More bang from the Blu-ray: Sharp aims to beat a storage restriction problem with its second-generation Aquos DX series of LCD televisions. Notable for combining a built-in Blu-ray recorder with an LCD TV, the key improvement for the new range is a 7× extended HD recording mode. Sharp claims that this mode has the same quality as the original TV broadcast. In its normal recording mode, the DX Series sets record two hours and 10 minutes of TV per 25-gigabyte Blu-ray disc. The 7× setting can cram in 15 hours and 10 minutes of HDTV broadcasting. The idea of extended recording has been around since the VCR, but there was always a loss of quality. The trick is to limit the degradation in picture quality to the point that it is not too noticeable. The caveat is that it uses the MPEG4 AVC/H.264 codec that is beloved of small-screen devices like the iPhone, not the real screens of a TV. If the 7× is too much, the new DX sets also offer less ambitious 2×, 3× and 5× modes that also boost recording time, but likely with less image challenges.
Apart from pushing the boundaries of recording times, the DX sets also provide picture innovation in the form of Sharp’s Image Select system. This has the TV set automatically tailoring the image and sound to match the room brightness and type of television and video program or scene. Sharp has also covered the whole gambit with the second-generation series from 26-inch to 52-inch models, all of them featuring the Blu-ray recorder, integrated high-definition tuner and distinctive cylindrical speaker mounted along the bottom of the TVs. The sets are not uniform in their resolutions, however, with most of them sporting full HD resolution of 1,920×1,080. But the 26-inch and 32-inch models cut that to a less interesting 1,366×768. In truth the reduced resolution is hardly going to be noticeable at those screen sizes, but considering the 26-inch set, the LC-26DX2, costs ¥168,000 and the 32-inch LC-32DX2 sets you back ¥188,000, Sharp could have afforded to be a tad generous. The rest of the models climb steadily in price to a monumental ¥478,000 for the top-drawer LC-52DX2. www.sharp.co.jp
Apple TV goes mobile: Apple’s cutting- edge iPhone is a little blunt in Japan. Style is not enough for local consumers, they need more substance than the iconic American firm is used to offering. In particular most Japanese cell phones do extra duty as portable televisions. The iPhone has no such ability. An early solution, an add-on portable TV tuner that was exclusive to the iPhone, came and went last year. I-O Data is now filling the void with its GV-SC310 SEG CLIP. The USB stick, which supports 1Seg, Japan’s portable TV standard, is plugged into your computer with TV programs then streamed to your iPhone via Wi-Fi. Of greater interest is the fact that programs can be saved to the iPhone for watching on the go. This is thanks in part to a free application called TVPlayer that can be downloaded from the Japanese App Store. Looking like a USB stick with a tiny antenna, the SEG CLIP weighs a meager 14 grams and measures 18 mm × 70.3 mm × 8.4 mm. The unit works with both the 3G and 3GS flavors of iPhone and the iPod touch and costs ¥6,300.
The SEG CLIP fills a void, but deeming it TiVo for the iPhone — as some have touted it — as is a reach since you can’t afford to wander too far from your computer to watch live TV. The ability to store programs is useful, however. www.iodata.jp/news/
Rainbow time: Dell has carved out a reputation for goods that are cheap yet effective. With the U2410 monitor, Dell has slipped off the budget shackles. The 24-inch monitor is based on an IPS panel that maximizes color reproduction. In-Plane Switching panels are considered the pinnacle for image quality, color accuracy and viewing angles. The U2410 can cover 96 percent of the Adobe RGB color space and 100 percent of the sRGB color space. The monitor can produce almost any shade of color, resulting in sharper and better-defined images. Complementing the color reach, the monitor boasts a 1,920 × 1,200 resolution. The good looks don’t extend beyond the picture. The monitor has a solid but unspectacular design. Even Dell can’t pull off the act of producing such a top-shelf device at a bargain-drawer price, so the U2410 costs ¥72,450. If you don’t need it for graphics work then the Dell is an indulgence, but what a beautiful one. www1.jp.dell.com