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Cool gadgets-a-plenty at Computex

The future is nearly here

The thousands of booths at the Computex trade show in Taipei are enough to keep any gadget fan happy - at least for a week.

Walking up and down the aisles of Asia's largest computer technology trade show there's lots to catch the eye. Among the products that drew our interest were several new features on laptop computers, new portable gadgets and a retro-style valve amp.

ECS laptop with secondary display

Remember a couple of years ago when Intel was talking about secondary displays? At Computex Taiwan's ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems) showed just such a machine to gauge customer interest in the screens, designed to allow limited functionality without powering up the computer. The laptop shown by ECS was equipped with a 2in LCD (liquid crystal display) screen and 1GB of flash memory. The module's memory can store music files, email messages and calendar entries, among other types of information, that can be accessed without having to power up the laptop. The technology is likely to appear in laptops along with the launch of Windows Vista.

Acer Aspire 9800 HD DVD laptop

Acer used Computex to demo a laptop with built-in HD DVD drive. The most striking feature of the Aspire 9800 is its 20.1in LCD screen. The screen is a monitor-class panel of a type not usually found on laptops, so it delivers an image equivalent to a desktop monitor, the company said. But using such a large panel has a downside: weight. It's close to 8kg, which is several times that of a standard laptop. It additionally pushes up the size: the system measures 48x35x6cm. It will be available this month and will cost a little under $3,000 (about £1,600).

Kingston K-Max media player

It seems everyone is trying to emulate Apple's iPod success with portable media players. The devices were everywhere at Computex, including one from memory-products maker Kingston Technology. The company will enter the portable media player market in August in Asia with its K-Max device. It has a 2in colour screen and can play a number of different audio and video formats: AVI, Mpeg1, Mpeg2, Mpeg4, Windows Media Video, ASF, MP3, Windows Media Audio, Ogg and WAV, the company said. It can display text files and Jpeg images. The player looks like a shrunken PlayStation Portable and will come in 1GB and 2GB versions priced at around $125 and $175 (£68 and £95), respectively. US sales will follow, the company said.

Adata My Flash

Adata Technology had a new USB memory stick that solves a problem of the designer's own creation. The company began making memory sticks with built-in LCD screens to provide a read-out of the amount of spare memory left in the stick. This required a battery to drive the display and so the devices became more complex. Now Adata has developed a version with a solar panel so that no battery is needed. It will be on sale in the coming months in the US market, the company said. Pricing was not disclosed.

FIC small-size PC

There are small computers, and then there's FIC's (First International Computer's) very slim GE2. The PC, slimmer but a little wider and deeper than Apple's Mac Mini, runs an Intel Core Duo processor and can support up to 2GB of DDR2 (double data rate 2) RAM. The systems are designed around Intel's Viiv platform for home-entertainment computers. FIC is a contract manufacturer and will produce the GE2 for other companies. The systems will be available later this year for around $1,100.

A-Zone iPod valve amplifier

Leave it to Taiwan's A-Zone to put a retro spin on the iPod with a docking station that features an elegant 1940s-style valve amplifier. The iPod rests in a silver docking station with a wooden trim, and sits next to a matching amp with three illuminated glass valves on top. The dock and the amp together measure about 42cm wide and 15cm deep. The system includes two 50W-per-channel speakers. It all comes in a glossy black, wood or a leather finish. It just went on sale in Germany for €699 (£480) and is available in Japan. A-Zone expects it to be on sale soon in France and the UK, and hopes eventually to tackle the US market.

MSI portable digital TV

MSI (Micro-Star) has developed a pocket-size television for the DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting - Terrestrial ) digital television services now starting in many nations. The set has a 4.2in screen and supports services such as digital teletext and an electronic program guide. The company claims a three-hour battery life when watching television. At Computex the set was demonstrated with Taiwan's digital TV service although the picture was less than perfect - it kept breaking up and showing the digital block-noise common when a signal isn't strong enough. MSI said that was because reception inside Computex's Hall 2 was poor. There was no word on when it will be available.


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