Cool Wireless Stuff

Some favorite wireless products nominated by Computerworld's staff

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Drawbacks: Battery life's not spectacular -- you'll probably need to plug it in every night. And it's best as only an emergency phone for me, given that it's just ridiculous-looking next to a person's ear. (Dialing's also not so simple.) T-Mobile's coverage area is limited. Finally, the Sidekick III is expected this year, and I hope that has more memory ... or even MP3 capability!

Price: $350 list / $249 with rebate. Monthly service data-only plan with unlimited data is $35/month; phone calls are 20 cents a minute.

Who it's best for: Anyone who doesn't mind carrying a gadget made famous by Paris Hilton and a bunch of rappers.

Recommended by: Angela Gunn, Security channel editor

Internet Service

Verizon Broadband Access Air Card

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What it is: Nationwide high-speed Internet access, unplugged

Why we like it: Lets you get on the Internet wirelessly just about anywhere -- and at broadband speed. If you travel, you won't need to plug into hotel's viral network and pay $10 a day in broadband fees, or hot-spot charges. And since the Verizon card is running on the cellular network, you don't have any the security issues that open Wi-Fi networks present.

Drawbacks: It would be nice if the price were a bit lower.

Price: $60 a month

Who it's best for: People who spend a lot of time in airports and hotel rooms.

Recommended by: Julia King, executive editor, events; Patrick Thibodeau, enterprise systems reporter

Networking

Airport Express

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What it is: Compact Wi-Fi access point, streaming audio client and wireless print server

Why we like it: It may not be new, but it's still a nifty gadget. I use Airport Express to stream audio from my PowerBook to the stereo in my living room. It provides a digital optical connection to the stereo so the sound quality is great. Of course, "great sound" is a relative term when dealing with compressed MP3s or low bit-rate Internet radio streams, but the Airport Express can handle up to CD-quality audio. If you have more than one unit hooked up to stereo systems around your house, iTunes will stream to them all simultaneously.

Quick and painless setup software automatically links Airport Express to a wireless network. The fact that it extends the range of my existing network means I can comfortably surf the Web while lounging in the back yard. The USB printer port is a nice feature, although I can't bring myself to put a printer in the living room.

Drawbacks: The range-extending feature of Airport Express will work only if you have an 802.11g network. You must use iTunes to stream audio to your stereo. It doesn't support audio formats that compete with Apple's own, such as Real and Windows Media.

Price: $129 from Apple ($99 refurbished)

Who it's best for: People who want to surf the Web wirelessly and play their digital audio library on the living room stereo. Cheaper alternatives exist, but the compact size and ease of use of the Airport Express might justify its cost, even if you don't need all the bells and whistles.

Recommended by: Kevin Gerich, Web developer (see also AirPort Express: A bit of 'geek heaven').

Accessories

SynCh Universal Charger

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What it is: A single device that can charge many wireless gadgets and also has a USB connection for data transfer

Why we like it: With an iPod, Treo, Bluetooth headset and digital camera, a gadget geek's got to haul around a lot of cords when on the road in order to rejuice all those devices. The SynCh says it "works with virtually all of today's most popular cell phones, music players, PDAs and thousands of other devices" -- you just need the correct "mTips." And it'll run off a wall outlet, car cigarette lighter or computer USB port. It even charges two devices at a time off a single power source.

Drawbacks: Each time you get a new device, you'll likely need to order a new mTip so the SynCh will charge that device. It's only compatible with fourth-generation or later iPods. Camera options look somewhat limited. And the company Web site could be more user-friendly when it comes to selecting the right tips.

Price: $39.95, including charger, USB car adapter and USB travel adapter; $26.95 for charger only. Tips are approximately $6.95 each.

Who it's best for: Gadgeteers with lots of devices who frequently travel.

Recommended by: Lucas Mearian, Storage channel editor

Logitech keyboard and mouse

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What it is: Logitech LX 300 RF wireless keyboard and mouse that works with both PCs and Macs

Why we like it: Wired keyboards are a pain. Bluetooth devices require too many batteries, if you don't remember to turn them off. And who's been trained to turn off their keyboard? Get real. RF is ideal for keyboards and mice. And Logitech's are among the best in the business. They work flawlessly with both PCs and Macs, although Logitech says it markets the LX 300 specifically for the PC. All function keys and special keys (such as the speaker volume key on a Mac) work perfectly.

Drawbacks: I have to unplug the USB connector from the PC to plug it into the Mac and vice versa. But the single USB connector for both the mouse and keyboard make it a small annoyance.

Price: $59.99

Who it's best for: Everyone

Recommended by: Mark Hall, editor at large

--Compiled by Sharon Machlis

See the complete Faces of Mobile IT special report.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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