Monday, July 30, 2007

HP PHOTOSMART R837: SHOOT WITH SUPPORT

Robust menus are a hallmark of hp cameras, featuring plenty of advice to help consumers take a good picture, and this model is no exception. Even so, I was disappointed with the performance and video quality of this ultra compact.

The affordable Photosmart R837 has a 7.2- megapixel CCD sensor and features a typical 3X optical zoom lens. Nicely designed and relatively small, it still has room for a 3-inch LCD that’s both sharp and clear. Best of all, though, is the R837s easy-to-use interface and “Camera Help” menu section. There you’ll find tips and tutorials for learning the camera, its features and controls.

Video, though, is captured at 24 fps and not at the smoother 30 fps found in other cameras, so action shots tended to be choppy. Still-picture quality was better. I took pretty clean shots that featured vibrant, accurate color. Still, with the flash, I saw some noncolored noise and blown-out highlights. I noticed shutter lag, too, which can cause you to miss impromptu snaps. I love the Photosmart R837s built-in assistance and how simple it is to operate. But its performance and movie mode just don’t measure up, and leave me wanting more.

HP Photosmart R837: $299.99

APPLE MAC MINI (1.83-GHZ CORE DUO): THIS APPLE PC NEEDS POLISHING

Unless Steve jobs have some tricks up his sleeve, Apples reign over the small-format PC market may be in trouble. The latest Apple Mac mini iteration, with a 1.83-GHz Core Duo processor, barely keeps ahead of the HP Slimline and Acer Aspire L310 mini PCs. The Mac mini is still the epitome of cool, but it’s a bit frugal in features (especially with its premium price).

This Mac mini is slightly faster than the 1.66GB version that I tested a year ago. Though this model isn’t a speed demon, it’s sufficient for light photo duties. Wed still like to see a TV tuner added. In addition, were not willing to overlook the minis lack of keyboard and mouse, as well as its modest hard drive capacity and system memory in the default configuration.

Although the Mac mini is still a compelling choice, Windows systems are coming on strong in the mini PC arena. Apple needs to spruce up the next version, or at the very least offer features similar to those of its competitors for the price.

Apple Mac mini (1.83-GHz Core Duo): $874

ACER TRAVELMATE 8210-6038: A LAPTOP FOR WORK AND PLAY

Business machine? cool multimedia rig? The Acer TravelMate 8210-6038 is both. Were not convinced, though, that its Bluray drive is much of a benefit. At 7.7 pounds, this TravelMate isn’t too travel-friendly. Much of this weight resides in the matte-finished 15.4-inch widescreen, which is useful for viewing documents side by side.

The 8210 comes with a drive that lets you both play and burn Blu-ray discs. The system uses CyberLinks PowerDVD BD, a fine program for HD playback. This desktop replacement laptop ships with Windows XP Professional, so it lacks Vistas Media Center features. It has neither a remote nor physical playback buttons, so you’re stuck with the mouse or touchpad for controlling the video. These factors, combined with the price hike to the system caused by the Blu-ray drive, make the drives inclusion suspect.

Despite our concerns about the drive, the 8210 is a powerful notebook for business or multimedia. Thanks to a 2.16-GHz Core 2 Duo T7400 CPU, 2GB of RAM, and discrete graphics, its performance equals that of a powerful desktop. That’s fitting, because at its weight you won’t want to lug it around.

Acer TravelMate 8210-6038: $2,999

MAGELLAN MAESTRO 4040: JUST TAP FOR ASSISTANCE

With a new form factor, a completely revamped user interface, and roadside assistance features, here’s a GPS device that shows some real innovation. For the price, the Maestro 4040 offers a surprisingly large number of features. Magellans Say Where text-to-speech engine enables the device to pronounce street names and exit ramps. Next, you get expanded map data and a larger POI (points of interest) database.

The 4040 is also upgradeable to provide live traffic info. Finally, you can enable the Maestro 4040 to accept voice commands for virtually hands-free operation. In addition, I like how the Maestro supports multiple destination routing. Not too shabby, either, is the big 4.3-inch nonreflective QVGA display and modern SiRFstarIII receiver.

Best of all, Magellan has partnered with the American Automobile Association (AAA) to integrate roadside assistance information and AAA-rated business listings right into the device. On the Maestros main menu, a tap of the tow truck icon displays toll free numbers for both AAA membership and assistance, as well as your exact location. On my road tests, the Maestro 4040 was a great companion, generating accurate routes. The new user interface was also a significant improvement over previous Magellan models.

Magellan Maestro 4040: $499.99

Sunday, July 29, 2007

CANON POWERSHOT A460: PRETTY PLEASING PICTURES

Canons new budget powershot should please the average picture taker. More discerning shooters, however, will find the device lacking in few areas. The camera comes equipped with a 4X optical zoom lens with a 5.4mm to 21.6mm range. It has a 5-megapixel sensor and a 2-inch LCD for framing your shots. Nonetheless, a wider angle (like 28mm) at the end of the zoom range would have been nice.

I also wish the camera could capture VGA videos at 30 fps instead of a choppy 10 fps. But I was impressed by the burst mode, which, though not super fast, was very steady. The included glass eyepiece comes in handy under bright light conditions.

During testing, my simulated daylight test shot had a touch of noise, and flash shots exhibited even more noncolored noise throughout. Even so, color was very vibrant and accurate. The camera did very well on the resolution test, averaging 1,500 lineshigh for a 5MP camera. Sadly, I measured a 3.3-second boot-up time that’s acceptable but not super quick, and the cameras 7.2-second recycle time was incredibly slow. On a positive note, I found very little shutter lag.

Though video and nimble performance aren’t the PowerShot A460s strengths, on the whole it’s a very good buy.

CANON POWERSHOT A460: $ 149.95

APPLE TV: AN IPOD FOR THE LIVING ROOM

Since the late nineties, apple has been making the technically complex simple. The iMac did it for personal computing, and the iPod is a paragon of portable consumer electronics. Now Steve Jobs and company want to simplify your home entertainment experience with the $299 Apple TV. But what, exactly, is it?

The basic concept of this product is straight forward: It wirelessly streams content from the iTunes libraries of up to five computers and can also play content directly from the boxs 40GB hard drive. This means you can enjoy almost anything on your PC, including movies, photos, podcasts, and music, on your enhanced-definition and high-definition widescreen televisions. Apples slogan says, “If it’s on iTunes, it’s on Apple TV”- and this is mostly true. Those who don’t mind hooking up a few cables and thinking a little about the setup will enjoy this wireless extension of iTunes.

Setup is pretty easy. Apple TV appears as a device in iTunes when you choose to add a library on Apple TVs menu. You’ll need a computer running iTunes 7.1.1 connected to a wireless “b”, ”g”, or “n” router. Apple recommends “g” or better, but we found that even when we ran video over a “b” network it was watch able. Just keep in mind that video is 640-by-480; don’t expect HD quality.

One big drawback is that Apple TV works only with EDTV or HDTV (sorry, 4:3 set owners). Another caveat: Any video files that don’t play on the iPod wont play on Apple TV without first being converted in QuickTime to a compatible format even if they do play in iTunes. This was certainly true of video footage I took on my digital camera: It showed up (and played) in my iTunes library but didn’t even appear as a playable file in the Apple TV menu.

With setup done, you can stream iTunes content from your computer to your television. “Sync” your PC with the Apple TV, and all of the material in your iTunes library (except the aforementioned video files) will be transferred to the box’s 40GB hard drive. You can’t stream photos, but you can sync them if your computer has iPhoto or Photoshop installed. Sure, the Xbox 360 is a great media extender, but this device is the one for iPod owners. It’s a fantastic product. Even so, I won’t be buying one until iTunes movies cost less than going to a real theater.

APPLE TV: $299

VIEWSONIC PJ258D VIEWDOCK: PROJECT YOUR IPODS VIDEOS

You needn’t squint anymore to view videos on your iPods tiny screen. The ViewSonic PJ258D ViewDock lets you dock your iPod and project its images so that a whole room can see them. The PJ258D was designed as a stylish companion to an iPod, trading in a boxy projector shape for curved surfaces and a piano-black case. At 3.9 pounds and 3.3 by 11.3 by 7.5 inches (HWD), its fairly portable, ViewDock and it comes with a soft carrying case as well as a street lumens feature-rich remote.

The PJ258D is rated at 2,000 lumens, enough to throw a good-sized image that can stand up to ambient light. Sadly, it suffers from a rainbow effect in white areas. Though seen with many single DLP- chip projectors, the effect seemed particularly bad with this one. The PJ258D did poorly on our standard-resolution TV video test, but much better when tested with DVD-resolution video. It has an excellent contrast ratio of 374:1. Even as a standalone projector, the PJ258D does a decent job. But if you own an iPod, despite flaws
such as the rainbow effect, its something special.

ViewSonic PJ258D ViewDock: $1,000

ASUS W5FE SIDESHOW: ONE LAPTOP, TWO DISPLAYS

Imagine scrolling through your e-mail, calendar, media files, and stock ticker without flipping your laptops cover open or even turning on your system. The auxiliary display on the ASUS W5fes lid makes this a reality. It does this through SideShow, one of Windows Vistas most intriguing functions.

The W5fe has a gorgeous 12.1-inch widescreen, but it’s the 2.8-inch full-color secondary LCD on the cases outside that gets your attention. It gives you quick access to e-mail, photos, calendar info, and music? (This is great for travelers who don’t have time to power up their laptops.)

E-mail and calendar info worked like a charm, although there’s no support for Outlook mail, only Windows Mail. Importing JPEGs and using the secondary display as a slide- show viewer worked well. I couldn’t get some video formats (MPEG, AVI, and WMV) to play, though SideShows Windows Media Player gadget should be able to run them.

The rest of these 3.9-pound ultraportables components aren’t shabby. The W5fe packs a 2.16-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7400 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, and a
dual-layer DVD burner. But it’s really SideShow that takes center stage here.

ASUS W5FE SIDESHOW: $2,200

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pharos GPS Phone 600

It's a phone; it's a PDA; it's a GPS navigation system; it's a camera; and it's an FM radio. The Pharos GPS Phone 600 is the first Windows Mobile device to be released in the U.S. that features all of the above. There have been other devices that include an integrated GPS receiver, but until now, they've lacked a full-featured navigation application. The 600 comes with Pharos' OSTIA software built-in, including its full-featured, turn-by-turn navigation system and suite of navigation utilities. (The GPS Phone 600 is manufactured for Pharos by a Taiwanese company called Quanta, which also manufactures devices for the likes of E-TEN, Dell, and HP. Pharos has not announced a WM 6 upgrade. However, a similar machine, E-TEN Glofiish X500, is available as WM 6).

Thin and good looking

While no iPhone, the 600 certainly has a sleek look and pulls off a "retro meets 2050" design quite well. As of early May, it was one of the thinnest Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC units available--with or without GPS. It has a minimal number of buttons on the face of the device: Phone activation and Home (Today screen) buttons above the display, and the call, end call, and left and right soft key buttons below it, flanking the central navigation pad. In addition, immediately below the two top buttons are a Bluetooth/GPS LED indicator and a green phone active/status LED indicator. The latter launches the OSTIA navigation software; multiple pushes will cycle through various GPS utilities. I had two minor issues with this button arrangement. The first was the noticeable lack of the Start menu and OK keys, which have become standard on almost all Pocket PCs. The lack of these two keys makes one-handed use more difficult. The second was the directional pad, which I found to be occasionally unresponsive.

The power on/off button is found on the upper right edge. Below it is the soft reset hole, and the camera button is located on the bottom right edge. The stylus silo is located on the bottom, along with the MiniUSB port and the opening for the microSD card slot. A 2.5 mm stereo headphone jack, a record button, and two volume buttons. On the back of the unit, you'll find the lens aperture of the 2 megapixel camera, an accompanying (weak) flash, and a small self-portrait mirror. Alongside these is a decent speaker. The back is overlaid with a soft rubber paint cent, similar to what's found on the Palm Treo 750 and Motorola RIZR. It makes for a comfortable grip, as well as a good preemptive measure against accidental drops.

The 600 comes with a 1530 mAh removable/rechargeable lithiumion battery. Pharos rates it as having 5 hours of talk time and 160 hours of standby. This is a fairly accurate estimate, but does not take into account GPS, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth usage. If you are using the GPS in a vehicle, you should connect it to a power source using the power adapter that comes with the device.

A Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and EDGE-capable GSM phone

The 600 boasts an unlocked quad-band, EDGE-capable GSM/GPRS phone, winch should work anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the device does not have 3G data capability. If you want to run data-intensive application like Slingbox or ORB, you'll want to use the built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b or g) to connect to a hotspot. There is also integrated Bluetooth 2.0 that will connect to most Bluetooth headsets on the market. It supports A2DP as well as FTP-good enough so that you don't experience any music interruption (as long as you aren't running too way applications in the background). The call quality running on the Cingular network was similar to other Windows Mobile Phone Edition devices-fair, but not as good as a high-end Nokia phone.

Full accessory package includes a car cradle

The 600 comes with just about every accessory you'll need, including a fitted leather belt case, a car charger, and a 2GB microSD card for map storage. What really blew me away, however, was the car cradle--not one of those cheap universal dashboard mounts, but a windshield cradle customized for the 600. Once attached to your windshield, you can easily slip the device into the cradle and adjust it for optimal viewing. Better yet, it includes a cigarette lighter power adapter to charge the device whenever it's in the cradle.

Also included is a stereo headset, microSD to SD adapter, home charger, and USB sync cable, quick guide to the OSTIA navigation software, an OSTIA quick reference card, a quick start guide for the 600, and a CD with free version of Spb Time and trial versions of 11 other Spb programs (which can be purchased with a 10% discount). You also get a full copy of MS Streets and Trips 2005, a CD with various manuals, and the standard Companion CD with ActiveSync and a PC version of Outlook.

Easy to use; plenty of perks

I truly enjoyed testing the Pharos GPS Phone 600. It was easy to use and came with plenty of perks--I came away feeling good about the fringe benefits. As I mentioned, however, learning to use the OSTIA Navigation software required an investment of time. (Hopefully, Pharos will simplify the UI in future editions.) Since the device is targeted squarely at the GPS and navigation market. OSTIA's usability problems impact its overall score - I'd have to give it a 6.5 out of 10. The other issues I mentioned were mostly minor. One last important note about Pharos, they have unsurpassed customer service! Should you have an issue with the device or software, they have a wonderful support team that really listens.

The Pharos GPS Phone 600 is priced at $699 and is available directly from Pharos(pharosgps.com).You can also find it at Circuit City, CompUSA, on Dell's Web site, and from other retailers. As we went to print, Pharos informed us that they had just inked a deal with T-Mobile (t-mobile.com), which will allow you to save money on the device when you purchase it through T-Mobile with a service contract.

Parrot Conference: Team talking in the 21st century

The French company Parrot Technologies is one of the foremost manufactures of Bluetooth-related accessories today. At CTIA, they launched a number of new products, including Parrot Conference, a hands-free teleconferencing system designed to work with mobile phones connected to it via Bluetooth.

When I first saw the Parrot Conference concept, it took a while for me to wrap my head around it. I couldn't figure out why someone would need or want to use something like it-either use the cell phone's built in speaker, or, if available, a fixed landline. After using it for a bit, however, my view has changed. The underlying premise behind the Conference is the ability to conduct team calls on the go. Personally, I think it makes a great speakerphone. The unit's many features include phonebook syncing, multiple device support, firmware updating, Skype integration, and more. I did not like the menu systems, and there were some compatibility issues with Windows Mobile phones, mainly regarding the auto phone sync and network ID. In addition, there was some fading of the microphones occasionally.

Parrot Conference is priced at $299.95 and is available online directly from Parrot (parrot.biz/usa/products/Parrotconference). Other big box retailers may carry the unit in the near future as well. There is also a Phonelink attachment that allows regular landlines to be connected. I could not obtain a release date or pricing on the PhoneLink.

SANYO XACTI VPC-HD2: Good Color and Images

Although it's still chasing the competition, this tiny HD camcorder offers decent video capturing plus still-image capabilities.

Conveniently compact, the HD2 boasts an HDMI output and captures 720p high definition footage, which looked quite good: sharp and fairly clear, on both our lab computer monitors and our HDTVs. The device also lets you store video on SD and SDHC memory cards. Video is encoded in MPEG-4 format: so, if you're using a 2GB memory card and capturing at the highest quality setting, expect about a half-hour of video.

During testing, video clips had too much contrast, which tended to swallow up details in shadow areas. Highlights were blown out as well. Color, however, was fairly accurate and vibrant. In my action-clip test, the autofocus performed pretty well but at times seemed to be searching for something to focus on. As for resolution, the camcorder averaged 625 lines on my chart, which is low for an HD camcorder. There was also some shutter lag in still-picture mode.

As a camcorder alone, the Sanyo Xacti VPCHD2 would be merely average. But with its decent to very good digital-still camera capabilities, this device adds up to a satisfying hybrid.

SANYO XACTI VPC-HD2: $699.99

TOMTOM ONE XL: Great Big Screen

Essentially a widescreen version of the highly rated TomTom ONE, the ONE XL has the largest LCD in TomTom's GPS lineup. Unfortunately it lacks text-lo-speech, a handy feature found in competing products.

Measuring 4.7 by 3.4 by 1.2 inches and weighing 7.4 ounces, the ONE XL boasts a big 16-bit (480-by-272-pixel) screen. Complete TeleAtlas maps for the U.S., Canada, Guam, and Puerto Rico are preloaded, along with a database of five million POIs (points of interest).

TomTom has always had bragging rights in terms of language capability, and the ONE XL is no exception. The user interface supports 36 languages, with 55 voices, for spoken directions. You can also download the celebrity voices of John Cleese, Mr.T.Gary Busey, and Burt Reynold, to name a few.

On the road, the ONE XL performed adequately and planned exactly the same routes as other TomTom devices, and, for that matter, other TeleAtlas-based products I've tested in the past.

It's certainly true that TomTom users love their devices. But strictly in terms of bang for the buck, the ONE XL isn't awe inspiring.

TOMTOM ONE XL: $399

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mio DigiWalker C520: Widescreen Feature

Competition among widescreen GPS Devices is intensifying. The latest entry from Mio is packed with features and sports a big display within a super thin, stylish design. But although it's brimming with multimedia extras, Bluetooth phone problems keep it from being a clear-cut winner.

The most notable feature of the C520 (powered by the latest SiRFstarIII 20-channel receiver) is its 16-bit touch-sensitive display with 480-by-272-pixel resolution. The device also has 2GB of onboard flash memory and 64MB of SDRAM. I also really like that the C520 supports text-to-speech conversion, meaning that the system announces both street and highway names.

You can play music and video-and display pictures as well-simply by inserting an SD cad. The music player, which supports both MP3 and WMA formats, lets you create play lists, too. Although the C520 also has a Bluetooth interface that pairs with capable phones and stereo headset, I found this feature unreliable.

Pairing issues aside, the Mio DigiWalker C520's wide screen, large POI database, text-to-speech conversion, and improved interface makes it a worthy competitor.

Mio DigiWalker C520: $399.99

Hitachi DZ-HS300A: Hitachi new Camcorder

For a standard-definition camcorder, this new offering from Hitachi is certainly unique and competitive. It records both on miniDVDs and on an internal hard drive. Unfortunately, confusing menus and unintuitive controls make it hard form to fully recommend this product.

Featuring a 25X optical zoom, the Hitachi DZ-HS300A gives you two storage options. On the internal 8GB hard drive; you can record as much as 110 minutes of high-quality movie footage. This is valuable because you can then burn this video to a miniDVD disc sitting in the camcorder’s drive. Of course, you also have the option of recording directly onto DVD, yielding about 18 minutes on a single-sided miniDVD.

The catch with the DZ-HS3OOA lies in the menus and functions, which are far from intuitive. When you transfer video from a hard drive to a miniDVD, for example, you aren't cold that you need to finalize the DVD in order to play it elsewhere. I also found the camcorder's still images to be pretty poor quality.

The Hitachi DZ-HS30OA is competitively priced among SD camcorders. If you're looking for an easy-to-use, hybrid device, though this is not the camcorder for you.

Hitachi DZ-HS300A: $600

Sunday, July 15, 2007

IRIVER CLIX GEN 2: It's All You Need?

Graced with a naming convention borrowed from Apple's iPod, iriver's clix gen 2 rolls tons of features into one cool design. If you're not married to iTunes, this adds up to a fine little player that looks pretty darn cool, too.

Using flash memory, like the iPod nano, the clix comes in varying capacities (2GB. 4GB.and 8GB). The new model borrows the excellent click-screen interface from the previous clix, and it's just as intuitive as the iPod's scroll wheel. The new model is also slimmer than its predecessor. The player's active-matrix OLED screen is slightly smaller than that of the 30GB and 8OGB iPod displays but has the same resolution, which actually makes for a sharper picture. I liked the slick user interface, and the graphics are attractive. Other nice features include an FM tuner and video viewing.

Loading the player is a snap whether you use Urge, Windows Media Player or Yahoo! Music jukebox. Yes it also plays iTunes Plus DRM-free AAC files. Be advised that all 4GB models will be optimized for Rhapsody interactivity, as well.

If iTunes isn't your thing, the clix is an excellent choice, with plenty of extras.

IRIVER CLIX GEN 2
2GB: $150
4GB: $200
8GB: $250

RCS OPAL: Strange MP3 Player

Incredibly, RCA touts its new audio player as having "feminine flair and case of use." In fact, the little player, though quite affordable, is held back by a counterintuitive user interface and an unappealing video/photo-viewing, function. One redeeming quality, however, is that it boasts a pretty nice pair of earphones, which is rare.

File compatibility for the Opal is more or less standard. You can play MP3, WMA, subscription/protected WMA, Audible, and WAV audio files and view JPEG and BMP images. Videos need to be converted to MPEG-4 (using the included software). The WMV file I converted, however, looked terrible: Pixelation was rampant on the tiny OLED screen. The bundled Yahoo! Music Jukebox software works fine for loading the Opal with files from your PC. Those who don't pay for Yahoo! Subscription music will find Windows Media Player the easiest program to use. Strangely, there's no FM tuner here.

Don't get me wrong, the Opal works. It's just not a pleasure to operate or look at. In my view, some competing flash players from Creative and SanDisk are much wiser choice.

RCS OPAL: $75

Friday, July 13, 2007

Toshiba Portege R500: Sexy and Slim Laptop


It's an ultraportable whose sexy looks are made possible by some hot new tech. Not only is the Toshiba Portege R500 Series incredibly svelte and lightweight for a laptop (at 8.5 by 11.1 by 0.7 inches and 2.4 pounds), but no other ultraportable this light manages to accommodate a built-in optical drive. And despite its compactness, it manages to integrate a full-size keyboard.

Toshiba spent two years developing the R500 out of its previous iteration, the R200. Recent advances enabled the company to go all out in miniaturization. The R500's motherboard is unusually small and thin, and its DVD burner is only 7mm thick. The laptop's 12.1-inch display avails itself of LED backlighting, which lets PC makers build ultra thin screens (about half the thickness of LCD screens).

The trade-off for the R500's sleek and sexy profile lies in its so-so performance. It loads an ultra-low-voltage 1.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600 CPU, and it does manage to fit a 120GB, 2.5-inch, 5.400rpm hard drive. But with its integrated graphics and sparse 1GB of RAM. The R500 took a long time to boot into Windows Vista Business. Also, the DVD drive is noisy to the point that Toshiba bundles an acoustic silencer in its software package. Battery life is above average for a machine with low-power components. That it took just 2 hours 37 minutes to run down while playing a DVD movie doesn't sound that impressive, but you can certainly get up to around 4 hours when doing less intensive tasks.

Though you won't be encoding video or playing 3D games with it, the R500 is fine for office tasks. For a machine built to be used on the road, an integrated EV-DO or other WWAN modem would have been a nice addition. Still, the R500 is a joy to carry, a wonder to look at, and fun to use. Do yourself a favor, though, and boost the RAM to 2GB to give the system a little more oomph.

Toshiba Portege R500: $2.149

MOTOROLA RIZR Z3: Great and Simple Cell phone

Here's a solid cell phone that offers good voice quality and a powerful camera-and is good enough all around to be our Editor's Choice for a feature phone on T-Mobile. It's a great option if you don't need a smarthphone.

The screen is easily readable in sunlight, and the handset's keys, although small, give pleasingly tactile cues. Reception and sound quality are spot-on, voice dialing is excellent, and the Z3 uses Motorola's new-style improved phone book. I'm also glad to report that voice dialing is provided by the superb, no-training-needed VoiceSignal suite. The 2MP Camera is also a pleasant surprise: It takes sharp, well-balanced pictures.

What's the downside? Well, a slow ARM7 processor makes for a poky user interface and applications (you'll never want to open the WAP browser). Third-party applications that try to access the Internet end up festooned with obnoxious prompts, as well. The Z3 has a very basic music player that's slow to load. This phone isn't for the cutting-edge crowd-users who want a handheld computer. But it's our Editor's Choice as a sensible T-Mobile voice phone offering a hint of multimedia.

MOTOROLA RIZR Z3: $249.99

Motorola's New Symbol MC35

Now that Motorola has acquired Symbol, the leading manufacturer of rugged mobile devices, the spectrum between consumer-focused Smartphones and industrial-strength handhelds continues to be blurred. The MC35 is the newest model in the class of device that Symbol has dubbed the Enterprise Digital Assistant.

While the market for this device may not be readily apparent at first glance, potential users occupy the previously neglected space between blue-collar workers needing extremely rugged hardware, and white-collar workers who are often content using the mobile devices they acquired personally for business use. For instance, many supervisors who oversee workers using ruggedized mobile applications need to lug a heavy unit around with them all day, because they may need to occasionally perform a specific task. With the MC35, though the manager could use the device as their primary wireless phone for voice and e-mail as well as be able to run applications used by their workers that may have beat initially deployed on an industrial-strength device like the Symbol MC9000.

To help accelerate the rapid adoption of this device, Symbol worked with software partners like Corrigo and Dexterra to ensure that their software was fully tested and validated with the new device before its launch. With over a dozen certified line-of-business applications including transportation, logistics, deliver, and field sales or service, Symbol can offer customers one-stop shopping to rapidly deploy robust enterprise application functionality to their mobile workforce. While not necessarily appropriate for all customers, there is certainly a class of businesses that could see dramatic benefit from deploying these readily-availabe solutions.

Digital camera reads barcodes

The MC35 runs the Windows Mobile 5.0 Phone Edition software with Direct Push technology and is loaded with goodies. With a built-in phone that supports push-to-talk and the high-speed Cingular EDGE GPRS/GSM wireless data network, this device was designed with communications and connectivity in mind. It also has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and optional GPS that can be used with location-based services or applications. The device is powered by a 416 MHz XScale processor from Intel with 64 MB of RAM and 129 MB of ROM.

One of the most innovative features is a 2.0 megapixel camera that reads barcodes. The device includes built-in software that recognizes the barcodes from the image taken by the camera. When I first got the device, I had trouble getting it to successfully scan any barcodes. After a little trial-and-error, I quickly learned that turning on the built-in flashlight, holding the device still, and making sure the barcode is centered improves accuracy quite a bit. While certainly not the most efficient way to scan barcodes, this approach is fine for occasional use. It might be a good strategic move to make this software available to other devices as high-resolution cameras are becoming more common in Windows Mobile devices.

In the real world

Several years ago when I first saw the MC35's processor, the MC50, I was somewhat skeptical about its usability as a day-to-day device. I carried it around for about a week when it first came out, and while it was a great device, it's also a bit of a brick- suitable only for those who truly need a device with rugged durability. Even though the initial target for the MC50 was this same white-collar and gray-collar user, its ultimate adoption was largely driven by blue-collar deployments that just didn't need the extreme rugged capabilities.

The MC35, though, is a much sleeker device with a lot more mainstream appeal. While I can't imagine anyone calling the unit "sexy," it's not "geeky" either. In fact, the device has an early similar appearance to certain BlackBerry models. About 15 percent larger than the Palm Treo 700w, but weighing only 1/10 of an ounce more, the unit is physically comparable to widely adopted mainstream devices. Although it may be slightly pushing it for some users, the MC35 can be comfortably carried in a pants or jacket pocket, which may actually be a first for a Symbol device. Motorola's influence on Symbol's product development is very apparent.

As I have been carrying the MC35 as my primary device, I have found it to be completely acceptable for standard tasks like voice and e-mail. The standard battery easily lasts through an extensive day of regular use, and I found the keyboard to be quite comfortable to use (much easier than the keyboard on the MC50). The moderately ruggedized plastic casing feels very sturdy and is designed to sustain fifty drops from three feet onto tile.

Having extensively used the unit in my day to-day tasks, I found myself coming to the realization that this device could truly bridge the gap between blue and white-collar mobility. As many organizations are reluctant to roll out enterprise apps beyond e-mail on consumer oriented devices brought into the companies by the users themselves, this device can create an opportunity for enterprises to strategically provide mobile automation to information workers who have never before recognized the need or potential for this type of solution.

Although the phone supports Cingular's GSM/GPRS network, it is sold through Symbol's distributor network. This should help with enterprise sales, since many IT shops planning centrally-deployed solutions are gun shy about working with carriers who stand in the middle and control everything. They prefer enterprise-oriented companies like Symbol.

The verdict

The jury is still out on whether the market will emerge to embrace Motorola's new "Enterprise Digital Assistant" category. But if it happens, I believe that the MC35 is a solid contender. I've got to commend Motorola for stretching the boundaries of Symbol's innovation. The MC35 is an excellent device that is perfectly suited for a significant number of enterprises mobile applications-many of which have yet to be discovered.

The Motorola/Symbol MC35 is available directly from Motorola (symbol.com/mc35). The price of the device varies with the size of the deployment. Individual units are available in the $700-$800 price range from numerous online vendors.

Sony Handycam DCR-DVD508: Easy to use Camcorder

Although the consumer electronics market is shifting into high definition, there's still room for standard definition in the camcorder space. In fact, standard-definition miniDVD is still the most popular format with most consumers. As I found with last year's top Sony DVD camcorder, the DCR-DVD508 easily rises to the top of the miniDVD camcorder market by offering excellent quality performance, and ease of use, clearly earning itself an Editor's Choice. This 1OX optical Handycam should definitely be on your short list if you're looking for a standard-definition camcorder that doesn't skimp on quality.

Sony has improved many features here on the DVD508. For example, the camcorder can shoot 6.1-megapixel stills. I also like that the company has overhauled the menu system, adding an easy-to-navigate tabbed interface. Even better, its list price is $200 lower than that of last year's model. The DVD508 also sports a 2.7-inch LCD and accepts dual-sided miniDVD discs.

Like the DVD505, this camcorder comes equipped with an "Easy" mode, which simplifies things by limiting the Menus to just a few options. You'll also find the familiar night-shot mode present on other Sony camcorder, which outperforms almost all other non-Sony devices.

The DVD508 won't disappoint in terms of image quality. In my portrait test shot, the dynamic range, resolution, and clarity were all quite good. Skin tones looked spot-on. The color was accurate, too, with very little color shifting. In general, I also found the audio to be excellent-quite clear, and with no swirling or excessive hissing. In my action clip test, I noticed that the nimble auto focus adjusted very well. It also kept up with a variety of details in moving objects without any streaking. On my EIA Resolution Chart, the DVD508 scored 475, which is very good for a DVD format camcorder.

Of course. The Sony Handycam DCR-DVD508 isn't perfect. One flaw is its sluggish boat-up and recycles times; I think Sony could do better. Nevertheless, if you're not converting your system over to HD any time soon, then this easy-to-use camcorder might be your next mlniDVD camcorder.

Sony Handycam DCR-DVD508: $899.99

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Winning Pair of JAQs

i-mate introduced its first JAQ in the fall of last year. It was a lightweight Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC Phone Edition device with a spacious keyboard, but it was criticized by reviewers for being bulky and lacking integrated Wi-Fi capabilitly. Early in 2007, i-mate followed up with the release of the JAQ3, and has more recently announced the JAQ4, a Windows Mobile 6 Professional device that may be available by the time you read this review. Hens, we will cover both the JAQ3 and 4.

As you can see from the photos, the JAQ4 is slightly larger and more rectangular than the JAQ3. It also has a different QWERTY keyboard design: the JAQ4's 36 keys are slightly larger and more rectangular than the JAQ3's 39 keys. Both come with integrated Wi-Fi, which should please the critics of the original JAQ. In addition, the JAQ4 has integrated GPS capability a 2,8" display (same as the original JAQ, but larger Lhan the JAQ3), and a 1660 mAh baterry. With both also having a 2.0 megapixel 4X digital zoom camera and stereo Bluetooth, the JAQ3 & 4 are a real pair of winners

The JAQ3 and 4 are pretty similar under the hood. Both are: powered by a ho-hum 200 MHz processor. It's sufficient for most functions, but its relative lack of power can be apparent with processors-intensive applications. Both devices have 64 MB of RAM and 128 MB of flash ROM. This is a pretty standard configuration nowadays, but one could wish for more. I am grateful for the inclusion of 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, which accomodates the faster connection speeds supported by some hospots. Both have Bluetooth 1.2 (not 2.0), but it is stereo capable,Allowing you to use wireless stereo headsets to listen to your music.

Both incorporate quad-band GSM phones with GPRS and EDGE data capability. Faster data capability would be nice, but as is, they are usable almost anywhere in the world. Incidentally, you can use the JAQ4 for longer periods of time, thanks to its 1660 mAh battery, which provides 5 hours of talk time and 200 hours standby (mfg. est). The JAQ3 has a 1250 mAh battery, which provides 4 hours talk time and 150 hours standby. These are unlocked phones, with means you can use them on GSM/GPRS networks world wide. The SIM card slot is underneath the removable battery.

In spite of continued improvements to the Windows Mobile OS, it occasionally becomes necessary to perform a soft reset on both devices to clear the memory-the equivalent of switching the device completely off and then on again. The soft reset button on the JAQ3 is placed-rather inconveniently-in the battery compartment. The reset button on the JAQ4 is more readily available on the outside bottom edge.

Both have QVGA (320x240 pixel), 65 K color transflective displays. The JAQ4's 2.8" diagonal screen is larger and easier on the eyes than the JAQ3's 2.4" screen. But both are sharp and clear- better than the screen on the Samsung BlackJack or Palm Treo 750.

T-Mobile Wing: Windows Mobile 6 Blue Smartphone

T-Mobile is on a roll. The carrier recently announced a Windows Mobile 6 Standard upgrade program for its Dash Smartphone users as well as North America's first ever WM 6 Professional device-The T-Mobile Wing. T-Mobile's focus on style is evident in the devices it sells, and the Wing fits in with the Nokia 8801, BlackBerry Pearl, and other Smartphone it offers.

AThe T-Mobile Wing is a slim, royal blue device with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard similar to but larger than the one found on the HTC S710, Tipping the scale at around 6 ounces, it's about average for what we used to call a "Pocket PC Phone Edition" device, but a little heavier than a Smartphone. You won't want to use it for extended conversations without a Bluetooth headset, but its fine for quick calls.

The Wing incorporates an EDGE-capable quad-band GSM/GPRS phone, as well as Wi-Fi (802.11 b and g) and Bluetooth 2.0. (T-Mobile has a series of Wi-Fi hotspots located across the country in places like Starbucks, FedEx/ Kinkos, and at a number of major airports. T-Mobile also offers monthly data plans that include access to this service.)

The face of the Wing is fairly uncluttered. Centered below the display is the D-pad flanked by the Call and End Call buttons, the two soft key buttons, and the Start menu and OK buttons. The Messaging button is located next to the Voice Command button on the right edge.

The mini-USB port located on the bottom edge is covered by a rubber protector that must be removed every time you plug in the sync cable. (If this wasn't a review unit, I'd probably remove it permanently.) The micro SD card slot and soft reset hole are located on the left edge, along with the volume up/down slider and the camera activation button. The power on/off button is on the top.

The Wing was designed and manufactured by HTC. Missing from it and some other recent HTC devices is a scroll wheel. This is unfortunate because it makes one-handed use of the device more difficult.

It was also disappointed that HTC chose to use a 200 MHz OMAP processor on the Wing. When you nudge the keyboard slightly, it pops out with an impressive snapping action, and the screen display will rotate to a landscape viewing mode. However, due to the slow processor or other factors, this can take several (1-3) seconds, which is undesirable on a WM 6 professional phone. Carriers should insist on 400 MHz processors for the device they sell.

The QWERTY keyboard is remarkably comfortable to use; its keys are spacious and well arranged, and the tactile feedback is just right. There are also two mini LEDs just above the keyboard to indicate if the CAPS/Function mode is active, which is more useful than you may think- my old problem of occasionally forgetting what mode I'm in is no more.

Finally, the Wing is poweredd by a 1,130 mAh replaceable, rechargeable battery rated by the Manufacturer as giving you 3.5-5 hours of talk time and 150-200 hours of standby. The battery is located underneath a removable cover on the back. The SIM card slot is located underneath the battery.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Trick to Show ur name after time in taskbar...


Hi freinds !
I m here to tell u a trick to add up ur name in place of AM and PM beside time and make urself to feel proud among ur group of frnds.
Its simple
Start -> Control Pannel -> Regional and LAnguage option -> Customize (beside English US) -> Go to TIME tab -> Change AM symbol and PM symbol from AM and PM to ur name -> Apply -> Ok ...
IS it changed ??? Might be not ...Now go to time in taskbar and Double Click it to open "Date and time property" ...Look place where time chnges in digital form i.e. 02:47:52 AM , click to arrow to cnage the AM or PM by selecting and press arrow. It will Show ur name or name that was entered by u, Apply -> OK and be HAPPY 8)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

HP Pocket Media Drive PD0800: Cartridge-Style Portable Hard Drive

USB-Powered portable hard drives are a new standard in convenience for people needing to back up and transport large amounts of data. Hp's Pocket Media Drives go one step further. If you have an HP Pavilion desktop with an HP Pocket Media Drive bay, you can pop the drive into the bay like a cassette into a deck. Owners of other PCs will have to connect the drive to the computer via a USB cable, which is easy enough, particularly as no external power source is required. Data transfer over the internal USB 2.0 interface tested slightly faster than average for an external drive.

The PD0800 comes with a nicely designed case and Sonic BackUp MyPC SE, a lightweight backup utility. HP sells only 80GB (which we tested) and 120GB versions of the hard drive. If you have a PC with a Pocket Media Drive bay, you just pop the drive in. You retrieve it by pressing the Eject button. PD0800 comes with a dual-headed USB cable for use with other computers. It's a little more work that way, but still very convenient.

Though it's pricier than its competition, if you have one of the supported HP Pavilion desktops, the Pocket Media Drive is worth the cost.
HP Pocket Media Drive PD0800: $130

iLoad: Feeds iPods Sans PC

Maybe it sounds crazy, but I’m sure there are a few folks out there who want to reap the benefits of owning an iPod without messing with a computer. For these technologically shy individuals, there's the iLoad Wingspan.

The concept is simple. Just load CDs directly onto the iLoad and it will transfer them to your iPod, eliminating that pesky middleman, the PC (and i Tunes). During setup, the iLoad requires you to install software onto your iPod. It takes just 6 minutes to do so from the provided CD, but for some reason the software rearranged my iPod's artist menu. Now I can no longer find The Knife under K; all artist names that begin with the word The reside under T.

Loading is easy. Insert a CD into the iLoad and follow the instructions on the device's LCD screen. An Ethernet port on the back can be used to retrieve song information from the internet (if none is embedded in the CD files), but you'll need a connection that requires no password authentication.

Though the iLoad works pretty well, it’s worth buying only for someone who doesn't own a computer.
iLoad: $299

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Sony Vaio VGF-WA1 Music Streamer: Fill the Air with Audio

This speaker system plays your PC's shared music wirelessly within a range of about 65 feet. Though very easy to set up, its limited remote and slow transfer speeds tarnish what would otherwise be an amazing product.

Too often, when products interact with your PC via Wi-Fi, making them talk to each other can be pain. Not so with the simple installation of the Sony VAIO VGF-WA1 Music Streamer. Yes, it's Vista compatible, and you can use either your own wireless router or the included USB adapter.

There are drawbacks. The remote isn't terribly useful without a display, and the Live365.com Web radio streaming function doesn't scroll song information across the screen. Most people will also find the 128MB of internal memory too small and slow during file transfer. On the upside, the device sounds good with a little tweaking.

The Music Streamer's price may seem a bit high, but I think gaining the ability to fill your home with wireless audio makes it money well spent.
Sony Vaio VGF-WA1 Music Streamer: $350

Nikon Coolpix S50C: A Wireless Wonder

This new and advanced Coolpix is the perfect illustration of Nikon's innovation in wireless digital cameras. Boasting a wonderful iPod-like scroll wheel, which also activates a beautiful menu system, the compact, 7.2-megapixel S50c has a 3-inch LCD and a non-telescoping lens.

The "c" in the S50c's name stands for the Coolpix Connect service. The camera has a built-in 802.11b/g chip that can transfer picture in one of two ways: via e-mail (the Picture Mail feature) or to storage on a Nikon-run server (the Picture Bank feature). Picture Mail worked very well, but I ran into a few minor snags while setting up the Picture Bank service because each S50c must be registered first. That aside, the service provided a pretty clean interface and pleasant user experience.

Overall, image quality was decent, but performance was slow and shutter lag significant. The S50c scored 1,600 lines on our resolution test, average for a 7.2MP camera. I clocked a very slow 4.9-second boot-up time and a respectable but not extraordinary 3.7-second recycle time. Still-life images had excellent color, although they had just a bit of fringing. Daylight and flash shots, on the other hand, displayed excellent exposures.

The Coolpix S50c won't win any awards for swift performance or outstanding image quality, but it is currently the best wireless camera on the market.
Nikon Coolpix S50C: $349.95

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T100: Precious but Pricey

Sony's point-and-shoot cameras generally have three things in common: exquisite product design, excellent picture quality, and a high price. This new 8.1-megapixel Cyber-Shot is no exception. With a 3-inch LCD and a 5X optical zoom lens, the gorgeously crafted Cyber-Shot DSC-T100 certainly stands out.

In my lab tests, the T100 wasn't flawless, but it produced solid results. There was a little noise in the daylight shot, but much more in my flash shot. Overall, though, the image was very good. Color was vibrant, if just a tad warm. In many realworld test shots, the T100 produced very good exposures. It also has excellent flash for such a tiny device.

Resolution averaged 1,900 lines, superb for an 8.1MP camera, and boot up time was 2.3 seconds, also excellent. The 3.6-second recycle time was decent, but not exceptional. There was very little shutter lag. It's nice to see that Sony includes mechanical image stabilization in the T100, too. In both low light and bright light, Sony's Super SteadyShot IS worked reasonably well.

Sadly, at a steep $400, the Sony DSC-T100 costs $100 more than competing ultracompact cameras, including the excellent Canon PowerShot SD1000. The T100 gives you more optical zoom power, but most users will find the SD1000 a better buy.
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-T100: $399.99

Palm Treo 755P: Smart but Showing Its Age

Though still a good handheld, Palm's latest Treo runs a fading, elderly OS and doesn't do much to update the previous Treo 700p. The 755p is essentially a 700p in a smaller case. To be fair, it does lack the antenna stub and uses miniSD rather than full-size SD memory cards. Everything else id left pretty much unchanged.

The Palm OS is still tremendously easy to use, and Palm's HotSync system still reliably syncs with Microsoft Outlook and the free Palm Desktop application on both PCs and Macs. The Blazer Web Browser and the VersaMail e-mail program are starting to look a little old, though, and the built-in camera produces dim, unsaturated shots. The 755p will attract folks looking to use Palm's thousands of niche freeware applications- or just to have a flexible and easy-to-use smartphone.

Even so, a new crop of smartphones, including the BlackBerry Curve for Cingular, equal the Treo on ease of use and outmatch it on some aspects of media savvy. Also, Windows Mobile handhelds outclass the Treo in terms of sheer power.
Palm Treo 755P: $429.99

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Olympus Stylus 770SW: Submersible for Shutterbugs

This specialty point-and-shoot is pricey for an ultra compact, but it'll let you take pictures in a place that few other cameras can go: underwater. The Olympus Stylus 770 SW is submersible to a depth of 33 feet and will withstand temperatures as low as 14"F. It's pretty rugged, too: It can be dropped from a height of 5 feet, which I confirmed in my testing, and is designed to shrug off 220 pounds of direct force.

A 7.1-megapixel point-and-shoot camera, the Stylus 770 SW comes equipped with a 2.5-inch LCD and 3X optical-zoom lens. Overall, I was impressed by its performance. My still-life test shots displayed good exposures, although they were just a tad overexposed and showed some colored noise.

When I tested the camera's performance in the lab, I found that it had 1,650 lines of resolution, a boot up time of 2.4 seconds, and a recycle time of 3.8 seconds. That's not bad but not outstanding, and I did notice some shutter lag. Unfortunately, burst mode was sluggish and images on land were just passable. Underwater photos were not bad overall but were a little dark because the lighting of my indoor pool wasn't as bright as daylight.

The Stylus 770SW is pretty steeply priced, but in its specialty niche it's got little competition.
Olympus Stylus 770SW: $375

Fuji Finepix F40FD: A Camera Not Shy of Faces

Fuji's latest point-and-shoots sport a slimmed-down stylish body, support for SD cards, and some compelling features. The 8.3-megapixel FinePix F40fd produced decent images and performed well. Even so, there's still room for improvement.

One of the FinePix's features that I really like is relatively new to Fuji: face detection. With this function enabled, the camera will make people's faces the focus of each shot, rather than simply focusing on the center of the frame. I found this ability to be pretty accurate.

In the labs, there was a slight veil of grain throughout my test shots, although color saturation and accuracy were superb. Overall, however, images were well exposed and pretty sharp. Flash coverage was fairly decent and even. Video quality was quite good as well, with rich and vibrant colors and smooth playback.

The F40fd performed well on my lab tests, achieving an average resolution of 1,800 lines, which is on target for an 8MP camera. I was very happy to see that there was absolutely no shutter lag either.

Though the Finepix F40fd is a "fine" camera, and the company's adoption of the SD memory card formats adds to its appeal, there are better models available for the same price.
Fuji Finepix F40FD: $299

Blackberry 8830: Roam the Globe Connected

Verizon's new Blackberry is that wireless provider's best business smartphone yet- a reliable PC companion that lets you stay in touch pretty much anywhere on earth.

The phone works in more than 100 countries (including all of Europe) by combining CDMA and GSM calling capabilities. You can use it as a PC modem as well. In the U.S., that means speeds of about 600 Kbps on Verizon's network. You get to keep your phone number, and you can continue to get your e-mail if you subscribe to Verizon's new international BlackBerry data plan. Of course, you'll pay high roaming rates outside the U.S., but Verizon softens the blow by providing 24-hour, global tech support.

Like all BlackBerry handhelds, the 8830's greatest strengths are stability and ease of use. The platform could use a wider software selection, though- especially the affordable Microsoft Office document editors. Still, the 8830 is the easiest, smoothest way to get your work done with Verizon Wireless.
Blackberry 8830: $199.99

Helio Ocean (Pantech PN-810): A Masterful Messaging Machine


Although it's the best social networking handheld so far, the Ocean is still very much a work in progress. I am encouraged enough, however, by what I see in this smartphone to give it our Editors' Choice. The Ocean, like the T-Mobile Sidekick 3 and the upcoming Apple iPhone, is essentially a closed device. Helio will provide more features over the air as time goes on, but unlike real smartphones, it doesn't let you tap into a deep array of third-party software. Nonetheless, the Ocean already has a lot to offer.

This splashy device uses Sprint's physical EV-DO network. Reception is decent and audio deep and clear, though the speakerphone may be too quiet for some. Along with the useful dual-slider design that hides both the keyboard and the numeric keypad, the most powerful feature here is the integrated messaging client. On one screen, you can access text messaging and an e-mail services from AOL, Gmail, Windows Live, and Yahoo! (in addition to the free 100MB account you get with a Helio subscription), and IM Service from AIM, Yahoo!, and MSN. IM presence information also appears in your cantact book. You can log onto all three IM services at once and also receive "push" e-mail from AOL, Yahoo!, and Windows Live. For the rest of the service, you have to download e-mail by hand, since there isn't even a scheduled polling option.

The Ocean supports Helio's integrated MySpace client and has the ability to upload photos taken with its 2-megapixel camera to MySpace. Other social-networking services will follow, promises Helio.

The Phone's full Web browser is powerful but quirky. It initially shows you sites processed through the Google Mobilizer, which boils everything down to a one-column view. You have to click a link to get to the full HTML. The Ocean's music player works well, though syncing with Windows Media Player was unreliable. I found that dragging and dropping music in Mass Storage mode was a better option.

Helio still has many features on its "to do" list. There's no local PC PIM syncing, for instance, nor can you easily sync video files with a PC. Exchange ActiveSync for mail, more push mail options, and Microsoft Office document support are also "coming soon". BlackBerry handhelds and others smartphones offer an even wider range of e-mail options, though without the MySpace connection. Still, the Ocean already outstrips other messaging-centric devices such as the LG enV and the T-Mobile Sidekick. In this hyper-social crowd, it's the queen bee.
Pantech PN-810: $295

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Mediagate MG-350HD: Tough Setup,Big Payoff

By definition, media extenders pull content off your computer so that you can enjoy it on your home entertainment system. Though the setup process can be tricky, the MediaGate MG-350HD accomplishes the task pretty well.

Here's what I mean by tricky: A firmware upgrade, installation of an internal hard drive (annoyingly not included), calls to tech support, and several changes to my PC's security settings were needed before I was set up. But in the end, the product proved its worth. I enjoyed crisp HD content that I first loaded wirelessly to the unit's hard drive via my 802.11g Wi-Fi network.

Wireless streaming of video from a host computer was a different story: Sputtering was out of control. The wait time for transferring a full-lenght movie could be hours, too, but once movies were on the device's drive, they played perfectly. I had no problem streaming audio and photos. A nice Internet radio function that also requires hard drive installation provides access to Shout Cast and Ice Cast servers. A USB connection in back makes for easy plug-and-play of files on a flash drive.

For the patient, Wi-Fi-adept consumer, MediaGate has created an affordable, solid product.
Mediagate MG-350HD: $249.99

Pegasus Cynalynx: Media Streamer Runs Dry

Heres an interesting device that's supposed to stream music, video files, and even DVDs from your PC to your TV over Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the Pegasus Cynalynx simply would not work as promised.

On the most fundamental level, the Pegasus Cynalynx just wouldn't play my files. During testing, I was able to stream DVDs successfully only a few times, and the quality was pretty sketchy. Video would sputter and often freeze and crash the system. I had no luck streaming video files, either.

Also annoying, DVD audio doesn't play via the analog stereo-out jack. The only way to hear a DVD's sound is by using the digital coaxial port. If you don't have a receiver that has a digital coax-in port, you're out of luck.

I could go on and on about how the Pegasus Cynalynx also had a problems playing all of my music files-whether they were ripped from a CD in iTunes or downloaded completely DRM-free from eMusic. I could tell you how it didn't even show up as a wireless router on one of my other systems, despite the fact that I turned off the firewall and spent hours trying to will it into action. I could tell you how it was incompatible with Vista and the ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics driver on one of our test systems. But you get the point.

Compare this experience with the one provided by the less-expensive Apple TV. The Apple TV worked fine and took me less than an hour to set up, while the Pegasus Cynalynx took days of tweaking and never really cooperated. I didn't even get to listen to one full song or view one full movie. Not good.

Nobody likes to kick the little guy, but in the name of protecting your wallet, I must advise you to steer clear of this product.
Pegasus Cynalynx: $399

Kodak Easyshare V1003: Chic Look, but Weak Pictures

Pocket-size and available in a variety of colors, Kodak's new EasyShare is designed to appeal especially to women. Unfortunately, despite its slick styling and fashinable accessories, picture quality and performance will disappoint any woman for whom image is everything.

An attractive little camera, the V1003 is crafted in eight unconventional colors with evocative names like "Java Brown", "Golden Brown", and "Pink Bliss". The deviceis also sculpted with rounded edges and has an iPod-like texture that makes it pleasent to hold. Still, I found the tiny controls tricky to operate. A 10-Megapixel device with a 3X optical zoom lens, the V1003 also has the standard 2.5-inch LCD found in most digital cameras.

The problem is, the pictures produced by this camera were just not good. My flash test shots were plagued by inaccurate color, and I had focus problems in all shooting conditions. Video was also grainy and washed out. And although the V1003's 2.6-second recycle time was decent, I found very noticeable shutter lag.

It's hard to deny the EasyShare V1003's compelling construction. Even so, style aside, I just can't forgive the camera's disappointing image quality and performance.
Kodak Easyshare V1003: $249.95

Olympus SP-550 UZ: Shoot Far and Wide

This Excellent 7.1 Megapixel camera features the largest optical zoom found on a point-and shoot. Evevn so, because of a few shortcomings, this fantastic feat of engineering isn't enough for the device nab the top spot from our reigning superzoom, the Panasonic Lumic DMC-TZ3.

With an ultrapowerful 18X optical zoom lens that spans a 4.7mm to 84.2mm range, the SP-550 UZ is optically well equipped. The zoom lens ranges from ultra-wide-angle (letting you capture more in picture) to telephoto, which gets you closer to the action than most other compact cameras do. A helpful guide mode provides instruction on 15 common topics, including blurring backgrounds and shooting at night. The subdue camera shake, the device also features built-in image stabilization. That said, a real zoom ring for better lens control would have been nice.

Overall, I found the SP-550 UZ's images pleasing, with a very deep dynamic range and good contrast. The camera scored 1,650 lines on our resolution test, which is above average for a 7.1MP camera. It also boast full manual modes, icluding the ability to shoot RAW files, a format that produces higher-quality images than JPEGs. Boot up took 3.6 seconds, which is okay but far from swift, as was the camera's 3.6-second recyle time.

Sure. it's not perfect, but if you seek a smal camera with a sweet lens. the Olympus SP-550 UZ will satisfy.
Olympus SP-550 UZ: $499.99