June 2008's 9 coolest gadgets
- 24 June, 2008 15:11
With summer finally upon us, the sunshine's (sort of) beating down. The weather's getting (a bit) hotter, and so are the gadgets. Here's our top nine products announces in Japan this month.
This month in we've seen a number of classy gizmos emerge from the Far East: from the HTC Touch Pro smartphone — the business-oriented sister handset of the Touch Diamond — to Asus' Wii-like motion-sensitive control. There's even a few TVs for good measure.
Hands-on with HTC's Touch Pro
The strongest impression I took away from HTC's Touch Pro was of the bright, crisp screen on the Windows Mobile 6.1 handset.
From the front the HTC Touch Pro looks much like the Touch Diamond that was launched last month but with the two in my hand it was obvious that the Touch Pro is thicker. The reason is a slide-out Qwerty keyboard that appears from the back of the phone and makes for much easier typing. Each of the keys is beveled so that there's an obvious distinction between each one — a handy feature on a keypad that's relatively small.
In spite of its small size, the well-contoured keyboard and predictive text input system meant that the first sentence I typed on the Touch Pro came out perfectly, something that can't be said for every smartphone I've tried.
The keyboard has been improved from previous models with a fifth row of number keys above the main keyboard. Personally, I hate having to hold down a shift or function key to tap out numbers on smartphones, so the number row is a welcome addition.
The phone felt solid and well-made and the phone's body slid smoothly when the keyboard was pulled out. It wasn't so heavy that it weighed on my hands when typing, another occasional problem on smartphones that restricts use. HTC said it weighs 165g. The 2.8in LCD screen was a pleasure to look at. It has VGA resolution (640 pixels by 480 pixels) so the images appear very sharp and text looks superb. Strong colours enhanced the screen image.
The HTC Touch Pro should be available from August in major markets worldwide. No price was announced.
Samsung slow-mo HMX20 video camera
Samsung has launched a high-def video camera that can also snap high-resolution digital photos and take smooth slow-motion video.
The Samsung HMX20, which was shown as a prototype at CES in Las Vegas in January, can manage 1080p full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) video and 8MP images. It's also capable of snapping pictures while video is being recorded, a feature that is becoming popular on cameras but is still not standard.
A special feature is the 300 frames per second (fps) shooting mode for slow-motion video. Video is usually recorded at 30fps and becomes jumpy when slowed down, but by recording at 300fps it can be slowed down by as much as 10 times and still appear smooth. Data is recorded on to the internal 8GB of memory or SD or MMC memory cards. Priced at around £428, the camera will initially be available in South Korea.
Launch details for other markets have not been set.
Asus Eee Stick
Taiwan's Asus is bringing Ninetendo Wii-like wireless gaming to the PC.
Eee Sticks are a pair of motion-sensitive controllers that gamers can use to bowl, slash swords and play other games on a PC.
Initially, Asustek plans to bundle the controllers with its popular Eee PC low-cost laptops, and the desktop Eee Box that will be available in mid-August.
Next year, the Eee Sticks will be sold in packs with five to eight games for around £33 to £41. So far, Asustek has only inked licensing agreements with a handful of game companies for their games can be used with Eee Stick.
The company plans to talk with more game developers, including Electronic Arts, to expand its offerings.
Sony all-glass Sountina speaker
Fashioned entirely from glass, Sony's Sountina cylindrical speakers emit sound in a 'circle' of 360 degrees, allowing listeners to hear in equal fidelity regardless of their location.
Apart from the tweeter, the Sountina, also known as the NSA-PF1, includes a 13cm woofer and a 7cm mid-range speaker.
The speakers pack quite a punch, too, as Sony demonstrated at a launch event, when music travelled at least 100m in the open space around its headquarters building lobby.
In the dark, the Sountina can also contribute to the ambience with illuminations. Under dim lighting, the glass resonates with colours that alternate between blue, amber and purple making it something like a sleeker and more modern version of a lava lamp.
The Sountina is tagged at $9,600, and is set to go on sale on June 20 in Japan. Sony has plans to release it internationally but there is no precise schedule.
Panasonic Strada car navigation system
Panasonic's new Strada F-class car navigation system gives drivers the power and convenience to operate home-based devices from remote location, as long as they have a mobile phone signal.
Commands from the navigation system are sent to the owner's mobile phone over a Bluetooth link and then back to the home via a cellular internet connection. A home unit receives the commands, which are input through the car's navigation system screen, and follows the instructions.
The gadgets at home need to be capable of network control. Additionally the F-class models can also link up with Panasonic home network cameras. While it's only possible to get a still image and not streaming video, it is enough to give owners a clear picture of what's happening at home.
And the system can also be used to program a digital video recorder to catch TV shows, as long as the recorder is from Panasonic. The Strada F-class hard-disk drive car navigation systems will go on sale in Japan this June at retail price of $3,380. There are no plans to sell them overseas.
Sharp 108in LCD TV
The world's largest LCD monitor can now be yours, if you have a deep wallet. Sharp has finally launched the 108in LCD monitor that was first unveiled in January 2007 at CES in Las Vegas.
Now it's available to customers worldwide, built-to-order, for $102,000 (£51,000). The Full HD (1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels) monitor comes with a wide array of input sockets. There's analogue RGB and DVI computer inputs, 3 High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) inputs, two composite video inputs, two sets of component video inputs and one S-Video input. The entire set weighs an impressive 195kg and consumes 1.1kW when in use.
Underneath the otherwise clean front surface are three buttons. The screen has 240 pixel by 400 pixel resolution (Wide QVGA), which makes it lower resolution than the iPhone or other likely competitors such as the HTC Touch Diamond.
The quad-band (850/900/1800/1900MHz) phone will operate on both Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and supports 7.2Mbps High-speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE) data networking.
Great for mobile video fans is the format support: DivX, XviD, H.263, H.264, Windows Media Video and MP4. The camera has 5Mp resolution and other features include GPS, Bluetooth and FM radio. The Samsung Omnia measures 112x57x12.5mm and will go on sale in Asia this month and in Europe in July.
Toshiba promises Cell-TV, Sony promises bigger OLED
Get ready TV fans! Two cool new sets are coming soon! Toshiba plans to put a TV powered by the Cell processor on sale before the end of 2009.
The Cell TV will use the chip for some heavy-duty graphics processing to allow for real-time upscaling of standard-definition TV to high-def, and to display multiple video streams simultaneously for quick navigation of many TV channels.
Meanwhile Sony said a 27in OLED TV will be here soon. Prototypes of the set have already been shown but CEO Howard Stringer recently confirmed at a US conference that it's heading towards becoming a product. "Within the next 12 months, we haven't given a date," he said when asked to be more specific on timing.