Toshiba to launch new Gigabeat hard-disk audio players

Toshiba will launch three new models of its Gigabeat digital music player in Japan over the next three months and says it is considering launching the devices outside of Japan.

The new models will be available in three capacities: 5G bytes, 20G bytes and 40G bytes and a variety of color variations, said Midori Suzuki, a spokeswoman for Toshiba in Tokyo.

The new models expand the current range which consists of a single model with 20G byte capacity.

A second major change in the Gigabeat range is the addition of support for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Audio digital rights management technology, said Suzuki. With this new feature the player will be able to support music downloaded through a number of commercial Web sites. The player also supports other Windows Media, WAV and MP3 format files.

Toshiba has also added the ability to recharge the Gigabeat's battery from the power present on a USB connection. Fully charging the batteries takes around 3 hours via either the USB or AC adapter and once charged the battery provides enough power for up-to 11 hours of music playback.

A LAN adapter is also available as an option which allows the device to be connected to a network and accessed as a virtual hard disk. Uploading music to the player has to be done through the Toshiba Audio Application software and this is available for Windows platforms only.

All three players are 76.5 millimeters wide and 89.5 millimeters high. The 5G-byte and 20G-byte models are 12.7 millimeters thick and weigh 138 grams and the 40G byte model is 15.7 millimeters wide and weighs 156 grams. The 40G-byte model is larger because its hard-disk drive is physically larger.

The MEG050 Gigabeat G5 model with a capacity of 5G bytes will be available in Japan from mid-July and will cost ¥29,800 (AUD$398). The MEG202 Gigabeat G22 has a capacity of 20G bytes and will be launched in Japan in late July and cost ¥47,040 ($629) . The flagship MEG400 Gigabeat G40 with a 40G-byte capacity will be available from September in Japan and cost ¥54,800 ($732).

Toshiba hasn't announced definite plans to sell the players overseas however the company is considering it, said Suzuki. Like the current model, the new devices all support menus in Japanese, English, German, French and Spanish. Support for German umlauts is a new feature added, she said.

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