Hands on with iMac accessories

Since I took an in-depth look at the new flat panel iMac last Wednesday, today I thought I'd offer my hands-on experience with the first two peripherals especially made for the new computer: the gHub and the Flat Panel Wedge.

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Let's face it. If you own one of the new flat panel iMacs, you're going to want peripherals that match its design. One useful, and attractive, add-on is the gHub from Dr. Bott.

The US$44 device expands a single USB port into four ports that are available for additional USB devices or USB-Hubs. The required USB A-B cable is included in the package. Installing means nothing more than plugging it in; after that, you're good to go.

If you have more USB peripherals than you've got plugs, you'll need something like this to avoid constantly plugging and unplugging.

Devices like USB Floppy Drives, SuperDisks, USB ISDN adapters or USB ZIP drives are another reason to use gHub since they need too much current to reliably operate from, for instance, a keyboard USB-port that's not self-powered. Connecting the powered gHub to your iMac's keyboard USB-port will offer more ports, all of them supporting both high- and low-power USB devices.

The gHub's built-in overcurrent protection will power down individual ports with defective devices drawing too much current, leaving other ports fully operational. And it offers bus error recognition and correction.

The gHub is platform-independent, so you can use it with Mac OS 8.6, 9.x, and X, as well as (if you must) Win98/ME, Win2k/XP and Linux. If the new flat panel iMac has all the USB ports (five, counting the keyboard) you need, save your money. However, if it doesn't, and you want a USB expansion device that's practical and good-looking, check out the snowy gHub.

The gHub I'll use regularly, the Flat Panel Wedge less so. This Wedge is a carry case especially designed by the folks at Willow Design for transporting the new flat panel iMac. It offers compartments for protecting the iMac, keyboard, speakers and accessories while they're being moved about.

Everything, including the iMac is separately compartmentalized and protected, with the case, which weighs eight pounds. It has rigid protective external walls, and dividers throughout to separate and protect the flat panel and other components. There are specific compartments for the iMac, speakers, keyboard, two separate accessory compartments and room for lots of cables underneath the back of the iMac.

Like all of Willow's products, the Flat Panel is extremely well designed. The compartments are perfectly sized and well padded. And soft foam pads go with all the cases to isolate the speakers from each other.

At $207, it's not for everyone. But if, for any reason, you need to haul your new stylish iMac from place to place by car (sorry, but the carry case is too big for carry-on airline status), it's certainly worth a look.

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