GW-227

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G A D G E T W A T C H
The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
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Issue No. 227
Friday February 24, 2006

1. Nintendo DS Web Browser, Terrestrial Digital Broadcast Reception Card
2. Sanyo ICR-S340RM
3. NEC VoToL

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Name: Nintendo DS Web Browser, Terrestrial Digital Broadcast Reception Card
Category: Nintendo DS accessory
Price: 3,800 yen and unknown
Release date in Japan: June 2006 and some time in 2006

The Gist: Nintendo has announced two new components for the
wildly popular "Nintendo DS" that bring it more multimedia
functionality: a web browser and a One-Seg tuner.

Unfortunately, the web browser will not come free of charge.
Jointly developed by Nintendo and Opera Software, the
"Nintendo DS Browser" is set for release in June of this year
for around 3,800 yen. The browser itself comes on a Nintendo
DS card, and users are provided with a memory expansion
module to insert into their Gameboy Advance cartridge slot.
This allows them to access the internet using the integrated
wireless LAN function of the Nintendo DS. Thankfully, the
companies have taken a pretty creative approach to the actual
browsing environment -- the bottom screen of the Nintendo DS
shows a shrunken version of the webpage, and users control
the zoom area (which displays on the top screen of the DS)
using their stylus. Justsystem is also supplying a customized
version of their acclaimed "ATOK" Japanese input software,
which recognizes characters drawn on the bottom screen using
the stylus. For the sake of those of us that rely on the
automatic kana to kanji conversion of our PCs and cell
phones, let's hope Justsystem also includes an on-screen
keyboard option.

It was just last week in Gadget Watch (Issue #226) we said
you'll be seeing more One-Seg products in the near future,
and it seems that prediction is already coming true. The
"DS Terrestrial Digital Broadcast Reception Card" is inserted
into the Nintendo DS card slot, thus adding a One-Seg
terrestrial digital broadcast tuner to the system. There are
no details about pricing and release available yet, but given
One-Seg broadcasts are set to begin on April 1 in Japan,
we expect this product to be released shortly thereafter.
The card itself does jut out of the reverse of the Nintendo
DS and has an antenna that sticks up, but Mr. Iwata's
response to this design choice was that "there are a lot of
people who will put it on some kind of table and watch."
It's somewhat difficult to agree given the screen size of
the Nintendo DS and the mobile nature of One-Seg broadcasts,
but we won't jump to conclusions before we get our hands on
an actual unit. During the demonstration held at the
"Nintendo DS Conference 2006 Spring," the One-Seg video
feed was sent to the top screen of the DS, and the control
portion appeared on the bottom screen to be operated with
the stylus.

More info:
http://www.nintendo.co.jp/ds/dsconference2006s/index.html?link=dstopics

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Name: Sanyo ICR-S340RM
Category: Digital voice recorder
Price: Open Price; estimated around 35,000 yen
Release date in Japan: March 10, 2006

The Gist: As a new model in the "DIPLY TALK" line of voice
recorders, Sanyo is set to release the "ICR-S340RM" and
"ICR-S270RM." The S340 packs 1GB of internal memory as well
as a miniSD card slot, while the S270 features 512MB of
integrated memory. Seeing as how these are the only major
differences between the two units, we'll just address
the former.

The S340 supports the recording of MP3 in a variety of
modes. For the highest quality, you'll want to use XHQ,
which is 128kbps stereo audio at 40Hz - 15kHz. This amounts
to about 17 hours and 40 minutes of recording. At the bottom
of the quality pile is "LP" mode, a 16kbps monaural mode
that goes from 40Hz to 3.5kHz, and allows for roughly 142
hours of recording. That said, we feel sorry for anyone who
actually has to record 142 hours of, well, anything. The
external stereo microphone that sits atop the unit can
also be moved to change its directionality.

When we move on to playback, our options expand quite a
bit. The S340 supports the playback of MP3 files from 16
to 192kbps, as well as WMA files from 32 to 160kbps.
There is even a bass enhancement setting, as well as an
equalizer with three presets.

For battery life, two AAA batteries should last you
through roughly 36 hours of recording or 34 hours of playback.

More info: http://www.sanyo.co.jp/koho/hypertext4/0602news-j/0215-1.html

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Name: NEC VoToL
Category: Portable audio/video player
Price: 39,900 yen
Release date in Japan: Late March 2006

The Gist: Designed to look like a bottle of perfume, NEC's
new "VoToL" portable media player is the company's first
portable media player product. Its major specifications
include a 30GB hard drive, 2.7" color LCD, and support for
a fair share of media formats.

For audio, you'll be able to play MP3, WMA (with DRM support),
WAV, OGG, and AAC files. Video support is also there in
force -- supported formats include MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and WMV9.
JPEG, GIF, and BMP still images are also supported, as are
text files. One particularly nice feature of the VoToL is
its integrated photo storage function: you're able to read
JPG images from an SD card inserted in its slot, and transfer
them to the hard drive. If you're headed on a vacation and
don't feel like lugging your laptop for offloading digital
camera pictures, this feature should set off some bells in
your head. Also, if you own a NEC computer with TV recording
capabilities, you can also transfer video directly to the
VoToL with no need for conversion.

What may be most interesting about the VoToL is its interface
and control scheme. There is a jog dial on the top of the
body (supposedly the "cap," since we're keeping with the
perfume bottle theme) that, when twisted, switches the
function of the player after pausing whatever media you have
playing. This makes it quite simple to change between playback
modes; you could, for example, switch from audio to video
then back to audio as you walk, get on a train, then start
walking again. Indeed, NEC has specifically targeted train
commuters with this feature. The jog dial makes it easy to
switch the player's functions even if you can't see the
screen, which is certainly useful when you're jammed into
2 cubic inches of space on the train.

A feature we're not used to seeing on portable media devices
is translation, and NEC has included it in the VoToL to a
small extent. "Transpeech" can recognize spoken English and
Japanese, and will automatically give you the translation
for it. However, Transpeech does not seem to offer any sort
of translation for text. Finally, NEC may want to take some
advice about battery life from Panasonic: the VoToL allows
for a mere 4 hours of video playback or 8 hours of audio
playback.

More info: http://www.nec.co.jp/press/ja/0602/1401.html

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STAFF
Written by: Liam McNulty
Edited by: Burritt Sabin (editors2@japaninc.com)

(C) Copyright 2006 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.

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