By using exotic materials and a wide range of bold colors, PC makers have really upped the ante this year when it comes to style. So it only makes sense that the gear you plug into your computer should get an overhaul, too. We have rounded up some of the best new peripherals to soup up your office desktop. Think of it as the computer equivalent of spinning rims and a custom paint job. Some of these devices, like the flat-screen monitor with two displays, may help you get more done. Others, like the keyboard with backlit keys,are just plain cool. And who knows, maybe that glow coming from your fingertips in the darkness will be the reminder you need to stop answering e-mails and finally call it a day.
What's cool: Juggling a lot of programs? This 22-inch LCD comes with a 7-inch companion screen that can be attached to the side or top of the main monitor via a pivoting arm. This sidekick is great for keeping tabs on e-mail or instant messages. You just drag the program window over with your mouse. The main display has a crisp 1680 x 1050 resolution and houses a 3-megapixel webcam.
Drawback: The secondary display's lower brightness and slower response time make it less than ideal for watching video.
What it is: An eco-friendly 500-gigabyte external hard drive
What's cool: A lot of tech companies claim their products are green, but this hard drive is the real deal. The case is made of recyclable aluminum and bamboo, the power adapter is Energy Star rated for efficiency, and the drive automatically turns off when you power down your PC. You can use the device to store memory-hogging media files or to back up your internal hard drive. Automatic backup software comes preloaded on the device.
Drawback: It works with Macs, but the bundled antivirus software and a feature that speeds up file transfers are both Windows-only.
What's cool: Kensington's docking station lets you move that tangle of cables away from your workspace while eliminating the need to crawl under your desk to plug and unplug peripherals. Using wireless USB technology, you can access up to five USB gadgets from as far as 15 feet away, including flash drives, printers, and scanners. Plus, the docking station includes built-in DVI and stereo outputs so you can use it for your monitor and speakers, too.
DrawbackS: File transfer speeds over wireless USB are slower than over a wired connection. The docking stationsupports only LCDs that are 19 inches or smaller.
What's cool: Not only is Logitech's latest design incredibly thin -- a mere 0.4 inches -- but it glows. The laser-etched keys are backlit (just the letters, not the whole keys), and you can adjust the brightness. The keyboard, which includes a soft palm rest, has keys that open certain applications (such as e-mail and your Web browser) and keys to control volume and playback of music and video.
Drawback:The mini light show doesn't really serve much of a purpose beyond making passersby say, "Oooh!"
What's cool: First came optical. Then laser. Now there's Blue-Track, a new technology from Microsoft that works on almost any surface, including marble, granite, hardwood, and even carpet. The blue LED at the bottom of the mouse isn't there just to look geek-chic. It helps the sensor capture higher-contrast images of surfaces for more precise tracking. The Explorer Mouse comes with a compact and easy-to-use recharging station and lasts about three weeks on a charge.
Drawback: The ergonomic design was created for the right-handed. Lefties might find it uncomfortable.
What it is: Computer speakers with built-in subwoofers
What's cool: You don't need to stuff a bulky subwoofer under your desk to get rich sound out of your PC. The Expressionist Bass lives up to its name by integrating a powerful 4-inch subwoofer right into the base of each 10-inch speaker. The speakers also include an auxiliary input for plugging in your iPod or other MP3 player.
Drawback: The design, reminiscent of a high-tech lighthouse, isn't for everyone.
You can find reviews of other hardware -- including computers, routers, printers, monitors, headsets, and hand-held devices -- at www.IncTechnology.com.