J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
A Free Newsletter Covering the Latest Cool Stuff in Japan
Issue No. 50

Thursday, February 28, 2002
(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy and paste to your

Our first bit of news in Gadget Watch this week is not a conventional
product piece, but rather more an industry-wide announcement with
huge repercussions.

In short, DVD is dead; long live Blu-ray. After a joint announcement
issued by Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita, Pioneer, Philips,
Samsung, Sharp, Sony and Thomson Multimedia, the successor to good
ol' DVD is here, in spirit at least. Blu-ray is basically DVD on
steroids, affording capacities of up to 50-GB on a single
(double-sided) disc that is the same size as a normal, 12-cm DVD.
The new optical disc format uses a blue, rather than red, laser
which, thanks to the shorter wavelength of blue-violet light,
achieves a tighter focus for the beam. The 405-nm blue-violet laser
skips around on a 1.2-mm disc, which has an optical transmittance
protection layer of 0.1mm, meaning tilting is less likely and disc
reading is more accurate. The tracking pitch of the Blu-ray disc is
0.32um, half that of a regular DVD, so it's currently capable of
storing a maximum of about 27Gb of data, or about 13 hours of TV
programs. Blu-ray discs use the global standard M-PEG2 compression
technology for video (and AC3, MPEG1 et cetera for audio), have a
superfast data transfer rate of 36Mbps and have unique IDs etched on
them for all the copyright-conscious. They come in cartridges, so
forget about spreading jam and stuff on them to see how durable
they are.

The standards will be licensed within the next few months, meaning
that, in theory, we could see these nine companies turning out
Blu-ray products that capitalize on the huge new capacities and
high-speed data transfer by early next year. The good news --
particularly if the companies play ball -- is that Blu-ray machines
can be made backwardly compatible with DVD, so we won't necessarily
have to make a wholesale switch and ditch all those other shiny
silver discs.

Get 128-Kbps wireless connection at the price of only 32!
If you act before the end of March, you can buy the b-mobile wireless
modem with 12 months of UNLIMITED Internet connection for 76,000 yen,
or 6,333 yen per month. This is the current price of the 32-Kbps
service. Starting March 26th, b-mobile data card users will be able
to obtain maximum 128-Kbps speed with no extra cost.
or phone 03-3585-5126.

Name: Casio SY-300
Category: Television
Price: 36,000 yen
Release date in Japan: March 23, 2002

The Gist: If you're like me and get bored on the beach after about 30
seconds of basting like a Thanksgiving turkey in the sun (if it's
freezing outside right now, just indulge me), Casio has just become
your best friend, because its new SY-300 is a combined outdoor mini
TV and radio.

It also looks very cool -- there's a sporty blue/black model that
looks the perfect companion for the same company's 'G-Bros'
waterproof digital still camera and an ice cool, white version. It
can withstand temperatures of -10C to +50C, and Casio reckons its
tough elastomer/polycarbonate body will cope with sun, sand, sea,
rain and snow. Essential buttons to control stuff like the volume,
picture and so on are waterproofed too. And for the first time in a
portable LCD television like this, the antenna is a special helical
type, coiled up neatly inside the unit's shell. You should be able to
get about two and a half hours' worth of viewing pleasure from the
batteries until you need to nip off to the car and use the (optional)
ciggy lighter adapter.

More info:

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Name: Toshiba Voice Bar DMR 3500S/900s
Category: Digital voice recorder
Price: Various
Release date in Japan: March 1, 2002

The Gist: As if the machines weren't useful enough, Toshiba has
upgraded its fantastic Voice Bar digital memory recorders with four
new models and, in the process, added a dinky digital camera unit
that can be slotted into the top of the Voice Bar to allow users to
take snaps. Guess what it's called? Yep, 'Shot On Bar.' No, really,
that makes sense, doesn't it? It sits on top of the (voice) bar and
takes shots. Not only is it brilliantly named, but it should take
pretty reasonable pictures since it has a 100,000 pixel CMOS sensor
inside. Of the four new memo recorders, the 3500S is the big new kid,
capable of storing 35 hours and 20 minutes at normal (SP) quality and
5 hours and 40 minutes at the highest quality. The 3500S will run for
over 30 hours continuously on two size-4 alkaline batteries and can
record in 'extra HQ' mode for the highest quality sound reproduction,
which is apparently similar to AM radio broadcast quality, whatever
that means. The recordings can be kept in three separate folders,
each storing a maximum of 199 clips and, being digital, there are all
kinds of clever functions to play with, including bookmarking
important clips, voice-activated recording, a timer, an alarm and so
on. A USB-compatible PC application kit, DMR-KITS is also available.

More info:

Name: Sharp SD-SG11/E2
Category: AV
Price: 190,000 yen
Release date in Japan: February 25, 2002

The Gist: Sharp, bless its cotton socks, is still bravely plugging
its proprietary 1-bit digital amp-loaded audio systems to us, the
uneducated, unwashed masses. Announcing the SD-SG11/ELAC201 audio
package, Sharp wants us to share its enthusiasm about 1-bit
amplification (sampling 64 times more than regular CD sound, at a
speedy 2.8MHz) and jump on board. And, looking at the system and its
new pricing, it's difficult to resist. Following its limited edition
amps paired with ELAC and JBL speaker sets, the company is now
offering version two of the ELAC package, comprising ELAC201 speakers
(4 ohms into 80W) and the CD, MD and tuner-toting SG11 main unit with
a max power output of 2x25 watts. And the speakers have banana plug

More info:

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Written by Max Everingham (

Editor: J@pan Inc editors (

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Copyright (C) 2002 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.