Thursday December 2, 2004
A few years ago, industry analysts predicted the next big thing in consumer electronics was going to be wireless gadgets. The theory ran that once users had installed Wi-Fi in their home, they would want to add other devices to the network.
It hasn't happened, largely because the number of installed wireless systems isn't as great as the seers imagined and the gadgets haven't captured the imagination of consumers. There are, however, signs the market is starting to mature.
Last summer saw the debut of the $140 SoniqCast Element Aireo, which is a fairly standard MP3 player with a 1.5GB hard disk. But its unique feature is that it can connect to a Wi-Fi system to enable owners to port tracks on to its hard disk from any PC in the system. It's a bit of a gimmick but it won't be the last music player to boast this feature.
There is now a growing range of security cameras that also work on wireless networks. Arguably the best is the ¡ê160 Linksys WVC54G. A camera with its own web server latches on to an 802.11b/g network to send video to its own website. Set-up is virtually instantaneous and the camera can be configured to send an email alert if it detects any movement. The D-Link DCS-2100 performs a similar role but costs around ¡ê230.
If you have a wireless laptop and regularly use it to print out documents, it is worth considering a wireless adapter for your printer.
Belkin's ¡ê60 FUP0001 acts as a mini print server enabling you to add a pair of USB printers to your wireless network. Alternatively, there are a handful of printers with 802.11b/g compatibility built in, including the HP PSC 2510. However, at around ¡ê250, you pay a hefty premium for the convenience.
Of the wireless home entertainment devices that stream music, video and image files from a PC to a TV or a hi-fi, the best of the recent batch is the ¡ê200 Philips SL300i, at ¡ê200. It is a device that connects a home entertainment system/TV to a wireless system that can also directly stream media from the net. Creative is also set to launch a wireless adapter. A set of wireless LCD TVs from Philips and Sony will also debut next year.
Finally, if you have a wireless laptop and find yourself searching for hot spots, you can now buy pocketable gadgets that will tell you where you can log on. Generally held to be the best is the Smart ID WFS-1, which retails for around ¡ê25.