In the dock: Sony’s new CMT-E350HD music system boasts a 160-gigabyte internal hard drive for storing digital music, enough to store a stack of audio libraries, and is the latest swipe in the company’s rivalry with Apple. The CMT-E350HD has left out an iPod dock in preference for a WM-PORT, which in effect is a dock just for Walkmans. You can still hook up your iPods to the Sony stereo, but only via a USB connection. The lack of an iPod dock might deter Apple fans, but Walkman owners will feel the attention is overdue. The CMT-E350HD can play back MP3, WMA, AAC, ATRAC and PCM files and can record from CD to hard drive. It has a pair of 20-watt speakers, an FM/AM radio tuner and a prominent 8-line LCD display.

The cost of the CMT-E350HD is ¥44,800 and Sony is also offering the CMT-V3, a more compact system that lacks the hard drive but costs ¥24,800. Alternatively the SRS-NWGU50 at ¥14,800 takes the bare bones approach and is just a speaker dock for Walkmans.

All models are set to hit the market Saturday. www.sony.jp/system-stereo/

Tracking the price curve: LED backlighting for televisions is a prime technology that may not survive to work through the full cycle from expensive debut to commodity cheapness. The promised land of OLED (Organic light-emitting diode) screens might curtail LED. In the meantime, however, Sharp is pushing the technology along the price curve in the form of its latest addition to the Aquos brand, the LX series of LED-backlit LCD televisions. The new screens are notable for offering this top-drawer innovation at a below- premium price. The smallest of the new models, the 40-inch LC-40LX1, will cost ¥248,000. While this is no bargain it compares favorably, at least on the sticker, to its Sony 40-inch LED rival the Bravia KDL-40ZX1 at ¥338,000 apiece. It also boasts lower energy consumption.

Among the more routine features, the LX series possess a top contrast of 2,000,000-to-1, the virtually standard 100Hz motion-enhancement to cope with fast-moving images and four HDMI inputs. Sharp also promises the all-important darker blacks and brighter whites with their new X-Gen panels and better backlight uniformity with its “crystalucent” technology. The LX sets also support video on demand. Apart from the 40-inch model there is the 46-inch LC-46LX1 at ¥348,000, the 52-inch LC-52LX1 at ¥448,000 and the monstrous 60-inch LC-60LX1 at ¥548,000.

The quartet come out Nov. 10, except for the LC-60LX1, which will keep consumers waiting until Nov. 25.

LED-backlighting produces stunning LCD pictures, but whether the price tag is justified, even at Sharp’s lower cost, is debatable. If you can’t wait for the OLED revolution to come out in screens that are sufficiently big, and cheap enough not to break the budget, then you can still pay for your impatience but be confident of getting a fine bit of screen technology. www.sharp.co.jp/corporate/news/

Window opens for laptops: Even before Microsoft unleashes Windows 7 (W7), computer makers are pushing the new operating system to succed. True to the Windows tradition, the latest update demands more grunt from computers. In particular, laptops need to up the ante to get the best out of W7. Panasonic is joining the rush to release more muscular laptops running on W7 with a bunch of additions to its lineup. The notable entry is the new S8, or CF-S8H, model that offers a 12.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1280 × 800, 2.53-gigahertz Core 2 Duo P8700 CPU, 2 to 4 gigabytes of memory, a 250-gigabyte hard drive and GMA X4500 integrated graphics card. The hardware specs are not quite in the same league as the new Intel Core i7 processors but nonetheless will make W7 work.

Along with the cranked up innards, the latest Panasonic laptop offers an impressive eight hours of top battery life and a stunning 16 hours with the addition of an extra battery. The S8 also comes with both the b/g/n flavors of Wi-Fi and the more powerful WiMAX wireless mode. It has a Gigabit Ethernet, takes SDHC cards and has an HDMI output for use with a high-definition TV. At 1.16 kg the S8 is definitely not going to take any dumbbell’s place.

In its publicity for the S series, Panasonic has a model dropping one of the machines to emphasize its durability. Unfortunately the tradeoff for this sturdiness is a dull silver design, and the inconvenient positioning of the DVD burner in a bay under the keyboard. Perhaps of more note for consumers is the price of ¥199,800, far more than a notebook but more powerful. A small saving can be made by opting for the sister model of the S series, the N-series CF-N8H. It’s almost identical, except that it loses the built-in DVD burner and is ¥10,000 cheaper. Both models come out starting Oct. 22, with some optional variations due in November. panasonic.jp/pc/products/s8h/


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