Wish list for the budget-minded
Cell phones and video editing just got a whole lot cheaper
by Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First published in Business in Vancouver , Issue #744 January 27-February 2, 2004 GearGuide column
After the holidays many of us swear to do better. We start diets, or at least try to pay off our bloated credit card bills. At this time last year, this column's gadgets were the Gear Guide equivalent of double-chocolate cake with an added dollop of whipped cream. This issue's will be kinder to your budget.
Low-cal cell phone
Last year we looked at Sony Ericsson's P800 smart phone. Unlike that model, the company's T226 doesn't try to be everything. Instead, it's just a nice little (79 gram) GSM/GPRS cell phone with a crisp little 512-colour screen. Talk-time is rated a reasonable 7.5 hours, with 275-hour standby.
While its minimalist approach omits a built-in camera, there's an optional tiny MCA 25 CommuniCam clip-up camera; pictures can be sent to other compatible phone or computer users. And if you've added a photo of the person calling to your phonebook, the picture ID feature shows them to you when they call.
The built-in mini-joystick makes navigating the menus and playing the phone's games easy. Pricing can be as low as $25 with a two-year Rogers/AT&T plan ($70 with the camera accessory).
Budget-friendly Media Center
Microsoft, and various manufacturers want home computer users to upgrade to Windows XP Media Center Edition. But it's not just another version of Windows; it's a whole new PC designed to integrate your TV (complete with recording programs) with your computer.
But if you're happy with your current PC, you can add TV functions for a lot less. Adaptec's VideOh line-up, for instance offers a range of products letting you connect your computer to a video source.
Products start with the $90 VideOh! CD, an external USB device that captures analog camcorder movies, converts them to digital signals, and sends the data to a CD burner. The $165 VideOh! PCI and $190 VideOh! DVD versions are internal or external units offering better performance and resolution along with the ability to produce DVDs (DVD burner not included).
The Media Center PCI ($220) and USB 2.0 ($255) editions add built-in TV tuners. These two gadgets can be connected to a TV cable as well as camcorders or VCRs, so that together they act as fully-functional personal video recorders. Watch TV on your computer screen (in a window while getting other work done or full-screen), or record to your hard disk. These models even include remote controls, letting you channel surf on your PC.
Connect everything simply
If you're adding gadgets (like Adaptec's VideOh models) to a PC, you'll find it much easier to work with external USB or Firewire versions rather than the more traditional PCI cards that require you to crack open the computer case (and which won't work with a notebook computer in any event). But you may find yourself with more gadgets than ports, or may be just tired of having to crawl to the back of your computer every time you want to plug in your digital camera or MP3 player.
There are lots of models of hubs. These are gadgets offering typically anywhere from four to seven extra ports in a little box. DLink's $75 DFBH7 stands out by offering a mix of high speed USB 2.0 (compatible with the older, slower USB 1.1 standard) and 1394 Firewire ports in a single unit, making it possible for users of both kinds of gadgets to reduce clutter and get by with a single hub. A total of seven ports (four USB 2.0 and three Firewire) in its compact case let PC and Mac users plug in a mix of digital cameras and camcorders, MP3 players, external hard drives, burners, scanners, printers and more with ease. Both Firewire and USB 2.0 cables are included.