VIA ARTIGO MINI-PC ($299): Smaller than a paperback, VIA's new ARTiGO mini-PC was originally designed for hobbyists. But the minuscule box has other uses as well: It's small enough to sit next to a monitor as a stand-alone PC or hide behind a TV to become part of a home theater system. It runs Windows XP or Linux, has a one-gigahertz processor and can hold up to one gigabyte of RAM, which is included.
The ARTiGO, sold as a kit, costs $299 at VIA-ITX.com. It includes four USB ports, audio connections, a VGA port to connect to a display, and an Ethernet port for Internet connections. An optional hard drive costs about $65 for 160 gigabytes. The PC runs most applications and can connect to any USB peripheral.
Because the PC is so small, it can fit into the DVD drive bay of a regular PC, creating a minicluster of computers. VIA also suggests using it as an in-car PC. The company calls the ARTiGO a “builder kit,” which is a nice way of saying some assembly is required – expect a tangle of wires and the whiff of solder while you add and remove peripherals and programs. John Biggs, New York Times
Kids can keep the noise to safe decibel
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ULTIMATE EARS LOUDENOUGH EARBUDS ($40): Parents have been telling their children to turn the volume down since “wireless” meant AM radio, but noise-monitoring has gotten trickier as music has moved into headphones – where sound levels can get dangerously high. With parental concerns in mind, the LoudEnough earbuds from Ultimate Ears have volume-limiting safeguards built into the hardware.
Although safe volume levels are still important, the components in the LoudEnough earbuds also reduce sound-pressure levels up to 20 decibels, or one quarter of the volume of other earphones. They use a standard 3.5-mm stereo plug, which allow the Ultimate Ears to fit just about any portable MP3 player or other audio device.
The earbuds, available in three colors, sell for about $40 and can be found at www.loudenough.com. Each pair comes with two sets of silicone tips in three sizes (extra-small, small and medium) for keeping the buds in place inside the ears – which may even make them appeal to adults who complain that the iPod earphones are too big and tend to fall out. J.D. Biersdorfer, New York Times
This mouse ready to get in the game
NZXT AVATAR MOUSE ($60): Adventurous questing and fierce battles are much easier when a player has good weapons on both sides of the screen. Made with the needs of videogame fans in mind, the Avatar mouse from NZXT comes with seven programmable buttons that can be custom-configured for different types of games, including multiplayer online worlds, real-time strategy contests and first-person shooters.
To increase its responsiveness and accuracy in those do-or-die sharpshooting situations, the Avatar mouse also comes with an optical sensor under the hood that can reach a maximum resolution of 2,600 dots per inch, or dpi – compared with the 800 or 1,000 dpi offered by many standard mice.
The Avatar gaming mouse connects through a USB port and costs about $60; full specifications and a list of stores are at www.nzxt.com/products/avatar. The Avatar's Teflon feet keep gameplay smooth; even southpaw warriors need not worry – the Avatar has an ambidextrous design. J.D. Biersdorfer, New York Times