Just bought a brand-spankin’ new dual-band router? Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard, Binky; your new toy just might be outclassed as soon as the end of this year by the first generation of tri-band devices with wireless radios operating on the 2.4-, 5.0-, and 60GHz frequencies. These could be the first networking products capable moving bits around your house at supremely fast speeds and cooking a pizza at the same time.
We’re just kidding about the pizza, but wireless routers operating on the unlicensed 60GHz frequency band do promise to deliver data throughput as high as 7Gb/sec. The IEEE Task Group AD (TGad for short; not to be confused with “teabag”) is busy developing a standard—IEEE 802.11ad—but the companies hoping to sell actual products based on this new technology aren’t taking any chances that the famously methodical international standards body might take the same long winding road they did with 802.11n. They formed a trade group—the Wireless Gigabit Alliance (WiGig)— in May 2009, and the alliance announced its own first-draft standard today.
Taking a design cue from the popular SideKick, T-Mobile today announced the myTouch 3G Slide smartphone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and a touchscreen.
"Many smartphones are increasingly powerful in their features and specifications without continuing to improve the main reason that so many people have mobile phones - the ability to communicate with each other," said Andrew Sherrard, vice president of product development, T-Mobile USA. "The new myTouch 3G Slide is a smart and sleek phone that fits into your pocket, your budget and your family life with exclusive T-Mobile features that put communication with your closest family and friends front and center."
The myTouch 3G Slide comes built around Google's Android 2.1 platform, giving it instant street cred. Other features include a 3.4-inch HVGA touchscreen display with virtual keyboard, 5MP camera, pre-installed 8GB microSD memory card, 3.5mm jack, and a whole bunch of customized apps like the Faves Gallery (social aggregrator for your contacts), myModes (profile manager for changing the phone's themes and settings based on time and location), Swype Keyboard, and more.
T-Mobile will offer the myTouch 3G in black, white, or red starting in June for an as yet undetermined price.
About four years ago, Bryan St. Germain, then 22-year old son of Bob St. Germain, used his Verizon cell phone to connect to the Web. What Bryan didn't know at the time was that the two-year promotional plan his father signed up for -- a plan which allowed for free downloads -- had passed, and he was now being charged per kilobyte.
The result? Little St. Germain racked up a $12,000 phone bill on his father's account, and then another $6,000 to be added to next month's bill. Apparently Bryan had been tethering his cell phone to his laptop because it was quicker than his father's dial-up service, but certainly not less expensive. Now four years later, Bob's debt incurred by his son sits in collections and the dispute between him and Verizon rages on.
"If there's extreme activity on your account, they should let you know," Bob said. "Nobody should get surprised like I did."
Sounds reasonable, but is Verizon really at fault? The wireless telco begs to differ, pointing out that it goes to "great lengths to educate" customers about their products and services so situations like this don't end up happening. But it did happen, and the question is, should Bob be forced to pay off his debt, which Verizon offered to cut in half?
"The wireless industry is extraordinarily competitive and customers have choices," Verizon wrote in a letter to the Boston Globe. "We work to win, and keep, customers every day--and we understand our customers don't like surprises. Neither do we--it's bad business. Which is why we clearly explain service plan details in brochures, during the purchase process, in our customer agreements and again through confirmation letters. We provide access to tons of account information through the MyVerizon Web page, and by dialing #BAL (balance information), #DATA (data usage), and #MIN (available minutes)."
Verizon went on to explain that customers have "numerous tools through the Internet" at their disposal to manage their family's cell phone usage, such as setting voice and messaging allowances and receiving free text alerts when a family member near or reaches their limits, among other things.
Should Bob be forced to pay the four-year-old bill, or should Verizon drop the charges? Hit the jump and sound off!
Mvix USA builds an extensive line of home-theater PCs, so when we saw the massive antenna on its Solido USB Wi-Fi adapter, we assumed it would outperform any adapter we’ve tested in Maximum PC Lab North’s media room. As it turned out, performance only equaled the best. Where this device excels is at range.
If you’re looking for an adapter to stream media from the 5GHz radio on your dual-band router, you can quit reading now because the Solido operates on the more common 2.4GHz band only. It is, however, compatible with 802.11b, g, and n routers. If your client PC is located in an entertainment center, you’ll want to be aware that the Solido’s antenna is 6.7 inches tall; but if you’re doing that, you’ve probably left plenty of vertical space for ventilation anyway.
There's a new version of Bluetooth on the way, one that will use less power and could potentially open the door to more functional watches, home sensors, medical equipment, and other gear that typically doesn't have the luxury of frequent battery recharges.
"It's going to enable an entirely new market for Bluetooth and allow it to be used in a category of products that Bluetooth just couldn't be used in before," said Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.
According to the Group, the chips for the low-energy version of Bluetooth will be ready in a just a few months, likely resulting in products being ready in time for the holiday shopping season. Health and fitness products, such as pedometers and glucose monitors, could end up being a big focus of these new Bluetooth chips.
"Today’s news from the Bluetooth SIG is an exciting step forward for technology in mobile health and wellness devices," said Rick Cnossen, president and board chair, Continua Health Alliance. "Our selection of Bluetooth low energy for the Continua Version Two Design Guidelines extends exciting new capabilities to manufacturers and consumers alike, as well as enabling additional use cases within the Continua ecosystem."
It wasn’t much of a contest: Netgear’s WNDR3700 V1 retained its crown as our Best of the Best router with spectacular TCP through-put, a strong feature set, and an even stronger price/performance ratio. It’s the second-most expensive router we tested, but it’s worth every penny.
The WNDR3700’s 2.4GHz radio delivered the best performance at every client location except one (where it placed second), and its 5GHz radio finished first in six of our seven locations. D-Link’s DIR-855 firmware is more customizable, but Netgear’s router offers several important features D-Link can’t match, including a DLNA-compliant media server, the ability to configure either radio as a wireless bridge/repeater, and NAS functionality that doesn’t require a client-side utility.
Belkin, apparently inspired by the "explosion of multimedia content," is adding app support to its new wireless routers, the company announced on Wednesday.
"In a recent IDC survey, 72 percent of respondents own a digital still camera and use it at least once a month in the home," Belkin said. "As such, we can expect that more people will want to share their photos and videos in more places."
Belkin's detective work didn't stop there, and the company cited a Forrester study in which the digital music market has grown to $3 billion in the U.S. in 2008. Looking to capitalize on all this, Belkin's "Surf, Share, Play, and Play Max Wireless Routers" will offer a variety of apps, including Music Mover, which lets users play their entire music library on smart devices.
But it's not all about fun play. The Print Genie app allows uses to wirelessly print from any computer on the network, while the Memory Safe app performs automatic backups of photos and files to an external drive (sold separately, of course). Other apps include:
Self Healing: Automatically detect and resolve network problems
Music Labeler: Automatically identifies and labels tracks with correct title, artist, and genre
Daily DJ: Provides personalized playlists from your music library based on your mood
Torrent Genie: Downloads large media files whether your PC is on or off
Bit Boost: Prioritizes traffic on your network for video, gaming, and VoIP
Not all apps are available on all routers. Look for the new line to be made available in April starting at $50.
Eye-Fi this week announced a new lineup of wireless memory cards that are twice as nice as previous gen models in a number of ways. According to Eye-Fi, the new X2 series transfer data twice as fast as before, serve up to twice the capacity, and now have twice as many hotspots to work from.
"Just in time for spring outings and summer road trips, we're giving users the ultimate Eye-Fi experience -- it's faster and even more convenient," said Jef Holove, CEO for Eye-Fi. "Uploading and sharing your memories with friends and family is as simple as finding a nearby Starbucks and turning on your camera. We do the rest."
There are three cards in the new series, including the Eye-Fi Connect X2 (4GB), Explorer X2 (8GB), and Pro (X2). All three cards are rated for Class 6 performance and come capable of uploading photos and vids to a home PC or one of more than 25 online sharing sites, like Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, or Picasa.
Both the Explorer X2 and Pro X2 come with lifetime geotagging and one-year of hotspot access, while the Pro X2 is also capable of creating an ad hoc connection
Pricing for new cards has been set at $50 (Connect X2), $100 (Explore X2), and $150 (Pro X2).
A long time in the making, Creative Technology today announced that its Creative Sound Blaster World of Warcraft Wireless Headset is now available for purchase.
"As the leading innovator in precision audio for PC gaming, we were well positioned to develop a headset that could live up to the high standards set forth by Blizzard Entertainment games," said Steve Erickson, VP and GM for Audio and Video at Creative. "The Sound Blaster World of Warcraft Wireless Headset is a result of this, providing an unprecedented combination of wireless technology, THX TruStudio PC technology for enriched audio performance, and a unique design that stands out from anything else available to gamers."
The headset comes with interchangeable headset lenses so your mom knows where your allegiance lies when she brings you dinner during a raid. Other features include oversized padded earcups, built-in rechargeable battery, VoiceFX technology, a detachable microphone, and an optional Voice Tap accessory to eliminate the need to put down the hot pocket and push a key to talk.
Leave it to Brando to really talk up a product. The “Rii Mini Wireless Keyboard” is apparently pretty awesome if you take their word for it. It has 26 “dazzling” LEDs backlighting the keyboard. As if that wasn’t enough to sell you, it is designed to be easy to carry; by being small apparently. Then there’s the “notebook trackpad”. If you still have doubts, just remember this: it also has a laser pointer. How can they power all this awesome? Well the Rii Mini Wireless Keyboard has a “Built-in rechargeable more staying power lithium-ion battery”.
In all seriousness though, it doesn’t look like a terrible solution for a media center PC controller. The keyboard layout looks a bit awkward with the trackpad shifting the keys to the left. It uses a standard 2.4GHz wireless radio with a 30 meter range. The price is a little steep at $92. That’s maybe too much until you consider that you get “iPhone style craft, classic style” according to Brando. Get it here, if you wish.