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Phone book: Toshiba’s new mobile phone, the Biblio, aims to capitalize on the e-book boom. The Biblio, which is a KDDI handset under its au brand, looks at first glance like an iPhone clone with its 3.5-inch touchscreen. However, the phone sports unusually good e-book reading credentials. In particular, the Biblio comes with “Book Player,” a book- reading program that operates with KDDI’s EZ Book e-book service. It also has a built-in electronic dictionary. On the hardware side the Biblio’s screen has an exceptional 480×960 resolution, helping it to display books in sharp relief. The screen can also be altered to make it hard for others to see what is on the screen.

In support of its book-reading function, the phone has 7 gigabytes of memory, good for storing up to 5,000 books. Provided with a wireless LAN module, the phone can use KDDI’s wireless LAN service, Wi-Fi WIN, for a monthly charge of ¥525. Toshiba promotes the phone’s wireless abilities as an easy means for downloading e-book content, and it has built in one final stand out feature into the Biblio in the form of a slide-out keyboard. In itself, this is nothing exceptional, but the Biblio has a clever trick. The keyboard has touch keys and changes its form depending on whether the phone is held vertically or horizontally, with a sensor detecting which way the phone is held. When held vertically, the keyboard has a standard numeric keypad on the bottom half. Held horizontally, it offers a qwerty keyboard. The latter style is useful for taking advantage of the phone’s dictionary abilities.

The phone also automatically changes the display of books depending on whether the portrait or landscape mode is used. Beyond its individual tricks, the phone incorporates the typical cell-phone assets, such as 1seg TV viewing, ability to watch videos and listen to music, and a 5.1-megapixel autofocus camera. The Biblio was released last week in either black or off-white colors. Check your au dealer for pricing. www.kddi.com

Olympian effort: Olympus is bidding to turn the potential of the Micro Four Thirds camera concept into performance with its just-released Pen E-P1 model. The keys to the new Micro Four Thirds system are that its cameras have the small size of compact models but, like DSLR cameras, they use interchangeable lenses. It is also claimed that these cameras boast DSLR image quality. The ultimate aim is to produce a high-quality, portable digital camera. The first Micro Four Thirds models, from Panasonic, while being fine photographic tools, were not small. The Pen E-P1, however, does have the small size of a compact camera, weighing just 335 grams.

Beyond fulfilling the mandate of the new system, Olympus has forsaken modern styling and instead gone retro. The looks of the E-P1, with its metal finish, are deliberately reminiscent of its namesake, the Olympus Pen F, which debuted in 1959. The camera-maker has taken the historical touch a step further with the simultaneous release of the optional FL-14 flash unit and its flat rectangular appearance.

Aside from the distinctive design, and the Micro Four Thirds idea of ditching the use of a mirror and optical viewfinder, the Pen E-P1 is a standard digital camera. It has a 12.3-megapixel sensor and can record video as well as take still photos. The Pen E-P1 also has other standard features such as image stabilization and dust reduction. While it is designed to work with Micro Four Thirds lenses, it can also use standard Four Thirds lenses, with the aid of an adapter. This is useful as there are few of the former available as yet. The Pen E-P1 will hit the shelves later this month at a price of ¥89,800 for body only. Packaged with the 14-42 kit lens, it will cost ¥99,800 and ¥109,800 as a kit with a 17 mm pancake lens and optical viewfinder attachment.

The problem with judging the E-P1 is that while it is small, it will take time to ascertain just how good it is at actually taking photos. Image quality will be important, especially considering the high prices that it commands compared to its entry-level DSLR rivals. But if the E-P1 performs well, Olympus might finally have the winning Micro Four Thirds formula of small size and big quality. www.olympus.co.jp

The Mouse that roars: In an age of shrinking portable computers that prioritize size over performance, Mouse Computer is acting the renegade and has released a pair of desktop machines that max out on pure power. Its Masterpiece V1200XV1 and V1200X1 models are intended for gamers and other users who want to crank up the processing punch. It comes with a Core i7-975 Extreme Edition 3.33-gigahertz processor and 1-gigabyte GeForce GTX 285 video card. In a version of the hybrid memory system that has cropped up in some netbooks of late, the Mouse product has a 80-gigabyte solid state drive for running the operating system and a separate 1-terabyte hard disk for storage.

Beyond the basic innards, Mouse offers two operating system choices. Those who opt for the top-drawer V1200XV1 with Windows Vista Ultimate as the operating system will have 12 gigabytes of memory at their disposal. The V1200X1, in contrast, comes loaded with Windows XP Professional and 3 gigabytes of memory. The beefed-up numbers for Vista make sense considering the greater demands that it places on the hardware.

Interestingly, while the V1200XV1 costs a hefty ¥399,000, opting for XP only reduces the bill to ¥379,890. The small price difference makes the choice a simple one. Apart from the muscular processing, memory and storage attributes, the V1200 pair have a Blu-ray burner and a generous eight USB 2.0 sockets. Amazingly, the hefty outlay doesn’t buy you a monitor. The Mouse machine is a serious piece of hardware and would be wasted on most computer users. While the price is high, it does buy hardcore gamers and the like the kind of power they may need. www.mouse-jp.co.jp

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