Touch and go: Asus virtually created the burgeoning market for netbook computers with its groundbreaking Eee PC lineup. Whether it can give the demand for touch-screen desktop machines the same sort of boost is open for debate. But the Taiwanese maker is giving it a shot with its Eee Top 1602, due out in Japan at the end of March. The new Eee, with its 15.6-inch LCD touch screen, looks like a miniature all-in-one desktop computer a la iMac.

In reality, it is more of a hybrid between mobile phone and desktop, for although it looks like an all-in-one, its screen is appreciably smaller than the norm and its innards are closer to those found in netbooks. Powered by an Atom N270 chip running at 1.6 gigahertz, it has a modest 1 gigabyte of memory and a 160-gigabyte hard disk. The touch screen has a decent 166×768-pixel resolution, and it has the mandatory but superfluous built-in webcam, a 1.3-megapixel number. Capping off the specifications are all three main types of wireless connectivity: the routine B and G, and, more interestingly, the high-powered N flavors of Wi-Fi. The Eee Top 1602 comes with wireless keyboard and mouse and is preloaded with Windows XP. Its appeal is twofold: It has a touch screen and it is compact.

The computer comes with some specialized programs so that users can make the most of the touch screen. These include a program for writing text, and others for using the built-in camera, playing music and movies and viewing photos. It also includes a stylus.

Of greater interest is Opera Touch, a version of the popular Web browser that gets you in direct touch with the Internet. These programs are a start, but like other touch-interface computers, such as those from HP, the Eee Top 1602 does not allow you to throw away the keyboard, particularly as Windows XP is not currently compatible with touch interfaces.

The secondary selling point for the Eee Top 1602 is that its compactness makes it a perfect fit for a tight space.

Similar to the HP touch-screen models, the Eee Top 1602 feels like a good idea before its time, as the support for the new interface isn’t there yet. Moreover, it is a bit small and underpowered to use as a main computer. But if you need something compact then it may fit the bill, especially at ¥64,800. www.asus.co.jp/news_show.aspx?id=14403

TV on the move: Instant gratification is only one part of what we crave in the Internet age. Constant distraction is another obsession; why else do we all carry iPods? Beyond music, companies are now looking to create devices that will allow people to watch TV anywhere at any time. Hence the plethora of 1Seg devices, even if it does mean focusing our eyeballs on a screen smaller than our hand. Panasonic addresses that craving in a unique form with its DMP-BV100.

The key to the new device is that it includes a Blu-ray player, enabling people to watch high-definition movies on the go. It also sports a full digital-TV receiver. And as nobody is going to watch a Blu-ray movie on a tiny display, the Panasonic device features an 8.9-inch TFT screen with a 1024×600-pixel resolution. It bears the Viera badge, a good indication of quality. Finishing off the deal, the DMP-BV100 includes an HDMI plug to connect it to a larger screen, and an Ethernet connection and SD card slot for greater connectivity. The SD card allows for playing back camcorder recordings or viewing photos.

Battery life is crucial in the portable world, and Panasonic claims 2.5 hours of playback for its device, which is good enough to get through all but the most bloated Hollywood offerings, although recharging takes seven hours. It also has an AC adapter for use with mains power. The device weighs 1.7 kg and measures 256×202×58.7 mm. It comes with a built-in stand, which folds back to prop it up at a decent viewing angle.

The timing of the Panasonic offering is not great. In this period of straitened wallets, only those still pulling in a generous bonus are likely to pay ¥99,800 when it comes out March 15. panasonic.jp/viera/products/bv100/

Tech ramble: Casio’s newest watch isn’t so much a luxury item as a niche product. The PRX-2000T, in line with other products in the Protrek range, is designed as a timepiece for those with a love of the great outdoors. The watch features a triple sensor that measures temperature, altitude and air pressure and also acts as a compass. It can even display a graph telling you the steepness of the hill that you are climbing.

The previous Protrek models were similar in offering an altitude measure and compass directions in a watch, but were not as compact as the PRX-2000T. The new model is just 11.3 mm thick and weighs only 105 grams. The solar- powered watch has a digital display and a selection of buttons around its sides. It is also radio-controlled, meaning it picks up the time via radio waves and sets itself accordingly. This feature is especially common in Casio, Citizen and Seiko watches. The latest Casio takes it a step further in that its radio receiver is a six-band version, which allows it to receive any of the radio-control time signals transmitted in Japan, China, Europe and North America. This makes the watch ideal for an international traveler, although Casio so far only has plans to release it in Japan, where is has set a release date of April 1.

The watch has more standard features, such as a stopwatch, alarm and waterproofing; it also has a titanium bezel. Naturally, such a high-quality watch comes with a catch — a ¥95,000 price tag. Dedicated trekkers might be willing to foot the bill, but Casio has other models starting around the ¥20,000 mark that tell you the time and what direction you are going in. www.casio.co.jp/release/2009/prx-20oot.html


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