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Wi-Fi Product Watch

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First, the products featuring Wi-Fi announced and/or demonstrated at CES 2006 in Las Vegas over the weekend:

Just behind Netgear and Linksys announcing they will use Airgo’s 3rd Generation of MIMO chips comes Buffalo Technology. The company’s new AirStation MIMO Wireless Cable/DSL Router (model WZR-G240, $150) and AirStation MIMO Wireless Notebook Adapter (WLI-CB-G240, $100) will both ship in February and will feature Buffalo’s own AOSS (One-Touch Secure System) to instantly turn on WPA2 security between client and router. The router supports not just standard cable and DSL broadband, but also fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). Buffalo is also showing other Wi-Fi products at CES, including new additions to its line of high-power routers and adapters (which use special antennas and built-in signal amplifiers), now supporting dual-band 802.11a/g.

Linksys has several new products on display at the show. They include the Linksys Compact Wireless-G Internet Video Camera (model WVC54GC, $130), a unique-looking camera that makes video viewable on any Web browser using a dynamic DNS service; the Wireless-G Music Bridge (WMB54G, $100), an audio receiver that isn’t tied to any one music service or type of file (like MP3s) — it’s a virtual sound card, and while hooked up to your stereo, it plays back whatever sounds are generated by your PC; and finally, the Wireless-G Media Storage Link Router with Speed Booster (WRTSL54GS, $130) is what you’d expect — a network attached storage device that also happens to be a router and 802.11g access point in one.

D-Link has some “next gen” Wi-Fi media products to show at CES. The latest is the MediaLounge High Definition (HD) Wireless Media Player with DVD (model DSM-520RD, no pricing announced), which includes a 5-in-1 Flash Card Reader. A similar unit comes with 100GB of storage to hold pictures and videos. Both will support the Intel Viiv technology, and will be out in the second half of this year. D-Link also has a new Wireless Internet Camera that supports 802.11g and can be viewed via any browser using a dynamic DNS service that comes with the cam. Finally, a new GamerLounge Wireless Router (DGL-4300) is the company’s first with Gigabit Ethernet ports, but it also supports 108Mbps 802.11g and the GameFuel technology for better online game performance. It’s optimized to work with gaming consoles as well as PCs. D-Link is also going to sell a triple-threat GamerLounge Wireless Gaming Adapter (DGL-3420) that hooks to any console (Xbox, PS2 or GameCube)—and on Xbox, it doesn’t even need separate configuration; it can be done through the console interface.

Actiontec Electronics’ latest router includes VoIP service support. The Actiontec 54 Mbps Wireless DSL Gateway with Voice is intended for resale by telecoms with such services based on SIP, so pricing is undetermined. The unit supports two SIP-based voice ports, a POTS backup, and broadband from ADSL 2/2+ modems, plus the usual 4-port Ethernet switch and Wi-Fi access point. It should ship sometime this quarter, and will come with all cables, even phone cords.

2Wire makes a good living selling gateways to telecoms for resale or distribution, but they’re going a different way with the new HomePortal 4000 series iNID (intelligent Network Interface Device). This is an outdoor unit that mounts to the side of a house so technicians can deal with it without entering the customer’s home — the DSL line would stop outside. 802.11g is a customer-installable option, as it is with the indoor 3000 series.

Control4 says it has a Wi-Fi based system for running home entertainment and controls. The Wi-Fi Control4 Speaker Point ($450) and Mini Touch Screen ($800) are part of the company’s overall portfolio, which includes wired and wireless products that are IP (Internet Protocol) based. Speaker Point is a digital audio receiver with a 50 watt per channel digital amplifier; it can be hooked up anywhere in the house. The touchscreen looks like a wall-mounted thermostat with a color screen — it includes the remote audio decoder and access to the Control4 Navigator software interface.

Hauppauge Digital has a new MediaMVP Wireless Set-Top Receiver for playing music, video and pictures stored on PCs (thus the “MVP”) on the TV and stereo using 802.11g. It supports MPEG and DivX video formats as well as MP3 music files. It will sell for $150.

CEIVA Logic makes Digital Photo Receivers in the form of picture frames. This year, they’re making one that has 802.11b/g built in, so the frame can pull photos from your online account and create a never-ending digital slide show on your walls (previous versions had to hook up to the Internet via wired phone or broadband connections).

You probably can’t control any of the above with the OpenPeak SimpleRemote, but this Wi-Fi equipped universal remote can be programmed through your PC without hooking it up via a cable like others. The remote itself has a 2.2-inch VGA color LCD screen so you can preview photos or videos on your PCs or Web cams as well.

NewSoft American’s Presto! WMS (Wireless Multimedia System) receives broadcasts at any display with a VGA/XVGA connector —usually a projector — of screen captured images from a Wi-Fi enabled PC or notebook (802.11a/b/g all supported). Content is shown at 15 frames per second over the 802.11 link. It sells for $249 on the NewSoft Web site.

BenQ says its CP120 is the lightest and smallest projector available with built-in dual-band Wi-Fi. It weighs only 2.9 pounds, and measures 8.58(w) x 6.77(h) x 2.40(d) in inches. It has XGA native resolution, with a lumens rating of 1500. It also uses the new sRGB (Standard Red Green Blue) specification from Microsoft and HP for color matching between software and hardware devices. It’s out now, and sells for $1,800.

A multi-function with it all: Brother’s $250 MFC-820cw is a 6000×1200 dpi inkjet printer, plus copier, scanner, fax and PhotoCapture Center (reading photos from media cards), which also happens to support network connections via Ethernet and 802.11b/g — which must be Broadcom-chip based, because it also supports SecureEasySetup for one-button security activation. It has a flip-up 2.5-inch color LCD built in for previewing images and using menus. It will be out in February. The company also has a sub-$200 unit, the MFC-640cw, with most of the same specifications; it lacks the color LCD (only 2-line backlit monochrome) but builds in a full-duplex speakerphone. It won’t be out until the last quarter of 2006.

Finally, chipmaker Atheros Communications is showing off all the latest and greatest in its Wi-Fi portfolio of tricks at CES. This includes their XSPAN-branded MIMO technology that they say generates 300Mbps data rates (and could give them a leg up on 802.11n if their founding member stance with the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) leads to a win in the 802.11n spec race this month); ROCm, a mobile Wi-Fi platform for phones, cameras and other small, low-power devices; Atheros chip use in metro Wi-Fi mesh networks; and the JumpStart for Wireless 2.0 technology for easy security configuration (1.0 premiered at last year’s CES).

And outside of Vegas last week:

Socket Communications says its new $99 Go Wi-Fi! P500 802.11g CompactFlash card is the fastest way to connect Windows Mobile 2003/SE & 5.0 Mobile based PDAs to a WLAN. It includes Socket’s Wi-Fi Companion software for connection management and fully supports connections using WPA2-Enterprise security. LEDs on the card itself also help show connection status.

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