12 Fun and Functional Devices for Your Wi-Fi Network

By Joe Moran

October 18, 2011

A Wi-Fi network should consist of more than just PCs. These 12 products will help you take full advantage of the technology.

If your Wi-Fi network is mainly a way for you to walk around the house with your laptop, you're not taking full advantage of the technology. Read on for our list of cool and interesting products that let you do a host of useful things via Wi-Fi, including track your weight and household electrical consumption, upload photos wirelessly from a digital camera, remotely monitor your premises, and save money on your mobile phone bill.

Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale

The Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale does more than tell you your weight, fat/muscle mass, and BMI. Each time you step on the scale, it uploads that data to Withings' website (no subscription required) and graphs it so you can track changes over time from a browser, iPhone/iPad, or Android phone. Price: $159

PowerCost Monitor

If you'd like to get a handle on why your monthly electric bill is so high, the PowerCost Monitor Wi-Fi Edition from Blue Line Innovations can be a valuable tool. It's easy to install -- no electrician required -- and allows you to monitor your household's real-time power consumption via a wireless receiver. Best of all, it can send the data to either Google PowerMeter or Microsoft Hohm so you can analyze your historical power consumption patterns online. Price: $250

Wi-Fire

Sometimes the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to is a bit too far away for you to get a decent signal. But the Wi-Fire from hField Technologies, a USB 802.11b/g (not n) adapter with a high-gain directional antenna, can give you a reliable connection to distant networks in cases when a notebook's built-in adapter tends to fall short. Price: $49

Eye-Fi Pro X2

Sure, you could offload photos and videos from your camera by physically connecting it -- or it's memory card -- to your computer. But you could save yourself the hassle with an Eye-Fi Pro X2, an 8GB SD card with integrated Wi-Fi that can geotag and wirelessly transfer your snapshots and clips to your computer -- or upload them to one of several online services including Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and YouTube--as soon as you're in range of your home Wi-Fi network or a wireless hotspot. Price: $100

HP Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse

 

As the name suggests, HP's Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse connects to your laptop via Wi-Fi rather than a Bluetooth or proprietary 2.4GHz wireless technology. This means no receiver dongle to deal with and an extra free USB port to boot. HP also claims battery life more than double that of a comparable Bluetooth mouse. Price: $50

Dropcam Echo

Put a Dropcam Echo on your home or office network, and you'll be able to remotely monitor video and audio from a Web browser, Android device, or iPhone. (A video-only Dropcam is also available for $199.) The Dropcam can automatically email you a video snapshot when it detects motion, and with a $9/month subscription to the Dropcam DVR service, it saves recordings of your video to the company's servers. Price: $279

iConnect Wireless Data Station

You probably have a ton of USB hard or flash drives connected to various PCs, but with the Iomega iConnect Wireless Data Station, you can aggregate and make them all accessible to your entire network as a Wi-Fi NAS device. The iConnect also provides media streaming and remote access features, and includes software for PC backup. Price: $90

Roku XD|S

The Roku XD|S is a good companion for a TV--especially one without a conventional antenna, cable, or satellite connection. The small box can output 1080p HD video and supports a plethora of free and paid streaming media services including Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and Netflix, plus you can use the USB port to play your own photos, music, and video. Price: $100

Seagate GoFlex Satellite Mobile Wireless Storage

Most portable hard drives connect directly to a computer via a USB port, and the Seagate GoFlex Satellite does too (it's got a USB 3.0 port, which is backward-compatible with USB 2.0). But in addition to functioning as a conventional wired storage device, it can also stream data wirelessly Wi-Fi to an iPod/iPhone/iPad or other Wi-Fi enabled tablet or smartphone. No wires needed for power either; it's got a built-in battery. Price: $200

Vulkano Flow

If you want to watch broadcast, cable, or satellite TV, recorded DVR programming, or a DVD from anywhere in your home or while away from home, the Vulkano Flow will stream that material to a PC, Mac, iPhone/iPad, Android, or BlackBerry device. More expensive Vulkano models add recording capability along with internal Flash or hard drive storage. Price: $100

A T-Mobile Phone

The company's proposed acquisition by AT&T notwithstanding, if you're looking for a way to minimize your use of mobile
minutes, a T-Mobile phone may be the way to go. Many of the carrier's phones allow you to place and receive calls over Wi-Fi in addition to the cellular network, and such calls are free. (We can't provide a direct link to phones that support this feature, but to find them from the main T-Mobile page, choose Shop, Phones, All Phones, then check Wi-Fi Calling in the left-hand column.) Price: varies

Logitech Squeezebox Radio

To listen to music or other kinds of streaming audio around the house without a PC nearby or having to carry something like an iPod around, consider the Logitech Squeezebox Radio. This pint-sized player with integrated speaker can stream from your iTunes library as well as services such as Pandora, Rhapsody, and Slacker. An optional ($50) accessory pack adds a remote control and rechargeable battery for extra portability and convenience. Price: $180



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