Whether you're navigating the Web or your local mall, shopping for the holidays is always easier when you have a great list of options. We love easy, so here's an overview of 12 great wireless networking products that any tech-loving friend or family member will appreciate.
Amazon Kindle Fire ($200)
Apple's iPad may still be the gold standard when it comes to tablets, but Amazon's new Kindle Fire may be the first tablet to give it serious competition. For less than half the price of an iPad, the 7-inch, Android-based Kindle Fire offers Web browsing and email plus access to apps and games, music and video to stream or download, and of course, digital books and periodicals, all delivered over Wi-Fi.
BearExtender PC ($45)
When the Wi-FI network you're trying to connect to is just a bit out of reach for a solid signal, it's time for a stronger adapter like the BearExtender PC. This compact but high-power USB wireless 802.11n adapter offers much greater range than the one built into most laptops. A Mac-compatible BearExtender n3 is also available.
Sometimes you really need Wi-Fi Internet access, but wired access is all that's available. In these situations, the D-Link DAP-1350 Wireless N Pocket Router and Access Point can come in handy. This pocket-sized device acts as a wireless router, access point or adapter, and you can use its USB port for sharing a storage device or printer.
Dropcam/Dropcam Echo ($200/$280)
To keep tabs on the goings on when you're away from home, check out the Dropcam and Dropcam Echo. These Wi-Fi cameras -- the former is video-only, while the latter includes audio -- let you watch remotely from a PC, iOS or Andriod device, and they can send you an email alert and snapshot when motion is detected. With an optional monthly subscription (starting at $9) the Dropcams will record video and upload it to offsite storage for later viewing.
HP Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse ($40)
Although it looks like a garden-variety wireless mouse, the HP Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse frees up a USB port by eliminating the need for a receiver dongle. It also boasts longer battery life (up to 9 months) than typical 2.4 GHz or Bluetooth mice.
Iogear Wireless 4-Port Sharing Station GUWIP204 ($100)
If you have USB devices such as storage drives, printers/scanners, or speakers that you want to use on more than one computer without constantly plugging and replugging, the Iogear Wireless 4-port Sharing Station will let you share such devices over a Wi-Fi network. (There's a wired version available as well.)
Kingston Wi-Drive ($110/$140)
If you have an iPhone, iPod or iPad that's about to max out its internal storage, the Kingston Wi-Drive can help. Available with either 16 or 32 GB of flash-based storage, the Wi-Drive can deliver content to an iOS device via Wi-Fi, and thanks to a built-in battery, it can do so away from an AC outlet for up to four hours.
Logitech Harmony Link ($100)
Need a universal remote to control your myriad A/V devices? The Logitech Harmony Link takes advantage of your Wi-Fi network to convert your iOS or Andriod tablet or smartphone into a sophisticated and customizable remote control. And unlike many remotes, it can control devices behind closed cabinet doors.
Although Wi-Fi is often the preferred option for connecting devices to your home network, there are times when it doesn't cut the mustard. When you're forced to go wired, the Netgear Powerline AV+200 Ultra Adapter Kit will deliver network connection to any AC outlet over your home's electrical wiring. It's also got push-button encryption, and an electrical pass-through so you can use the device in the same outlet as a surge suppressor/battery backup.
SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime HDHR3-CC ($250)
The SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime offers a way to record your favorite shows off cable TV without having to deal with your cable company's crappy DVR (or high monthly fees). With CableCard support and three tuners, the HDHomeRun Prime can record three channels at once (including premiums) that you can then watch through Media Center on any networked Windows 7 PC. There's also an optional ($18) app for the iPad 2.
Sony HomeShare Network Speaker ($200/$300)
The Sony HomeShare Network Speaker, which is available in small and large models, connects to your network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi. It can stream audio via DLNA from a PC or from compatible Sony home theatre components, and you can control it all with an iOS or Android device.
TrendNet 150 Mbps Micro Wireless N USB Adapter TEW-648UBM ($38)
The TrendNet 150 Mbps Micro Wireless N USB Adapter is barely bigger than the USB port it connects to. It's an excellent way to upgrade an older 802.g-based laptop with the latest and greatest Wi-Fi technology without the bulk.
Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.
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