The Pulse 2

Back to Contents of Issue: December 2003

The Best of J@pan Inc's Newsletters

Pentax Optio S4

All right, all right, it may be another 4-megapixel digicam, but it's incredibly slim and stylish. That must count for something! Measuring 83 x 20 x 52mm and weighing 98g, it is exactly the same dimensions as the lesser Option S from the same company. Writing this, it strikes me that the figure 98g seems to be cropping up a lot these days.

Applying extensive and thorough journalistic methodology, for which we gadget hacks are renowned the world over -- by which I mean I tapped a few words into Google and hit the "enter" button -- I have discovered that this weight, namely 98g, is very popular in the consumer electronics industry. If it were a 98g chain made of 14 karat gold, it'd cost you well over 2,000 bucks. But the Pentax Optio S4 is only going to cost you a quarter of that -- bargain!

Technophiles will be delighted to hear that the spanky new S4 has a 3-times optical zoom lens, a 4.23-million-pixel CCD (the old model only had a 3.2-million-pixel one) allowing max images of 2,304 x 1,728 pixels, 15 frame-per-second movie clips (improved from 12fps) at 320 x 240 dots, one-touch image reviewing and more focus, white balance and other options than you can shake a stick at. The camera lays images down either to the integral 11MB of Flash RAM or to an SD or MM card. And it's very slim and lovely looking. Did I say that already?

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Buffalo USB card readers

Buffalo has announced a couple of USB card readers for mini SD cards and Memory Sticks. Look, it may not seem terribly exciting, but these things are darned useful! The MCR-MINISD is the SD card version and the MCR-MSDUO is -- on second thought, I'll let you guess. Anyhow, the pair of them are neat little card readers that connect to your computer (Mac or Windows) via USB and have a maximum data transfer rate of 12Mbps. These things may not have the sex appeal of a huge LCD or plasma screen or the wow factor of Sony's clever little robots, but they have the power to get you out of a right old fix when you find yourself trying to tease information out of a digital camera or Vaio and don't have the necessary, er, orifices.

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iRiver iFP-599T

iRiver has launched an iFP-500 "silicon audio player" series of portable music machines, with the flagship iFP-599T model touting an incredible ONE GIGABYTE of internal Flash RAM and a classy champagne gold finish. Capable of playing MP3, ASF and WMA formats, the 599T has a four-line LCD display and a built-in FM radio tuner and is compatible with Mac and Windows operating systems. It only weighs 60g and, almost as if to prove how lightweight and manageable it is, comes with a funky armband in the box when you buy it. (Which is great if you're the exhibitionist sporty type who doesn't mind people staring and laughing at you.) It's a bit chunkier than Sony's similar machine, but then it does have double the memory, allowing storage of about 240 songs or -- if you really like the sound of your own voice -- 288 hours of digital voice recording with a Sound Activity Detector function.

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NHJ v@mp VP-308

Just what I always wanted -- another MP3 audio player with a built-in FM tuner. Really! In fact, NHJ has announced two different models -- the VP-208 (booo!) and the VP-308 (hurrah!). Both portable WMA and MP3 players, the silver VP-208 has only 128MB of Ram but the black VP-308 has 256MB. So let's just all ignore the VP-208 and hope it goes away.

Shaped, rather unfortunately, like one of those anti-destroyer, submarine torpedoes from the second World War, the little audio player is compatible with Mac and Windows systems and can act as a voice recorder as well as a radio and for playing those digital files. The single battery will give 15 hours of playback, and there are five equalizer settings to suit the mood: normal, rock, pop, jazz and classic. Files of almost any bit rate can be accommodated and the entire little bomb capsule thingy weighs a sprightly 30g. Or 30 fingernails in new money.

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Matsushita SJ-MJ57

I guess the trend these days of making everything tiny, multifunctional and capable of storing information means we're going to see a whole lot more gadgets falling into the "portable audio" and "PC peripheral" categories. Appropri-ately, then, we have the SJ-MJ57 from Matsushita, an MD player that would henceforth like to be known, if it's not too much trouble, as "the MD player with speakers that shine." And it means that quite literally. Apparently, the bizarre claim to fame of the MJ57 is that it has the world's first (yes, really) "sound charger" glowing speakers. Or is that shining speakers? Incorporating the company's proprietary Sound Window flat speaker panel technology, the stereo Sound Charger speakers glow as they chuck out the sound -- even giving off a blue LED glow while they're being recharged. The unit also boasts an integral digital amp and will play for up to 63 hours on one charge of the rechargeable battery (and more if you add a regular alkaline cell). It comes in silver, blue and black casing finishes and looks a lot better than you might think. Take a look.

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