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Small and defined: Sharp is looking to save on space with an innovative addition to its high-definition TV family. Sharp claims the Aquos DX, or LC-20DX1, is the world’s first 20-inch LCD TV with a built-in Blu-ray burner. Apart from the basic function of showing high-definition television, the DX also offers Blu-ray, DVD and CD playback and video recording. The built-in video recorder can store up to seven hours of high-definition television, which can be copied to Blu-ray discs. Flat-panel TV sets with built-in Blu-ray players are not unusual, but they typically take up much more real estate with 40-inch screens or bigger. Getting a video recorder, much less a Blu-ray burner, into the picture typically requires a separate box again. So, Sharp’s all-in-one approach is a smart sales pitch.

Cramming this much into so little means some kudos gets squeezed out. The biggest limitation of the DX is its screen. The resolution of 1366×768 is not enough to show Blu-ray movies properly on this screen they will look hardly any better than DVD standard. The lower specifications, which fall short of the full high-definition of level of 1920×1080, also limit the visual appeal of HD TV. But that is less of a problem as you need a screen of 40-inches or more to see a real difference in picture quality between the best and the rest in TV broadcasts.

Beyond the pixel counting, the DX includes a digital TV tuner and a decent 1,500:1 contrast ratio. It comes with a pair of HDMI ports and a varied selection of VGA, D4, RCA ad S-Video options, giving it good connectivity. The Blu-ray burner can copy to BD-R/R DL and BD-RE/RE DL discs and recording TV programs to either the built-in video recorder or straight to disc is straightforward.

The television comes in a choice of white or black finishes in a design that more closely resembles a computer monitor than the more typical flat-screen TV. Sharp will release the DX on June 20 with a price tag of ¥148,000.

Sharp deserves credit for going against the trend. While flat-screen TVs are known for their slimness, the sheer breadth of their screens means that they need a piece of furniture just to hold them up and a decent-size room to themselves. The DX addresses the need for a TV that fits in a small space and yet offers recording options and the ability to show Blu-ray movies.

As the DX is really a Blu-ray player/video recorder/TV hybrid, the price is not so steep. www.sharp.co.jp/aquos

Mobile music: Sony’s new Walkman W series player, the NWD-W202, looks like the headphone half of a MP3 player or a pair of Bluetooth hands-free receivers. Dubbed the “Wearable Walkman,” the NWD-W202 is a pair of ear-canal headphones with the audio player integrated into the phones with the two halves connected via a neck-band. The effect is similar to smaller headphones that are worn over the ears with the band going behind the neck.

The idea is meant to appeal to joggers and other active types who need to minimize weight and don’t want earphones popping out at inopportune times. The new Walkman is not waterproof, so those who jog in drenching rain should take care. The controls, such as volume, play, rewind and shuffle, are located on the right headphone.

The Walkman comes with a decent amount of memory, 2 gigabytes, and plays ATRAC/MP3/WMA/AAC and WAV files. Weighing 35 grams, the player operates for up to 12 hours per charge, with its recharging done via USB and taking 1.5 hours to get its juice back up to full. The smart-looking Wearable Walkman will come in a choice of black, white, pink and lime green when Sony releases it June 13. Priced at ¥9,980, the W series is pretty affordable.

Sony also does a better job than most with the minimalist earplug style of headphones in terms of sound reproduction, a important consideration for any potential buyers. The lack of any kind of screen and the limitations that having to reach up blindly to the controls impose take this player out of the mainstream, but for fitness fanatics this could be a good buy. www.sony.jp

Toughing it out: Making products that are sufficiently robust and/or designed smartly enough to cope with usage in the real world is an aim of Sanyo and its Xacti brand of camcorders. The latest addition to the lineup is the distinctly rectangular-looking DMX-WH1E. The headliner for the Xacti is its ability to film underwater, up to a depth of 3 meters. The boxy looking appearance of the camera is due to the need to keep the elements out of the camcorder’s insides, and it does look rugged enough to lug around in a backpack without fear.

Apart from its toughness, the other touted feature of the camera is that it can download its images to a computer via wireless using Eye-Fi memory cards. The Xacti can record in high-definition, although not at full resolution but in H.264 at 720/30p. Its other specifications are nothing to be ashamed of either, with an 11-megapixel sensor, 30x optical zoom and 2.5-inch LCD monitor and ISO range from 50 to 1600.

The camera weighs in at around 350 grams fully loaded and measures 58.7×width×112.4×62.8 mm. One serious shortcoming is its internal memory, all 43 megabytes of it. This is enough for all of 38 seconds of video at its best quality setting, stretched to 1 minute and 49 seconds at a lower setting. In contrast, if a 16-gigabyte SD card is used, you are good for 3 hours and 50 minutes of top-drawer recording.

Tough camcorders and digital cameras are a surprisingly strong niche market and with a price of ¥54,800 the DMX-WH1E is likely to be a decent seller. In particular, Sanyo was smart to make a camcorder that is not only tough but can do a decent job as a standard video taker and doesn’t look like it is encased in lead. The Newest Xacti hits the shelves June 19. jp.sanyo.com/news/2009/05/27-1.html

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