Bright energy: Japan is known far and wide as the Land of the Rising Sun, but it desires to be known (again) as the Land of the Solar Charge. Once the world’s leader in installed solar power, Japan has since 2005 slipped second behind Germany, which now has about double Japan’s capacity. Politicians have been vowing to recharge clean-energy initiatives since even before the July G8 summit in Toyako, Hokkaido.

Sanyo Electric is doing its part, strengthening its green credentials with its revolutionary Eneloop brand Solar Light. The device is the size of an office dictionary (242 mm by 186 mm), albeit much slimmer (28 mm), with a handle on one end. A solar panel covers one side, with an array of nine LED lights on the other side. The internal rechargeable battery can gather power from the solar cells or the included AC adapter.

In addition to the LED panel on the side, another LED light is built into the handle to project a flashlight beam. The panel light, which has three brightness settings, casts a general glow sufficient to light a small room or a tent. The clincher is a USB power port that can be used to recharge a cell phone or other portable devices. An included shoulder strap makes lugging this 800-gram box around easier.

A straight solar charge takes 15 to 30 hours, compared with about 3.5 hours on the AC adapter. A full charge can keep the flashlight going for at least 50 hours, while the panel light will operate between 9 and 35 hours depending on the brightness level.

Sanyo claims the Solar Light is splash- proof, so despite arriving so late in the season, it looks like a handy camping accessory.

Beyond the obvious appeal of having free, renewable energy, the Solar Light can serve as an emergency light source, even on a cold winter night — provided that you keep the batteries charged.

The biggest question mark is its price, which has not been set for its market debut on Oct. 10. www.sanyo.co.jp

On the tip of your fingers: Touch-screen technology has made the jump from being a fancy gimmick found in airports and malls to a designed-in function of a growing number of portable music players and mobile phones. But what we’ve all been waiting for is the capability to let our fingers do the walking on our laptop and desktop screens.

NEC Corp. is bringing out two new models of touch-panel tablet on Sept. 22: the 12-inch 12PNC-W2/B2 and the 15-inch 15PNC-W2/B2. Each model will use Intel’s new Atom Z530 1.6-gigahertz processor, a chip that values economy over computing power, and an 80-gigabyte hard drive. The 12-incher will have 512 megabytes of RAM, while the larger model will pack 1 gigabyte of memory.

The 12PNC-W2/B2, running Windows XP Pro, will cost ¥252,000, while the 15PNC-W2/B2 (¥268,000) will have Windows Vista Business installed. (An alternative 15-inch model with the XP operating system comes out Oct. 30 for a slightly cheaper ¥257,000.)

Stylish these are not. And at 2.5 kg for the 12-inch and 3.5 kg for the 15-inch model, they are not exactly the lightweight notepads that consumers have been waiting for. The idea is first rate, but the execution appears less so, especially without built-in Wi-Fi.

Although the above prices are recommended for retailers, there’s a real chance you’ll find these underpowered panels at lower prices by yearend. www.nec.co.jp

TV makes a splash: Reading a book while lounging in the bath is a pleasure too few of us indulge in. Listening to the radio while bathing still seems indulgent, although shower radios have been around for ages. The same goes for television, which requires a bit more attention — to scheduling, keeping your eyes open — not to mention that it’s hard to get good TV reception in most bathrooms.

A Sony Corp. product to be released next month — the XDV-W600 portable TV-radio — may have you soaking up more TV in no time.

The 4-inch LCD panel is waterproof, so it can sit propped up on the edge of the bathtub, or keep you company next to the kitchen sink while washing the dishes. The XDV-W600 plays 1Seg video, not live TV broadcasts, but its ability to record up to 10 hours of video in its internal memory should last through even the longest soaks. The device even includes an electronic program guide to help you record your favorite shows.

The unit has a battery life of up to 23 hours if you combine the internal rechargeable battery with regular AA (LR6) batteries. A recharge from the AC adapter takes about three hours. The XDV-W600 measures 145×98×42 mm and weighs a light 300 grams. It will be available in white, pink or blue when it is released Oct. 30.

Sony has a knack for making a big splash with small products (remember the Walkman?). But with a screen resolution of 272×480 pixels, this device doesn’t deliver much more than a 1Seg-equipped cell phone. For 1Seg devotees, however, the long recording and playback times, plus its all-weather nature, may make the XDV-W600 worth the ¥39,800 price. www.sony.jp


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