LAS VEGAS (11/17/2003) - The focus of this year's Comdex trade show here may be on businesses, but several companies are showing new products for consumers. At the Digital Focus/Mobile Focus media event, which took place on the eve of the show, companies from Sony to Iomega previewed new devices for work and play.
Tune Into TVs
Just in time for the holidays, Dell Inc. is introducing a 30-inch LCD TV, to go with its recently introduced 17-inch model, the W1700.
The Dell W3000 is shipping now for US$3299, a good price for such a big-screen HDTV-ready model. The unit offers 1280-by-768 resolution and a wide aspect ratio. It also permits multiple inputs so that you can view images from different sources simultaneously. The W3000 comes with detachable, side-mounted 15-watt speakers.
Dell also announced plans to ship a 23-inch LCD TV later this year, but gave no word on pricing.
Put It On DVD
Iomega Corp. is continuing in its product line expansion, introducing an external DVD burner. The Iomega Super DVD QuikTouch Video Burner is a USB 2.0 external drive for PCs that features an integrated video capture card and one-button video transfer to any industry standard DVD or CD format. It handles high-quality video transfer from any VCR or camcorder.
"Unlike other video burners that require the user to install a video capture card separately, and then limit the user to one or two DVD formats, Iomega's new Super DVD QuikTouch Video Burner records to any industry standard DVD or CD format and does so more simply, with just one press of a button," says Sean Burke, vice president and general manager of mobile and desktop solutions for Iomega.
Consumers press the QuikTouch button, then push "Play" on the source VCR or camcorder. The burner detects the recording media, launches the software, captures the video, and burns the disc automatically, Iomega says.
The burner works with all DVD recordable formats, the company says. It will be available in December and is expected to be priced at $379.
Iomega also showed its network hard drive for homes and small offices. The new Iomega Network Hard Drive is an Ethernet-enabled external drive. It comes in two sizes: 120GB ($299) and 250GB ($429).
Networked drives for home and small business use have become a hot area in recent months. Until recently, consumer external hard drives have been designed to connect to a single computer as personal storage devices. Other network users can share the drive, but if the host PC crashes or is shut down, those other users lose access to the shared drive.
This new class of products works very much like a networked printer: Anyone on the network with permission can use it. These drives are not dependent on whether any particular PC is operating. They are touted as a way for people on small networks to back up their systems as well as share music and photos.
"More and more families are setting up small networks to link two or three home computers and share an Internet connection. These households will instantly appreciate the value of adding an Iomega Network Hard Drive as the digital hub for their shared music and family photos," Iomega's Burke says. "It also solves one of their biggest headaches: how to keep all those computers backed up. Because the Iomega Network Hard Drive is always available on the network, it is an ideal destination for automatic backups from every PC in the house."
Sprint Corp. is the latest wireless carrier to compete with Nextel's popular push-to-talk mobile phone business. This week the company is announcing its new PCS Ready Link nationwide service. The service permits customers to immediately communicate with another user or group of users at the push of a button.
The service launches with two color Sanyo Corp. handsets, the ruggedized RL2000 and the silvery clamshell-style RL2500. The handsets can also be used to access data on Sprint's PCS Vision network.
Customers can add unlimited Ready Link service to a regular PCS account for a flat fee of $15 a month. If they also want unlimited PCS Vision access, they can pay flat fees of $15 for the Vision service and $5 for Ready Link.
Slim and Trim
Sony Corp. used Sunday night's event to showcase a few of its latest digital cameras and camcorders, among them the Cyber-shot DSC-T1, which Sony says is the world's smallest 5-megapixel camera. The DSC-T1 is scheduled to ship in January priced at about $550.
The company also claims the camera can shoot full-resolution images in one-second intervals and can capture four high-speed burst shots in less than two seconds.
The pocket-sized camera is about 0.8 inches thin and 2.4 inches tall. It uses a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar optical lens that operates within the camera rather than extending out, but it can extend if the user wishes. The company says the camera has 3X optical zoom capability.
Sony was also showing its just-released MiniDV Handycam DCR-PC330. This device takes a solid step closer to digital photography's most daunting Holy Grail: digital video and high-resolution still images from the same camera.
Many small MiniDV cameras take low-resolution stills (on the order of 1 megapixel), but their poor quality makes it hardly worth the effort. This new Sony promises sharp 3.31-megapixel 4-by-6-inch or larger photos. The samples on display looked impressive, but the test will be an 8 by 10 print. Digital still cameras and DV camcorders use different types of image sensors, and DV sensors are generally less suitable for still photography.
Just as impressive is the DCR-PC330's price: $1700. For that, you can buy both a good DV camera and one of the better 4 to 5-megapixel still cameras.
Sony's DCR-VX2100 MiniDV Handycam camcorder turned a few heads, thanks to its new Advanced HAD progressive scan CCD technology, which the company says significantly improves low-light performance. Designed for the serious videographer, the camcorder is expected to be available in December for about $3000.
The camcorder has a 58-millimeter aspherical lens, which Sony says minimizes the distortions that usually occur around the edges of video shot by a standard spherical lens. The camcorder can record in both 12-bit and 16-bit audio modes and is said to offer improved sound recording capabilities.
If you like the idea of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows-Powered Smart Display (which lets you work on a tablet-style display connected wirelessly to a PC) but want something more powerful and flexible, you might find Avocent Corp.'s LongView Wireless KVM Extender intriguing. It consists of a wireless transmitter that attaches to your PC and smaller receivers that attach to any standard monitor, mouse, keyboard, and audio device. You can then use all of the components up to 100 feet away from the PC.
Based on the 54-megabits-per-second 802.11a standard (but with proprietary additions), Avocent's product permits a much faster connection between the PC and the remote devices than the 11-mbps 802.11b-based Smart Display: In Avocent's demo, the LongView could stream full-motion video, which isn't possible with Microsoft's technology.
However, the LongView Wireless KVM Extender does have something in common with the Windows-Powered Smart Display: It won't come cheap. Exact pricing wasn't announced, but will approach $1000--and that's just for the transmitter and receiver.
Still in the Works
M-Systems showed a prototype MP3 player that accepts USB flash memory devices. The player will be marketed by partners under their own brand names.
The SmartCaps MP3 player itself doesn't have any storage space. Its USB port is inside a clear plastic window that flips open to accommodate a flash memory device.
The company hasn't yet announced the partners that will market the device. However, beyond MP3 players, the company hopes its Smart DiskOnKey platform will be integrated into other types of devices, such as projectors and cameras, according to an M-Systems spokesperson.
Ramon G. McLeod, Yardena Arar, Tracey Capen, and Eric Butterfield contributed to this report.