Striking a chord: Toshiba has upgraded its Gigabeat T401 MP3 player, giving it wireless network connectivity and rebadging it as the T802. It also has 8 gigabytes of flash memory, up from the 4 gigabytes of the T401, and its battery is good for 16 hours of music playback or five hours of video. The new model hit the shelves Friday and costs ¥29,800. For more information, visit www.toshiba.co.jp

Energy cycle: The typical electric bicycle is a standard commuter number with baskets front and back; its motorized assistance is the sole feature distinguishing it among the lines of bicycles outside the local train station. Now, Panasonic, a leading maker of the traditional-style electric bikes, is pushing a racy new variety with sleek looks to match. Its new Titanium Flat Road EB is at heart a racing bike. The electric motor allows its rider to cover 10 km in about 30 minutes, with a top speed of 24 kph. Panasonic has included its SLIM (Smart Lithium-Ion Integrated Management) system with the titanium-framed bike, a small computer that keeps the rider informed of the battery level and the distance that can be traveled before the next recharge is due. Easy riding with style sounds good, but at ¥585,000, it doesn’t come cheap.

Never enough width: Camera users are just ordinary people: like most, we aim to get slimmer. But we hold our cameras to a different standard — we want them as wide-angled as possible. This desire is particularly present among owners of “bridge” cameras, which fall between the lightweight compacts and the serious digital single-lens reflex beasts. Olympus’ new SP-570UZ model has a lens that boasts a quite amazing 20x optical zoom — going from 26 mm to 520 mm, in 35mm terms. At 26 mm the lens offers decent wide-angle results, while at 520mm it offers prodigious telephoto ability. The camera has a 10-megapixel sensor, image stabilization, weighs in at 445 gm and runs on four AA batteries. True, specialist wide-angle lenses would provide better pictures at that end of the zoom range, and dedicated telephotos will do a better job of getting you close to the action. But the SP-570UZ offers great photographic diversity without the usual bag full of lenses. The new camera comes out March 6 and will cost ¥59,800. More information is online at www.olympus.co.jp

Tough photography: Olympus trumpets a very different selling point with another new digital camera, the u1030SW. The 10-megapixel compact is built for a knock-about life, able to withstand a drop from a height of two meters, waterproof to a depth of 10 meters, able to take up to 100 kg of weight on its body and usable in temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees C. Oh, and its metal exterior is also scratch proof. Beyond the tough-as-they- come specs it has an image-stabilized lens with a 3.6 zoom factor, going from 28 mm to 102 mm in 35-mm camera terms. The camera comes out March 11 with a price tag of ¥49,800.

Quicker ray: Buffalo is bringing out a group of smart new Blu-ray recorders for use with computers, with a fast 4x recording speed. The external version, the BR-416U2, which connects via USB 2.0, costs ¥53,000, while the two models for installing internally, the white BR-416FBS-WH and black BR-416FBS-BK, will sell for ¥48,500 each. All three models hit the shelves this month.

Pocket power: With its latest additions to its line of PocketBit USB keys, Sony is offering pocketable memory capacity that not so long ago was the top end for a computer hard drive. Among the slimmest of such devices, the new USM-LX PocketBit models released last week sport a fresh all-white design and come in capacities of between 1 and 16 gigabytes, priced between ¥2,680 and ¥22,800, with reading speeds of up to 31 megabytes a second. They work with both PCs and Macs. See www.sony.jp/products for details.

Working overtime: Evergreen is a tough taskmaster: The local firm’s new Genius Navigator 365 mouse is expected to do double duty as a game pad. As a mouse it offers a fairly fast 1,600 dpi and as a game accessory it sports eight buttons and a D-pad. The device is out now priced ¥3,499. Visit http://pc.watch.impress.co.jp for details.

Making tracks: Perhaps boasting functionality rather than headline-grabbing versatility is another Evergreen product, the Traveler 350. A trackball for those who can’t abide by a regular mouse, the Traveler lives up to its moniker as it weighs just 77 gm and measures a smallish 65×75×22 mm. The gadget is compatible with Windows 2000, XP and Vista and costs ¥2,999. More information can be found at www.donya.jp.

Golden anniversary: Casio’s popular G-Shock range of watches are different beasts from those of the storied Rolex brand, especially in price terms. But for the 25th anniversary of the G-shock, Casio is bringing out a limited-edition model with a Rolex-esque price. The RG8000G Ultra Limited Edition (just 200 on offer worldwide) will cost ¥525,000 when it is released Feb. 29. The watch includes an 18-carat gold ring around the edge of its face with gold-plated finishing on all of its metal parts. Details are online at www.casio.co.jp

Digital drawings: The amusingly titled video-game developer Compile Heart has teamed up with anime and manga company Tezuka Productions and Nintendo to bring Osamu Tezuka’s famous manga anthology “Phoenix” into the digital age. Tezuka is best known abroad as the creator of “Astro Boy,” while “Phoenix,” an epic work dealing with the quest for immortality, is regarded as his life’s work, spanning over 30 years and unfinished at the time of his death in 1989. The entire anthology will be available to read on the wildly popular Nintendo DS hand-held game console, albeit in the original Japanese only. The digitized graphic novel will be released in May, priced ¥4,179.


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