GW-289 -- The Hottest Gizmos and Gadgets from Japan

Japan Inc Magazine Presents:


The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
Issue No. 289 Friday Febuary 22, 2008
Subscribers: 9467

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Name: Toshiba gigabeat T802
Category: Portable audio/video
Price: Open Price; 29,800 yen direct order
Release date in Japan: Already available

The Gist: Toshiba has introduced a number of new portable audio/
video players in their gigabeat line, but we felt the “T802”
most deserved attention of the bunch. This new model offers
several improvements versus its predecessor, the gigabeat T401.
The hardware improvement is found in the capacity, as this new
model offers 8GB of internal storage instead of 4GB.

On the software side we now find support for public LAN
services, namely those like SoftBank's “BB Mobile Point,”
NTT Communications' “HotSpot,” and NTT DoCoMo's “Mzone” and
“mopera U.” A free 3-month trial of the BB Mobile Point
services is also currently being offered if you sign up before
May 7th. The other large improvement on the software side is
embedded support for USEN's video distribution service, GyaO.
If you've ever used YouTube on an iPhone or iPod Touch, you
already know what this is all about. Users are able to search,
view, and otherwise enjoy streaming video content without having
to pick up a different device. But apparently not all GyaO
content is created equal: the gigabeat can only access videos
that are especially prepared for the device on the “GyaO for
gigabeat” service. Toshiba/USEN plan to launch the service with
90 different content types, including some familiar names like
National Geographic documentaries and Gatchaman. All for free,
too. Supposedly by mid-June of this year there will be around
600 titles available, but Toshiba did mention that the release
schedule hasn't been finalized just yet.

Because the above updates involve only firmware changes,
existing gigabeat T401 owners will be offered the option to
upgrade their player's firmware free of charge. Unfortunately
this update cannot be performed by the user; he/she must send
the player to Toshiba. Nice of them to offer it for free, but a
step short of true convenience.

Like the previous model, the T802 includes support for WMV
podcasts, WMV video files, as well as WMA, MP3, and WAV audio
files. WMA 9 Lossless is also supported. On the hardware front,
the 2.4-inch, 320x240 dot TFT color LCD remains, as does the 16
hour playback life for audio files and 5 hour life for video
files. Microsoft's “Windows Mobile software for Portable Media
Center” is the device's operating system.

As a side note, several sources have indicated that Toshiba will
be pulling the plug on the HD DVD format within the next few
days. However, no official announcement has been made by
Toshiba; they maintain that they will be watching market trends
and have not made any final decisions. We think it would be
beneficial for consumers and Toshiba ? to go ahead and let HD
DVD go ahead and die right here. There's no telling how much of
Toshiba's original investment in the format has been repaid, but
given the way things have panned out, the company will likely be
making some hard decisions in the near future.

More info:
Name: Sony Bravia 1-Seg
Category: Portable audio/video
Price: Open Price; estimated around 38,000 yen
Release date in Japan: April 10, 2008

The Gist: As though there weren't enough ways to tap into 1-Seg
programming already, Sony is introducing a portable 1-Seg TV in
April of this year. Cashing in on the company's success with the
Bravia line of plasma/LCD TVs, this new device includes a “Mobile
BRAVIA Engine” that supposedly helps with contrast, outlines, and
color saturation. We've already seen Bravia, Cybershot, and
Walkman branded mobile phones from Sony Ericsson, so there's
evidently been quite an upturn in internal communication at
Sony. It's probably safe to say that this won't be the last time
we see such a cross-branded device either.

1-Seg, for those that have missed it, is the first “segment” of
terrestrial digital broadcasts in Japan. Basically, broadcasters
and regulators decided to devote a specific portion of the
broadcast frequencies specifically to mobile devices like mobile
phones, laptops, and portable audio/video players. The result is
1-Seg, where the resolution is limited to 320x240 and the
framerate to 15fps.

So you shouldn't really expect a theater-quality experience out
of this device. However, with its 3-inch, 432x240 dot, 500:1
contrast ratio, 160-degree viewing angle TFT LCD, you can be
assured that you're getting one of the finest 1-Seg experiences
available. Sony has taken extra steps to make sure the screen is
viewable both indoors and outdoors too.

The Bravia 1-Seg offers the capability to record 1-Seg
programming as well. Using the integrated Electronic Programming
Guide (EPG) feature, you'll even be able to see what's on when
and schedule recording as far as a month in advance. The
internal 2GB of memory will allow for about 10 hours of shows.
Sony did not include a Memory Stick Duo slot on the device, nor
is there a way to connect it to a PC or TV, so unfortunately
deleting old shows is the only way to free up space. But there
are some decent recording features such as “Sports Overtime
Support,” where recording times can be automatically adjusted
because the Marines and Hanshin go into extra innings.

The included recharging cradle can also be connected to an
external antenna, bringing enhanced stability to the device's
reception. This should make recording shows much more enjoyable,
as personal experience dictates 1-Seg isn't exactly reliable in,
oh, 70% of Tokyo. While the device does also feature an
integrated FM/AM radio tuner, it includes no recording feature
for the radio. The internal battery should last for about 8
hours of 1-Seg viewing or 34 hours of AM radio listening.

More info:

Name: Olympus CAMEDIA SP-570UZ
Category: Digital still camera
Price: Open Price; estimated around 60,000 yen
Release date in Japan: March 6, 2008

The Gist: For all of the improvements digital cameras have
undergone in the past few years, it seems optical zoom
capabilities are often an afterthought. Maybe it's because
“prosumers” are expected to be using digital SLR setups, or
because image sensors have become so detailed that optical
zooming isn't deemed as horribly necessary anymore. Whatever
the reason, the new SP-570UZ from Olympus is the world's first
compact digital camera to feature a 20x optical zoom lens.

The last model, the SP-560UZ, featured a lens with a focal
length between 27 and 486mm and an 18x optical zoom. Two more
“x” and a wider focal length ? 26 to 520mm ? gets you to the
current model. A new ring on the lens itself also acts as a
manual focus ring, giving users a slightly more hands-on
approach to focusing than do other consumer-level cameras.

The image sensor is one of 10 effective megapixels, yielding
a maximum image resolution of 3648x2736 dots. The maximum
sensitivity is ISO1600, but when dropping down to 5MP, ISO3200
and ISO6400 can also be selected. Other recording options
include RAW, 640x480 video at 30fps in Motion JPEG, and
high-speed shooting as many as 13.5 frames per second at 3MP.
Japan was overwhelmed last year with “face detection” technology
in digital cameras, so this model has several modes that perform
the same function.

It records to xD Picture Cards or an internal 45MB of memory.
It runs off four AA batteries, and will last for about 390
images under the CIPA standards.

More info:
Written by: Liam McNulty
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