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

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Wi-Fi Web radio: Tune in the world

Grace Digital ITC-IR1000B Web radio

The ITC-IR1000B Web radio from Grace Digital not only lets you listen to Internet radio shows from anywhere in your Wi-Fi zone, but it can also tap into RSS feeds, podcasts and music on your PC. At $200, it's a bargain.

Housed in a sophisticated black case, it's slightly smaller than Sangean's more expensive WFR-20, yet has scrolling and volume knobs, along with five presets for favorite stations. The blue LCD screen shows the time, the site it's connected to and the audio stream's data rate.

Setup took me about 5 minutes, of which about half was spent entering the network's encryption key with the scroll knob and screen. The radio has an antenna that swivels to get the best connection on 802.11 b/g networks; its range is 95 feet.

Wi-Fi gadgets -- Grace Wireless Internet Radio
Grace Wireless Internet Radio. Click to view larger image.

It takes about 15 seconds to connect to any of the radio's 13,000 stations, nearly twice the number available to other Internet radios. They're organized in 68 categories from Adult to World Tropical, and you can even listen to the BBC in Arabic or Mandarin.

The audio is surprisingly rich and clear, considering the radio's single speaker. Its built-in alarm clock can be a career-saver for those who have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, but like its peers, the ITC-IR1000B doesn't have an FM radio. On top of Internet radio stations, RSS audio feeds and podcasts, the radio can lift music stored on your PC as well as the Pandora music service, enlarging the radio's repertoire manyfold and making it truly capable of tuning in the world.

Wi-Fi SD card and camera: Beam up your snapshots

Wi-Fi gadgets -- Eye-Fi Share card

Eye-Fi Share card. Click to view larger image.

Eye-Fi Share card

Nobody likes wasting time fumbling with flash cards or cables to get photos out of a camera and onto a PC or online photo-sharing service. It's hard to believe, but a Wi-Fi network can help you put your pictures exactly where you want them.

The $100 Eye-Fi Share card squeezes a Wi-Fi radio and 2GB of flash memory into a tiny Secure Digital (SD) card. Basically, it works with any camera that has an SD card slot and supports 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi equipment. After loading the software on my computer and entering my network's security code with my PC's keyboard, the card quickly connected with my Wi-Fi network; in all, it took 2 minutes.

Now, whenever I bring my Nikon D50 within 75 feet of my router, the photos are automatically transferred to either my PC or an online picture service -- or both. Eye-Fi's Manager software can forward the photos to any of two dozen online photo services, from Blue String to Web Shots. It takes about 7.5 seconds to move a 1.5MB photo. If I'm out of range, the Share card holds up to a thousand top-quality photos until it's close enough to transfer them.

If you're not interested in uploading photos to an online service, consider the Eye-Fi Home card, which costs $80 and sends the images to a computer only.

Wi-Fi gadgets -- Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ50S camera
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ50S. Click to view larger image.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ50S camera

If you're in the market for a new camera, Panasonic's $400 Lumix DMC-TZ50S has it all. It's a capable camera that bypasses the PC and beams its photos over an 802.11b or g network, but rather than the choice of several online photo sites, it works only with Google's Picasa service. (See our review of the Lumix DMC-TZ50.)

The camera has a Leica 10X zoom lens, excellent automatic exposure and a 3-in. viewscreen. It can upload snapshots from a home or office router or a T-Mobile hot spot. (For the sake of security and battery life, I'd recommend turning off the Wi-Fi radio on the camera when you're not using it to send photos.)

Setting it up is more time consuming than with the Eye-Fi card because you'll need to enter your Wi-Fi network information, plus your Google Gmail account name and password with the camera's clumsy screen entry system; figure on spending a total of 20 minutes. Once set up, the camera moved a 1.5MB image to my Picasa Web photo album in 27 seconds.

Wireless projector: Beaming the big image

NEC NP905 wireless projector
Wi-Fi gadgets -- NEC NP905 wireless projector

NEC NP905 wireless projector.

Click to view larger image.

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 $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.

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