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More for your book: Japanese gadget innovator Century is offering a device for putting more muscle into netbooks in the form of its Netbook Stand, the CNBS-WT/ODD. While fundamentally a netbook cooler, the Century gadget also packs in a DVD burner. A fan is built into the left side and swivels up into an unusual vertical position for use. The Netbook Stand also includes space under its lid for an extra 2.5-inch SATA hard drive or solid state drive. A netbook is simply placed on top of the stand and hooked up via a USB cable; the fan is then powered up and the DVD drive is ready for use. It completes the package with two extra USB sockets.

The DVD burner handles all manner of DVDs at speeds of up to 8× and notches a top speed of 24× for CDs. One shortcoming is that it only works with Windows XP and Vista, not the Linux system that many netbooks work on. The 4-cm fan revolves at a respectable 5,000 rpm. The stand measures 260×190×19 mm and weighs 524 grams.

The Century stand is on sale now for ¥9,980.

The product is a clever idea in that it looks after the basic need to keep a netbook cooler and addresses some of the necessary deficiencies of such computers. The failing, as with all such external extras, is the added bulk and weight that detracts from the super portability of a netbook. Ideally the stand would stay at home or in the office to provide a netbook with more punch, while it can run on its slimmed down form on the road. www.century.co.jp/products/pc/supply/cnbswtodd.html

Hands off: Sony is bringing two new sets of noise-cancelling headphones to the market. Both the over-ear DR-BT101 and in-ear DR-BT100CX are Bluetooth 2.1 sets and so ditch cables as well as cutting extraneous noise. Sony claims both models have user-friendly fingertip controls that make it easy to adjust the volume, play or skip music tracks and accept or reject incoming calls. The DR-BT100CX has its controls in a small remote, and those of the DR-BT101 are incorporated into the headphones.

The DR-BT100CX headphones weigh 26 grams and come with three different sizes of silicon ear buds. They provide eight hours of playback and up to 120 hours of phone standby with a recharging time of 2 1/2 hours via USB. Sony claims the larger DR-BT101, weighing 125 grams, is good for 12 hours of music playing and 200 hours of standby time. In return for the greater capacity, it takes four hours to recharge, again via USB.

Apart from different sizes and methods of wear, the key distinction between the pair is in their sound reproduction. The DR-BT100CX earphones have 9-mm driver units and a frequency response of 6 Hz-23 kHz. In contrast, the Sony DR-BT101 headphones incorporate beefier 30-mm driver units and a frequency range of 14 Hz-24 kHz. The headphones work within 10 meters of the phone or other device to which they are linked and are compatible with the A2DP, AVRCP, HFP and HSP Bluetooth profiles. Each model costs ¥6,980 and both are on sale now. www.sony.co.jp

Shuffling the market: If Apple’s iPods are vulnerable anywhere, it is at the bottom of the market, where rivals are lining up to take on the tiny Shuffle players. South Korean maker iriver is one of the leaders. Its latest shot at the Japan market is the T5, which went on sale last week.

The 4-gigabyte T5 resembles a USB drive, with a USB connector at one end. Operations are controlled via a small joystick and a control button. It does have a small screen for displaying information, but as it only shows two lines at a time, it is of limited utility. The T5 is bigger than a real USB drive, but it still hardly tips the scales at 26 grams and measures just 77.5×24.5×14.3 mm. While a Shuffle of comparable capacity is only half the size, when you are getting this small, the differences are negligible.

Where the T5 gains an edge on Apple is in sound quality, with iriver’s products often holding an audio advantage on their Apple rivals. Moreover, it can do extra duty as an FM radio, voice recorder and stopwatch. The Shuffle lacks these functions.

The virtue of such small digital audio players as the T5, apart from the midget size, is their ease of use. Just plug the device straight into a computer, no cable needed, to drag and drop content onto it. While the iriver product lacks the style and cachet of its Apple rival, it also lacks the expense, costing ¥5,980 compared with ¥8,800 for a Shuffle. Considering the quality of its sound, particularly if paired with high-quality headphones, the T5 looks good. www.iriver.co.jp/product/iriver/t5/

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