Essential Tools for Every Home Office
HP 8500 A909G Multi-function PrinterSeagate Replica Hard DriveFonGenie Phone Answering SystemIdeaPaintThe GetFlip MinoXShot Camera ExtenderMobile Broadband Wireless CardTargus Universal Laptop Docking StationDell Latitude Z Laptop
At $229, this ink-jet printer is a bargain, and it uses high-capacity cartridges, which reduce ink costs. Just be aware of your office's needs, because although it prints 19 pages per minute -- both for color and black and white -- and the recommended monthly print load tops out at 1,250 pages, it does not offer wireless connectivity or double-sided printing.
If you are searching for a hard drive with a complete backup system, the Seagate Replica may be the storage system for you. This 5.6-inch device is an ideal data-disaster-prevention tool. Just plug it in and hit OK, and it will continuously back up everything, including your operating system, programs, and settings. Plus, you can choose your storage option and price point -- from $130 for up to 250 GB for a single PC, to $180 for up to 500 GB for multiple PCs.
Think of FonGenie as a more sophisticated version of Google Voice. Working as an automated service that lets you manage your company's phone-answering system online, FonGenie enables users to customize phone menu options, and analyze phone traffic. Plus, you can choose between two text-to-speech voices to create messages that provide general business information, answer frequently asked questions, and advertise promotions. After a 60-day free trial, the service costs $30 for 300 minutes, or $150 per month for an unlimited plan.
The next time you host a brainstorming session, take notes on the wall. IdeaPaint can transform any wall into a dry-erase board. Start with a coat of primer, then apply a layer of IdeaPaint. A $200 kit, available at IdeaPaint.com, contains a roller and enough paint to cover 50 square feet, for a cost of $4 per square foot. (By contrast, whiteboards usually cost $8 to $20 per square foot.)
The customizable Get chair by Harter is a good choice for the style-conscious, and it has ergonomic features, such as an adjustable back. Armrests are optional, the back comes in three styles, and the seat can be vinyl, fabric, or leather. The warranty lasts up to three years for the upholstery, and five and up for the parts. Chairs run between $409 and $590.
For small businesses that want to use websites like YouTube for promotion, the pocket-size Flip Mino is an easily accessible camcorder that can record an hour of video. A panel on the back controls the camera's bare-bones functions -- record, zoom, pause, and a few others -- and a tiny 1.5-inch color monitor handles video playback. The device, which lasts four hours on a charge, has an attached USB connector, making it easy to load videos to either Macs or PCs, and its software also handles rudimentary editing. At around $150, it won't break the bank. HD versions are available for $200 and $230, depending on memory capacity.
With the XShot Camera Extender, you can be your own cameraman. The extender has a no-slip grip, can extend to 37 inches, and shrinks to a pocket-friendly nine inches when closed. Plus, it fits all compact cameras, and simply screws into a camera's tripod mount. The lightweight device runs $29.95, and will allow you the freedom of taking photos or videos anywhere, without asking a stranger for help.
Sometimes you just need to flee the house, but a Mobile Broadband Wireless Card can keep you connected to the Web. AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint all offer different versions. Unlike cell phone plans, mobile broadband services tend to offer simplified billing, and most carriers will provide connectivity from $80 to $100 per month. Virgin Mobile and others now offer pay-as-you-go plans as well.
The Universal Laptop Docking System from Targus, which starts at $149.99, is perfect for connecting your laptop to a monitor, printer, or other device. This new product is the first USB-based docking station with true video output capabilities, and its "One Touch" interface allows users to quickly and easily connect to external hardware. Plus, a button on the back of the device allows two of the four USB ports to always have power regardless of whether your computer is off or in sleep mode. Mac users are out of luck for now, however.
At just over an inch thin, and weighing a mere 4.5 pounds, Dell is calling its brand new Latitude Z model the "world's thinnest and lightest 16-inch laptop." With a base cost of $1,799, the Z600 includes intuitive touch controls complete with customizable application shortcuts. Plus, the device has a Webcam option, which enables you to quickly scan business cards or copy documents using Dell Capture technology, and automatically lock out other users using the Dell FaceAware tool for personalized security.