Now screening: Netbooks too often are like a range of cars. The varying bodywork makes them look deceptively different from each other, but turn the key and you find that where they count, under the hood, the differences are all but nonexistent. Maybe the engineers at Kohjinsha are into motorcycles. Their newly released EX netbook maintains the company’s reputation for going down the road less traveled. The EX has an 11.6-inch 1,366 × 768 resolution LED backlit screen, which is a tad larger than the netbook average. Moreover, it’s possible to rotate the screen independently of the keyboard thanks to a swivel mount. The screen is also touch sensitive, making it function more like a tablet computer than a standard netbook. Apart from possessing a beefier than typical screen, the EX also breaks from the netbook mold because it has an optical drive, in this case a DVD-RW. As usual for Kohjinsha, the EX is beautiful sporting a refined silver and black color scheme.

Looking under the hood, the EX betrays its netbook heritage. It contains the usual suspects of an Intel Atom N270 1.6-gigahertz processor, a 160-gigabyte hard drive and a Windows XP operating system. However, Kohjinsha is more generous with the memory, packing in 2 gigabytes of RAM. The netbook also has Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth and a fingerprint reader. It weighs 1.7 kg and its battery life is about 4 1/2 hours. One final feature is a pair of built-in Webcams, but the benefits of having two are unclear.

The EX is pricier than the average netbook at ¥69,800, or ¥59,800 if you opt for the more anemic 1 gigabyte of memory. But the advantages of a bigger, more versatile screen and included optical drive are worth it. jp.kohjinsha.com/

Light green: BenQ also make appearance a selling point of its products, albeit with greater emphasis on what is displayed on the screen rather than the beauty of the frame. Its new pair of widescreen monitors, the 21.5-inch V2200 eco and 24-inch V2400 eco, both use LED technology to maximize picture quality.

BenQ makes the seemingly outrageous claim of a 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio for the pair, giving them intense blacks and whites. The LED touch is also trumpeted as helping to provide much sharper detail and tremendous color variations, aided by 1,920 × 1,080 full HD resolutions.

The monitors’ titles give away their environmental credentials. The pair are made from 28 percent recycled materials, with their packing cases having an even higher recycled ratio of 80 percent. The monitors are mercury free and purportedly have much lower energy consumption rates: 17 watts compared to 43 for other BenQ monitors. This is thanks in large part to a special low-power eco-mode. The pair are also built to be lighter and thinner than standard LCDs. Apart from giving them the slimmer look beloved by shoppers everywhere, this has the additional benefit of cutting down on packaging. The monitors might score green kudos but won’t win any design awards, although the small cup holder incorporated into the base is an interesting touch.

Traditionally, image quality hasn’t been as important a concern for computer monitors as it has been for televisions, but products like the BenQ pair are changing that preconception. At a cost of ¥23,800 for the V2200 and ¥30,800 for the V2400, more than just Greenpeace will be seeing the light. www.benq.co.jp/

Bigger and better: Blu-ray might be hyped as the replacement for DVD, but in some ways it is similar to its technological inferior. The favored setup for DVD recorders today is to combine a DVD burner with a hard disk. This gives the user maximum versatility. They can first record TV programs to the hard disk and later decide, at their leisure, which are worth committing to the long-term DVD storage. Much the same approach is emerging with Blu-ray recorders such as Sony’s new BDZ range, due out Sept. 19. The five new BDZ models all pair Blu-ray burners with hard disks, ranging in capacity from the 320-gigabyte BDZ-RS10 to a rather monstrous 2 terabytes for the top-drawer BDZ-EX200. The much greater storage capacity of the Blu-ray recorders compared to their DVD cousins keeps with the nature of their discs and their purpose. A Blu-ray disc has about five times the capacity of a DVD. This is because they are intended in part for recording high-definition TV, which places much greater demands on video storage. The BDZ-EX200 certainly fits the bill as it can store up to 253 hours of high-definition TV. The Blu-rays also outdo DVDs in price, the RS10 costs ¥94,800 and the EX200 tops the scales at ¥278,000. Apart from twin storage methods, the Sony machines also have twin tuners, except for the RS10, which makes do with just one. They also employ the CREAS 2 processing engine to help with upscaling to push standard-definition TV recording up to a 1080p video-playback standard. The innovation is reserved for the insides, the Sony five are standard dark rectangular boxes on the outside.

Blu-ray players are not cheap, and the demands on your wallet are all the worse for a Blu-ray recorder.

However, if you can afford it, the Sony machines make the most of the potential of Blu-ray. www.sony.jp/

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