Three-Point Plays: Quick Looks at New Gadgets

A roundup of recently released tech gadgets, ideal for the well-equipped geek in your life:

A Switch in Time — Kensington Share Central 5

As the computer revolution marches ever onward, more people have a second computer on their desks. Sometimes it's a combination of a PC and a Mac. For others, it's a desktop and a docked laptop.

But in either case, you're not likely to have doubles of your peripherals, such as printers, scanners or even external hard drives. There have been lots of devices over the years to enable shared devices, and certainly tons of USB hubs, but this one may be the most sophisticated.

The Kensington Share Central 5 (suggested price $80.00) allows you to share five different USB devices between two different computers. The unit has interchangeable keycaps, and LEDs to show you which peripherals are in use. You can even use one keyboard and mouse for both computers, thus saving a load of desk space.

The three-point play:

— lets you share peripherals between 2 computers

— LEDs shows you which peripherals are in use

— device allows you to reduce desktop cable clutter

Remotely Simple — Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote Control by Logitech

Not everyone is going to want to pay anywhere from $180 to $260 for a universal remote control. But then not every remote controls as much as the Harmony One.

First of all, the design is terrific, and the remote lets you control station switching, source switching, record and playback on a VCR and many other functions, falling just short of turning on the microwave to pop the popcorn.

Setting this up does take some work. I found some hang-ups with the Mac setup in particular, but also found fixes on line.

You need to allow yourself at least an hour to go to the Logitech site to find your TV, audio receiver, DVD player, VCR, cable box, satellite receiver, game system, etc. Then you input all the information to the remote via a USB cable.

A few clicks and lo and behold, your entire system works together as a seamless whole. And if something doesn't work properly, the interactive touchscreen asks you questions and offers solutions until all is copacetic within your electronic universe.

The three-point play:

— allows you to control all your entertainment devices with one remote control

— interactive touchscreen helps you troubleshoot if there are any problems

— setup takes time and effort, but it's worth it in the end

Herculean Sound in a Small Package — Hercules XPS 2.150 Multimedia Speakers

Real estate is certainly at a premium on my desk. But I also have come to rely on my computer as my major source of music, at least in the cramped quarters of my home office.

The new Hercules XPS 2.150 desktop speakers are reasonably priced ($70) and offer a better-than-expected experience without taking up very much real estate.

The system comes with two desktop speakers and a subwoofer that fits comfortably under the desk. While the sound reproduction is good, the bass response from the subwoofer will not make you think the walls of Jericho are about to crumble.

But the mid-range sound is clean, and the treble response is good (not the tinny sound I expect from inexpensive speakers). All and all, this is a good value play with a small footprint for someone who can't quite afford to put a set of Boses on the desk.

The three-point play:

— comes with a subwoofer

— solid sound reproduction

— very small footprint

Chill Out — CoolIT Systems USB Beverage Chiller

Well, this one isn't brain surgery. But it works, and it's useful. CoolIT Systems, best known for devices to cool down your computer's CPU, makes this device to cool down your Diet Coke.

The desktop beverage chiller ($25) is a cold plate that plugs into a USB port and rapidly cools down to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. If, like me, you take an hour or two to sip your way through a can of soda or juice, this is a useful addition. Just don't knock the soda into your keyboard.

I found it better suited to cans than to plastic or glass bottles.

The three-point play:

— plugs into USB port

— keeps cans chilled on your desktop

— not quite as effective on bottles

Picture This — Hewlett-Packard DF300 Mini Picture Frame

This product is just so cute I wanted to tuck it on my desk and leave it there. So I did.

I love to keep pictures of my kids and my recent trips on my desk, but have next to no room. This 3.5-inch picture frame from Hewlett-Packard ($45 - $60) really fits the bill.

It plugs into your USB port, which will let you transfer pictures from your computer, and keep it powered up. It has a limited internal memory, but will take an SD card. It also comes with an attractive leather case.

The internal battery will keep it running long enough to entertain those who really want to see pictures of the kids, but not long enough to bore your visitors.

The three-point play:

— small size lets it go anywhere

— takes standard SD card

— attractive frame and case

You Can Teach an Old Phone New Tricks — Palm Centro for Sprint

Palm, famed for the Treo line which became the first mass-adopted smartphones, is still alive and kicking, finding some success in market spaces where the BlackBerry and iPhone aren't treading.

The entry-level Centro has been revamped especially for Sprint. Two new models, olive and rose, have double the built-in memory of the old ones — 128 megabytes instead of 64, and come with two new programs: a mobile version of Facebook and Google Maps.

A MicroSD card slot lets you add up to 4 gigabytes more memory to hold music files, video clips and photos.

The phone is $80 with a two-year contract; the older versions are free with the contract, and also available from other major carriers.

The three-point play:

— new programs: Facebook and Google Maps

— double the memory of older versions — 128 MB

— soft touch outer skin helps the grip