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StarTech USB 3.0 to SATA/IDE HDD Docking Station
This is a neat little product that makes it very easy to process through all of those old hard drives you might have lying around. I used it this year to quickly image my primary laptop (via the fast USB 3.0 port) before I sent it back for repairs. When the machine came back, I dropped the drive back into the dock, and pumped the image back onto the machine.
What I like: Easy use of SATA drives and fast USB 3.0 connectivity.
What I'd like to see: I'm not thrilled with the spare cable approach to IDE docking. It's just a plastic hole in the box.
Find it here for $88.99.
Monster notebook: Sager 9150
This isn't the prettiest notebook in the world, and it certainly isn't the smallest. But it solved a very interesting problem: how to run a whole network of virtual machines on one portable computer.
This machine can be configured with up to 32GB of RAM, the usual high-performance SSD as a C drive, and a 7200RPM second drive (or another SSD, if you want to pony up the cash). It also supports high-performance gaming, and I'm currently hanging two 24-inch monitors off of it.
I looked everywhere for a notebook that could handle 32GB of RAM, and it was only when ZDNet's Jason Perlow suggested this beast that I found the answer I wanted.
Also, points go to the Sager tech support people. I had a few initial problems and they were helpful, responsive, and quick to get me up and running. I didn't expect it, and it was very appreciated.
What I like: Boatloads of RAM, fast, and fast.
What I'd like to see: Some personality.
Find it here starting at about $1,500.
Mini Asus and Xotac boxes
There's always a use for another little computer. I use them as backup engines, media servers, server monitors, development staging machines, and more. The point is, these little beasts are under $225, smaller than a printed textbook, reasonably fast (but not, you know, fast), and easy to configure.
You can store a few of them on a shelf, and if it turns out you need a spare computer for something, just spin one up quickly and easily.
What I like: Inexpensive and small.
What I'd like to see: A high-performance option.