Low End Mac

Macworld Expo Coverage

Macworld Expo

Non-Apple Products

Macworld Expo San Francisco

Dan Knight

One of the fun parts of the Expo is looking for new products: upgrades for older Macs, leading edge technologies, and useful peripherals among them.

Contour MiniPro Mouse

Laptops are great. I'm using my wife's iBook, which really does have a 4-5 hours battery life in the field. I love the way it sleeps when you shut the lid, then wakes up when you open it. I really love the AirPort card, which lets me connect to the Internet from the press room. I like the trackpad, which is the best I've ever used.

Still, I find a mouse far more natural and quicker than a trackpad. As a longtime fan of Contour mice (I've used their UniMouse for almost two years), I went in search of the compact optical mouse they introduced at Macworld Expo last summer. Then it was a $69 mouse, but Apple trumped it with a $59 optical mouse. Contour responded by dropping the price of their compact two-button MiniPro Mouse to $38. This includes a great storage case that keeps the USB cable from getting tangled. It also has five different colored buttons, making it a good match for most USB Macs.

I bought a pair at $30 each (gotta love show special prices!), one for my wife's iBook and one for the PowerBook G4 I plan on ordering next week.

ATI Xclaim TV USB edition

Want to watch TV on your iBook or transport analog video to your iMac for editing with iMovie? If so, ATI's new $99 Xclaim TV USB Edition could be for you. It combines cable input, a tuner, and video input with USB output and software to control it.

Cool as it is to watch TV on your desktop computer and even record programs to your hard drive, I think the great potential here is for people who want to use iMovie but don't yet have digital video equipment. The Xclaim TV USB Edition can capture video in real time at up to 320x240 pixels - not as impressive as DV, but at a fraction of the cost.

Imation DataPlay

Picture 500 MB of storage on an optical disk a bit larger than a quarter. That's the idea behind DataPlay, which stores 75% as much data as CD-R on a far more compact medium.

Available in October, DataPlay media ($10 per disk) will work with several devices, including the discGO!, which reads and writes DataPlay cartridges. discGO! itself connects to your computer with USB and also functions as an MP3 player. It looks promising, as does a device which can copy data from Compact Flash cards to DataPlay media in the field.

DataPlay is too thick for a reader that fits a single PC Card (previously PCMCIA) slot, but a drive that fits a double PC Card bay should be no problem. This could be a great backup medium for use in the field. Time will tell, but I think this is one of the most promising new technologies of the Expo.

There are only three drawbacks to DataPlay:

  1. It's a write-once medium, like CD-R, so you can't erase a disk and reuse it.
  2. You have to flip the disk for the second side, so it's only 250 MB per side. This is mostly a matter of convenience.
  3. It won't be available until October, giving others a chance to come up with competitive solutions.

Sonnet Encore/ST G4 Duet

If you have a Sawtooth Power Mac G4 and want more horsepower, the Encore/ST G4 Duet lets you replace the single processor with a pair of 500 MHz G4 processors. Not cheap, the $999 upgrade will drastically improve Photoshop and digital video performance under the current Mac OS (8.6 to 9.0.4) - and nearly double performance under OS X.

UniBrain FireNet

If fast ethernet isn't enough for you and you don't want to invest in gigabit ethernet (or have a Mac, such as the FireWire iBook or an iMac with FireWire) that doesn't support it), FireNet merits consideration for very high speed data transfer. FireNet is software that runs under Mac OS 9 or X, allowing you to move data at 400 Mbps using the TCP/IP protocol - for only $49 for the first Mac and $37 per additional station.

<back to Expo index>

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