10 great Wi-Fi gadgets for work and play

Add these Wi-Fi devices to your network for a new world of wireless productivity and entertainment

You've done the hard work of optimizing your Wi-Fi network, and it reliably beams high-speed data to every nook and cranny of your home or office. Now, it's time to take it to the next level by connecting more than just computers.

There's a whole world of gadgets out there that can help you get work done and entertain you -- all without wires. From wireless print servers and security cameras to Internet radios and VoIP phones, the variety of Wi-Fi appliances available is astounding. There's even a Whirlpool refrigerator equipped with interchangeable wireless modules to serve up recipes, digital photos and Web sites. (Personally, I can't imagine stopping to check the weather when what I really want is a cold beer.)

But let's stick with more practical devices. Any of the 10 Wi-Fi gadgets in our list can liberate you from the tyranny of cables by wirelessly printing, phoning, moving photos, playing music and more.

It's easy to get started, but a word of warning: Time and again, the hardest part of setting up these wireless wonders was entering the Wi-Fi network's encryption codes with clunky on-screen keypads rather than a standard keyboard. Still, it's the best way to cut the cord and stay connected.

Wireless printing: Two-way data street

Linksys WPSM54G print server

One of the best things a wireless network can do is print without cables. It may seem like magic, but the latest print servers, like Linksys' WPSM54G (US$90), can also send scans from any recent multifunction printer (MFP) to a computer. It all works well, but my advice is not to be in a hurry.

After plugging the WPSM54G into my Canon Pixma MP780 MFP, it took 5 minutes to load the software, enter the security codes via my PC's keyboard and configure the print server. Capable of linking to 802.11b/g/n networks, the server is small (about 5 by 1 by 4 inches) and works with Windows 2000/XP/Vista systems, but not Macs or Linux machines. It has a range of 95 feet and demands to be the system's default printer.

Unfortunately, speed is not of the essence with the Linksys print server. It printed a two-page color Adobe Acrobat document in one minute 51 seconds and scanned an 8-by-11-in. color magazine cover in 6 minutes 30 seconds, or about half as fast as with a USB cable.

Hewlett-Packard OfficeJet J4680 multifunction printer

I also tested HP's OfficeJet J4680 (US$130), an MFP with a built-in wireless print server that works with both Windows and Mac computers. The device has a range of 90 feet. After an agonizingly slow 30-minute software installation, it took me another couple of minutes to correctly enter the network's encryption code with the printer's clunky phone-like keypad. The device works with 802.11b/g networks only.

Once set up, however, the OfficeJet zoomed along. In contrast to the Linksys print server, the OfficeJet J4680 printed the same file in 37 seconds and scanned the document in 47 seconds, making it a wireless speed demon. For my money, I'd opt for the printer with wireless built in because I hate to wait.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags peripheralsWLANPrintersconsumer electronicspersonal storagewirelessdigital camerasentertainment

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brian Nadel

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?