Just as the right side dish can make or break the meal, the right accessory can take a good device and make it even better. Something as simple as a case or an external battery can be the difference between a nice device and a truly great one; between a device that is usable and one that is a pleasure. Accessories have the power to remedy shortcomings, increase usability and, in some cases, save the day or a trip to the repair shop.
This post is the first in a series of device accessory posts that begin with the question…
You Want Fries With That?
Today we’ll take a look at a few netbook accessories from our friends at Kensington.
We didn’t see an Apple netbook or tablet last month so, at least for the time being, I’ll be sticking with my HP 2140 when I want to travel light. That’s okay with me though. The HP2140 happens to be powerful, good looking and, after a few significant modifications, more than usable. I’ve already upped the RAM to 2GB and swapped out the 160 gigabyte hard drive for a small, but super-fast, solid state drive. Those two upgrades have made a big difference and, thankfully, they were relatively simple. Other upgrades are even easier than that such as the Kensington netbook accessories I have been checking out for the past few weeks. Each has, in its own way, contributed to improving the experience of using the HP2140. Let’s take a look…
The Kensington Wireless Mouse for Netbooks
From The Company–
The Kensington Wireless Mouse for Netbooks is the simple, comfortable wireless mouse you need for your netbook. The nano USB receiver is so small, you can plug it in and leave it in. Plus, the built-in scroll wheel makes scrolling through web pages fast and easy- no more messing with the tiny touchpad on your netbook.
The weakest part of the HP 2140 is, in my opinion, the trackpad and buttons. At best they are frustrating to use, at worst… maddening. sure I could carry a full size mouse around but that kind of defeats the purpose in having a netbook, doesn’t it? Kensington’s wireless mouse for netbooks is a terrific solution to this challenge. When I first opened the mouse I found it to be a bit light and, almost, cheap-feeling. After putting it through some serious use over the past few weeks I can safely say that there is nothing cheap about it. It is small… and it works well.
After simply plugging the small USB nub into one of the USB jacks and turning the mouse on using the on/off button on the bottom, the mouse immediately began controlling the cursor. It is unfortunate that the system requires the USB nub to stick out but it is so small as to not be cumbersome.
Bottom line after using the Wireless Mouse for a time… I can’t imagine trying to do any serious work on a netbook without it.
What I Like- Small, works well, solves the issues with the lousy trackpad quickly and simply
What Needs Improvement- It isn’t cheap but it sure does feel like it is
MSRP $24.99 from Kensington
USB Mini Dock with Ethernet
From The Company–
The Kensington USB Mini Dock with Ethernet gives you quick access to your peripherals and the Internet. Simply plug the USB cable into your notebook and you’re instantly connected to your keyboard, mouse, printer, and even broadband Internet.
* Save time by connecting to your peripherals and the Internet with just one plug
* Ethernet port delivers reliable broadband Internet connection
* Three rotating USB ports keep your peripherals connected and your cables organized
* Compact design helps unclutter your desk
* PC and Mac® compatible
* Plug and play
The HP 2140 has 2 usable USB ports, one on either side. They are, however, not nearly enough with all the peripherals we use these days. That makes a USB hub an important accessory to carry with you. The minidock with ethernet is a small, simple USB hub that uses one USB plug but gives you 3 and an ethernet port. That’s not a bad trade-off. And since it’s a powered hub and includes a wall jack, it also allows you to use a greater range of devices. Its’ small, slim and easy to carry. Best of all, it makes it easy to quickly attach all of your key peripherals when you get to your location.
What I Like– Small, Light, adds significant connectivity to any netbook or notebook
What Needs Improvement– Nothing, it is a must have for anyone with a netbook or notebook.
MSRP $49.99 from Kensington
From The Company–
Now you can share USB devices between two computers without all that plugging and unplugging. Simply push a button and the ShareCentral automatically makes the swap.
* Easily share access to USB devices between two computers-LED lights indicate which computer has access
* Gain instant access to your USB devices by plugging one USB cable into your computer
* Simply press a button to switch individual USB devices from one computer to another
* Easy to set up and easy to use with no network required
* Both computers have direct access to the printer thanks to Automatic Printer Sharing
* Eliminates cable clutter and is wall mountable
The ShareCentral hub allows you to permanently connect up to 5 USB accessories to a desktop and then, with a push of a button, switch each accessory to use with the 2nd computer. It works this way- I hooked up the device to one USB port on my iMac. I then attached an external hard drive, my iPhone cable, a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner (I live by it), as well as a USB cable for attaching a camera by mini USB. I then plugged in the 5 port hub for power source.
Immediately, lights along one side of the device lit up, showing me that each of these accessories was receiving power and was connected and usable with my iMac. The key here is that, there’s a 2nd USB port that can connect a second computer to the same periferals. When the lights at the top of the ShareCentral are lit those accessories are connected to my iMac. With the press of a button, however, the light switches from being above the button to below the button and that tells me that that accessory is now connected to and usable at second computer that was attached.
The ShareCentral is remarkably convenient and even helps deal with cable clutter! I now have hanging on my wall rather unobtrusively and it will have it’s place there going forward.
What I Like– Convenient, lets numerous periferals be shared between two computers simply and effectively, Interchangable button caps let you customize the look, Actually looks good, Cross platform
What Needs Improvement– Certain functionality requires running additional software
MSRP $39.99 – $79.99 for one, two or five port sharing
The Reversible Sleeve for Netbooks
From The Company–
Here’s the protection you need for your netbook computer. Its neoprene construction provides protective cushioning that feels great in your hand. There are even handy storage pockets for your essentials.
* Fits netbooks up to 10″
* Protects your netbook wherever you go
* Neoprene sleeve stretches to fit your netbook and accessories
* Optimized for netbooks 7″ to 9″
I’m continually amazed that devices like the HP 2140 and the Amazon Kindle don’t ship with even a rudimentary slip case. It doesn’t take much to include one from a cost perspective and it’s a small act that allows people to immediately begin using their device without fear of scratches.
I have a heavy duty slipcase I reviewed a few months ago and it does a nice job of protecting my netbook. It is, however, a bit on the heavy side and it does leave one side of the device open. As a result it is a great way to carry the netbook but it isn’t ideal if you want to simply grab the netbook and throw it in your briefcase. That’s where this Kensington sleeve comes in rather handy. It’s small, and super light. It is “optimized” for 7-9″ netbooks so I didn’t think it would be big enough to handle my 10 inch notebook. It turns out it is. In fact, it holds the netbook quite snuggly and wraps the ENTIRE netbook in soft protection.
It offers no pockets, no straps and no means of carrying the netbook by a handle. At an MSRP of $14.95, however, it is a small price to pay for such light, but all encompassing, protection.
What I like- light, offers 360 protection, riced nicely
What I Don’t- for what it is… nothing.
$14.88 from Kensington
I have bought and used many Kensington products over the years. I have always found them to be well designed, sturdy and exceptionally functional. That is the case with these netbook accessories as well. All of them are available directly from the company and add a great deal of functionality to the diminutive netbook at a reasonable cost.