Ultimate Titanium Accessories

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Date: Friday, January 25th, 2002, 00:00
Category: Archive

Looking back over 2001, the Year of Titanium, a few good peripherals have stood out in their ability to change life with the Ti for the better. A welcome to Peter’s first-ever Ultimate List to the BookEndz docking station, LaCie and MCE drives, Contour mouse, Griffin PowerMate, and in a nod to the mothership, the venerable Airport.


Looking back over 2001, the Year of Titanium, a few good peripherals have stood out in their ability to change life with the Ti for the better. A welcome to Peter’s first-ever Ultimate List to the BookEndz docking station, LaCie and MCE drives, Contour mouse, Griffin PowerMate, and in a nod to the mothership, the venerable Airport.

I recall reading a review once — I think it was a Macworld reviewer — that wondered if the seconds spent each day plugging and unplugging devices was really worth the purchase price of the BookEndz docking station for the then-state-of-the art Wall Street PowerBook G3 Series. Whoever it was, they’d be hopelessly out of place among PowerListas and Go2Mac/PowerPage readers — we know better.

Thank goodness Photo Control, Inc. this year resurrected the BookEndz product line, with new models for the PowerBook and iBook. I’ve been using the BookEndz for several months now, and it’s easily paid for itself by saving wear and tear on cables and ports. This is a serious problem for those of us who commute daily with our laptops. (I’ll bet that reviewer still had all the rubber feet on his PowerBook, too.)

My stylish PowerBook G4 BookEndz’s quick release tabs more than once made the difference between making and missing a train. Better yet, the BookEndz line takes advantage of the latest Apple laptop’s video features: a docking station / port replicator becomes even more useful when you hook up a VGA monitor as a second screen for a G4, or when you automatically convert the iBook’s non-standard video ports to standard ones. (Yes, this was supposed to be Ti-devoted, but I can’t help but mention the very cool iBook features, too.) The BookEndz easily makes its way onto the must-buy, ultimate accessories list.

One of the few features I miss from Apple’s desktop line when I’m mobile is cheap hard drive expansion bays. Fortunately, new FireWire external hard drives are cheaper, faster, and more portable than their predecessors: plug in one of these, and you won’t even miss the PowerBook G3’s expansion bays. Two options stand out, so I’ll have to declare this category a tie. LaCie’s PocketDrive boasts the best external case design I’ve seen. It’s tiny — not iPod tiny, but the PocketDrive has up to 48G capacities and high speed, essential for pro audio and video work. I easily ran digital audio mixes off this drive. The curved, rubberized edges are ingenious, while looking and feeling great. The PocketDrive stands up well to abuse and dropping, very unlike Apple’s iPod. (Not that, er, I would know anything about dropping an iPod . . . ahem . . . )

MCE deserves special mention for solving one of the age-old problem of `Book hardware upgrades: what to do with your old drive. MCE’s Transport Pro external kit lets you keep using that old drive as a high-speed external FireWire drive. There are some other similar solutions out there, but none offers MCE’s elegance: the external case is the same as MCE’s own acclaimed portable drives.

The smallest and cheapest on my ultimate list is also my personal favorite: the Contour MiniPro Mouse Ti Optical Mouse. This one has been a favorite around Go2Mac before, but admittedly I never much liked the look of the original translucent version. Then Contour arrived at Macworld NY this July with a new Titanium-colored mouse — and I fell in love. Forget scroll wheels and gimmicks: the Contour mouse is amazingly tiny and light, but still manages to feel comfortable with its unique rounded shape, and packs two buttons. (That second button works like a charm in X without a driver, by the way.) I’ve gotten more compliments on this mouse than almost anything else I own. At US$30, it’s a must-buy.

Rounding out my list are two devices regular readers already know I love. The first is Griffin Technology‘s PowerMate. Not strictly a Titanium-geared device, the PowerMate nonetheless remains the most portable controller for digital music and video, and you may never get more use out of something so simple, or so cheap (US$49). Nine times out of ten, it earns the coveted second USB port next to my Contour mouse. (I don’t generally carry a hub on the road.)

And lastly, I have to mention Apple’s Airport. 2001 not only brought Airport 2.0, but more importantly, marked the widespread acceptance of the format, and new opportunities to use your Airport card on the road, including the fast and reliable, if pricey, MobileStar network, the Bay Area’s WiFi Metro as well as pirate operations providing free bandwidth. And, of course, if you can spare the money, no `Book owner should be without a Base Station in their home or office to free themselves from their desk.

What were your ‘ultimate’ products of the last year and Macworld San Francisco? Share your favorites on our message board or e-mail me comments. And, hey, NO complaints about my look back coming at the end of January: I have a lot of New Year’s Resolutions I’m working through!

When Peter Kirn isn’t obsessing about PowerBook luggage, new gizmos, and new music software, he occasionally gets actual work done as a music educator and composer in metro NYC.

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