Proven brand: Picking genuine designer goods from increasingly sophisticated ripoffs is tough. So Hitachi and printing maestro Toppan next month bring to Japan a high-tech method for seeing beyond the label. The IC Hologram is an RFID (radio-frequency identification) tag with a special hologram etched onto it that will be attached to an item’s packaging. The hologram is expensive to fake and the RFID computer chip data is encrypted and difficult to crack. Together, the two features are expected to be too tough for forgers to copy. In the future, such tags are also expected to be used to verify batches of medicine. But for now Hitachi and Toppan anticipate that proving the authenticity of luxury items will generate ¥4 billion in annual sales of the high-tech tags. More information can be found at: www.toppan.co.jp/news

Bluetooth tunes: Sony has unveiled its latest portable digital-media players. The 16-gigabyte NW-A829 and 8-gigabyte NW-A828 each use flash memory and play video as well as music. They also include Bluetooth modules, doing away with the need for wired connections to computer and headphones. Weighing just 39 grams, they play for up to 36 hours of audio and up to 10 hours of video. The pair support MP3, WMA, ATRAC, AAC, HE-AAC and Sony PCM for audio and mpeg4, H.264 and AVC for video. Slated for release March 20, they are priced at ¥37,800. Visit www.sony.jp for more details.

Hooking up: Sony will also release a new peripheral to hook its portable media players up to your home stereo. The new TDM-NW10 cradle, which connects to the stereo via a 22-pin WM-PORT connector or 18-pin digital media port, works with the above-mentioned Bluetooth models, as well as the A910, A800 and S700 series players, allowing users to play thousands of albums on their home system without going to the trouble of changing a disc. Costing ¥6,000, it is due out April 21. More information is available at www.sony.jp

TV more than pictures: As televisions get thinner, it is tough to justify the extra bulk that a decent audio setup would entail. Sony’s answer is to stash top-notch sound equipment under the TV — in the stand. Its new RHT-G900 TV stand, designed to be married with the Sony Bravia lineup of televisions, packs built-in speakers left, right and center, plus a subwoofer in the rack to help deliver 5.1-channel virtual surround sound and 470 watts of power. The fancy furniture also includes HDMI and digital-audio inputs, a digital-media port and preset equalizers. The unit is compatible with Dolby Digital, DTS, MPEG-2, AAC and PCM sound systems. The stand is due out April 21 and will cost ¥110,000. For more information, see the address for the previous item.

Copying made easy: LiteOn is releasing its DX-20A4PU DVD and CD burner, a USB-connected device for burning files off your computer more simply. Just hit the “file” button on the machine: the burning software starts, and then you simply drag and drop your file to write it to the disc. Copying a CD or DVD is equally straightforward: Push the “dub” button on the machine, place the source CD or DVD in the drive and away you go. The burner can create a copy DVD-R at a speed of 20x, a DVD-RAM at 12x, and DVD-DL at 8x. The new burner hit the stores last Saturday priced ¥9,000. For information, see www.links.co.jp/html

Bigger picture: For those who use a second monitor with their PC but resent having to pay for the extra graphics card necessary to drive it, a cheaper and simpler option is available. I-O Data’s USB-RGB-D is a DVI dongle that connects your computer to a new screen via USB, just like that. The ¥14,800 gadget is out now; see www.iodata.jp for details.

Sporting memories: There is no shortage of foodaholic USB thumb drives on the market, with pocket memory devices shaped like sushi, tempura or other menu items. Now Green House is helping the sports tragics among us to enjoy our own slice of gadgetdom with sports-themed USB keys. The 1-gigabyte Sport USB Flash keys look like small soccer balls with USB 2.0 connections sticking out the side — not to forget baseballs, golf and rugby balls and others. They are available direct from Green House at www.green-house.co.jp/products/memory for ¥3,680 each.

Designer PCs: Most people solve their computing needs off-the-rack. Catering to the tailor-made crowd, local firm DosPara this month has launched a new desktop, the Prime Monarch XE, that customers can have built to order. The PC is based on the P35 Express chipset using an Intel Xeon E3110. The desktop specs start with a basic 2-gigabytes of RAM memory, a 500-gigabyte Sata II hard disk, a DVD drive and a GeForce 8800GT video card with 512 megabytes of VRAM. The tower-style machines come in white or black with a starting price of ¥117,980, not including a monitor. Details at: www.dospara.co.jp/goods_pc


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