Japan constantly churns out high-tech gadgets, and Christmas is a great time to buy the best.
Led by MP3 players, which have become all the rage, here are some of the latest and greatest stocking stuffers available on the electronics frontier:
PANASONIC SV-SD75 (MP3 player)
Storage: SD Memory CardSize: 46 x 48 x 15 mmCompatible OS: Original versions of Windows 95, 2000Formats: MP3, AACInterface: USBStreet price: About 43,000 yen
Manning the front lines of the MP3 technology war, this little soldier from Panasonic boasts the biggest storage power in the smallest package on the market.
Few of us get to handle top-line technology on a daily basis, but with this gadget you’ll be storing one to two hours of tunes onto an advanced wafer-thin memory card the size of a postage stamp. So don’t lick it.
The player comes with a 64-MByte card, but Matsushita and Toshiba, who made the technology, plan to release 256-Mbyte and even 1-GByte versions around 2003.
PANASONIC SV-SD01 (MP3 headphones)
Street price: About 43,000 yen
As if small wasn’t enough, Panasonic has combined the same technology with a smartly designed headset that plays music without the hassle of untangling cables that rub against your face. The innovative engineering also allows it to be handily folded up and hidden away in its own carrying case. Weighs only 104 grams.
AIWA XP-MP3 (MP3 CD player)
Storage: 64-Mbyte SD Memory CardFormat: MP3Street price: About 20,000
Shaped like a discus (and just as wieldy), this hefty device allows die-hard listeners to play MP3 files stored on Multisession CDs (aka CD-R/RW), which can hold 10 times more music than your usual run-of-the-mill CD. Equipped with the usual sound-enhancement and antishock features, this modernized music box plays normal CDs and MP3s with equal aplomb.
AIWA MM-FX500 (MP3 recorder/player)
Storage: 32-Mbyte Multimedia Card, expandable to 64Compatible OS: Japanese Windows 95, 98 (second edition)Format: MP3Interface: Serial cableStreet price: About 22,000 yen
Aiwa’s latest innovation is the world’s first portable MP3 recorder that can make tracks directly from both digital and analog sources, bypassing the need to use a computer.
When not recording, it can store and play downloaded MP3s with the usual effects and features.
MAXELL MusicBit (MP3 player)
Storage: Smart Media CardCompatible OS: Windows 98, Mac 8.5 and up (Japanese)Format: TwinVQ, MP3, WMAInterface: USBStreet price: About 28,000 yen
Slimmer and lighter than its potential rivals, this hand-held unit can accommodate three different compression formats and Macintosh users to boot.
Smart Media Card technology prevents card-to-card copying.
SONY NW-E3 (MP3 player)
Storage: 64-Mbyte flash memoryCompatible OS: Japanese WindowsFormat: ATRAC3Interface: USBStreet price: About 35,000 yen
Sony’s MP3 player is designed to work like one of the most convenient mechanical gadgets in the world: the lighter.
With flash memory technology and a shuttle switch awaiting your thumb, Sony leaves digital music just a flick away.
Comes in red, silver or blue. If you hurry, you can pick up the limited 96-Mbyte special edition (NW-E5) for only 5,000 yen more.
SONY SRF-G8V (AM/FM radio)
Size: Smaller than a business cardStreet price: About 17,000 yen
Forty-three years after it was first launched, the AM transistor radio, once a marvel of high technology despite its poor range and staticky sound, has been retooled by Sony to do away with battery disposal.
Packing AM, FM and TV reception into a slimmed-down body of tough magnesium, this simply elegant radio now comes with such modern conveniences as a recharging bay and retractable earphones, features that may someday give it a nostalgic beauty all its own.
Without the fuss of dials and AA batteries, it’s probably not your father’s pocket radio. But maybe it’s high time he got a new one.
CASIO WQV-1DSET (Wristwatch camera)
Storage: 100 shots, normal modeCompatible OS: English/Japanese Windows 95, 98, NT and MacintoshInterface: Serial cable or infrared portStreet price: 30,000 yen for watch, zoom and software kit; or 20,000 yen for watch and 6,500 yen for bilingual software kit.
It was only a matter of time, but what did you expect from Casio?
Casio’s new wrist camera lets you shoot and store up to 100 black and white digital images and label them with names and phone numbers in Japanese or English.
Faces can be kept in the watch as a databank and zapped into PCs or altered with Casio’s special effects.
Japanese-challenged readers should buy the camera and bilingual software kit separately.
EPSON CHRONO-BIT (Wristwatch PDA)
Storage: 256-Kbyte RAM, 1-Mbyte flash ROMCompatible OS: Japanese Windows Me, 98, 95, 2000, NT4.0Interface: Serial cableRetail price: From 39,000 yen-59,000 yen
Epson is taking an innovative step by making a fountain of information available in the one place we most frequently look for it — on our wrists.
Most PDAs are being built for our pockets, but Epson’s is a to-do list animal’s dream, making note pad, calendar, calculator, address book, phone numbers and other useful data instantly available in a rechargeable watch that can be synchronized with personal computers.
Unfortunately for James Bond, the alphanumeric bezel doesn’t double as a buzz saw, magnet or detonator, but it’s still a neat watch.
NTT DOCOMO G-FORT (PDA)
CPU: VR4122 150 MHzMemory: 32 MbyteInterface: Compact flash card slot, USB, serial port, infrared portSize: 85 x 135 x 25.5 mmWeight: 300 gramsStreet price: About 55,000 yen
Refusing to idly stand by while the Palm and Visor swoop in, NTT DoCoMo has assimilated Casio’s G-Shock watch body to create a feature-packed pocket-computer PDA appropriately called the G-Fort.
The device, billed as “smart but tough,” is designed to survive drops from up to half a meter, making it imminently more practical to use than most of the delicate products on the market.
G-Fort has a 65,536-color screen and a slew of slots for everything from cameras and LANs to memory and modems, but it can also use the P-in Compact card for rapid data transfers via PHS.
Adding to its impregnability are Pocket versions of Outlook, Word, Excel and Explorer, the Windows media and video players, and a karaoke function that will allow songs and text to be downloaded through its Pocketone service starting next spring.
Thoughtful features have been added to input as well. An attachable keyboard of innovative shortcut keys breaks with cellphone buttons’ traditional alphabet order, while a dial on the side makes scrolling a breeze.