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DJs are frequently protective of their music collections and will often go to great lengths to transport the music they need for sets or studio work. Laptops and digital mixing systems such as Final Scratch have helped DJs keep stacks of vinyl records at home, but most of these still require that the DJ use fragile media. A viable alternative may be the HDC-1000 controller just released by Cortex. Instead of CDs or laptop hard drives, the HDC-1000 can index and mix music on up to four separate USB storage devices at the same time - eight if the owner has a USB hub. Though it can only accept MP3, WAV, and CD audio formats, it can load them from multiple file systems, including the HFS+ system used by Macs. It can be rackmounted and currently sells for $500.
Introduced at the start of the year, the Zen Vision:M has remained one of the few viable challengers to the iPod in a particularly crowded field. Even so, the Vision:M has remained at 30GB ever since its launch despite pressure to increase its capacity to match the 60GB ceiling of its Apple rival. An imminent change is set to take place at the end of the month, according to recent revelations. Besides an informal announcement of a 60GB model by Creative president Craig McHugh during the latest quaterly report call, the news was revealed by readers of Maxim magazine who found an ad (pictured) in the latest issue which publicizes the new capacity. Other sources indicate that Creative is likely to release a 60GB version of the original, widescreen Zen Vision under the Vision:W name.
By far the primary concern for LCD owners is color. Until recently, LCD manufacturers were focused almost exclusively on pixel response times and the elimination of the ghosting artifacts that appear on slower panels. The reduction has often been at the expense of the color gamut: many LCD screens sacrifice a portion of their color range and even larger portions of their accuracy to draw images as quickly as possible. Samsung's new 931C display is very different: though the company still claims a very fast 2ms response time, the 19-inch screen also displays the NTSC color range with near-perfect accuracy and a 2000:1 contrast ratio. For $299 each, the 931C should be equally valuable to game players finally looking to replace old CRTs as well as photo and video editors looking for a good reference monitor. Samsung is previewing the display at the World Cyber Games in October and will release it soon after.
The eventual death of the CRT in televisions is accelerating, according to a report by analyst firm DisplaySearch from yesterday. Sales of LCD televisions have blossomed over the past year, expanding to over 9.4 million sets in Spring 2006. This is a massive jump of 135 percent over the same period in 2005, and LCDs now account for over a fifth of all televisions sold throughout the world. DisplaySearch attributes much of this to a combination of design and falling prices: buyers are not only eager to replace their ungainly CRT sets with flat-panel screens, but are taking advantage of reduced prices to do so. Sony can verify this fact through its own experience: the company finally began turning a profit this Spring after years of losses and has credited the rampant success of its Bravia LCD sets as a major factor in the turnaround.
With Research in Motion prepared to release its first media-centric BlackBerry, researchers are concerned that its existing focus on push e-mail is triggering addictive qualities in frequent users. A recent study by Rutgers University warns employers not to rely too heavily on the constant e-mail and phone communication allowed by BlackBerries as it might promote compulsive use of the devices. The fast-paced nature of work in that kind of environment can overstimulate workers and become addictive, says Rutgers associate professor and researcher Gayle Porter. This finding contradicts a recent study by YouGov commissioned through T-Mobile suggests that over 90 percent of UK BlackBerry owners claim to save themselves business-related stress by using their devices to respond more quickly to time-sensitive problems at the office.
A victim of its own increasing success, YouTube has seen its maintenance costs spiral as it serves over 100 million videos per day. Having previously introduced static advertising to the site, the young company today announced that it would integrate video advertising into different aspects of the site. Its most conspicuous introduction is that of Brand Channels, which are video collections focused on a specific company's products. The first example is Warner Music Group's ParisHilton channel currently promoting Paris Hilton's new album in a conspicuous position on the YouTube main page. Individual users can also use the Participatory Video Ad program to include interesting advertising as part of their YouTube profile pages. Additional advertising methods are set to arrive over the course of the next year.
Texas-based Dell originally entered the digital audio player market in late 2003 in what many saw as a calculated move to capitalize on the rapidly expanding popularity of Apple's iPod in North America. Despite attempts to compete with Apple on features and price, however, Dell has consistently struggled to find significant marketshare for its players. Evidence of resignation in the company's approach began in February of this year when it discontinued all its hard drive-based players in favor of the lower-end DJ Ditty flash player. As of today, Dell has quietly admitted its long-term failure in the market by removing the DJ Ditty and most references to it from the company website. Users of Dell's DJ forums have also reported that no Dell-branded players remain in the monthly catalog and that the DJ Ditty had been discounted earlier in the month.
LCD televisions follow a standard aesthetic of hard edges in black or silver, with few exceptions to the rule. One such exception, the Oppo Digital LT-2007 is notable not just for its white, rounded shell but the clear inspiration from earlier Apple hardware designs. The new LCD and DVD player all-in-one unit features a display bezel and back shell reminiscent of Apple's portrait-style Cinema Display line discontinued in 2004. In terms of functionality, the LT-2007 is built as a personal television intended chiefly for the kitchen or other small spaces. It has a 20-inch, 800x600 screen and a DVD system capable of playing regular movies in addition to DivX, XviD, and photo CDs. An integrated 5-in-1 card reader handles photos from digital cameras. Oppo's television is on sale now for $599; click through for photos of the back and side.
Most bookshelf stereo systems are deliberately unambitious in their abilities; auxiliary input alone is still quite rare in a class that is often considered entry-level by stereo manufacturers. Just the opposite can be said of Polk's new iSonic unit. While its extremely ambitious design had introduced a significant delay in its arrival, even now the iSonic is very appealing to audiophiles. It's effectively designed to replace several systems at once: it has the CD, clock, and AM/FM radio functions common to many such players, but can also play DVD movies through its RCA or S-video outputs, tune HD terrestrial radio, and accept XM Satellite Radio through external adapters. Appropriately, the Polk stereo also has an auxiliary input jack for iPods or other outside audio connections. Newly shipping, this four-speaker ultimate stereo is shipping for $599.
Garmin's previously released Nuvi 360 (pictured) is a fairly feature-rich car GPS navigation unit with a media player, compatibility with receivers that provide live traffic information, and Bluetooth for using the touchscreen to make and receive phone calls from a nearby cellphone. Its successor, the Nuvi 660, was informally announced when the FCC made test results available on its website today. The 660 is a modest but significant update to the 360 model that will use a widescreen 480x272 display (similar to that of the PSP) and contain an FM transmitter that can broadcast directions or other audio to the car stereo. It should ship by the end of September for an unspecified price.
FM transmitters are typically made for specific devices, such as the iPod or PSP. For those uncomfortable with linking their ability to transmit audio to a proprietary accessory, the new iCast adapter from iStuff will plug into any common minijack output and broadcast sound to nearby radios on a user-selectable frequency. The iCast is also independent of a car or wall power source: it lasts for up to 18 hours on a AAA battery. Shipping today, the iCast is available internationally from the UK store iWorld for £30 ($57 US).
There is often a fine balance between the more portable iPod speaker sets and deluxe bookshelf units meant to double as a home stereo. The upcoming iH52 audio system from iHome is balanced more towards the latter end of the spectrum but is more affordable and compact than its immediate competitors. At a retail price of $200, the iH52's central iPod dock features AM/FM radio, AV input and output for video or alternate music sources, and a large 3-line display used for both radio and viewing iPod track information from a distance. The speakers themselves are a 2.1 arrangement which outputs a total 32W of sustained power. A firm release date has not been set, though the iH52 should be available soon in either black or silver.
More Sony news arrives today in the way of a cellphone announcement. Though the company has taken advantage of its partnership with Ericsson to create a line of Walkman phones, its design influence is extending to more modest phones today with the unveiling of the Sony-Ericsson Z610. It borrows the reflective surface from Sony's A1200 digital audio players, including the 'stealth' external OLED screen. As a phone it gives UMTS mobile broadband, a sizeable 2 megapixel camera, and Bluetooth. Storage is relatively small at 16MB of internal memory and a Memory Stick slot (a 64MB stick is included), but music is not the primary focus here. The main obstacle to the Z610 is its likelihood of arriving in North America soon. In the form set to arrive in Europe by the end of this quarter, the phone connects to tri-band GSM phone networks but not the 850MHz band used by American GSM carriers. Since many Sony-Ericsson phones do receive slight upgrades that enable broader network support, it's entirely possible a variant of the Z610 will appear here before long.
Students heading to college who are looking for more performance than Westinghouse's laptop and TV bundle certainly have their options. The latest is Sony's LS1, the most recent entry into the company's expanding line of home theater PCs. Though it still uses integrated Intel graphics, the LS1 offers a much faster 1.83GHz Core Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, and 250GB of hard drive space that give it considerably more power for video and multitasking. Its 19-inch screen also uses a sharp 1680x1050 resolution that makes it genuinely useful for high-resolution content. As a TV, the LS1 lacks the component video input needed for HDTV (RCA and S-video are included) but makes up for this by integrating an NTSC tuner into the computer that lets the Sony PC act as a PVR through Windows Media Center. Its $2100 asking price is in keeping with the extra television functions and performance; it's set to arrive just after school begins in mid-September.
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