10 Great Wi-Fi Gadgets for Work and Play

Wi-Fi Media Center Extender: HDTV Everywhere

HP MediaSmart Connect x280n

Here's my digital dilemma: My Windows Media Center PC is in the office, but the family's HDTV is at the other end of the house. So I used HP's MediaSmart Connect x280n to bring the two together. Now I can surf the Web, watch online videos and listen to Internet radio on my TV. At $350, the x280n can inexpensively transform a TV into an online powerhouse.

Although the device works with 802.11a/b/g/n networks, HP suggests that only dual-band 802.11n routers have the throughput to reliably send high-definition video over a wireless link. My elderly 802.11g router obviously wasn't up to the task, so I swapped in a Linksys WRT600N 802.11n router.

Be prepared to set aside a couple of hours from start to finish, and be ready to go back and forth between the Media Center PC and TV several times to configure them. After going upstairs to connect the media extender to my Westinghouse 1080p TV and enter the network's encryption codes with the remote control, I went back downstairs to my HP HDX 9000 Media Center PC and installed the needed software, then back upstairs to make a few clicks and write down a special code. Finally, I went back downstairs to finish up by entering the TV's code on the PC.

Happily, this is a one-time setup chore, and the media extender's remote control allows efficient entry for the network's encryption codes. Once it was all connected and online, I watched movies on Cinema Now and Vongo, viewed pictures from the PC and watched shows I recorded on the Media Center PC -- all of which came through surprisingly well, with no jerkiness, delays or hiccups.

Brian Nadel is a freelance writer based near New York and is the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.

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