GW-172

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
G A D G E T W A T C H
The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
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Issue No. 172
Thursday December 9, 2004
(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)

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Name: Sony NW-HD3
Category: Portable audio
Price: Open Price, estimated around 42,000 yen
Release date in Japan: December 10th, 2004

The Gist: Sony put a new twist on the portable audio market this past
week, with the introduction of the "NW-HD3," the company's first hard
drive based portable audio player under the Network Walkman brand that
actually supports MP3, natively. I know what you're thinking -- "wait a
minute, didn't Sony already have MP3 players?" The answer to that
question is both yes, and no. Sony has unveiled two Network Walkman
products with hard drives, the NW-HD1 and NW-HD2, earlier this year,
but these technically don't support MP3. Attribute this to Sony's
obsession with their own ATRAC compression scheme (also employed on
MiniDisc products), or to failure of the company to respond to the
demands of the market, it's up to you -- but one thing is for sure,
Sony is very late in the game with a product that actually supports
MP3. Previous Network Walkman products supported only the ATRAC3 and
ATRAC3plus formats, and if users wanted to transfer MP3 files to the
player, they were required to convert their tracks to one of the above.
Not only was this time consuming, but it essentially meant you would
need to store two copies of the same song on your hard drive:
one MP3 version and one ATRAC version.

Addressing this, Sony has finally had a change of heart, and went ahead
and added native MP3 support to the NW-HD3. Available in silver, black,
blue, and pink color variations, the NW-HD3 still features the same form
factor, 20GB capacity, and is more or less the same as its NW-HD1 and
NW-HD2 brethren. The key difference is, of course, the ability to
playback MP3 files without requiring any sort of silly conversion process.

A complaint I personally have with the new player is the lack of USB
Mass Storage support. Although users are no longer required to convert
MP3s to ATRAC3s before transferring, they are still required to use one
of the two included pieces of software to transfer songs: either
"SonicStage 2.3," or "MP3 File Manager." Since both of these require
installation of both software and drivers on the end-user's PC, the
player isn't nearly as "open" as I had wished. Still, as Apple's iPod
has achieved much success with the same security measures in place
(that is, requiring installation of software and drivers), this
likely won't bother a majority of users.

In related news, Sony has announced an upgrade plan for existing
NW-HD1 and NW-HD2 owners. For around 2,000 yen, they can send their
players to Sony and have them upgraded to support direct MP3 playback,
as well as have a few other various improvements performed.

More info: http://www.sony.jp/CorporateCruise/Press/200411/11-1130/
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Name: Soldam PANDORA RHAPSODY
Category: PC case
Price: 70,140 yen
Release date in Japan: Shipment planned for December 15th, 2004

The Gist: Although this isn't a "gadget" in the strict sense of the
word, I'm a sucker for small, cube-shaped objects, and am thus including
it in this week's Gadget Watch. Announced by Soldam this past week was
the "PANDORA RHAPSODY," a cube-shaped mini-ITX supporting case that
measures 185mm in all directions (and that's why it's a cube). For
those of us who still can't get a grip on the metric system, that's
about 7.2 inches across, up, and deep.

It didn't quite hit me how small this case was until I literally took
out a ruler and measured my current case. But that's the point of the
mini-ITX standard for motherboards -- to allow for ultra-small computers
such as this that won't cost you an arm and a leg (like laptops do).
Included in the 70,000 yen price tag is the "LV-671" motherboard from
Commell, which uses the Intel 855GME chipset, has a DDR333 memory slot,
and features a miniPCI as well as PCI expansion slots. Also available
on the motherboard are your standard USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet
jack, D-Sub 15 pin connection, 2x PS/2 ports, a S/PDIF output, and two
serial ports (for some reason). One other thing I'd like to point out
is that the PANDORA RHAPSODY also includes a slimline DVD burner from
Panasonic; if you've ever tried to put together a small form-factor
case such as this, you know that it's often a pain to get your hands
on an optical drive small enough to fit your specific case. Finally,
the box!includes a special CPU cooler, so you won't have to go searching
low and far for one of those, either. With the purchase of only a few
additional components, such as a processor, memory, and hard drive,
it's very possible to put together a nice, compact, 7" cube system
for under 100,000 yen.

More info: http://www3.soldam.co.jp/barestyle/rhapsody/
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Name: I-O Data Device HDZ-UE1.6TS
Category: External hard drive
Price: 294,000 yen
Release date in Japan: Late December, 2004

The Gist: In the event you find yourself needing more storage space,
I-O Data offers up one of the first terabyte-level storage solutions
simple enough for average consumer use. You'll shell out quite a bit for
this simplicity, as a homebrew storage setup with the same 1.6TB capacity
would certainly be far cheaper than the HDZ's 294,000 yen price tag, but
where's the fun in that? And "simple" is they keyword for the HDZ-UE1.6TS --
with both USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 interfaces, getting the massive 1.6TB
recognized as a single hard drive is as simple as plugging it in to
your PC. What more could you possibly ask for?

Well, I've found one thing: the HDZ-UE1.6TS is nothing but an external
hard drive; it does not function as a Network Attached Storage (NAS)
device. It's a shame, too, because having 1.6TB of space accessible
from anywhere on your network would be quite handy.

More info: http://www.iodata.jp/prod/storage/hdd/2003/hdz-ue/
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STAFF
Written by: Liam McNulty
Edited by: Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

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