Walkman brand still standing: Sony’s latest additions to the once-venerable Walkman brand, the NW-X1050 and NW-X1060 (released last week), base their appeal on a wide range of features for watching video and playing music. Each of the pair sports a 3-inch OLED touch-screen display, which has a 432×240-pixel resolution. While OLED screens are known for their clear, bright pictures, you can’t escape the difficult nature of watching images on such small screens.

Boosting their multimedia credentials, the Sony pair include FM radio and 1-seg TV tuners. They can also be used to surf the Internet, as they have both B and G versions of Wi-Fi, with a maximum range of about 50 meters from a broadcast source. Sony touts their ability to download and watch videos. Unlike iPods, they work with a wide variety of formats, including MP3, WMA, ATRAC, ATRAC Advanced Lossless, PCM/AAC and HE-AAC files. This variety maximizes the usefulness of the pair. The only real difference between the two is size, with the NW-X1050 having 16 gigabytes of memory and its sibling 32 gigabytes.

The Walkmans measure 96.5×52×9.8 mm and tip the scales at around 98 grams. Considering the variety of features Sony has crammed into its devices, it has done a decent job in regard to pricing, with the NW-X1050 at ¥39,800 and the extra 16 gigabytes of the NW-X1060 pushing its price up to ¥49,800. www.sony.jp/CorporateCruise/Press/200904/09-0414/

Upping the game: In the world of gadgets, “how” is often more important than “what.” Sharp knows the importance of this, and is trying to revolutionize how people use mobile computers with its new Mebius-branded netbook, the PC-NJ70A. The 10.1-inch computer ditches the traditional track pad in favor of a second 4-inch LCD screen with an embedded optical sensor. Situated below the keyboard in the usual track-pad position, the special sensor system detects and tracks fingers or a stylus placed on the screen. The bonus is that it also displays images at the same time, and so does double duty as a secondary display.

For example, touching the Internet icon on the optical screen opens the Internet browser. It can be used for opening other applications, too, such as video or photo programs. Art software can be used with the touch pad to draw over digital photos. An e-book function uses the sensor to turn the page, with the book appearing on the main screen. A piano game shows a shrunken version of a keyboard on the small screen, allowing users to tap out a simple tune. Rounding out the package, a stylus can be used to draw kanji on the sensor screen to find a translation. It also works with English, Chinese and Korean.

The special screen, with a resolution of 854×480 pixels, also automatically adjusts its brightness depending on the available light, making its images clearer. In effect, it brings the touch interface of the iPhone to laptop computers and throws away the venerable mouse.

Apart from the optical screen, the PC-NJ70A is a standard netbook offering, albeit a tad on the pricey side. The new Mebius has a 10.1-inch main screen with a resolution of 1024×600 pixels and runs Windows Vista Home Basic with an Intel N270 Atom processor running at 1.6 gigahertz. It has just 1 gigabyte of memory, expandable to 2 gigabytes, and a 160-gigabyte hard-disk drive. The computer also has a 1.3-megabyte webcam, memory-card slot, B and G wireless LAN and Bluetooth.

The device weighs in at 1.46 kg, measures 260×190 mm and is a bit thicker than your average netbook, ranging from 23 mm at its thinnest point to 40 mm at its thickest. The Mebius will come in a choice of black or white when its hits the stores in the second half of May, with a starting price of ¥79,800. www.sharp.co.jp/mebius/products/jpcnj70a/index.html

Classics never die: Devices devoted to copying music from records to digital files are in a small but thriving niche market. Arguably, those wanting to preserve the tunes trapped on cassette tapes are in even more desperate need of such technological help.

Novac, which already offers a nifty device for going from vinyl to digital, is addressing the cassette issue with its new MV-CM001U. Preserving your music for posterity is a simple matter of connecting the small wooden box to a computer via the included USB cable, inserting a cassette into the slot on top of the device and hitting the record button.

The device can record as MP3, WAV or WMA files; for MP3 or WMA, the bit rate can be set to 32, 64, 128, 192 or 320 kbps. A higher bit rate results in better sound quality but also a larger file.

The device can also split up the tracks, either manually or via automated settings. It can also be used as a basic cassette player with its built-in 1.5-W amplifier. And, by using an RCA cable, the gadget can be hooked up to other devices, such as radios or stereos, and used to record their output onto digital files.

The need for the MV-CM001U might not be apparent, but considering how many music cassettes were sold in their heyday, particularly as fuel for the original Walkman craze, there must still be a sizable latent demand for the likes of the Novac box. At just ¥7,980, the MV-CM001U, which was released last week, is a good investment for anyone wanting to save their taped tunes in perpetuity. www.novac.co.jp/products/hardware/nv-capture/nv-cm001u/index.html


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