Small game: Technology companies have an easy way of dealing with mistakes — don’t admit them, just quietly stop using the failed innovation. Sony sticks to this dogma with the latest version of its PlayStation Portable gaming devices. Previously, Sony has used universal media discs, a kind of miniature DVD, as the preferred storage method for games and movies on the devices. But its new PSPgo, known formally as the PSP-N1000, relies on internal memory and memory cards for storage and can also download content via wireless. The key benefit of axing the UMD drive is that the PSPgo can be made smaller than its predecessors. It weighs just 158 grams compared to 260 grams for the previous model, the PSP 3000, itself deemed slimmer than the older PSPs. The new model also reduces its dimensions with a clever design change. Instead of having the control pad and other buttons arranged to the left and right of the screen, the PSPgo puts the controls on one panel with the screen on a separate panel above that slides up into position. The change makes the device much more pocketable.

Apart from the UMD switch and redesign of the controls, the PSPgo is similar to the rest of the PSP family, and can display photos and play music, as well as be used for playing games and watching movies. One reduction in ability is that the PSPgo has a 3.8-inch screen, rather than the 4.3-inch version of its PSP brethren. The PSPgo also has less internal memory than the 3000, opting for 16 gigabytes instead of 32, although the PSPgo has the advantage of using the more robust flash memory. The new model has support for Bluetooth, enabling such add-ons as Bluetooth headphones, and Memory Stick Micro memory cards. The PSPgo package will also include the Media Go software for downloading content such as games, videos and music.

PSP fans will have to wait until Nov. 1 to buy the new console and will pay a recommended price of ¥26,800. The PSPgo will come in a color choice of black or white.

Ditching the UMD is a decision Sony should have made five minutes after the unusual disc idea was first conceived. The PSPgo looks like a decent system, although the absence of a touch screen emphasizes that it is an incremental improvement on the older models rather than a leap forward. Moreover, it doesn’t look to have any real edge over the Nintendo DS family of rivals. Ultimately the choice between the PSPgo and the Nintendo DS, not to mention the iPod touch, is going to come down to which has the best games for you. www.scei.co.jp

Hybrid speed: NEC is releasing a new netbook that will utilize hybrid storage, the BL350 LaVie Light. The BL350 comes with both a standard 160-gigabyte hard disk drive and a more exotic 16-gigabyte solid-state drive. The idea of the hybrid approach is that by running the operating system and applications out of the SSD and using a larger capacity HDD for data storage you can boost the netbook’s performance while keeping the costs down. This is because while SSDs work faster, they also cost much more than HDDs and speed is most important for running applications.

While NEC has addressed the memory issue, the other key speed bottlenecks remain in place. The BL350 has a standard 1.66-gigahertz Atom N280 chipset, good for economizing on power consumption but no speed demon, and the usual underwhelming 1 gigabyte of RAM. Beyond the processing innards, the BL350 comes with the new standard display for netbooks of a 10.1-inch screen with a 1024×600 resolution and Bluetooth. It has Windows XP home as the operating system. NEC provides an exceptional running time of up to 7.4 hours for a netbook of this screen size. It achieves this feat by employing a battery that sticks out prominently at the back of the otherwise sleek netbook.

It weighs 1.3 kg with dimensions of 258×205.5×27.5-37 mm. Costing ¥69,800 the BL350 is on sale now in a choice of white, black or red color schemes. The hybrid system will make the BL350 a bit quicker than the next netbook, but it does cost as much as ¥20,000 more than devices with a standard storage method and otherwise similar capabilities. Whether the premium is justified depends on how much you value the extra speed and greater battery life. 121ware.com/navigate/products/pc/092q/06/lavie/light/strongpoint/index.html

Machine massage: Sanyo’s new HER-MC7 massage device looks like a foot rest with two hands sticking up on the ends, and is intended to provide massages for the neck, shoulders, the feet and even waists, with the user doing some calisthenics to position the needy body part between the “hands.” The device has three different speeds, ranging from slow to medium, and with the use of a few buttons and a large dial on the side can be adjusted for the height and direction of massage. Weighing 4 kg, measuring 305×314×187 mm and consuming 30W of power, the electric massager is designed to be easy to tote around the house wherever there is a power socket to run off. Coming in a choice of black or orange, the massager is on sale now and costs around ¥10,000. www.e-life-sanyo.com/products/


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