Light fantastic: The traditional light bulb in this period of global warming is seen as wasteful: It uses too much electricity and has too short a life span. Bulbs that use light-emitting diodes (LED) are seen as leading candidates to replace the incandescent bulb. Toshiba is promoting this technology with a new pair of E-Core branded light bulbs, the LEL-AW4L and LEL-AW4N. Equivalent to 40-watt bulbs, the pair are intended to replace conventional bulbs in homes.

The bulbs can screw into conventional light sockets and cost the same, ¥8,980, but have slightly different light properties. The LEL-AW4L gives off a yellowish light that is not as strong as that from the LEL-AW4N, which has a more starkly white light.

Toshiba claims the bulbs will last for 40,000 hours. This compares to conventional incandescent bulbs, which are expected to last something like 750 to 1,000 hours, and fluorescent lights that typically last between 6,000 and 15,000 hours. Moreover, the LED lights are claimed to use a seventh of the power of a regular bulb. Their environmentally- friendly rivals, fluorescent bulbs, use anywhere between one-fifth and one-third the power of an incandescent.

The bulbs went on sale last week. www.tlt.co.jp/tlt/topix/press/p090204/p090204.htm

Booked for success: Electronic books achieve a milestone next month with the long-awaited release of the first electronic paper e-book reader that does color, the weirdly named FLEPia from Fujitsu. Electronic paper has two great virtues. First, e-paper is like regular paper in being nonreflective, so you can read it outdoors and the lack of backlighting makes it easier on the eyes. Second, devices using electronic paper for their screens have much longer battery life than do those, such as laptops, that employ conventional LCD screens. This is crucial for an e-book device: After all, who wants to have batteries die in the middle of a chapter?

Many see the arrival of color as crucial for the long-term success of e-book readers, because it opens them up for use in reading comic books, magazines, newspapers and other materials that benefit from color.

E-book reading is actually only the headline act of the FLEPia, which is more akin to a computer. It has an 8-inch screen with just a few buttons to control it. The 768×1024 resolution screen can display up to 268,000 colors, as distinct from the four or eight shades of gray that most e-paper devices now on the market offer. The screen is a touch model, but unlike the iPhone you have to use a stylus. It also comes with Bluetooth and wireless abilities so you can surf the Internet on the go.

It uses SD memory cards for storage, with Fujitsu claiming you can store the equivalent of 5,000 books on a 4-gigabyte card. The company is trumpeting its battery life, up to 40 hours of continuous operation before the internal battery has to be recharged. This is because e-paper only draws power when you are changing the contents on screen. The gadget weighs just 385 grams while measuring a mere 158×240×12.5 mm.

Several factors, however, mark the FLEPia as a first-generation device for the serious gadget freaks among us only. On the technical side is the slowness of the screen. Each time you refresh it the screen will take 1.8 seconds to change contents, and this if you are only using the 64-color setting. Using a prettier 4,096 colors slows the screen down to 5 seconds and at full rainbow setting of 260,000 colors you hit the molasses at 8 seconds. These speeds are bad enough for reading a book but make surfing the Net in the dial-up days look racy.

The FLEPia debuts April 20 at ¥99,750. The hefty price doesn’t include the optional cover or storage case — both of which are needed to protect the screen. One further key issue is content. Just as there is no point in buying a cutting-edge razor if you can’t get blades for it, so the issue of not being able to buy e-books in a format that your device can read has dogged e-book readers. The FLEPia comes with its own e-book reading software, which on past experience may mean you can only read books that you get from Fujitsu and its book seller partner Papyless. But the redeeming feature is that the device comes loaded with Windows CE5.0, an operating system for mobile devices. A number of e-book reading programs, many of them free, are available for this OS and that should open up the world’s electronic book stores to your FLEPia. www.frontech.fujitsu.com

Good project: Raising quite a stir last year was the Optoma PK101, a portable projector that allowed users to display content from their iPods or iPhones on the nearest convenient surface. Taking the idea the next step forward is local firm Hometheater, with their intriguing NS-01 portable screen. Looking like an ordinary bit of stationery, it unfolds to become an A5-size projection screen.

When set up, it sits up like a triangle with the 8.5-inch screen on one side, the back of the device as a second side and the narrower base. The Optoma is then connected to your iPod or iPhone and positioned to face the screen to create an on-the-go theater.

Hometheater claims that the screen has a special treatment on it to boost the brightness of the projected picture. The whole unit when folded away measures just 150×210×8 mm and weighs 300 grams. It comes in a choice of white, back or emerald green color schemes.

The NS-01 went on the market last week and costs around ¥7,000.

When the PK101 reached Japan, I had misgivings about picture quality, with the device having no way of compensating for low picture quality in areas that are, for example, too bright for projection, and the NS-01 addresses this limitation. Still, while the screen is probably fine for showing videos on, it is certainly no home theater. But it does the job as a niche product, specifically for those who have the PK101 and want to get more out of their device. www.pocket-pj.com


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