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News of front projectors in recent months has focused on bringing the cost of high-end units down; ViewSonic is looking instead to improve the entry models. Its upcoming Cine5000 DLP projector should provide strong image quality without veering too far into the high end. Capable of a native 720p resolution, the 5000 uses the recent Texas Instruments DarkChip2 chip that should improve the black levels in relation to most other DLP projectors. ViewSonic boasts a 2,000:1 contrast ratio and 1,000 lumens of brightness for this new model. The unit is thankfully future-proof as well and has an HDMI input with HDCP support, component, S-Video, and VGA to connect it directly to a Mac or PC. The price will be steep versus other models: the Cine5000 officially retails for $2599, and even at its estimated unofficial price of $2000 it will still draw comparisons to less expensive models from companies such as Mitsubishi. However, ViewSonic believes that the processing hardware will overcome the criticism when it ships the projector later this month.
In spite of its reputation as a leading-edge technology company, Sony has been slow to adopt it through its products. At a recent Japanese dealer convention, however, the company unveiled a raft of new audio hardware designed to integrate the wireless standard. One of these, so far named only the HWS-NEW (pictured, left), is a Bluetooth audio transmitter that acts as the hub for multiple audio devices. It can toggle between serving as a transmitter and receiver, either broadcasting audio to Bluetooth stereo speaker sets like its SRS-NEW counterpart (right) or receiving the audio from a wireless source.
Also revealed was a set of Bluetooth headphones, the DR-NEW2, that can use its included Bluetooth transmitter to both receive audio from a cellphone and pause the music when that same cellphone receives a call. These early examples have yet to be given firm prices or release dates, but they should be available in Japan and abroad within the next few months.
The just announced QuickerTek Connect may already have a challenger in the race to extend wireless range. An American startup firm named hField has just released its Wi-Fire external antenna for laptops. As with the Connect, the Wi-Fire connects to a laptop's USB port and amplifies the wireless signal. Unique to hField's system is its radar-style receiver. The antenna can be rotated horizontally until the indicator shows a strong connection. Hotspots as far as 1,000 feet away or signals as weak as -98 dBm can be picked up by the device, according to the company. It currently works only with computers using Windows but is expected to work with Macs soon. Interested laptop users can order the Wi-Fire today from the hField website for $109; students get a special $89 price at their local campus stores.
Long-distance truck drivers almost certainly need Bluetooth headsets more than most others. While for office workers a cordless headset is more a matter of convenience, for truckers the ability to take a phone call on the road is often the only opportunity to speak with non-truckers (often family and friends) before the next stop. BlueParrott says its B150 headset, now rechristened the B150-TK, is designed to be as helpful as possible to truckers as well as anyone who spends many hours on the road. The adjustable boom microphone has active noise cancelling to reduce the intrusion of engine noises and the other loud noises that typically permeate a truck cabin. It also uses a more conventional headband instead of the smaller (but less reliable) single-piece design of so many other headsets. A 12-volt vehicle charger is bundled with the B150 so it will remain powered regardless of how long the trip may be. BlueParrott says it's available immediately for $125.
ASUS made it a point to exhibit its external laptop display technology at the Intel Developer Forum last month as a demonstration of the company's progress. Today, news has been received that the prototype will become a production model. The W5Fe, as it is now known, is a 12.1-inch portable with a dedicated screen and navigation buttons that can be used for several roles that don't depend on the main system, such as playing music or checking stored e-mail and weather information. The developer of the display is none other than iPod processor developer PortalPlayer, which claims that the Preface technology at the heart of ASUS' laptop saves battery power and can run for hundreds of hours when the computer itself is off. Expect the W5Fe to ship in early 2007, when the necessary Sideshow feature is available in Windows Vista.
The size and portability of active noise-cancelling headphones preclude most commuters from wearing them on the way to work. Sony Japan was thinking of this when it demonstrated its MDR-NC22 earbuds at CEATEC Japan this week. The new earpieces use the familiar approach to noise cancellation from headphones in a more compact form: microphones outside each earbud sample ambient noise and neutralize it with an equal sound generated by a processor, which in this case is stowed away in a small external brick instead of the earbuds themselves. Sony says the system can eliminate 75% of background noise for up to 50 hours on a single AAA battery. Japanese listeners will have access to the NC22s soon; a worldwide launch will follow soon afterwards, as the new models replace the NC11s already available elsewhere.
Wireless printing is valuable to laptop owners or anyone who needs access to a printer regardless of which computer they use at home. While printers with 802.11 or Bluetooth built-in are frequently expensive, adding the function to an existing printer is now possible through an adapter from USBGear. The Combo Bluetooth printer adapter converts almost any printer, including USB and parallel port models, to a Bluetooth wireless model that the computer can recognize using the original drivers. USBGear describes the adapter as a useful way of printing from a PDA or another handheld that may not have an easy way to connect to the printer directly. The connector works with Macs, Windows PCs, and any other Bluetooth-equipped system that supports Bluetooth printing. It ships today for $68.
Recording audio professionally when away from a studio is not always a simple process, especially when the analog source needs to be converted to a digital format. The four-track Zoom H4 by Samson, by contrast, can meet many of the requirements musicians and reporters might have when in the field. It includes two condenser microphones for stereo recording, and also has two XLR inputs for capturing directly from instruments or other microphones. All sound is instantly converted to either 24-bit uncompressed audio or 320Kbps MP3s that are then stored on SD cards; a 128MB card is included. Up to 6.3 hours of the uncompressed audio can be stored on a 2GB card, according to Samson, though using the recommended pair of AA batteries will provide only four continuous hours of recording. The company is offering the Zoom H4 now at $299, which is unusually low for audio recording at this level.
The US branch of T-Mobile thrives on obtaining exclusive phones to attract subscribers from other major networks, and has become especially friendly to Samsung in light of the Korean company's tendency towards ever slimmer fashion phones. This last fact became apparent today after T-Mobile announced the availability of three new Samsung models in its lineup. The most notable of these is the pictured t509 Plum, so called because of its rare dark purple color. Outside of its hue, the Plum is attention-getting thanks to its 0.39-inch thickness, EDGE broadband support, and a low cost of entry. T-Mobile carries the phone for $50 with a two-year contract.
Other choices made available today are the t619 flip-phone and the t629 slider. Both share a 1.3-megapixel camera as well as EDGE; the t629 has extra support for music playback and includes a microSD slot for storage. The t619 ships for $50 with the same two-year plan as the Plum, while the t629 can be had for $150.
Stereos with iPod docks are now common, which leaves electronics makers with the need to truly distinguish themselves if they hope to garner significant attention. The iLive Home Docking System may accomplish this through the sheer number of features. The iLive stereo can output photos or videos to a TV and includes a DVD drive to play movies directly from discs. An AM/FM clock radio and auxiliary audio input are similarly regular features, and many of the functions (including basic controls for dockable iPods) can be managed by a wireless remote. What may be most worthwhile for comparison shopping is the audio quality: most bookshelf stereos lose some or all dedicated subwoofer strength in the name of size, but the iLive set has two side-firing subwoofers and delivers a strong overall 75W of power. The Home Docking System ships in black or white for $160.
Despite the increasing prevalence of webcams in Macs and Windows laptops, destkop displays usually go without any built-in cameras to lend a more natural viewing angle to video chats. ASUS on Thursday launched its PW201 display as a solution. The 20-inch screen incorporates a 1.3-megapixel camera at the top that connects to the attached computer through USB and can pivot to adjust to the height of the user or the angle of the screen itself. The PW201 is also viable as a compact TV with built-in component, RCA, and S-video inputs in addition to two 3W speakers. ASUS further claims that the display is game-friendly with a 2ms response time.
Additional announcements from the company include the MW201U and MW221U, 20- and 22-inch displays with smaller speakers and computer-only video input. Shipping and pricing details are unavailable.
Most retailers prefer to remain agnostic to the music players they sell; even Best Buy's in-house Insignia brand is regularly given equal footing compared to other models. The company announced on Thursday that it would abandon this practice with a new partnership between itself, RealNetworks, and Sansa manufacturer SanDisk. The deal will see the three companies launching a new online music store that takes advantage of Sansa music players equipped with support for Real's Rhapsody DNA subscription method, which automatically downloads recommended music as a listener's music habits develop over time. More after the jump.
As much attention as smartphones can receive, simpler handsets can also be noteworthy when their manufacturers devote the same level of care. An example of this is another Nokia release today, the 2865i. The company announced that entry-level phone would make an American debut with the carrier Alltel. The 2865i is simple -- its technical features revolve around Bluetooth and web browsing -- but it also has a tall, slender design which is less common for budget phones. The price may also appeal to those seeking that slightly greater sense of style. Alltel is shipping the phone today for $10 with a two-year contract or with a trade-in. Click through for a larger photo.
Frequent exercisers now have the option of using dedicated music players such as the Nike+iPod Kit or Sony's S2 Sports Walkman. For some, even these hybrid devices may be an unnecessary addition to their collections. The Nokia 5500 Sport Music is designed to appeal to technology minimalists by merging their cellphone, exercise tracking, and music into a single handheld. A variant of the existing 5500 model, the Sport Music has a built-in pedometer that monitors calories and distance to sync them later with a PC. Users also receive an armband, a bicycle holder, and a sport-oriented headset for calls or music during a run. A GPS module is an option for long-distance exercise.
Beyond its new focus, Nokia's new phone ships with a 512MB microSD card to store music, a 2-megapixel camera for photos and videos, and supports text-to-speech for reading SMS messages aloud. It's already shipping to European customers for 350 Euros before service plans or taxes; a North American launch has not been mentioned.
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