The PC World 100: Best Products of 2009
The PC World 100: #51-#60
51. Belkin Powerline AV+ Starter Kit F5D4075 (networking kit, $180) This kit lets you extend your home network over your electrical wiring system. Multiple ethernet ports, a convenient desk-mount option, solid performance, and plug-and-play setup put this kit at the head of the powerline networking class.
52. Valve Steam (digital game-distribution service, free) Steam has been around since 2003, and in February 2009 it passed 20 million mark in user accounts, making it one of the leading content delivery platforms in the world. Boasting 837 games from a who's-who index of publishers--including 2K Games, Activision, EA, and Ubisoft --Steam is where Windows gamers turn to buy everything from casual time-killers to enthusiast-caliber thrills.
53. Duracell MyGrid (charger; $80, some accessories extra) Mobile devices are great, but the clutter involved in charging a clutch of them isn't. That's the appeal of Duracell's MyGrid, a wired pad that can rejuice up to four devices simultaneously--and wirelessly--using conductive charging. It isn't perfect: You have to slip your BlackBerry or iPod into a supplied PowerSleeve, charging takes just as long as with a wired charger, and the device is incompatible with some phones. But it's far less messy. I can't wait until I can charge all of my electronics this way (sans sleeves).
54. Sonos Controller 200 (remote control, $349) iPhone users would be in texting heaven if the on-screen keyboards on their smartphones worked as well as the one on the Controller 200, the sophisticated remote for Sonos's high-end digital music system.
55. Seagate Replica (backup hardware, prices start at $130) The unobtrusive Replica backs up your entire computer, including system drives, and continues to protect your data in real time for as long as it's connected. It operates in the background and uses a subtle interface within Window Explorer. The Replica's software provides password protection, which can be used on multiple computers.
56. Blip.fm (music service, free) Sort of like Twitter for music, Blip.fm is a quick, easy, and fun way to share and discuss tunes. Scroll a list of people's song choices annotated with short comments (or Blips) posted about the music. Listen to the "blipped" songs as they come up, or skip through the list to songs you like. If you appreciate particular users (called DJs on the Blip.fm site), you can give them props for the songs they play, or you can choose to follow them.
57. Retrevo.com (shopping service, free) The best new feature of this consumer electronics shopping site is a page that analyzes how close a product is to retirement, how good the current price is, and whether Full reviewers and other users like it. Factor in such nifty features as a service that helps you get copies of long-lost gadget manuals, and Retrevo (a former PCW partner) adds up to a valuable aid to both buying and owning.
58. Google Chrome (browser, free) Google's streamlined Chrome Web browser is designed with speed in mind, and it doesn't disappoint: Chrome was the fastest performer in browser speed tests we conducted earlier this year. It's also designed to be crash resistant: If a Web page causes a crash, Chrome will close that one page instead of bringing down the whole browser.
59. Synology DS209+ II (storage device, $440) With a stable, reliable, attractive OS and more features than you can shake a stick at--RAID striping and mirroring, DLNA media serving, video surveillance, and integrated backup, to name a few--Synology's handsome DS209+ II is network-attached storage in a class of its own. Its predecessor was the fastest NAS box we had ever tested. The DS209+ II is a bit slower with groups of files, but slightly faster with large files; more important, it's twice as fast at finding files. Synology continues to add features via free OS upgrades, which makes the DS209+ II's stratospheric price easier to tolerate.
60. Google Picasa 3.5 (photo software, free) Google's photo-management program adds face-recognition features and comes integrated with Google Maps to add geolocation information to photos. When you first run the new version of Picasa, it scans your library for faces, automatically grouping those that look similar (and with impressive accuracy). Since the scanning and tagging make no actual changes to photos, they ultimately just provide a quick way to find all your snaps of, say, Fluffy the Dog, or your Uncle Ed.