Olympus DS-320

Digital Voice RecorderAre you overflowing with ideas and action plans - but don't have time to jot them down? The Olympus DS-320 Digital Voice Recorder can capture your spoken thoughts as digital files. Then, back at your computer, you can use the optional extra IBM ViaVoice Version 8 software to convert your recorded words into text on the screen.

The silver DS-320 we tested weighed a mere 71g, including two AAA batteries. Its 16MB of memory holds a full 150 minutes of recordings in .dss file format (up to 99 individual files in each of two folders).

It isn't the most intuitive device around. Some of its buttons are tiny and difficult to press, and you need to rely too much on the handbook to figure out how to use it.

To get the recorder to work effectively, you need to spend a long time training the software to recognise your pronunciation and intonation. Before you begin transcribing your recorded mumblings, you must plug the DS-320 into your system's sound card and read a series of paragraphs aloud for about 15 minutes. You then use the package's serial cable to hook up the recorder to your PC. Select the files you want transcribed, and ViaVoice steps in to let loose your words on the screen. In our early tests, the software's accuracy was not very impressive. For example, "Please call me" became "Keith Coleman", and "Thank you" was picked up as "Haiti". Like all voice recognition programs, however, Via Voice does improve its accuracy with additional training.

At $595, the DS-320 is a pricey alternative to pen and paper - even with IBM's software factored in. If you're on the road regularly and need a tool to convert your recorded notes into editable text, it might come in handy. However, be prepared to do a lot of editing - and training - to make using this voice recorder worthwhile.

Olympus DS-320

Price: DS-320 $595; ViaVoice $125; Distributor: Nationwide Dictating; Phone: (03) 9888 7399; URL: www.olympusvoice.com.au

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Aoife McEvoy

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