The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
Issue No.207
Thursday September 22, 2005

1. JVC Alneo XA-HD500
2. Sony DSC-M2
3. Sony RDR-AX75

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: JVC Alneo XA-HD500
Category: Portable audio
Price: Open Price; estimated around 45,000 yen
Release date in Japan: November 1, 2005

The Gist: "K2 Technology" is the name of the game on JVC's new
6GB portable audio player, the "XA-HD500." Nicknamed simply
"Alneo," the XA-HD500 continues the JVC tradition of focusing on
high-quality audio without too many fancy gimmicks.

At first glance, the player itself looks like a knock-off of a first generation
iPod mini. There is no fancy styling, no organic EL screen, and nothing
that really makes you want to immediately pick up the player and see
how it works. In fact, the LCD it does have isn't even a color one.

But this is JVC we're talking about. They've never really taken the style
angle with their products; the focus of their consumer product division
has typically been audio quality. Here's where the XA-HD500 supposedly
shines. It features a "C.C. Converter" to restore the audio quality that
is lost during the MP3/WMA compression process. The C.C. Converter
is based on K2 Technology, which JVC not only uses on their high-end
consumer products (such as their $2,000 home theater receivers), but
also uses in their own recording studios and mastering studios.
Speaking of studios, the audio quality of this unit has been tuned by
one of JVC's own studio engineers.

JVC has also taken a number of steps to integrate the XA-HD500 with
your home audio setup. First and foremost, it includes a cradle that
features an analog audio output jack, making connection of the player to
your stereo at home almost too simple. Moreover, JVC includes an
infrared remote controller with each unit, so it's pretty clear the device
has more than one intended use.

Expect to see a 30-hour battery life out of the XA-HD500 with a 3.5-hour charge.

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: Sony DSC-M2
Category: Digital camera
Price: Open Price; estimated around 50,000 yen
Release date in Japan: October 21, 2005

The Gist: Sony has announced the successor to the DSC-M1, which
they've aptly named the "DSC-M2." Set to be available in white, pink,
and silver colors, the M2 retains the same mobile phone type form
factor as the M1, but has been slightly modified in both specifications
and style.

For those of you that may have missed the "Flip Design" the first time
around, here's a refresher: imagine a mobile phone with a 2.5" screen
that can swivel out to the side. That's essentially all the "Flip Design"
means -- if you want to use the camera like a mobile phone, just leave
the screen right on top of the body of the unit. If you want to use the
camera like a camcorder instead, simply swivel the screen out to the
side and give it a twirl.

The M2 continues the control layout of the M1 and has different buttons
for taking a still image versus taking a movie. You can also take still
images while recording a movie, so if there's something you want
a higher resolution image of, there's no need to stop recording your
video. Video recording goes up to 640 x 480 dots at 30 frames per
second, and is done in the MPEG-4 format. Memory Stick Duo is
used as the recording medium. Because the camera can also record
video at 320 x 240 dots, you should be able to take the Memory Stick
Duo out of the camera and view the videos right on your Playstation
Portable. Using a 2GB Memory Stick Duo will allow for roughly
92 minutes of video at 640 x 480, as much as 17 hours if you record
320 x 240 at 15 frames per second. You certainly have a wide range
of video-quality options.

"Pocket Album" is a rather interesting new feature offered by the M2
that saves 640 x 480 copies of all images into the camera's internal
memory. Up to 1,100 images can be stored in the memory, and it can
also hold 1 or 2 frames per second "animated thumbnails" of videos
that you record. Unfortunately, the only use the camera seems to
have for these internal images is viewing them on the camera itself
in a slideshow (do people really do that?), or displaying them in
a calendar format (which you can do with Sony's own PictureGear
software anyway on your PC). Hopefully Sony will come around with
some more useful applications for future models.

The camera itself is a 5.1MP Super HAD CCD, and images as large
as 2592 x 1944 can be recorded. The battery should last you long
enough for 210 such images.

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: Sony RDR-AX75
Category: Hybrid recorder
Price: Open Price; estimated around 80,000 yen
Release date in Japan: November 21, 2005

The Gist: The Sony product onslaught continues, as they have
introduced the "RDR-AX75" hybrid recorder. Featuring an internal
250GB hard drive and DVD drive, the AX75 is in the "Sugo Roku"
line of recorders.

You're probably tired of hearing about Sony's PSP by this point, but
unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to mention it once more.
The AX75 features the capability to encode directly to the MPEG-4
AVC format as it records to the standard MPEG-2 format at the
same time. Connect your PSP to the AX75 via USB cable, and
you can move these MPEG-4 AVC files to the PSP's Memory
Stick Duo. As long as you have firmware version 2.00 for your
PSP, you can then play the files to your heart's desire.
Thankfully, this entire process shouldn't take you too long;
transferring an hour-long program to your PSP will take you all of
two minutes. There are also some other PSP-related features offered
by the AX75, such as how it can automatically "cut" MPEG-4 AVC
files into necessary pieces so they can fit on the remaining capacity
of your Memory Stick Duo. Expect to be able to fit as much as four
hours of video on a 1GB Memory Stick Duo.

Surely by now you're sick and tired of hearing about the PSP. So
let's take a look at the other features offered by the AX75. "x-Omakase
Maruroku" will automatically learn about your preferences based on
your usage history with the device, and automatically record programs
based on your preferences. Other systems did the same thing on
a keyword basis -- for example, they will automatically record any
program that contains the word "reelection" in the title -- but x-Omakase
Maruroku takes things a step further and learns from your actions.
If it discovers you watch the same episode of "The A-Team" every
Wednesday, it will certainly record anything that contains "Mr. T."
x-Omakase Maruroku learns from recordings you schedule, recorded
programs that you watch, and even your DVD burning habits.
Chances are you'll end up watching a program or two you didn't even
know you'd like.

"Complete Disc Copy" is also a blessing for those who own DVD
camcorders. Insert your 8cm disc into the drive of the AX75, and you're
ready to make a complete backup of the disc to either the hard drive or
a 12cm DVD, all the while retaining the 5.1ch audio of the source. On
a similar note, the "Easy Photo Storage" feature automatically copies
all of the JPEG images from a digital camera connected via USB,
DVD, or CD media to the internal hard drive.

Finally, "Omakase Chapter" is a new take on scene detection
algorithms. While scene detection algorithms in the past typically
read only the audio signal, "Omakase Chapter" also analyzes
the video signal. This means that besides long periods of silence,
other large changes such as background music, location, characters,
and so on can also trigger a "scene" tag to be added to a video source.

More info:

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SUBSCRIBERS: 8,318 as of September 22, 2005

Written by: Liam McNulty
Edited by: Burritt Sabin (

(C) Copyright 2005 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.