High-Tech Hyatt Place

Hotel chains are upping the ante in the tech amenities that they offer business travelers.

Case in point: Wyndham Hotels is installing "Smart Chairs" throughout its chain. Designed by Michael Graves & Associates, the chair features pivoting tables for writing, laptop computing, and dining, plus built-in power and Internet ports.

I haven't seen the Wyndham Smart Chair. But recently, I watched some dumb TV in a Hyatt Place.

Hyatt Place is a new Hyatt brand. The growing chain seeks to offer style, sophistication, and plenty of tech amenities. Each room has a 42-inch LG Electronics high-def LCD TV--which is why I ended up watching Bionic Woman.

Recently, I spent three nights in the new Greensboro, North Carolina Hyatt Place. Overall, my stay was pleasurable, though not problem-free.

Great for Gadget Fans--but not Perfect

In my room, below the 42-inch LCD TV and off to the right, was a panel of connector ports, called the Hyatt Plug Panel. The ports allow you to connect a laptop (via VGA cable), DVD player, or portable media player (such as an Apple iPod) to the LG screen. I've posted a video on Traveler 2.0 that shows the screen, the panel of ports, and the room I stayed in (number 617).

I can imagine a business professional reviewing a Microsoft PowerPoint slides on the large LCD the night before a presentation. Just make sure to bring your VGA cable, as there wasn't one in my room. (I borrowed one from the hotel's friendly manager.)

Hyatt Place also offers free Wi-Fi in every guest room. Guest-Tek provides the hotel's Wi-Fi service, called OneView Internet. In my room, the wireless signal was strong.

If everything works as planned, you simply launch your browser and click to accept the terms and conditions. The OneView Internet service should automatically identify your room number as one that's currently occupied and grant you 24-hour Internet access. However, when I attempted to connect, I kept receiving a message that the room number I entered was incorrect.

I called the toll-free tech support number and a technician answered promptly. I explained my situation. To remedy the problem, he manually entered my room number from his end. Within about 10 minutes, I was online. Unfortunately, I had to call tech support again to reconnect 24 hours later.

A Hyatt spokesperson said my experience was likely an isolated incident. She added that Wi-Fi access isn't dependent on room number and that you don't have to be a registered guest to access Hyatt Place's Wi-Fi.

A Work in Progress

The hotel in which I stayed was transitioning from an AmeriSuites to a Hyatt Place, so I didn't experience the full Hyatt Place concept, which includes a business center to which guests can print documents directly from their rooms; a Starbucks coffee bar; and a Guest Kitchen, from which you can order food 24 hours a day. You can check in and out using a touch screen in the lobby, if you like that sort of thing. (Unless there's a long wait, I'd rather deal with a human.)

A few quibbles: My room lacked a safe, which I believe that any hotel designed for techie travelers should offer. (The Hyatt spokesperson said many Hyatt Place hotels do offer in-room safes.) The guest room telephone system was old school: Local calls were 50 cents each; long-distance calls were charged at a daytime operator-assisted rate plus a 40 percent hotel surcharge. In this age of low Voice over IP phone rates, a high-tech hotel should offer unlimited long-distance calling for free, or at least heavily discounted. (In-room phone charges vary by state, the Hyatt spokesperson said.)

On the positive side, the work desk and chair in my room were comfortable, though nothing special. The king-sized bed somehow managed to be simultaneously soft and firm--just right. I loved the big sleeper sofa, complete with ottoman. My room had a mini fridge, in which I chilled yogurt, fruit, and bottled water bought from a grocery store. Room rates are reasonable, too. At the Greensboro Hyatt Place, AAA discounted rates were recently $125 per weeknight, $80 on weekends.

I recommend Hyatt Place--but for my next hotel stay, I may have to give the Wyndham Smart Chair a try.

More on Hotels for Business Travelers

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Contributing Editor James A. Martin offers tools, tips, and product recommendations to help you make the most of computing on the go. Martin is also author of the Traveler 2.0 blog. Sign up to have the Mobile Computing Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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