News Archive for 06/10/03

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Pioneer builds ultimate in-car DVD, GPS, music deck

10/03, 5:25pm

Pioneer In-Car Mega Deck

Pioneer is considered a champion of advanced car audio and video, but its newest equipment, announced today at Japan's CEATEC, could rightly be considered its crowning achievement. The new AVIC line of in-car media systems support almost every feature sought after by drivers and passengers alike. The 7-inch touchscreen is host to DVD and DivX video playback, GPS mapping, and terrestrial broadcast TV; it's also used to control the extensive amount of music playback options. Besides playing standard audio CDs and radio, Pioneer's new head-end unit can play AAC, MP3, or WMA CDs and can transfer songs from those discs to a built-in 30GB hard drive. It can even record CDs in ATRAC3 format and will soon have an iPod adapter for owners not tied to discs. Understandably, Pioneer is including a remote with this flagship deck and will give it a premium price of $3649 US when it ships to Japan later in October. No details of a US version were announced.

Sprint adds Motorola KRZR, RAZR, and SLVR to lineup

10/03, 4:45pm

Sprint KRZR Phone

Sprint has sometimes been criticized been aggressively promoting its mobile broadband speeds while neglecting its choice of phones. Today, the carrier addressed this in force by announcing that it would offer three of Motorola's most popular designer phones to subscribers. The earlier RAZR and SLVR models will be joined by the newer KRZR K1m music phone -- already available through Alltel and Verizon -- and will support Sprint's options for movie rentals and live TV as well as its EVDO broadband network. The company is already accepting pre-orders for the phones and will have them ready for early November.

Sony VAIO L trumps iMac with Blu-Ray

10/03, 4:15pm

Sony VAIO L Gets Blu-Ray

Sony's VAIO LS1 has been characterized as a distinctive counterpart to the iMac that trades some performance for its media center role. Today at CEATEC, Sony Japan introduced an updated L series that in some ways matches or exceeds Apple's newer models. The new L is the first all-in-one PC to receive an optional Blu-Ray drive, giving it the ability to author and play next-generation movies as an alternative to watching TV using the built-in tuner. In contrast, Apple's current iMacs are limited to DVDs and videos purchased from the iTunes Store.

Sony has also addressed complaints regarding performance by increasing the choice of graphics and processors. Unlike the fixed specifications of the LS1 currently available in the US, the new L series can be upgraded to use a 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo mobile processor and either GeForce Go 7400 or 7600 video. A fully-equipped L will cost the equivalent of $3058 US when it ships to Japan on November 6th. A North American launch will likely follow.

Turtle Beach EarForce X1 boosts game and voice audio

10/03, 3:30pm

Turtle Beach EarForce X1

Balancing game sound effects and player-to-player voice chat is not easily accomplished; even dedicated gaming headsets frequently prioritize one over the other. Just announced by Turtle Beach, the EarForce X1 headset overcomes those limitations, according to the company. Its advantage is an external amplifier that plugs into the USB port of an Xbox 360 or computer. The small adapter improves the overall volume for both games as well as voice and can adjust either volume level independently. Computer users have the additional option of plugging the headset directly into their system's audio and microphone jacks. For the shipping price of $60, the new Turtle Beach headset is a definite improvement over the stock Xbox Live Communicator.

MSI Crystal 945 PC emulates iMac styling

10/03, 2:30pm

MSI PC Emulates iMac

Computer manufacturers have at different times been accused of drawing from Apple's design elements once they prove popular. While the Sony VAIO LS1 has been likened to newer iMacs in its design philosophy, the newly-unveiled Crystal 945 by MSI is the first all-in-one computer beyond Apple to directly implement the iMac's balancing computer design. As with the Apple model, the MSI system's 17-inch screen and internal components pivot on the tip of an angled metal stand which includes a slot for cable management in the back. The design also shares the iMac's use of a minimalist silver and white enclosure.

Notably, MSI has had to make multiple sacrifices to achieve a similar style. As the Crystal 945 uses Intel's dual-core Pentium 4 rather than the more efficient Core architecture, the casing is considerably thicker and requires extensive vent grilles on the back to accommodate system heat. However, the MSI unit also features more expansion options, including a PC Card slot, 7-in-1 card reader, and a removable 2.5-inch hard drive. MSI does not list pricing, though its modest specifications suggest a lower price than Apple's $999 iMac. The Taiwan firm says it is already shipping the Crystal to North America.

Navman F20 lets drivers find gas, parking instantly

10/03, 12:50pm

Navman F20

Every long-distance driver knows those moments when the only priority is to refuel or find parking. Many GPS units help solve this, but few may do it as efficiently as a new model from Navman. The F20, already available in Europe, has just been announced for the US and includes two quick-access buttons for gas and parking. Press either and the F20 automatically reroutes to reach the nearest gas station or public parking lot, reducing the likelihood of the user missing a convenient street while navigating through the point-of-interest menu. Although the unit is otherwise a basic GPS receiver with a 3.5-inch touchscreen and an SD card slot for extra map data, its price is low relative to many others at $380. Navman is shipping the F20 to US stores now.

Canon, Toshiba work on breakthrough SED TVs for 2008

10/03, 12:15pm

SED TVs in 2008

While the battle between LCD and plasma TVs is still unresolved, a successor for both is already well into development. Canon and Toshiba together said today that they expect to produce SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display) TVs by early 2008, starting with a 55-inch model capable of 1080p. The delay is in part the result of concerns that falling LCD and plasma price drops would hurt SED's chance for success in the market, as initial costs may price the new format higher than existing designs.

The often-delayed technology combines advantages of both CRT televisions and LCDs. As with the earlier tube technology, SED fires electrons at the screen in rapid succession. Instead of relying on light redirected by a single gun, however, SED uses thousands of miniature emitters that strike the screen directly, resembling the pixel-by-pixel image created by an LCD. The result is a display which is both extremely thin and sharp yet perfectly suited to games and movies: the current prototype is capable of an impressive 50,000:1 contrast ratio and a 1ms response time, far exceeding current flat-panel screens.

Sony VAIO R Master media center PC with Blu-Ray

10/03, 11:35am

Sony VAIO R Master

The CEATEC conference in Japan has begun, carrying with it a flurry of new hardware announcements. One of these is Sony's new VAIO R Master, an unusual blend of desktop and tower design in a media center PC. Its segmented design is not just for visual impact, according to the company. The smaller element holds all the removable media slots such as the optical drive, memory card readers, and USB ports; it can sit as far away as six feet from the main system, which stores the processor and other main components. Sony envisions owners hiding the core unit out of view in a home theater or a crowded desk space.

The computer itself is also very capable as both a conventional system and as a media hub. Systems can be configured to use as much as a 2.93 GHz Core 2 Extreme processor, 2TB of hard disk storage, and a 256MB GeForce 7600 GT video card; video enthusiasts have the option of a Blu-Ray drive, analog and digital TV tuners, and input for S-video as well as RCA. Many models come bundled with a 24" widescreen LCD as well. Sony Japan is shipping the system on October 28th at a starting price of $1,632 US; an American release has not been announced but is likely in the near future.

Creative Xmod improves audio quality for Macs and PCs

10/03, 10:40am

Creative Xmod

Creative has long boasted that its X-Fi technology can not only improve the quality of computer sound, but even restore detail to songs that was lost in digital compression. Its primary limitation has been its accessibility: X-Fi has so far been limited to expansion cards for Windows desktops. Creative's newly released Xmod adapter opens most of the audio improvements to Macs as well as almost any laptop. The USB-based adapter works by upconverting audio to a 24-bit signal before it reaches the speakers, says Creative, and uses a proprietary crystalizer to analyze compression artifacts to repair lost audio quality. The Xmod is also capable of applying virtual surround sound to stereo sources.

Importantly, no drivers need to be installed. Macs using OS X Panther or later as well as Windows XP systems can simply plug the device into their computers and speakers to see an immediate benefit. Music players such as the iPod or Zen series can also plug in by using a special AC adapter and will take advantage of most of the benefits. The Xmod will be available by late October for $80.

Nokia introduces Wibree: Bluetooth alternative

10/03, 9:55am

Nokia Wibree

Virtually every new cellphone released this year features Bluetooth to sync contacts, and many wireless peripherals from keyboards to speakerphones use the technology to avoid wires. Many truly small devices, however, have to go without wireless connections; the size and power draw of Bluetooth are frequently too great for watches and other compact electronics. Nokia used its technology briefing on Tuesday to preview a more efficient format that may allow even the simplest hardware to operate wirelessly. Called Wibree, the standard would transmit only at 1Mbps (versus Bluetooth 2.0's 3Mbps) but would consume ten times less power, suiting it to sensors, toys, and almost any device where the larger batteries and cases required for Bluetooth aren't options.

Equally significant about Wibree are its open nature and relatively quick introduction. Developers from any company can implement the standard without facing licensing costs, and will not have long to wait before production hardware is available: Nokia anticipates shipping devices that use Wibree by the second half of 2007.

Logitech unveils thin diNovo Edge keyboard

10/03, 9:05am

Logitech diNovo Edge

Logitech's diNovo desktop has largely remained unchanged since its introduction in 2003, but has only lost some of its initial luster as a benchmark of design. The company is set to regain that interest by today's announcement of the diNovo Edge Bluetooth keyboard. The Edge is sharp break from the earlier design and uses an extremely thin, slab-like shape with touch-sensitive controls in place of earlier push buttons. The number pad has been replaced by a volume scroll pad as well as a unique navigation controller named the TouchDisc: while not as full-featured as a mouse, the TouchDisc can be used to steer the mouse cursor onscreen and doubles as a scroll wheel when the user makes circular motions. This makes it an ideal control mechanism for a home theater PC, according to Logitech.

The diNovo Edge also addresses a number of criticisms regarding the earlier model: it can now charge directly from a dock instead of relying on disposable batteries, lasting for up to two months on a single charge. It also adds light-up key labels that indicate the current key mode as well as dedicated Vista Start menu and search buttons. As might be expected, the diNovo Edge is considered Logitech's premium keyboard and will cost $200 when it ships in November. Click through for a complete photo.

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