Sound choice: Korean maker Cowon is known for portable media players that have exemplary audio reproduction. Its V5HD, which is due to hit the Japanese market on March 5, follows the formula. It employs Cowon’s new JetEffect 3.0 technology, which is intended to maximize the sound performance by offering users greater customization, such as in its reverberation.

Cowon is not focused solely on the eardrum, though, as the V5HD sports a 4.8-inch high-definition LCD screen with an 800 × 600 resolution and of course it’s a touchscreen. The title gives away its ability to display high-definition, albeit cramped on such a small screen. It also comes with a microphone, USB port and HDMI output. Good hardware is worth little if it can’t be used, and crucially the Cowon device is versatile. It can play AVI, WMV, ASF, MP4, MKV and MPEG video files, as well as WAV, MP3, WMA and FLAC audio formats. Taking advantage of its screen, the V5HD can display JPEG, TIFF, PNG and BMP picture files. It runs on the Windows CE 6.0 operating system, which is perhaps not such a strength, but it does come with a RSS reader.

Thankfully, it performs as expected in trumping bigger machines for battery life, reportedly up to 10 hours for video playback and 45 hours of playing music. Despite the good features, the V5HD remains a svelte device with a weight of just 197 grams and dimensions of 128 × 82 × 15.7 mm. Cowon is offering a selection of hard-disk models, which come in 8-gigabyte, 16-gigabyte and 32-gigabyte sizes.

All three come with a SDHC card slot to augment the storage. The 8-gigabyte version costs ¥29,800, the 16-gigabyte version costs ¥34,800 and doubling the storage adds a further ¥5,000 to the bill.

The Cowon products are not cheap, and though pleasantly styled they don’t offer anything extraordinary in terms of video abilities. However, they do the fundamental job of playing music well. www.cowonjapan.com

Long-range quality: While the megapixel race is losing steam, the superzoom competition is still hot.

Nikon made a mixed statement in this field with its P90, but the new Coolpix P100 is more definitive. It boasts a prodigious 26× zoom range, going from 26 mm at the wide end to an astounding 678 mm in its tele guise. Of greater originality is the approach to image quality. Nikon has rejected current trends by cutting back the pixel count from the 12.1 megapixels of the P90, to 10.3 megapixels in the P100. Nikon also pared down the headline-grabbing top ISO of 6,400 in the older model to a more functional ISO 3,200. Both developments lend themselves to better image quality. Moreover, the sensor is a BSI (backside illuminated) CMOS. This type of sensor reportedly increases shooting speed and reduces the picture degradation in low-light situations, due to the effect of noise.

The P100 includes the clever idea of taking several shots of the same scene together with the camera taking the best parts of each and combining them to form a single image with a better range of detail. Such high dynamic range options are one of the more interesting camera innovations of late.

Nikon might have diverged from the fashion for ever-more pixels but it keeps pace with the trend for still-photo cameras that double as camcorders. The P100 does high definition with a resolution of up to 1080p with stereo sound. It can also do high speed, shooting at up to 240 frames per second. It also apes other camcorder- inspired ideas in making the 3-inch LCD screen more useful by enabling it to tilt and use as an electronic viewfinder.

Nikon addresses the universal need for image quality, and at a price of ¥49,800 when it comes out March 5 it is an economical one-lens-does-all solution. www.nikon-image.com/jpn/products/

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