10 Great Wi-Fi Gadgets for Work and Play
Wireless Projector: Beaming the Big Image
NEC NP905 wireless projector
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.
Wi-Fi Photo Frame: Bottomless Pit of Snapshots
PF Digital eStarling WPF-388B digital photo frame
If you're like me, you have thousands of digital photos just sitting around on your computer. That's where PF Digital's $250 eStarling WPF-388B digital photo frame comes in, setting them free so they can be viewed in any room you want via an 802.11b/g Wi-Fi link.
Although the original eStarling frame released in 2006 had some infamous defects , the current model has ironed out the kinks. Built around a black plastic frame with clear edges, the eStarling's 8-in. LCD seems to float in air as it displays up to 256MB worth of pictures. The 800-by-600 resolution is a little skimpy, particularly for 8- and 10-megapixel images, but the device downsizes the images to fit. Downsized images look excellent, with no jaggies, snow or artifacts.
The frame comes with a tiny remote control that lets you adjust the timing of the slide show and choose from six transitions, including a dissolve and various wipes.
After plugging in the frame, I connected it to my PC with the included USB cable so that I didn't have to use the frame's screen and buttons for entering my network's security key. It was all connected in about 5 minutes. The frame has a range of 100 feet from the router, but annoyingly takes a couple of minutes to start displaying the images.
Rather than lifting the photos from your PC, the frame works with PF Digital's SeeFrame online picture service , which provides unlimited free storage. You can e-mail shots one at a time or upload them in groups directly to the site. The frame also works with nine other online photo services, including Flickr and Picasa, as well as RSS image feeds. All told, it's a great way to get photos out of your PC and into your living space.
Wi-Fi Security Camera: Something to Watch Over Me
Linksys Wireless-G PTZ Internet Camera
A wireless network offers a great opportunity to set up surveillance cameras that watch over your home or office without the hassle and expense of running video cables throughout the building. The $250 Linksys Wireless-G PTZ Internet Camera goes a step further than static cameras by letting you pan and zoom it remotely.
Setting it up took about 10 minutes. I started by plugging the camera into my router with an Ethernet cable and running the included CD on my computer. After that, a wizard took over and found the camera on the third try. I had to enter the camera's IP address on my computer to access the camera's setup screens and enter the network's encryption code. Finally, I disconnected the Ethernet cable and the camera was on its own; it connected with my Wi-Fi network on the first try.
The interface, which works with PCs only, can handle four separate video feeds over an 802.11b/g link. With it, I can remotely watch the scene, pan the camera side-to-side and up-and-down, and zoom in on a detail. There's an annoying one- or two-second delay between clicking on an action and the camera carrying it out, and you can hear the device's servo motors positioning the camera. The 640-by-480 video stream is surprisingly clear and detailed, although the video gets choppy when the camera gets about 90 feet away from the router.
I really like that the PTZ Internet Camera has a removable antenna that can be swapped for a more powerful one, potentially extending its range. After sensing motion in its field of view, the camera can take a snapshot, record video and then alert me via an e-mail, making it a burglar alarm that can capture evidence at the scene of the crime.