Holiday gift ideas: home and office gear

Just because you have a fancy new computer doesn't mean that you're totally set on your technology acumen. You gotta trick out the rest of your office (either at home or at work) with the latest gear to help supplement that fancy new system. Here's some of our favorites from the past few months:

Wi-Ex zBoost YX510-Dual Band Cellular Repeater

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There are few situations more frustrating than poor cellular coverage, which remains a problem for users of all carriers in many parts of the country -- even those with population densities that might otherwise imply good coverage. I'm in that situation myself -- not far from Boston, but with only 1-bar service indoors -- at best - for all of the major carriers. That's why the Wi-Ex zBoost YX510-Dual Band cellular repeater caught my eye. Rather than waiting for at least one of the carriers to offer decent service for all the money I send them every month, this box promises a simple solution, albeit for a few hundred dollars. And the fact that it's carrier-independent (except it doesn't support Nextel, we should point out) and covers both the 800 and 1800 MHz. bands is a big plus.

A caution, though -- this product involves the use of two antennas, one mounted right on the compact Base Unit, and a much larger one connected by a long length of coaxial cable. The two antennas must be separated by a good distance in order for the unit to function properly. Typically, the larger antenna will be mounted outdoors or in an attic -- but professional installation might be required if you go that route.

Setup is otherwise a snap -- connect the antennas, position the larger antenna, and turn the power on. Flashing lights will alert you to anything that needs correcting.

So, how well does it work? Outstanding! My Verizon Wireless handset had never seen more than one bar indoors, and often didn't work at all. Now I've got between two and four bars everywhere in the house, and that's with a less-than-optimal temporary installation of the outdoor antenna. Even Keith Shaw's beloved iPhone with AT&T service worked great -- and this in a location (my house) where he couldn't otherwise get a signal at all! This one is definitely on my holiday gift list, along with yet another letter to the carriers to once again plead for better coverage - oh, well, forget that. Got cellular? I do!

By the way, you might be tempted to consider a carrier-specific femtocell in place of a cellular repeater or booster. You eliminate the need for the second antenna, as the backhaul is via your broadband connection. But you also wind up with a vendor-specific solution that has additional monthly fees, albeit at a lower initial capital outlay. Me, I'm going with the repeater.

Cool Yule Rating: 5 stars

Price: $289.99 at

Amazon.comProduct Web site.

Reviewed by Craig Mathias

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