The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
Issue No.206
Friday September 16, 2005

1. Sony NW-A3000
2. Apple iPod nano
3. NEC LaVie A

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: Sony NW-A3000
Category: Portable audio
Price: Open Price; estimated around 35,000 yen
Release date in Japan: November 19, 2005

The Gist: Sony has unveiled the latest addition to their Network
Walkman line of portable audio players. The "NW-A3000" has
a 20GB capacity and the "NW-A1000" a 6GB capacity.

Both players feature organic EL screens that appear to be "seamless,"
as has become the Sony style of late. While the A3000 offers a 2-inch
screen, the A1000 offers a 1.5-inch screen. Interestingly enough, both
screens have the same 128 x 128 dot display.

Some nice playback features are offered on the new players, such as
the "Artist Link" function. While listening to a song, the hard drive
automatically searches for artists that are in a genre similar to those
of other artists you like. Put differently, it's easy to make temporary
playlists as you can simply select what artist you want to hear next.
One function that I am personally glad to see is called
"Intelligent Shuffle," which keeps track of what songs have actually
been played while in shuffle playback mode -- too often I find "shuffle"
shuffles a bit too much. There are some other new shuffle modes such
as "favorite songs," which takes your top 100 played songs, and
"Time Machine Shuffle," which will shuffle only songs from particular
years. "Initial Search" also allows you to search based on the first
character of an artist's name -- in English characters or Japanese
characters. For example, searching using the kana character "ri"
would yield "Liam McNulty" (in English characters) in the artist list.
Likewise, searching for the letter "U" would yield "Utada Hikaru"
in Japanese characters.

Supported audio codecs are ATRAC3, ATRAC3plus, and MP3. Sony
has also announced they'll be putting out a firmware update
in December to add WMA support to the player. On a related note,
Sony is not including "SonicStage" with this player (as they have
with previous Network Walkman products) -- they've opted for a new
piece of software called "CONNECT Player," which many say is
Sony's answer to Apple's iTunes. Fans of SonicStage needn't quake
in fear, though, as Sony said they'll be choosing between the more
suitable of SonicStage and CONNECT Player for players in the future.

The A3000 comes in violet and silver color variations. The A1000 will
be available in violet, silver, pink, and blue.

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: Apple iPod nano
Category: Portable audio
Price: 2GB: 21,800 yen; 4GB: 27,800 yen
Release date in Japan: Already available

The Gist: I'm sure the fact that Sony and Apple debuted new portable
audio players in the same week is purely coincidence, but Apple
stunned many as they announced the "iPod nano" last week. Already
shipping, even in Japan, the iPod nano is a slimmed down version of
the company's "iPod mini." In fact, Apple has entirely dropped
the "iPod mini" from their product line. If you ask me, I'd say Apple's
undifferentiated strategy is going to hurt them here -- the iPod mini
became immensely successful in Japan largely because it came
in several color variations. The iPod nano, however, will be available
only in black and white. You'll need to pay another 3,400 yen for an
"iPod nanoTube."

Apple Japan has put the 2GB version of the nano at 21,800 yen, and
the 4GB version at 27,800 yen. There is no 6GB version to take over
the role of the 6GB iPod mini. The "nano" part of the product's name
indeed came from somewhere -- the nano measures 40 x 90 x 6.9mm
(1.57 x 3.54 x 0.27 in). Yes, that's right -- just over a quarter of an inch
thick. Even the iPod shuffle, Apple's ultra-portable flash player, is thicker
at 0.33 inches. Have a #2 pencil handy? That's thicker than the iPod
nano. Steve Jobs himself called it "unbelievable." In an interesting
move, Apple has placed the headphone jack on the bottom of the unit.

There's more iPod functionality on the nano than you can shake
a stick at. Everything you'd come to expect is there. It offers a 1.5-inch,
176 x 132 dot color display with an LED backlight, and has the same
click wheel as its bigger brothers. Photo viewing, album art, and
slideshows -- it's all there. In fact, Apple even ADDED functions to
the nano, such as an integrated calendar, contact book, world clock,
games, stopwatch, notepad, and so on. Yikes.

Current iPod owners will be relieved to hear that the nano should
support most current exceptions because it features the standard iPod

AAC, MP3, WAV, Audible, Apple Lossless, and AIFF are all supported.

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: NEC LaVie A
Category: Notebook PC
Price: Open Price; high-end model estimated around 250,000 yen, low-end model, 210,000 yen
Release date in Japan: Mid-September 2005

The Gist: Two new notebook PCs will be coming from NEC in the near
future. The upper and lower level models of the company's "LaVie A"
series offer a number of improvements over previous models.

First and foremost, included with LaVie A is a stand that features two
3W speakers called a "Music Stand." Inventive. The notebook can be
placed in this stand vertically, even when it is open. Of course, even
if it's closed, you're still fine -- a remote controller is also included.
When you insert a DVD or CD into the PC's optical drive, it will
automatically begin playing the disc. I was about to call this feature
the "Poor Man's Home Theater" seeing as how that's clearly its
intended purpose, but then I realized that someone who can afford
to purchase a 210,000 yen (or more) notebook shouldn't be considered
poor. Still, something like this is fantastic for someone who doesn't
necessarily need all the bells and whistles associated with a dedicated
home theater setup. NEC took it a step further too, because a wireless
TV unit called "AirTV" is also included with the more expensive models.

But you might need to sit a tad closer than normal. The screen on
the LaVie A is of decent resolution -- 1280 x 768 (widescreen) -- but
since it's only a 12.1-inch screen, any hopes you had about impressing
others with your makeshift "LCD TV" just went out the window.

The technical specifications are where things split between the upper
and lower level models. The upper level model ("LA790/DD" for those
that keep score) features a 100GB hard drive, integrated 802.11a/b/g
wireless LAN, Bluetooth Ver 2 + EDR, and includes the "AirTV"
wireless TV unit. The lower level LA700/DD opts for an 80GB hard
drive, 802.11b/g support, leaves off the Bluetooth entirely, and doesn't
include AirTV.

Both models feature a Pentium M 753 (1.2GHz) CPU, 512MB of
memory, use the Intel 915GMS chipset, and include a DVD Super
Multi Drive (+- R DL support). Available interfaces are 1x Type2 PC
card slot, Ethernet, 3x USB 2.0 ports, 1x IEEE 1394 port, 1x Mini
D-Sub 15 pin, S-Video output, and a memory card slot that can handle
SD, Memory Stick, and xD-Picture Card. Expect a battery life of
roughly 5.8 hours.

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Written by: Liam McNulty
Edited by: Burritt Sabin (

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