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A new digital compact, the Optio E30, has just been announced by Pentax. The camera is a 7.1-megapixel model with 3x optical zoom -- roughly equivalent to a 36-108mm SLR lens -- and can further magnify images with 4x digital zoom. Perhaps most unusual is the range of 15 different shooting modes, including conventional options such as Landscape, but also highly specific ones such as "Pet" and "Food." Another one of these is "Green," aimed at complete novices to digital photography. When selected the E30 takes control of all customization options, adjusting exposure, ISO, white balance and more at the push of a single button. Pentax suggests this is ideal for handing your camera over to a stranger on vacation. The camera is slated for a February release at a price of $150.
What may be the world's smallest microSD cards have been announced by Transcend. The company's new 2GB model is just 0.6 inches long, 0.4 inches wide, and a miniscule 0.04 inches thick. Cards are also available in 128MB, 256MB, 512MB and 1GB versions. Though mainly intended for devices like cellphones and PDAs, the Transcend cards can be used in full-sized SD slots with the help of a provided adapter, which the microSD cards slide into. A lock prevents cards from falling out. No costs or release dates have been published any of the above products.
Mobiado, a relative newcomer to the cellphone industry, today provided an early glimpse of its flagship luxury handset. Named simply the Luminoso, the bar-shaped phone presents one of the first major challenges to Nokia's exotic Vertu through its construction. The shell is made of a specially-treated aluminum, Mobiado says: an advanced hard anodizing process results in a shell twice as thick and thus much tougher than most any metal frame. In turn, the translucent keypad buttons are made of more durable sapphire crystals and are lit from above and below to produce a characteristic effect during nighttime use. A diamond-like coating on the main screen is said to prevent cracks and scratches.
Technical details match the phone's appearance, according to Mobiado. The tri-band GSM and WCDMA phone shares many features of higher-end phones in its form factor and can snap 2-megapixel photos, play back AAC and MP3 music stored on microSD up to 2GB in size, and connect to mobile broadband services through EDGE. Mobiado asks buyers to contact the company individually for pricing details, but says that the phone will be ready for a January 15th debut. Click through for a photo of the Luminoso's lighting effect. [Via SlashPhone]
Numark recently introduced its x2 Hybrid Turntable for DJs making the transition from vinyl records to digital formats. As a conventional deck it can still spin 33RPM and 45RPM records on a full 12-inch aluminum platter, but also uses the same mechanism to control CDs or MP3 discs slipped into an available drive in the base. Looping, pitch control, and scratching is virtually identical between all three formats, Numark boasts. The deck also ships preloaded with the company's signature Beatkeeper software to help automatically calculate the beat rate and smooth transitions between tracks in a live DJ set. Numark currently sells the x2 Hybrid through Sam Ash and other music stores for $1,000. [Via Uncrate]
Data Drive Thru's Tornado attempts to make frequent file transfer a bit simpler (and less expensive) than using flash drives. The device uses two, four-foot retractable USB cables, each of which must connect to a PC running Windows 98SE or later. The reason for this is the Tornado's custom software, which loads automatically from firmware, and allows you to drag files from one computer to the other with no intermediary steps. An LED light indicates readiness and transfer. Speeds are limited, however, to 25Mb/sec. Data Drive Thru is selling the Tornado for $60. [Via CrunchGear]
Automaker DaimlerChrysler today previewed a new technology that would let car passengers bring almost any music or photos with them for in-car entertainment. Based on Intel's ultra-wideband (UWB), the system links a car's rear-seat entertainment system to handhelds also equipped with the wireless format, allowing owners of portable media players to view even HDTV-quality movies on the much larger screens found in cars without having to plug in a cable or wire the full length of the cabin.
The car designer says it will show the technology at CES using a custom-configured Mercedes-Benz R500, which will play video from any of the headrest-mounted LCDs in the middle or rear passenger sections. The technology currently exists in prototype form but should become reality within the next few years as UWB filters into the mainstream.
XM Satellite Radio this afternoon revealed that it has developed an innovative approach to weather tracking that it hopes will improve long-distance driving for its subscribers. Although based on live mapping data for weather as with many GPS receivers, the XM system uses both the driver's current position and their plotted destination to provide a weather forecast for the entire route. Such a system will give drivers advance warning of blizzards, rainstorms, and other potential hazards along the path before they ever become a threat, XM says. The technology could also help set expectations for vacations before drivers set out. XM will demonstrate the new service through a concept car at next week's CES and expects a final implementation by summer.
Apple's share of holiday sales has seen impressive growth compared to a year ago, according to an NPD report obtained today by Mercury News. The stats firm notes that Apple's control of the market increased sharply from 42 to 57.3 percent of all non-Apple retail stores in the US, defying initial worries the iPod maker's substantial lead would erode in light of waning novelty and the introduction of Microsoft's Zune.
NPD's findings additionally reveal that the increase has hurt rivals. Storage firm SanDisk, which surprised many by usurping all of Apple's longtime challengers to reach second place, fell from 22.1 percent of the holiday 2005 sales to 19.2 this past year. Other competitors are struggling to even approach this smaller number, the Mercury News story indicates. Confirming earlier estimates, the Zune captured only 2.8 percent of sales at these same stores in spite of its developer's marketing efforts, and was in fact eclipsed by Creative's largely stagnant 3.4 percent share.
Seagate may achieve an exponential increase in hard disk storage limits in as little as three years' time, according to Seagate researchers speaking with Wired. The storage device maker has revealed that a technology called heat-assisted magnetic recording, which uses a laser to temporarily heat the platter and store more information in a given area, could increase the density of hard drives to just over 6TB per square inch -- allowing full, 3.5-inch wide desktop hard drives to store 37.5TB of data. The increased space would hold the entire Library of Congress catalog in raw form, according to Seagate.
The magazine also reports that Seagate is working on a small, magnetic form of storage codenamed "Probe" that would compete directly against flash memory. No details of its capacity or performance have been revealed, though it too should become available in the next few years.
HP is poised to eliminate rear projection sets altogether from its TV lineup, according to an early preview the company gave of the range to be introduced at CES. While the company has in recent years maintained a range of DLP-based rear projection sets (pictured at left), the CES 2007 announcement carries no mention of any such sets, opting instead for LCD and plasma screens. HP has already excised any mention of DLP from its site. No comments were made by the firm regarding the change, but the move reflects a recent shift towards direct-view sets, whose increasing size and reduced cost have largely obviated the need for bulkier projectors.
Few details of the new lineup have been revealed, but include 42- and 47-inch sets (shown, right) capable of a full 1080p resolution, each coming with or without HP's MediaSmart sharing technology built in. Plasmas at 42- and 50-inch sizes will also be available, as should a line of inexpensive 720p sets ranging from 32 to 42 inches in size. Full details should become available with the opening of CES next week. [Via Crave]
Electronics giant Samsung continues to remain at the forefront of news today with its announcement that it has sampled the world's first 16-gigabit (2GB) NAND flash memory chip. Also one of the first chips to be made using an ultra-dense 50-nanometer process, the new technology is meant to boost devices that typically depend on sheer capacity, such as solid-state drives. The increased space does not come at the expense of speed, Samsung says. Although made using multi-level cells (MLC) instead of the faster single-level designs, the new chip has double the page memory compared to old MLC devices. This doubles the read speed compared to its ancestors and increases the write speed by as much as 150 percent.
The company hopes to start full-scale production of the 16Gb flash chips in the first quarter of this year. No mention was made of specific partners likely to use the technology beyond Samsung itself, but the introduction should pave the way for higher-capacity iPod nanos as Apple has historically relied on Samsung's memory as the cornerstone of its mid-range jukebox.
Even as Samsung and other manufacturers continue to develop new Bluetooth products, a group from the United States is suing over patent infringement, Reuters reports. The Washington Research Foundation, a commercial outlet of the University of Washington, has filed for damages from Samsung, Nokia, and Panasonic, claiming that Bluetooth violates a patent registered by scientist Edwin Suominen in 1999. Suominen's technology is described as a "simplified high frequency broadband tuner and tuning method." Should the WRF lawsuit prove successful it could cripple the US mobile market, imposing royalties on a component which was previously an open specification. It would also affect British chip maker CSR, which does not sell directly to the States, but does supply over 50 percent of the world's Bluetooth chipsets.
SteelSeries dramatically expanded its gaming headset line today with two new models aimed at mainstream gamers looking to make their first serious uses of positional sound and voice chat. The entry-level Steelsound 3H (shown) is built for general use and is optimized for gamers who enjoy background music while they play, providing just enough directional cues without affecting the more neutral sound balance necessary for other sounds. The 3H is also the most portable of SteelSeries' headsets and folds in for travel. It ships now for $40.
The more committed gamers will prefer the SteelSound 4H, according to the company. While less compact than the 3H, the uprated headset has larger cushions for comfort during longer play sessions. Its sound is also tuned more explicitly for gaming and helps identify events in first-person shooters as well as real-time strategy games. The retractable boom microphone is also more sensitive than on the 3H version. SteelSeries is offering the 4H at the same time as its basic counterpart for $50.
New to Korea is the Samsung STT-D370, also known as the Bluetooth Navigator. Using the 370's Bluetooth, microphone and speakerphone functions, owners can make calls and send text messages from the GPS unit, without ever having to pick up their cellphone. In terms of its primary purpose, the 370 uses a 3.7-inch touchscreen and can display real-time 3D images of its regional database, complete with textured roads and buildings. New maps can be downloaded through Anycall Land. An SD slot also lets the 370 view photos and play MP3s, which supplements the unit's built-in DMB tuner, which in turn doubles as a means of receiving traffic data used in route calculations. The Navigator is on sale now for the equivalent of $600 US.
Networking specialist SMC today shipped its first hardware that can match the high speeds of Wi-Fi's 802.11n standard in its current first-draft form. Integral to the launch is the Barricade N, a wireless router that uses multi-antenna MIMO support to connect at rates as high as 300Mbps to other devices that support the new wireless format. The router comes with a 4-port Ethernet switch and is intelligent enough to both prioritize video streams as well as protect against intrusion with an SPI firewall. SMC sells the router for $120.
Following the Barricade are new N-labeled versions of the company's EZ Connect CardBus and PCI adapters for notebooks and desktops. The two cards match the 300Mbps speed of the new router and work with all its new features. Also ready immediately, the EZ Connect N models ship for $80 (CardBus) and $90 (PCI).
Normally dedicated to stand-alone GPS navigators, Pharos has now turned its attentions to cellphones, beginning development on an as yet unnamed product. The phone will feature GPS functions prominently however, using a SiRFstar III receiver, and running Pharos' Ostia software on Windows Mobile 5.0. Owners will also get Microsoft's Streets & Trips for use on a PC, and a three-month subscription to Pharos' Smart Navigator web service. The phone will not be a slouch in the communications department either, boasting qualities such as quad-band GSM, Bluetooth 2.0, and a 1.9-megapixel camera. Though it will not have any 3G technology, it will support EDGE broadband and 802.11b/g wireless. No release information has been confirmed except that it will ship to the United States.
Microtek on Wednesday established its first line of HDTVs under the Cineon name. Both the 42-inch CP42HA (pictured) and the 50-inch CP50HA are designed with very exacting home theater installations in mind, Microtek claims. Either model's image can be fine-tuned beyond the normal range allowed by most sets and can have their color balance, saturation, and other factors in picture quality adjusted to match the viewing environment. The two plasmas are said to be vibrant out of the box, with the 1024x768 display of the 42-inch model sporting a 10,000:1 contrast ratio and 1,300cd/m2 brightness and finer 1366x768 display of the 50-inch system achieving its own figures of 8,000:1 and 1,000cd/m2 respectively.
Input is broad and includes component, HDMI, and VGA inputs for high-definition signals as well as ATSC and NTSC tuners for receiving both analog and HD broadcasts. Legacy inputs for RCA and S-video connections exist as well. Microtek has already begun shipping the CP42HA ($1,599) and CP50HA ($2,199) to custom home theater installers and stores.
Hauppauge this morning revealed its first hybrid analog and HD external tuner for the US. Dubbed the HVR-950, the USB 2.0-based stick has a co-axial input that works both as a connection for analog cable TV and as a connection for a portable antenna that can receive over-the-air ATSC broadcasts in HD quality. The device can switch between analog and digital signals automatically if both are available, the company says. Bundled software turns the host Windows PC into a PVR that can schedule recording for either analog or digital TV, and can also help the owner search for exact showtimes through TitanTV's online scheduling software. The company has not released a price for the HVR-950 but says it should be available soon.
Small form factor PC maker Shuttle today revealed the X200. A more media-centric design than the earlier X100 model, the new version drops the dedicated graphics, FireWire, and S-video support of the old model in exchange for features that compete more directly with the Front Row features of Apple's Mac mini, which Shuttle has previously denounced in side-by-side comparisons. The X200 gains built-in 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi as well as a hybrid digital and analog TV tuner; an FM radio tuner is also part of the package, Shuttle says.
The company has yet to confirm every detail of its new PC, but promises that the added media hardware does not detract from the processor performance or size: the system will still support the 2GHz Core 2 Duo option of the X100 and will share the same 2-inch-high casing. Pricing has not been revealed, but Shuttle anticipates shipping the X200 this month.
Japan's I-O Data today said that its new AveL LinkPlayer2 is now reaching US shores. While a DVD player at heart, the LinkPlayer2 is one of the few certified to work with Intel's Viiv media initiative and doubles as an extension of a Windows Media Center-based PC: high-definition 720p or 1080i videos in DivX, MPEG-2, or Windows Media formats can be played directly through the network, allowing the host computer to remain in the den while still sharing its content with the living room. Music and photos can also be streamed across the connection, and a front-mounted USB port similarly gives access to flash drives and other external storage. The new AveL LinkPlayer model is available today through PC Mall and many retail shops for $279.
Apple and key rival HP are planning to introduce LED backlighting to the displays of their notebook computers, according to sources speaking with DigiTimes. Both system builders are expected to bring portables with the new backlights to market in the second quarter of 2007 that would dramatically improve the image quality of the LCD screens attached to the computers, providing a more even distribution of lighting as well as an improved color range. The source refuses to detail the exact models that will receive the upgrade but notes that the part manufacturers Cree and Nichia should be the main suppliers, DigiTimes says.
LED technology has already found its way into certain Samsung HDTVs and has also appeared in color-accurate desktop LCDs, but has rarely if ever been seen in notebooks due to initial fears of high power consumption. The move reinforces the attempts by both Apple and HP to compete based on their strengths in media-friendly PCs rather than cost alone.
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