10 great Wi-Fi gadgets for work and play
- — 25 September, 2008 10:16
VoIP phone: Wi-Fi calls for less
Panasonic KX-WP1050 Wi-Fi phone for Skype
By combining Skype's inexpensive Voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone service with Panasonic's wireless KX-WP1050 phone, calling anywhere in the world just got a lot cheaper.
Everything you'll need comes with the KX-WP1050, including the 3-oz. handset, access point (the handset has to use its own) and cables. Setting it all up took me about 10 minutes. Although I was able to quickly type the network connection information with my computer's keyboard, I had lots of trouble entering my Skype username and password with the handset's awkward alphanumeric keypad.
Happily, you only need to do this once. After that, calls connect as fast as with a cell phone, are about as reliable and sound surprisingly good. The phone's 60-ft. range is a bit skimpy and the phone can use only an 802.11b/g network, but the handset's battery was good for four hours 30 minutes of talk time; it's recharged with a mini-USB cable from the access point.
At US$400 MSRP (you can probably find it for US$300 if you shop around), the KX-WP1050 is expensive. On the other hand, once you've got it, the costs are low: Skype charges US$3 a month for unlimited calling in the US and Canada, and you'll need to rent a local phone number for US$6 a month. All told, that's about one-third the price of Vonage and other VoIP phone services, proving that talk really is cheap.
Wi-Fi Web radio: Tune in the world
Grace Digital ITC-IR1000B Web radio
The ITC-IR1000B Web radio] from Grace Digital not only lets you listen to Internet radio shows from anywhere in your Wi-Fi zone, but it can also tap into RSS feeds, podcasts and music on your PC. At US$200, it's a bargain.
Housed in a sophisticated black case, it's slightly smaller than Sangean's more expensive WFR-20, yet has scrolling and volume knobs, along with five presets for favorite stations. The blue LCD screen shows the time, the site it's connected to and the audio stream's data rate.
Setup took me about 5 minutes, of which about half was spent entering the network's encryption key with the scroll knob and screen. The radio has an antenna that swivels to get the best connection on 802.11 b/g networks; its range is 95 feet.
It takes about 15 seconds to connect to any of the radio's 13,000 stations, nearly twice the number available to other Internet radios. They're organized in 68 categories from Adult to World Tropical, and you can even listen to the BBC in Arabic or Mandarin.
The audio is surprisingly rich and clear, considering the radio's single speaker. Its built-in alarm clock can be a career-saver for those who have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, but like its peers, the ITC-IR1000B doesn't have an FM radio. On top of Internet radio stations, RSS audio feeds and podcasts, the radio can lift music stored on your PC as well as the Pandora music service , enlarging the radio's repertoire manyfold and making it truly capable of tuning in the world.