwired, because customers paying for their java with a (registered) card get two hours of free Wi-Fi daily.
Microsoft Zune, $129.99 to $249.99
Microsoft’s line of digital media players may lack the cache of the products from a certain fruity company, but the Zune manages to include a few features the iPod lacks. For starters, all Zunes–not just the highest-end models—come with Wi-Fi, which you can use to sync up the device sans cable. Plus, every Zune model includes a built-in FM radio.
Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP), $169.99
Granted, Sony’s PSP is mostly a games-playing device, but you can also use it to do things like watch videos transferred from a PC or TiVo DVR. Plus, with the PSP’s Wi-Fi connection you can access RSS feeds, listen to Internet radio, or make phone calls via Skype.
It may look like the front-seat headrest from a minivan, but the Chumby’s actually a wireless personal appliance that you can use to view and listen to a host of Internet-based fare. Since the Chumby can function as an alarm clock (complete with snooze button), it can wake you up to anything from the morning’s news, weather, or sports scores to a favorite podcast.
Sirius Stiletto 100, $199.99
Anyone that wants to listen to satellite radio outside of a home or car will appreciate the Sirius Stiletto 100 Portable Satellite Radio. It’s 2 GB of storage lets you record live programming or store your own MP3 and WMA files, but best of all, you can use it to stream Sirius programming over Wi-Fi wherever a satellite connection isn’t available.
Netgear WNHDEB111, $199.99
For an easy and high-performance wireless connection for things like game consoles, TiVo, or similar devices, the Netgear WNHDEB111 lets you expand a home WLAN with draft 802.11n capabilities. It’s fast enough for HD video, and since it uses the 5 GHz rather than 2.4 GHz band, it won’t interfere with your existing 802.11b/g network or other wireless devices.
Kodak EasyShare EX811, $199.99
The Kodak EasyShare EX811 is an 8-inch digital picture frame, but its Wi-Fi feature lets you download pictures from your PC or your online Kodak gallery. You can also use it to send and receive snapshots from friends and family that have their own EX811s.
Although it has a decidedly retro look, the Grace Wireless Internet Radio (available in black or white) lets you listen to streaming audio from all around the world. You can pick from thousands of available stations via a Web browser.
Cargo Mambo Combo, $209-$289
Your grad will need something in which to carry his or her gadgetry and other personal paraphernalia. Consider the Cargo Mambo Combo, a versatile bag can be customized with various pouches and sleeves that protect and organize devices and sundry accessories.
BlackBerry Curve 8320 with T-Mobile [email protected], $249.99 (after discounts, rebates, and with 2-year service plan)
To the younger set, having a landline phone went out with Hootie and the Blowfish, but cell phone minutes can be pricey, especially if you use a lot of them. The BlackBerry Curve from T-Mobile has built-in Wi-Fi and works with the company’s [email protected] service, which lets you save minutes by placing calls over your own wireless home network or from most Wi-Fi hotspots. ([email protected] feature $9.99/mo when added to a $39.99/mo or higher service plan.)
Nikon CoolPix S52c, $299.95
Taking digital pictures is fun and easy, but getting them off the camera is often just plain work. Nikon’s CoolPix S52c is a 9.0 megapixel camera with a 3X optical zoom and support for 802.11b/g, which lets you upload and store your pictures on Nikon’s myPicturetown Web site, or e-mail them to friends and family directly from the camera.
Apple iPod Touch $299/$399/$499 (8/16/32 GB)
You can’t make phone calls on the iPod touch, but it does everything else the iPhone does, it’s thinner, and gives you more memory for the same price.
Apple iPhone $399/$499 (8/16GB)
Is there really anyone that doesn’t want an iPhone? Aside from making calls, the iPhone can access the Internet, play movies and music, and impress the heck out of friends and colleagues.
MacBook Air, starting at $1,799
MacBook Air. Need we say more? OK, we will. This aluminum-clad uberportable weighs three pounds and is less than an inch thick. But in spite of its svelte physique it manages to cram a dual-core CPU, a 13.3-inch display, and the full gamut of Wi-Fi support (a, b, g, draft-n).
If there’s one thing better than a 42-inch 1080p LCD television, it’s one with Wi-Fi built-in. In addition to the usual complement of audio visual connections, HP’s SL4278N supports an alphabet soup of Wi-Fi standards—802.11 a, b, g, and draft-n. You can use that wireless link to access photos, music and video stored on a PC, as well as content from the Internet.
Joseph Moran is a frequent contributor to Wi-FiPlanet.com.