Gadling’s Top 25 travel technology products of 2008

Welcome to the Gadling top 25 travel technology products of 2008.

It has been a great year for gadget loving travelers, and I have come across some really fantastic products that have helped make my own trips much more enjoyable.

It was not easy keeping the list to just 25 products, and there should be something for everyone in this lineup. So, without any further delay, I present (in no particular order), the 25 best travel technology products of 2008.


Boingo is the only thing listed in the top 25 that isn’t a physical product.

Boingo provides a service that lets you pay a single monthly fee to get access to over 103,000 different Wi-Fi hotspot locations around the world.

For $59 you get their global traveler plan, which offers unlimited access to any of the locations in the Boingo network.

If you have traveled the world, you’ll have probably stayed at one of the many hotels using Wi-Fi as another source of income. Think of Wi-Fi as the new minibar. With daily rates as high as $30, using Boingo makes perfect sense. Business travelers will certainly appreciate the ability to use a single logon and not have to worry about a different expense for each connection they setup on a trip.

Why it matters to travelers: Saves money and makes getting online around the globe much easier.
Price: From $7.95 for a US only PDA plan, $59 for a global plan
Gadling review: Coming soon.

T-Mobile Blackberry Curve

With all of the mobile phones popping up this year, you’d probably expect me to pick the new 3G iPhone as the most travel friendly phone. Sadly for Apple, it’s actually a Blackberry that is still my favorite pick. The Blackberry Curve on T-Mobile has one very important feature that makes it the perfect pick for global travelers; Wi-Fi calling. The technology is called UMA, and it allows the Blackberry to roam onto a Wi-Fi hotspot signal and behave just like it would on a regular cell tower.

You could be in Japan on a Wi-Fi signal in your hotel, and your Blackberry will be able to make and receive phone calls and text messages just like back home. Of course, because you are not roaming on an international network, you can even make these calls for the same rate as a normal call back home, without the insane roaming rates involved.

Why it matters to travelers: Cheap calls, email, Internet browsing and travel applications.
Price: $99.99
Where: or any T-Mobile authorized dealer
Gadling review: October 15th 2008

Cradlepoint PHS300 personal Wi-Fi hotspot

Several years ago the big development in wireless technology was the availability of broadband 3G wireless access. If you keep your eyes open next time you are at an airport lounge, you’ll see loads of people working on their laptop with a little antenna sticking out the side of the machine.

To me, the biggest development in wireless data this year, came from the Cradlepoint PHS300 personal Wi-Fi hotspot.

The PHS300 turns your 3G modem into a Wi-Fi hotspot. The battery powered device creates a wireless signal ready to use by one person, or an entire conference room. By moving your wireless card out of your laptop, you also save battery life, plus you can move the Cradlepoint router closer to a window to pick up a better wireless signal.

Why it matters to travelers: One modem card can be shared with others, reduces the load on your laptop.
Price: $179.99
Gadling review: August 25th 2008

Eye-Fi wireless enabled SD memory card

Nothing in the photography world has made life easier for me than the Eye-Fi wireless memory card. The Eye-Fi card is a regular SD card, with a built in Wireless adapter.

What this means to anyone taking photos is that they can take a photo and within seconds it will be uploaded to their computer or a photo sharing site of their choice (as long as you are in range of a wireless network).

The card was released last year, but 2008 brought several major updates to their lineup including the Eye-Fi Explore. The Explore adds hotspot access to any Wayport locations, as well as basic Geotagging of your photos.

I’ve become so used to offloading my photos using the Eye-Fi card that I actually lost the USB cable of my previous camera.

Why it matters to travelers: Send your photos home before you leave your destination.
Price: From $79.99
Gadling review: Coming soon

Panasonic Lumix TZ5

In picking my favorite digital camera for 2008, I went through almost 15 different models. When it comes to a camera that is suitable for travelers I looked for several things; it had to be small enough for traveling light, and it had to offer something invaluable for making decent shots.

I’ll admit right away that I am a horrible photographer, I’ve played with digital SLR cameras, but never managed to quite master the art. Since I’m convinced the same applies to many other traveling consumers, I’ve picked the small Lumix TZ5 for this lineup.

The TZ5 is a 9.1 megapixel camera like many other point and shooters on the market. What makes the TZ5 different is its 10x optical zoom and the ability to shoot basic HD video clips.

Why it matters to trav
10x wide angle optical zoom, HD video clips, special “travel” mode for sorting your photos.
Price: $329.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Lenovo Ideapad S10

Every several years something big happens in the computer world. 3 years ago we saw a big shift from desktop PC purchases to notebooks. 2008 was the big year for the Netbook.

This new generation of ultra portable (and ultra affordable) computers has forced every major manufacturer to bring at least one machine to the market. What started with a single design from Asus has now morphed into about 30 different machines. I’ve tried almost every single one of them, but eventually there was just one clear winner for me; the Lenovo Ideapad S10.

This 10″ Intel Atom powered Netbook is perfect for business travelers as it is available with Bluetooth and it has an Expresscard slot (for expansion cards). The Lenovo S10 has a very sleek design, and incorporates the reliability Lenovo is known for. In my personal opinion, the S10 is also the best looking Netbook of the year.

Why it matters to travelers: Size, looks and performance.
Price: From $399
Gadling review: coming soon

SeV Quantum jacket

When you are on the road a lot, you learn to value the importance of pockets. It sounds pretty quirky, but the combination of travel and carrying too many gadgets means you always need more ways to carry them. The SeV Quantum jacket is a stylish jacket made of breathable material. Hidden away all around this garment are 28 separate pockets, including some large enough to carry a water bottle or even a small laptop!

Almost every pocket is linked to the others using the SeV patented “personal area network” which allows you to route cords inside the jacket. The Quantum even features 2 special pockets with clear plastic which allow you to have easy access to your iPod or mobile phone.

Why it matters to travelers: Pockets, lots and lots of pockets.
Price: $250
Gadling review: September 29th 2008

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

After years of making our lives miserable, the TSA actually used 2008 to help bring some common sense back to the checkpoint. One of their accomplishments was the creation of some better rules for how they treat your laptop. In the past, they were so scared of laptop computers that they wanted every laptop on its own going through the X-Ray conveyor. The new rules allow you to keep it inside an approved bag.

The Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer was one of the first checkpoint friendly bags to ship. The bag is made in the USA and features an ingenious folding laptop portion. The bag is very well made, and is full of great little touches like waterproof zippers.

Why it matters to travelers: Every minute saved at the checkpoint is valuable.
Price: $225
Gadling review: October 7th 2008

Altec-Lansing iM237 Orbit MP3 portable speaker

The Altec Lansing Orbit MP3 speaker is the perfect companion for your iPod, iPhone or other music player.

The speaker works off three AAA batteries and allows you to store the audio cord in the bottom.

The Orbit MP3 produces an amazing amount of sound, and despite its tiny size, you’ll easily be able to fill a decent size hotel room with your tunes.

Why it matters to travelers: Room filling audio from a pint sized speaker.
Price: $39.95
Gadling review: October 29th 2008

Creative Labs Aurvana headphones

I’ve had the Creative Labs Aurvana X-Fi headphones lined up for a review for some time, but I’ve been using them so often that I never got around to giving you a full review. The Aurvana X-Fi headphones feature the highly rated Creative X-Fi system for improving the sound quality of your digital music as well as a special mode for creating virtual surround sound when you listen to a movie.

The headphones are even $50 cheaper than that “other” brand of popular noise canceling headphones.

The Creative Labs Auravna X-Fi headphones are quite simply the best noise canceling headphones I have ever used. Included in the package is a sturdy carrying case, adapters for most headphone jacks and an extension cord.

Why it matters to travelers: Combines amazing sound quality with amazing noise canceling features.
Price: $249.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Duracell PowerSource mini battery pack

I like power. Sadly I don’t have much of the influential kind, so I compensate by collecting gadgets that can keep my other gadgets working. The Duracell Portable Power Pack is such a device.

This small rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack features a folding USB connector, a second female USB connector and a battery life indicator. A fully charged Duracell battery pack holds enough juice to recharge most of my gadgets at l
east three times.

Why it matters to travelers: Because a gadget without power can be really depressing.
Price: $39.99
Gadling review: coming soon

Peek Email device

Back in September we posted the first ever review of this personal email device.

Peek is a handheld wireless emailer which runs off the nationwide T-Mobile network. For $99 (priced at $79.99 till the end of the year) and a monthly service charge of $19.99, you get unlimited access to your email on the go. There is no contract, and no paperwork involved. You simply give Peek a credit card number, and you are all set.

I like Peek because it delivers on its promise; it does email, and only email, but it does that one thing quite well. Peek was recently voted “best gadget of 2008” by Time magazine.

Why it matters to travelers: Provides simple and affordable email on the go for anyone.
Price: $99.95 ($79.99 till December 31st)
Gadling review: August 26th 2008


The Chargepod by Callpod has completely changed the way I charge my gadgets on the road. In the past I had a complicated array of chargers, cables and splitters. The Chargepod powers off one AC adapter, and can power 6 gadgets at the same time.

Chargepod offers an impressive list of power adapter tips for anything from your Bluetooth headset to the latest portable gaming console. I have yet to run into a gadget that can’t be powered off the Chargepod.

Why it matters: One charger instead of 6
Price: $39.95 for the base unit, or $79.99 for the bundle pack with a selection of power tips
Gadling review: August 28th 2008

Otterbox cases

As gadget prices go up, so does the disappointment when a gadget breaks. Anyone who is on the road a lot will subject their gadgets to all kinds of abuse.

Otterbox produces a lineup of cases that provide several levels of protection. They vary from basic bump and scratch protection, to full water and shockproof protection.

Otterbox cases are available for all iPods as well as most Blackberry smartphones including the recently released Blackberry Bold.

Why it matters to travelers: Take your gadget to the beach, or up a mountain.
Price: From $19.95
Gadling review: September 10th 2008

Amazon Kindle

It’s almost impossible to list “best gadgets” without mentioning the Amazon Kindle. This electronic book reader launched in November of 2007 and has been one of the top selling electronic devices on ever since.

The Kindle was not the first electronic book on the market, but it does something no other eBook can do; wireless downloads of books.

No longer will you have to jump into the book store at the airport to buy another overpriced book, nor do you need to stock your carry-on with magazines and newspapers.

The Amazon Kindle offers it all, in a slick and easy to use package. The usability is slightly questionable, and the page changing buttons are a nightmare to use, but at the end of the day, nothing beats the ability to download a book right before takeoff. In addition to books, the Kindle also offers wireless access to select newspapers, magazines and RSS feeds.

Why it matters to travelers: Never worry about running out of something to read on the road, reduce the weight of your carry-on.
Price: $359 + the price of your reading materials
Gadling review: coming soon

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Product review – CradlePoint PHS300 personal wireless hotspot

Let me open with a warning; this article is full of buzzwords and acronyms, but I promise to try and keep things as simple as possible.

The CradlePoint PHS300 is a pocket wireless internet router. Unlike other routers, that get their Internet access from your cable company or DSL provider, it connects using a cellular broadband modem.

Still with me?

To get access to the Internet using your mobile operator, you have several options; you can purchase a phone with Internet Access built in (like an Apple iPhone). You can also use a mobile phone with “tethering” capability, which involves physically connecting your mobile phone to your computer, or you can purchase a stand alone “cellular modem”.

If you need mobile Internet access on your PC, and you are not within range of a public Wi-Fi hotspot, you’ll have to go with tethering, or a cellular modem. However, both methods have several disadvantages:

  • You usually need to install special software on your computer.
  • The (often expensive) connection can only be used by one person at a time.
  • Reception is often lacking, as your modem will be away from the window, where the cellular signal is usually the strongest.
  • Battery life of your computer is severely impacted when you use a 3G modem card plugged into it.

The Cradlepoint PHS300 fixes these issues by moving the wireless connection away from the PC. To connect to the Internet, you simply plug your compatible phone or cellular modem into the router, turn it on and you instantly turn the combination into a portable battery powered wireless hotspot. Brilliant.Connecting to the Internet is as easy as turning on your laptop (or Wi-Fi enabled smartphone) and connecting to the wireless network name being broadcast by the Cradepoint router, just like connecting to any other Wi-Fi hotspot. Since this is a regular WI-Fi connection, more than one person can connect to the signal, but you’ll of course have to share the speed with anyone else online with you.

The CradlePoint PHS300 router weighs just 4 ounces. The device has 2 connectors, one switch and a couple of LED light indicators. The 2 connectors are for power and for your USB cellular modem/phone. The switch powers the device on (or off) and the LED’s show the power,charging status and the connection status of the Wi-Fi and the cellular modem connections.

In this day and age it is a rarity when I come across a device that really delivers on the whole “plug and play” promise. In my first test, I plugged my modem card into the PHS300, turned the device on, and 30 seconds later I had my laptop connected to the Internet using AT&T. There were no settings to mess with, and I was even able to skip reading the manual.

Your connection is secured using 2 methods; with a common (shared) password, or with regular Wi-Fi security (WEP or WPA). Changing the settings on the device is done through your web browser, but fear not, most of these settings are only for advanced users, if you just want to get online, you won’t have to deal with them. When the situation requires it, you can create a password that can be shared by others, which is perfect if you need a quick and dirty Internet connection for more than one person in a meeting room or airport lounge.

The PHS300 is powered by an internal Lithium-Ion (user replaceable) battery pack, extra batteries are $29.99. Battery life is rated at around an hour and a half with a USB modem, or up to three hours with a tethered phone (which of course has its own battery). Included in the package is a regular AC adapter. A car charger is available directly from CradlePoint for $24.99.

The speed of your connection will of course depend on your modem and the network you are using.

In my first test, I connected to AT&T Wireless, using a Merlin XU870 modem card. In this test, my download speed was a comfortable 1281 kbps. In my second test, I connected to AT&T using a tethered smartphone (an HTC Touch Dual). This time the speed shot up to 1427 kbps, which is faster than many people have on their home broadband connection. I then used the Merlin card with a T-mobile subscription, and only reached 152kbps (T-mobile does not have 3G in my area yet).

For my final test, I connected to Sprint using my HTC Mogul smartphone. Let me say up front that CradlePoint fully admit that this phone is not the most reliable option for tethering, as Windows Mobile is considered too buggy to always keep a connection active. Despite the warning from CradlPpoint, I did not experience any loss of connection. The only difference between using a modem card, and tethering, is that I had to manually enable the tethering setting on my phone.

Here are the speeds I reached when using the CradlePoint PHS300 with my various phones:

  • AT&T 3G with an HTC Touch Dual: 1427kbps
  • AT&T 3G with a Merlin XU870 card: 1218kbps
  • Sprint EVDO Rev.A with a Sprint Mogul: 831kbps
  • T-mobile EDGE with a Merlin XU870: 152kbps

Of course, these numbers are fairly meaningless to most people, so let me just say that the speed on AT&T and Sprint was perfectly acceptable for most Internet applications, on the AT&T connection, things just felt much faster, pages loaded almost instantly and I was even able to view a couple of Youtube video clips, albeit with a slight delay at the beginning where the player buffers the clip.

CradlePoint offers several other models of cellular broadband routers including the CTR500 which has an internal Expresscard slot for the modem card as well as a network port for connecting your laptop through a wired connection.

All in all I am immensely impressed with the CradlePoint. At $179 it is the perfect solution for anyone who has dealt with the buggy connection software from their mobile operator, or who has watched their laptop battery die in an hour when they were surfing the web from the airport lounge. With most mobile operators charging between $60 and $80 per month for a wireless broadband connection, frequent users of paid hotel or airport Wi-Fi will easily be able to save a substantial amount every month. The biggest advantage of course, is being able to turn this device on, and have instant wireless Internet access for more than one person.