Hardware

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SMC WSKP100

SMC’s Skype phone is proof positive that consumer electronics design in 2006 is largely inspired by the iPod. Shiny, white plastic design? Check. Rounded edges? Check. Flat face? Check. Poor user interface that frequently doesn’t work right, and a screen that sometimes shuts off at random? Oh wait, Apple’s products don’t have that.

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IO Data BRD-UM2/U

Combining a Blu-ray drive with a USB interface seems at first like hitching a flying saucer to a wheelbarrow. Can USB’s meager bandwidth handle such newfangled technology? Even at full-tilt, 2x Blu-ray burns hover in the 8MB/s range, which is actually slower than an 8x DVD burn. So, yes, USB 2.0 provides plenty of bandwidth.

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Plextor PX-B900A

When is a Plextor drive a Plextor drive? Certainly not when it’s a Panasonic.

To get onboard the Blu-ray train in a hurry, Plextor rebadged a Panasonic SW-5582 Blu-ray drive as its own. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Invaluable firmware updates will come from Plextor and not some Pac Rim outfit. And to be fair, the Panasonic’s far better than the first-gen Pioneer Blu-ray drive we reviewed in October, which couldn’t even read CDs.

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Sandisk Sansa E260

The Sansa e260 has several features we’d love to see in other media players, including a microSD card slot; unfortunately, it’s also saddled with a killer design flaw.

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iRiver Clix

We hereby decree that every new media player should henceforth be equipped with an instant-on feature, like that of iRiver’s Clix. You push the power button and—bam!—the Clix is up and running.

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Razer Krait

We’ve traditionally slammed Razer mice because their oversize buttons are too easy to accidentally click and their low-profile ambidextrous design hurts our hands over long sessions. The new Krait ditches the obnoxious, impossible-to-click side buttons that we detested on the Copperhead model and streamlines the overall shape of the mouse, for a mousing experience that had us pleasantly surprised.

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GuardID ID Vault

Today’s simple username/password system is a single-factor authentication mechanism—your credentials are the only information necessary. When an evildoer has that information, whether it was stolen with a keylogger or a “phishing” email, you’re screwed.

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MSI K9N SLI Platinum

We loved MSI’s last nForce4 board so much that we gave it a Kick Ass award and even bumped the Asus A8N32-SLI board from our Best Of The Best list. Unfortunately, MSI was so late to the nForce4 SLI x16 party that the board debuted right on the cusp of the AM2 launch; thus its lifespan was brief, and product was impossible to find.

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