The scoop: MIMO MagicTouch 10-inch touch-screen USB monitor, by MIMO Monitors, about $300.
What is it? This 10.1-inch display looks like a tablet, but when you connect it to its tabletop stand, it can plug in directly via USB (two ports needed) to a PC or Macintosh system and provide additional monitor space. If you have a Windows 7 system, the monitor can be touch screen-enabled, to let you draw or open applications with your finger (or stylus).
Why it's cool: The USB cable and DisplayLink software are easy to install quickly to the PC, and the extra screen real estate is good for using the monitor as a digital picture frame, for playing multimedia from, and for multitasking without needing to clutter up your main monitor. The small size and portability might appeal to netbook and notebook users.
Some caveats: The touch-screen functionality only works with Windows 7, and it was sporadic at best. With other Windows systems and the Mac, you can only use this as a secondary display. In addition, the price seems high when you can also buy a larger monitor (a 15-inch LCD for example) and then buy a $50 USB adapter and still have money left over.
Grade: 2 stars (out of five)
What is it? This may be the tiniest wireless router that you've ever seen. Small enough to fit in your hand (and travel bag), the Nano Router sports an Ethernet port and a power port, which can be powered by a regular power outlet or a USB port on a computer. The device can be used as a wireless bridge (giving Wi-Fi capabilities to non-wireless devices via Ethernet), a repeater (extend an existing Wi-Fi network range), or as its own router.
Why it's cool: Using the device as its own router is intriguing, especially for travelers. By plugging the device into a wired Ethernet connection (say, at a hotel), you can then provide Wi-Fi access to multiple devices (tablets, smartphones, etc.) via the one connection. On a recent trip, I discovered the hotel had placed the wired Ethernet cable on the nightstand next to the bed instead of near the desk. With this unit, you can use Wi-Fi from the desk/PC to the Nano Router, which contained the hotel broadband cable.
Some caveats: The provided Ethernet cable is way too small for regular use -- use your own longer cable for optimal device placement. Configuring the unit for modes other than a router is tricky.
Grade: 4 stars
The scoop: GameCom 780 USB headset, by Plantronics, about $80.
What is it? Geared toward gamers, the GameCom 780 headset combines Dolby technologies to provide 7.1 surround sound experience not only for games, but for listening to music or even for VoIP applications like Skype. The unit includes a noise-canceling microphone that can flip up when it's not being used, and large ear cushions with 40mm speakers.
Why it's cool: For some reason, the best computer headsets are marketed toward gamers, but you can also use them for non-gaming activities such as videoconferencing, watching movies or listening to music. For me, the most important features tend to be the microphone quality (and with a noise-canceling mic, this helps immensely) and ear comfort. When playing games you tend to wear the headset for a long period of time, and I didn't experience a lot of ear fatigue wearing these compared with other headsets. The 7.1 surround feature made the games sound really good.
Some caveats: On some occasions there was some static crackling from the headsets when playing games; it could have been the PC I was using the headset on, however. I was also disappointed that you can't use these on a Mac.
Grade: 4 stars
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @shawkeith
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