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If a lack of external ports on a computer forces you to endlessly swap digital cameras, modems, personal organizers and scanners, the USB Docking Station can help.
This small, external box connects to your computer's Universal Serial Bus port to effectively provide five additional ports: one serial, one printer and three USB connections. Calling ADS Technologies' device a docking station is a misnomer, though, because those words typically describe a device used with a laptop. The USB Docking Station is intended for any PC with a USB connector.
The extra ports are nice, but the lack of a PS/2 port and the need for an external power supply make the USB Docking Station less handy for mobile PC users. Also, the serial and printer ports have limitations on devices they can handle. Be sure to visit the company's Web site to learn about compatibility.
The USB Docking Station sells for less than $100 and requires Windows 98. It's a fine upgrade for people with unique needs, but a less expensive four-port USB hub may be adequate for most users.
_ JIM BUU
EXR 2480 cordless phone
Picking the perfect phone is like choosing friends: Features are important; so is the more indescribable factor of personality. Uniden's 2.4-gigahertz cordless EXR 2480 gets superhigh marks for efficiency, but ask for a little quality time with the model before committing to a long-term relationship.
The EXR 2480 includes almost every gadget a devoted yacker could desire. It looks great on a desk but also will hang on a wall. A built-in answering machine plays greetings and saves messages with an electronic memory, so you need never worry about worn-out tapes. There's also a built-in Caller ID display; it tells who's ringing on Call Waiting as well. A speaker-phone switch rounds out the options.
Some aspects of the Uniden's performance, however, might not suit all tastes. The electronic ring was abrasive for this household's ears. Although the 2.4 GHz signal came in loud and may be an improvement over the more common 900MHz technology, it wasn't always free of interference.
This phone isn't easy to cradle against a shoulder. But the unit's headset connector offers a way around that problem.
The Uniden EXR 2480 is a good all-in-one phone for a small business, but the casual talker might want to survey the rest of the field. Street price is about $189.
_ JOHN HANAN