Screen saver: Putting genuine high definition in portable-media players is a bit like trying to craft the perfect diamond. If you pull off the act it looks brilliant, but the difference between it and the normal article is nearly impossible for laypeople to actually see. Despite doubts over whether the effort is worth it, electronics makers have been lining up to claim the honor of producing a real high-definition portable media player.

Local firm Hallods looks to have earned the kudos with their new F43 MP4 player. Its 4.3-inch 1280 × 720 screen can display content in full 720p high-definition. The drawback is that on such a small screen only the most dedicated pixel peeper, with eyes up close to the screen, is going to be able to tell the difference between images on it and those on similar screens with slightly lower resolution. Still, pictures and videos are going to look gorgeous on the Hallods machine.

Beneath the screen, the F43 sports 8 gigabytes of internal storage, expandable with a microSD memory-card slot. The gadget also displays videos encoded in 30-fps MPEG4, FLV, RMVB and DivX-WVGA formats, MP3, WAV, WMA, FLAC and APE music files and JPEG, BMP and PNG image files. It has a battery life of four hours when playing videos, and 10 hours for music.

Strangely enough it lacks a HDMI output, so it can’t display high-definition videos or photos on a TV screen except at reduced resolution. The unit measures 113 × 75 × 13 mm and weighs 140 grams. The design is simple but effective, with the screen taking up the whole front face and the controls positioned along the top and side edges. While it lacks Mac connectivity it does work with Me, 2000, XP, Vista and even Windows 7 versions of the Microsoft operating system.

Only the visually obsessive are going to think the high-definition aspect is a decisive edge for the F43, especially as it lacks wireless or other Internet abilities. But as a device for watching videos, looking at photos and playing music it does the job and costs only ¥16,800. www.hallods.co.jp/1255519363788/

Drumming up business: Though it looks like a slightly-warped barrel, Maxell has brought its own touch of creativity to the iPod dock market with the MXSP-D240. The dock has a slot on top for iPods, a few buttons underneath and a 2.5-watt, magnetically sealed speaker at each end. The speakers have 53-mm driver units and a frequency range of 60 Hz to 20 kHz. The whole device measures 240 × 151 × 138 mm and tips the scales at a modest 1.2 kg. The dock comes in a choice of either white or black and has the mandatory remote control. Its portability is curtailed slightly by running on mains power only.

The Maxell device caters to the full range of iPods, including the newest touch model, but unfortunately it lacks support for iPhones.

The dock comes out Nov. 25 and is expected to cost around ¥10,000.

Maxell promotes the unusual shape as lending itself to enhanced bass performance, but regardless of such audio claims the shape is nothing if not eye-catching. Beyond that the compact design and decent if not outstanding specifications offer a nice alternative to the plethora of more expensive iPod docks that are currently available. www.maxell.co.jp/jpn/news/2009/news091118.html


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