For work in the office and at home, a powerful laptop computer or a mini desktop unit can function well as a replacement for a conventional PC.
The new Acer TravelMate 8100 notebook (about $2,000) features a 15.4-inch wide screen with WSXGA (1680 x 1050 pixels) resolution, and an ATI X700 graphics card with 128 MB of external DDR VRAM memory, for exceptional graphics and gaming capabilities. This 6.3-lb. portable utilizes a Pentium M 1.8 GHz processor and Centrino-based wireless capabilities, to deliver up to 4 hours of battery life for the long train ride home. It also features a roomy 100 GB hard drive, a double layer DVD burner, and a 5-in-1 card reader to facilitate transfer of photos and other data.
Though not strictly a portable computer, Apple's new Mac Mini offers an inexpensive way to get in touch with the advantages of Mac OS X, and a convenient way to compute anywhere there is a screen and USB keyboard/mouse. The diminutive unit measures only 6.5 inches wide, 2 inches tall, and weighs in at just 2.9 lbs. A basic Mac Mini cost less than $500, but you'll probably want to upgrade the memory to at least 512 MB ($75), and add Wi-Fi wireless capability for an additional $79.
Data storage and distribution are tough challenges for growing businesses with limited IT resources. New DVD Double Layer (DL) media and Networked Attached Storage (NAS) hard drives offer simple solutions to data overflow blues.
The Plextor PX-716UF (less than $240) external drive with high-speed USB and FireWire interfaces, can be used with both PCs and Macs to back up critical data or record slide shows and digital video onto a variety of media, including the new DVD+R DL. The unit is a snap to set up right out of the box, and is bundled with Roxio Easy Media Creator 7.5 for PC and Roxio Toast 6 Lite for Mac.
Pushing the versatility envelope, the latest multipurpose CD/DVD burner from Sony features direct video recording. Sony's DVDirect VRD-VC10 (under $300) connects to a VCR or camcorder's analog video output, to create discs that can be played on a typical DVD player. The drive also connects to a PC through a USB 2.0 port for "conventional" burning of single and double layer DVDs.
If your hard drives runneth over, or your file server is on overload, check out one of the new, low maintenance NAS appliances. Maxtor's Shared Storage unit with 300 GB of storage space costs around $400. The unit also functions as a print server, and you can add up to two inexpensive USB drives for additional capacity. The easy to set up Wireless LinkStation Network Storage Center from Buffalo Technologies, provides both 802.11g and wired Ethernet access to 300 GB of shared storage for less than $550.
Selecting tools that improve your ability to process and store information is a sure way to make work more enjoyable and productive.
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