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Why Wi-Fi? Let Us Count the Ways

By Michael Antonoff

Wi-Fi networks aren't just for computer users anymore. Appliance-like devices let you access entertainment stored on your home network or streamed from the Internet. Now, you can move around your Wi-Fi-equipped home with a handheld screen unencumbered by cables or use a tabletop player without having to attach it to an Ethernet jack. Here are a variety of ways to get the most from your Wi-Fi router with broadband access.

1. Wake Up to the Other Coast with an Internet Clock Radio

Fall out of bed to the balalaika stirrings of Radio Kazakhstan (or something equally exotic)! Hang on every word of Bay Area traffic and weather–from 2,564 miles away! The standalone Roku Soundbridge Radio Network Music Player not only replaces ionosphere-dependent shortwave by reaching across the planet via the Internet, it also plays music stored on your computer and lets you assign URL, play list, AM, and FM presets.

Roku Soundbridge Radio Network Music Player
Roku Soundbridge Radio Network Music Player

 

2. Live Large with an iTunes-Ready Media Receiver

Anyone can hunch over a computer or peer into an iPod to experience music, photos, videos, and podcasts. But wouldn't you rather enjoy all your iTunes content on your big-screen HDTV and large speakers instead? With Apple TV, slide shows rock, album covers flow, and music videos sizzle. You can stream or copy content to its internal 40- or 160-Gigabyte hard drive. You can stream YouTube, too. Requires: Mac or Windows PC, home network (wired or Wi-Fi), and a TV with HDMI or component video inputs.

160GB Apple TV
160GB Apple TV

3. Wreak Envy with a Media Extender Sporting an Even Bigger Hard Drive

Why stop at 160GB (as in AppleTV) when you go with 300 gigs? The MvixUSA MX-760HD High-Definition Multimedia Center with 300GB Hard Drive lets you stream music, photos, and video from your home network to your TV or copy content via the USB cable from your computer, then walk it over to your TV. The MX-760HD is compatible with a long list of media formats. It requires a Mac or Windows PC and, for streaming, a home network (wired or Wi-Fi). The MX-760HD with 300GB is $384.95 (a $15 savings versus purchasing the media receiver and hard drive separately.) On top of that, there’s a $25 rebate from the manufacturer, MvixUSA. To be eligible for the rebate, the purchase must be made between Dec. 1 and Dec. 7, 2007 and postmarked by Dec. 24, 2007.

The MvixUSA MX-760HD High-Definition Multimedia Center
The MvixUSA MX-760HD High-Definition Multimedia Center

4. Watch YouTube, See Flickr Photos, and Stream Net Radio

The Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD media receiver doesn't contain a hard drive, but it's one of the most versatile streaming media players available for a conventional TV or HDTV set. Besides being able to play many different video and audio formats, it infinitely enlarges photos from your networked computer. (Finally, there's a reason besides oversize printing for having those multi megapixels in your camera!) You can also access the Flickr photo site, watch YouTube videos, and stream thousands of Internet radio stations. With the EVA8000, you may forget that your TV gets cable, too.

See B&H's exclusive video podcast on the Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD media receiver here.

Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD media receiver
Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD media receiver

5. Touch the WWW on a Portable Screen with Wi-Fi

Some people download select TV shows at $1.99 each and transfer them to a portable device. Others record any program they want directly into a player at no cost beyond their cable or satellite subscription. The second way is part of the appeal of the Archos 605 WiFi portable media player used with the DVR Station Gen 5. In addition, the 605 lets you stream YouTube wirelessly or enjoy songs, videos, and photos copied from your computer. With the optional browser, you can surf the Internet via Wi-Fi. (Coming soon: being able to view programs streamed live from a Slingbox – see below.) The 4.3-inch high-res wide display is a touch screen so, for instance, seeing the next photo is as simple as sliding your finger across the screen.

Archos 605 WiFi models are available in various internal storage capacities including 30GB ($279) and 80GB ($329) hard drives and a 4GB flash memory ($199) version. The latter model also contains an SD card slot. The DVR Station Gen 5 ($79.95) uses a localized program guide you download.

Visit the entire Archos 605 WiFi portable media player family.

See B&H's exclusive video podcast on the Archos 605 here.

Archos 605 WiFi
Archos 605 WiFi

6. Watch and Control Your TV's DVR on a Computer at Home or Away from Home

The opposite of a media receiver (watch your computer on your TV) is a placeshifter (watch your TV on your computer). Sony's LocationFree TV can sit next to two video sources – your digital video recorder and a video camera – and wirelessly stream to your home network. From a computer in another room you can watch whatever you'd see if you were actually in front of your TV. With a broadband connection, the computer could even be in another country. An infrared blaster on the LocationFree TV base station lets you change channels and play recorded programs using a software version of your remote on the computer screen. Sony's LF-V30 LocationFree Base Station ($249.95) accepts high definition signals via component video inputs, though the resolution will be stepped down to DVD quality or less once the program shows up on your computer screen.

Sony's LocationFree TV
Sony's LocationFree TV

Sling Media's Slingbox Solo Internet TV Broadcaster offers similar capabilities, but it doesn't build in a Wi-Fi connection. (It has an Ethernet jack only.) Besides computers, it streams to SmartPhones and certain cellphone models, too. The Slingbox Solo Internet TV Broadcaster is $148.00 (free ground shipping)

7. Send Pictures to the Internet Wirelessly from Your Camera

A handful of Wi-Fi-enabled digital cameras have had the capability of transferring images without connecting a cable or removing the memory card. Now, any camera that accepts an SD card can perform the same trick. The Eye-Fi Wireless SD Memory Card with 2 Gigabytes of storage embeds a chip-size transmitter that makes it possible for you to send your pictures to a computer and one of 17 photo-sharing sites through a wireless network. With the Eye-Fi Card ($99.99), the next step after point and shoot is upload.

Eye-Fi Wireless SD Memory Card
Eye-Fi Wireless SD Memory Card

These are a just few of the many things you can do when you dwell in a digital world. And we haven’t even talked about Wi-Fi connected digital picture frames, the iPhone or iPod Touch, and other connected devices. So, if anyone asks why Wi-Fi, the proper response is why not?

Please email feedback on this article, or suggestions for future topics, to emailfeedback@bhphotovideo.com