Touched up: Korean innovator iriver is firing off both barrels with its latest personal media player, the P20, a model it hopes will take some market share away from Apple’s iPod touch. The P20 is a chunky device with impressive hardware credentials. Released in Japan as an 80-gigabyte model, the PMP has already turned heads overseas with its 4.1-inch, 480×272 resolution organic-LED display with touch-screen ability. The P20 backs up the imposing screen and spacious storage capacity with its ability to handle a variety of audio and video formats, including MPEG-1/2/4, Xvid, WMV, MP3, OGG, WMA and FLAC. Moreover, it can view Microsoft Office (but only up to Office 2003), PDF and plain-text documents. Photographers will be pleased with the P20’s ability to view RAW files and the fact that it can read directly from memory cards, with a snap-on attachment. Rounding out the features are an FM radio tuner, voice recorder and games. It can also record from other media, such as a TV. The device can operate for up to nine hours while playing videos, or for 12 hours of audio playback. The P20 weighs about 300 grams and measures 80×130×20.5 mm.

The P20 is no iPod touch assassin and shouldn’t be viewed as such. While the touch is marketed as the complete on-the-go device for music/video playing, the P20 does not connect to the Internet at all. However, it has a much larger storage capacity than the touch (which tops out at 32 gigabytes), making it better suited for storing video. Apple’s iPod range only plays a limited number of file formats, but the P20 offers a much wider selection. Also, its larger screen is better for watching video on than the touch. The P20 is a portable entertainment device that you load up before you go out leaving the Internet behind.

Yet while the touch is famous for its ease of use, iriver seems to have gone a bit odd with the P20 user interface. Selecting the P20’s various functions involves using two different scroll wheels and thumbing a button, which makes its operation far less fluid than the touch’s. At least the P20 won’t strain the budget, with a recommended price of ¥39,800 when it hits the shelves Feb. 27. www.iriver.co.jp

Upping the power: The latest netbooks are increasingly stepping away from the original Eee PC models with their 7-inch and 9-inch screens and sub-10-gigabyte solid-state drives. Acer, which muscled into the netbook market early on, brings its new D150 Aspire One model to Japan this month. The D150 features a 10.1-inch LED backlit 1024×600 display, 1.6-gigahertz ATOM N270 processor, 1 gigabyte of memory and a 160-gigabyte hard disk. It comes with Windows XP as the operating system, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It weighs 1.18 kg and measures 60×185×33.4 mm. The D150 is dressed in a standard but stylish format with a keyboard and a trackpad housed in a body that comes in a choice of colors — red, sapphire blue, black or white. From Feb. 20, the basic model will retail for ¥49,800, with an option to include Microsoft Office for an extra ¥10,000. The basic model will come with a three-cell battery that will keep the D150 going for about three hours. An optional six-cell battery boosts operating time to about seven hours and ups the weight to 1.3 kg. www.acer.co.jp

Old and new: Onkyo looks to resurrect an old format with a new iPod-friendly sound system that uses MiniDiscs. The pairing of iPods with the MD is ironic, considering that the Apple product and other MP3 players helped to all but kill off the earlier format. So why would Onkyo use the MD format? MDs might be out of date but they are not dead. MiniDiscs were popular in Japan not so many years ago and no doubt many people have theirs stashed away, waiting to be played again. It is this market that Onkyo is targeting with its new X-T2 sound system.

The X-T2 is a typical Onkyo product: It looks good and will likely have superior audio reproduction. The system is a rectangular silver and black unit with a top-loading MD slot, and it includes an FM/AM radio tuner. A pair of speakers flank the main unit. Separate to this is a small, circular iPod dock that allows you to hook up your portable unit to the X-T2. The main system’s remote control can then be used to operate your iPod. The speakers have 8-cm-driver units, A-OMF cones and 10 watts of output each. The main unit measures 300×215×203 mm and weighs 3.2 kg. The speakers are 128×217×243 mm and weigh a kilogram each. Onkyo is not relying solely on the legacy MD market, with a sister model, the X-T2CR, which plays CDs instead of MDs. The pair are due out April 17 with an expected price tag of ¥44,800. www.jp.onkyo.com/news/newproducts/onkyo/xt2cr/


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