GW-276 -- The Hottest Gizmos and Gadgets from Japan

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Japan Inc Magazine Presents:
G A D G E T W A T C H

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The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
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Issue No. 276 Friday October 5, 2007
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Name: Sony XEL-1
Category: Home Audio/Video
Price: 200,000 yen
Release date in Japan: December 1, 2007

The Gist: Say what you will about Sony's reputation,
restrictive proprietary technologies, and treatment of
customers, but few would argue that the company isn't one of
the top innovators in consumer electronics. At least in Japan,
Sony has consistently been a powerhouse when it comes to
offering technology on the absolute bleeding edge. You'll
certainly pay for this privilege, and maybe your friends will
make fun of you, but Sony never seems to 'hold back' on
releasing a product solely because it may hard for customers to
justify the purchase price.

Sony's XEL-1 is an excellent example of this fact, as it's the
world's first TV to make use of organic EL display technology.
The result is impressive on a number of technical dimensions.
Since an organic EL display essentially works 'similar to a
lightning bug' (according to Sony), the XEL-1 has achieved a
contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. In other words, the blacks of
this TV are literally as black as night. On the product's
webpage, Sony flat-out tells us that nothing on the internet
will do the set any justice. What the internet can do justice
to, though, is the 3mm thickness of the TV's screen. Since it's
an organic EL display, Sony doesn't need a backlight as is
required on LCD screens. There's no telling how only 3mm of
screen will stand against impacts, but hopefully you won't be
throwing objects at your screen anyway. Presuming development
of the technology can at least continue at its current pace,
organic EL displays are likely to replace LCDs in a number of
applications.

Sony has separated the tuners and other various electronics from
the screen itself, so there's a base that features the screen's
various connectors. An arm holds up the screen. Even so, the
entire package weighs a mere 2kg.

Since this technology is still in its infancy, the XEL-1
definitely has some drawbacks. The first is the resolution: it's
only 960x540 dots (a quarter the resolution of a 1920x1080
screen). It's also only 11 inches. And the price tag? 200,000
yen can land you a 46 inches Sony Bravia LCD with Full HD
resolution.

But that's not what this product is about; surely Sony doesn't
expect to sell a whole lot of these given their low resolution,
small size, and high price tag. No, this product is sort of like
Russians placing a metal flag underneath the North Pole: they
did it solely because they can and wanted to lay claim to
an area of increasing importance. Sony is making a statement to
the world. They wanted to be the first to lay claim to the
organic EL display TV market. Given Sony's history with TVs, it
only makes sense for them to be the first to dive into the
market. We certainly welcome Sharp, Panasonic, Hitachi, Toshiba,
JVC, and other manufacturers to show Sony up.

More info: http://www.sony.jp/products/Consumer/oel/index.html
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Name: Sony Walkman NW-A910
Category: Portable Audio/Video
Price: 4GB: 30,000 yen, 8GB: 35,000 yen, 16GB: 45,000 yen
Release date in Japan: November 17, 2007

The Gist: We normally try to avoid featuring two products from
the same company within each issue of Gadget Watch, but we're
going to have to make an exception this week for Sony's new
NW-A910 series of Walkman portable audio players.

There's always ongoing debate about whether companies should
adapt locally or standardize globally when it comes to
globalization, so it's interesting to see how companies like
Sony and Apple take different approaches to marketing their
products in foreign countries. Apple has certainly done an
excellent job in Japan, but their global standard approach
sometimes make you wonder if they aren't missing opportunities
in countries where customers have different demands.

Sony's new NW-A910 is like someone taking Apple by the collar
and yelling 'LOCAL ADAPTATION!!!!' in its face. While Toshiba
has already released a number of different 'gigabeat' models
with 1-Seg support, the NW-A910 is Sony's first Walkman device
to do so. Available in capacities from 4GB to 16GB, the NW-A910
looks like some of Sony Ericsson's mobile phones. The NW-A910s
feature a 320x240 LCD screen, 74g weight, and integrated noise
cancellation functionality.

It seems Sony wasn't slacking with their implementation of 1-Seg
on the device, as it not only displays program info for 10
channels simultaneously, but you can schedule recording of those
programs. With 16GB of space, you're really getting a portable
1-Seg video recorder (about 100 hours). The convenience of 1-Seg
is in full force with such an implementation. A few mobile
phones allow 1-Seg broadcast recording, but even Sony's own
1-Seg tuner for the PSP doesn't have this. Captions are
supported, and you can choose to display captions in list-style
if you don't feel like actually watching the shows you recorded.
Unfortunately, there's no telling what you can or can't do with
those shows after you record them; it would be nice if you could
archive them on your PC somehow.

The NW-A910 is a fully featured portable media player as well,
with support for MPEG-4 AVC and MPEG-4 videos, as well as MP3,
WMA, ATRAC3, ATRAC3plus, ATRAC Advanced Lossless, Linear PCM,
AAC, and HE-AAC audio. Additional features include a 'Digital
Sound Enhancement Engine' for restoring compressed audio
frequencies, a WM-PORT for all of those fancy Walkman
accessories, album cover-based searching, and 36 hour playback
time for music.

More info: http://www.sony.co.jp/walkman/
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Name: Hitachi CP-A100J
Category: LCD Projector
Price: 504,000 yen
Release date in Japan: Mid-January 2008

The Gist: Hitachi brings us the CP-A100J, a rather unique
approach to the standard LCD projector. It's equipped with what
the company calls a 'Free Curve Lens Mirror' that allows for
projection of an 80 inch image to a screen when the projector
is only 63cm away.

Traditional LCD projectors blast light directly through LCD
screens to project their images, and as a result, they generally
need to be placed a quite distance from the screen to project an
image of respectable size. With Hitachi's new CP-A100J, however,
the image is first projected onto the surface of a bendable
mirror, which of course causes the light to bounce once again to
the screen or wall. The key here is the bendable mirror: it can
bend such that the projected image does not appear to be
distorted. The result, of course, is that you can place the
projector much closer to the screen itself. Hitachi supposes
this is useful for storefronts, projecting presentations onto
meeting room tables, and of course video games. For the meeting
room table situation, the projector supports vertical
operation; it can project a 45 inch screen onto your meeting
room table from this distance.

The specs of the projector are 'corporate', so the LCD projector
has a resolution of 1024 x 768. It's equipped with a monaural
speaker, Ethernet port, D-Sub 15 pin jack, Component input,
S-Video input, Composite input, and it weighs 5.8kg.

More info: http://www.hitachi.co.jp/New/cnews/month/2007/09/
0927c.html
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STAFF
Written by: Liam McNulty
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