You might have noticed that you're a bit short on USB ports these days. That's because so many different devices--from powered fans to flash drives--use them to hook up to your computer. We've rounded up some handy--and unusual--USB devices that can improve your computing experience.
For entrepreneurs looking to add to their USB collection, storage capacity is a big deal. The 120GB Memorex Ultra Travel-Drive ($150) is a high-capacity portable storage device. The USB connector lets you easily share with multiple computers, and the slim design is ideal for backing up laptops. A backup button and user-friendly software make the process painless.
For desktop duty, check out a USB device like the $499 Drobo storage robot from Data Robotics. It doesn't shoot lasers or walk on its own, but it does automate your computer backup with no configuration or management software required. Up to four hot-swappable hard drives of just about any capacity or from any manufacturer can be added. Drobo hooks up through a USB 2.0 port that allows it to read and write at around 22MB per second.
To handle your excess of USB peripherals, the $49.99 Belkin Hub-to-Go gives you seven USB 2.0 ports. Even better, part of the hub detaches so you can take four ports on the road with you. Speaking of portability, the $140 Kensington Wall/ Auto/Air Notebook Power Adapter with USB Power Port can power not only your notebook, but also a host of other mobile devices using USB Power Tips. It's versatile enough to help you out whether you're in the office or on the road.
USB does lend itself well to the gadget world. At $399, the MetaGeek Wi-Spy 2.4x spectrum analyzer isn't for everyone, but its powerful antenna and extensive software capabilities will help you (or your IT person) effectively analyze and trouble-shoot your wireless connections. After you identify the sources of interference, you can adjust your Wi-Fi for optimum office use. The compact size makes it easy to take along with a laptop to various work sites. USB gadgets don't have to be expensive. The notably inexpensive $11 Kingston MobileLite 9-in-1 Reader will help you transfer data from SD and MMC cards of all sizes to your computer.
The AMD ATI TV Wonder 600 USB is a compact USB HDTV tuner, a telescopic antenna, digital video recording software and a remote control. For about $100, it's the USB way to turn your computer into an HDTV, access over-the-air HD broadcasts and record them to your hard drive.
Expect USB to stick around, especially as it evolves into its wireless form. The first devices and computers supporting this new version of USB are slowly making their way to the market this year, but look for things to pick up in 2008 and beyond. In the meantime, you'll still need a USB hub to accommodate the USB devices already in your office and on your shopping list.