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The right gadgets for your home office [Virginian - Pilot]
[November 14, 2011]

The right gadgets for your home office [Virginian - Pilot]

(Virginian - Pilot Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) By Farhad Manjoo | The New York Times Working from home has its charms. A home office offers a quiet working environment with no dress code. You can choose your own music and have your own executive washroom. Productivity, however, still is the goal, and that's where technology comes into play. You'll need to outfit your home office with the right gadgets to make it function efficiently, and here are some suggestions: computer Your choice of computer is up to you - you know better than anyone whether a laptop suits your needs or whether it's best to go with a desktop model. Just make sure you have the speed and capacity you need.

Suggestion Sorry, you're on your own on this one, unless you're interested in a combination phone and laptop, which will be discussed later.

phone You don't always want to be tied to the handset of your phone, so look for one with a good speakerphone.

Suggestion The Calisto 800 Series speakerphone is a comprehensive home-office phone system, made by Plantronics. The phone - a sleek, black gadget about the size of an answering machine - ties together all your phone lines, including land line and cellphone - and allows you to control them from a central panel. To dial from any of those lines, just punch the number you're calling on the Calisto's dial pad; to retrieve an incoming call from any of those devices, just click a button. The Calisto, which sells for $280 in the configuration that was tested, has one key innovation that fixes the terrible sound of normal speakerphones. It comes with a wireless microphone that clips to your lapel. Because the mic is always close to your mouth, the other party does not hear a speakerphone's annoying echo.

phone-service provider An Internet phone system lets you cut down on your phone bill, which can be important if you make lots of calls.

Suggestion Skype allows you to make unlimited calls to both land lines and cellphones in the United States and Canada for $3 a month, for instance; for $9 a month, subscribers can make unlimited calls to land line phones in most European countries. But there's a problem with Skype: To get the best call quality, you usually need to use a headset that connects to your computer, and they can be uncomfortable. A high-quality microphone like Samson Meteor Mic can help, but at $99 it's not cheap.

printer Printers are simple gadgets that haven't changed much until recently. Over the past year, several printers have hit the market that are connected to the Internet, meaning you can print to them from anywhere.

Suggestion The Hewlett-Packard Envy 110 is a combination ink-jet printer, scanner and copier that has built-in Wi-Fi. The best thing about the Envy, which sells for $250, is that it has an email address. Rather than going through a balky setup routine for every computer in the house, you can just send a document to the printer's email address. If you want to print out a Microsoft Word file, say, just email it as an attachment to your printer - and voila, the printer spits out the document. You can do this from any machine in the world - not just your own home-office computer but also from your friend's computer or from your iPhone.

laptop-phone combo One solution for the space-squeezed - and for all workers who are constantly shuttling to airports, coffee shops and far-flung meetings and need to carry their office with them - is a combination laptop and phone.

Suggestion The Motorola Atrix 2 has a big screen and a touch interface, and at first glance, it looks like a regular smartphone. It runs Google's Android operating system, and it has access to a wide range of apps. But the Atrix 2 can also be turned into a laptop. The phone has a companion "dock," which is a foldable keyboard and screen. When you plug the Atrix 2 into the dock, the dock's screen and keyboard come alive. It's a great phone and a slightly less good laptop. The biggest problem with its laptop mode was that it seemed slow compared with a standard computer, and its touch pad was a bit awkward. One advantage, though, is that the laptop has a built-in 4G Internet connection, meaning that it gets speedy Web access even if you're not in a Wi-Fi hot spot. The other plus: It's cheap. The Atrix 2 is $99 with a two-year AT&T cellphone contract, and the accompanying dock sells for $299. This means that for about $400, you can get a phone and a computer that you can use anywhere - whether your home office is the spare room or the local Starbucks.

(c) 2011 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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