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April showers gadgets on Japanese consumers

Once again our Oriental friends get the best of the bunch

April has seen some cracking gadgets released in Japan. Three of these haven't been covered in PC Advisor yet, but they're worth seeing.

Sony is about to begin selling its second generation hard disk drive-based video recorder. More than just an update of the previous device, which went on sale in 2000, the CSV-S55 Channel Server is based on technology from Tivo in the US that Sony licensed last year.

The Channel Server comes with an internal 80GB drive — enough to store 80 hours of standard quality and 40 hours of high-quality video — and a built-in electronic program guide that allows users to select shows to record with a single click. When outside the home, users can also access their device via mobile phone and set it to record a show. The Channel Server went on sale on will go on sale on 11 May in Japan and costs the equivalent of around £480.

Mobile phones with GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers have been on the market for some time. But a problem remains — which way is north? The latest cell phone, the C3003P from Matsushita, better known here as Panasonic, solves this problem with a built-in electronic compass. A new vector graphics-based system means the continual redrawing of maps, which takes place as the user moves, requires less than a second. Crafty.

Sanyo's latest digital music player, the Di-Ply digital memory player (pictured), comes equipped with 128MB of built-in memory and the ability to play songs in three major formats: MP3, Microsoft's Windows Media Audio 8 and Advanced Audio Coding, or AAC, the system used in MiniDisc. At 46g, it's light enough to be carried in a shirt pocket and a handy ring in the corner of the case means it can also be hung from a bag, belt or key ring. The Di-Ply costs around £155.

Panasonic again comes up with something funky — it's has developed a pneumatically driven transparent flat-panel speaker that could mean large, bulky speakers become a thing of the past. The new speaker consists of a transparent panel mounted in front of the display and a separate driver to vibrate the air between the panel and the display to create sound. A prototype of a speaker based on the technology, called the Sound Window (pictured, lower), was recently unveiled by the company and should be on sale by the end of this year, said the company.


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