GW-180

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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. 180
Thursday February 17, 2005

(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)

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Name: Thanko ButterFly2 MP3 Player
Category: Portable audio
Price: 6,980 yen for 128MB, 9,980 yen for 256MB,
12,980 yen for 512MB
Release date in Japan: Already available

The Gist: Minimalists will appreciate Thanko's new
ButterFly2 MP3 player, which amounts to nothing more
than a set of headphones with an integrated MP3 player.
In fact, most people would probably assume you cut off
your headphone cable and were just using your headphones
as poor man's earmuffs. Surely, I'm not the only
person that's done this...

Anyway, the ButterFly2 will be available in 128MB,
256MB, and 512MB capacities. Everything you need is on
or in the earphones -- buttons such as play, pause,
and next track are on the right earphone. It will
connect to any modern PC by USB 1.1, and be recognized
as USB Mass Storage. Charging the headphones takes roughly
3 hours, but this allows for a playback time of 10
hours, certainly enough for the daily commute.

Perhaps what I like most about the ButterFly2 is the
streamlined look of the entire setup. Not only is it
great for people like myself who don't like carrying an
MP3 player (that is separate from their headphones),
it opens up an entirely new market for the industry:
people who simply can't carry an MP3 player. This
would include those who can't have anything dangling
from their body (think equipment on assembly lines),
those who can't stand to carry anything while they
exercise, and probably entire audiences I've forgotten
about.

More info: http://www.thanko.jp/butterfly2.html
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Name: v@mp VP-525D
Category: Portable audio
Price: 12,800 yen
Release date in Japan: Already available

The Gist: Just when I was beginning to think nobody
released MP3 players with flash memory slots anymore,
here comes NHJ Corporation with the "v@mp VP-525D."
While the most prominent feature of this player (and
the reason I'm featuring it in this week's Gadget
Watch) is of course its inclusion of a SecureDigital
card slot in addition to 256MB of on-board flash memory,
it will serve a more symbolic role. That is, it represents
the rebirth of the "mp3 player with flash card slot"
demand. Some readers may recall that the first MP3
players marketed towards typical consumers--such as
Diamond Multimedia's Rio PMP 300--contained a small
(by today's standards) amount of on-board memory and
flash card slots. Nevertheless, as the demand for
players went up, most makers instead opted to create
smaller devices with greater amounts of on-board
memory...all while leaving poor flash cards in the dust.
As a result, there has been a four- to five-year "gap"
in the inclusion of flash memory card slots in typical
MP3 players. Given the current price and versatility of
flash memory cards these days, I'd say it's due time for
MP3 player makers to start getting back to putting slots
on their devices. Many 1GB cards can be had for under
10,000 yen, and it's not as though they will only be used
in your MP3 player; certainly, consumers want to be
able to expand the capabilities of their devices.

Getting back to modern times, the v@mp VP-525D does
indeed have a flash memory card slot, which accepts SD
cards up to 512MB in size. It can play both WMA and MP3
files, and can record from either microphone or FM tuner
as well. As is the standard these days, the display is a
96 x 32 dot backlit LCD capable of showing Japanese
characters, and it supports ID3 tags. As an added bonus
for the fashion-sensitive, the 525D includes five
differently colored "shades" to attach to the player,
so as to match "your mood or fashion," according to NHJ.
A single AAA battery offers up about 12 hours of
playback time.

More info: http://www.vamp-mp3.com/jp/vp500d/index.html
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Name: Wacom Cintiq 21UX
Category: Graphics tablet
Price: Open Price: estimated at 350,000 yen
Release date in Japan: February 26, 2005

The Gist: What could possibly be finer than a 21.3" LCD
with UXGA (1600 x 1200) resolution? How about a 21.3"
LCD with UXGA resolution that you can write on! Wacom's
new "Cintiq 21UX" is just that. Obviously costing a pretty
penny, the Cintiq 21UX combines LCD screen with graphics
tablet, so as to create an image/graphic creation/editing
nirvana.

Wacom demonstrates their knowledge of graphic tablet
creation with a few key features likely to sell any
graphic artist. As far as the actual screen is concerned,
it has been designed from bottom-up with the artist in
mind. The "Flat Surface" specification makes sure that
there is no difference in space between bezel and LCD;
artists probably wouldn't want to worry about hitting a
piece of plastic with their arm while creating the next
"Mona Lisa." The stand can tilt from 30 to 80 degrees,
and can be rotated, so you certainly won't have problems
accessing your image from whichever angle you choose to
draw from. In fact, the stand can be taken off entirely.
The screen itself has a 170-degree viewing angle, 400:1
contrast ratio, and brightness of 250cd/square meter.
It can display 16,770,000 colors. You'll need both USB
and DVI-I to use the screen, though a number of adapters
are included for those without.

To the right of the LCD, on the bezel, lies the
"ExpressPad." It pretty much boils down to a
4-button per-application customizable trackpad.
According to Wacom, this trackpad allows for
a 25 percent increase in productivity versus traditional
operations. I'd probably just use it for something like
"zoom in" or "zoom out," but I don't use a tablet
either...so what do I know?

Getting to the actual tablet features, current Wacom users
will feel right at home -- the sensor is the same as on
the company's "Intuous3" tablet. This equates to a
resolution ten times (0.005mm) that of traditional screens,
where the pen has 1,024 levels of pressure.

More info: http://tablet.wacom.co.jp/what/detail/detail_press.html?nno=328
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