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Ray of hope: Two new Blu-ray products by Sony are taking aim at the DVD and also undermining traditional television. Sony’s new Blu-ray recorders, the 320-gigabyte BDZ-A750 and the larger 500-gigabyte BDZ-A950, work as both Blu-ray burners and hard-disk video recorders. The pair are designed for downloading videos that are bought from the Tsutaya TV or acTVila video-on-demand services. These can then be transferred to a PlayStation Portable or media players that can read Sony video formats for watching on the smaller screen. TV programs that are recorded on to the BDZ units the old-fashioned way can also be transferred to the portable devices.

The BDZs can also transfer video to cell phones, though this cannot be done with copyrighted video material that is bought and downloaded. Any downloaded movies can, however, be viewed on a PC, a PS3, or any other device that is connected to the BDZ pair in a home network.

Both players have digital and analog TV tuners and use Sony’s CREAS HD technology. They support recording of MPEG 2/1 and MPEG 4 AVC content on hard drives or Blu-ray discs and DVDs.

Sony has conjured a smart idea. One of the key questions hanging over the future of Blu-ray is whether people will use it as their main format for watching video, in the way that DVDs succeeded VHS. There is a possibility that consumers will instead download their video directly off the Internet, bypassing disc technology entirely. In its BDZ pair, Sony has cleverly tried to head off the threat.

If you are into this new video frontier, you had better dig deep into your wallet: The BDZ-A750 costs ¥138,000 and the A950 ¥168,000. The two models are due to hit the market April 24. www.sony.jp/CorporateCruise/Press/200903/09-0326/

Embellishing netbooks: Dell is helping to nudge netbook computers upmarket with its new Inspiron Mini 10, set for release later this month. The key selling point for the new model is that its 10.1-inch screen has a resolution of 1366×768 pixels, comparable to the specifications for a regular laptop and certainly a notch above that of your typical netbook (or its predecessor, the Mini 9).

The new model’s other specs are also more muscular than the norm for its class of machine, with its new Atom Z520 1.33-gigahertz processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM and a 120-gigabyte hard disk. Buyers can also opt for a beefed-up Z530 processor rated at 1.6 gigahertz and a more spacious 160 gigabytes of storage. In line with the general netbook trend, the Dell machine comes with Windows XP Home Edition. The device also comes with B and G wireless connectivity, Bluetooth, a webcam and a memory-card slot.

Unusually, Dell has included GPS ability, although whether this is just a gimmick is open to debate. Dell has also opted for a better-than standard keyboard for a netbook, which would not look out of place on a full-size laptop. The Mini 10 comes in black, pearl white, cherry red, pink, green and ice blue colors.

The machine weighs 1.17 kg and measures 261×182×25.3 mm.

The Mini 10 costs from ¥49,800. Considering its hardware specs and smart design, the low price is going to see Dell putting the heat on its rivals. www1.jp.dell.com

Locking on: Taking a basic product and progressively embellishing it with more specs has long been a feature of technological progress. In this spirit, Microsoft has taken the mouse up a notch with its new SideWinder X8, a 2.4-gigahertz wireless model intended for gamers. The mouse uses the company’s BlueTrack technology, which provides image-processing of 13,000 frames per second. Put simply, this means that it responds quicker and more accurately to your hand movements than a standard mouse, an important feature for gamers. The X8 also allows users to switch between levels of resolution. It comes with three settings — low, medium and high — ranging from 250 to 4,000 dpi.

Microsoft is plugging the X8’s battery life of up to 30 hours of gaming on a single charge. Users can also take the play-and-charge cable, which allows the user to keep using the mouse while it is being recharged. The need to top a 30-hour session suggests this really is targeted at the hardcore gamer.

Apart from the headline features, the mouse includes other means for individualizing it, such as interchangeable feet to suit the user’s particular “glide preference.” It also has seven programmable buttons and a dedicated macro record button, so you can assign specific functions to your mouse.

The X8 looks like a pointer on steroids, with a black countenance and flashes of LED light. The device weighs 143 grams and measures 125×77×38 mm. The X8, also known as the 3HA-00007, is on the market now at a cost of ¥11,500. It runs on Windows XP and Vista. www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouseandkeyboard/default.mspx

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