October 15, 2009, 2:00 PM — The scoop: Powermat Wireless Charging Portable Mat, by Powermat USA, about $100 (for basic system).
What it is: The Powermat is a system of three connected square blocks that can recharge your portable gadgets, such as an iPhone, iPod, BlackBerry, Nintendo DSI or DSI Lite, and even cell phones. The system uses magnetic induction technology to recharge the devices without a user needing to connect or carry along another set of charging cables. The basic system comes with a Powercube universal receiver, which then includes charging tips for several devices. You can also purchase specific receivers for other devices (such as the Apple iPhone or iPod touch), which slip onto the back of the device and connect to the Powermat. For BlackBerries, you can buy a replacement back that includes the Powermat adapter.
Why it's cool: Wireless charging technology has been around for a few years, but this is the first system I've seen that's been so aimed at the consumer. Along with a very slick design -- such as the power cord that wraps around the adapter very nicely -- the three charging blocks fold up easily, making it simple to carry along on trips (the system comes with a carrying case), and the Powermat makes a fun, futuristic beep/squeak when your device is attached (magnetically) to the Powermat. Carrying along a Powermat and the charging tips is far easier than packing a bag with individual charging cables.
Even if you only use the mat at home (you can buy a separate home and office model, or just use the portable one), eliminating a bunch of power cables not only saves you on some outlet space, it makes everything look a bit nicer as well.
Some caveats: Out of a bunch of devices, I only had one phone (a Samsung pre-paid model) that didn't charge with the included tips. Hopefully Powermat will expand the number of tips offered to include virtually every electronic device.
Grade: 5 stars (out of five).
The scoop: Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000, by Microsoft, about $40.
What it is: This is a portable mouse that includes Microsoft's BlueTrack technology, which combines optical and laser technologies to let you use the mouse on more surfaces, including carpet, granite and wood. The system includes a nano transceiver that attaches to a free USB port on your notebook and doesn't stick out as much as other wireless transceivers. In addition, the nano transceiver can fit into the bottom of the mouse, making it handy for travel. The mouse includes four-way scrolling and four customizable buttons, and an on/off switch can save battery life (if you remember to shut it off). Microsoft says a single battery can last up to 10 months.