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February's coolest gadgets revealed

View from Tokyo: February's coolest gadgets

February sees the world's first commercially available thin TVs, as well as a DivX-enabled mobile phone and Sony's latest DSLR range.

The technology industry works so fast these days and products have a very quick turn around time. Take Sharp's thin TVs as an example.

The first time we heard about them was when the company unveiled prototypes in the middle of last year. At that time Sharp talked vaguely about them hitting the market sometime before the end of the decade. They seemed a little way away.

A couple of months later at the Ceatec show in Tokyo a couple of Sharp's competitors had their own thin TVs and at CES in January in Las Vegas still more thin sets appeared from competitors.

Thin is apparently in and TV makers were starting to get bullish on the new designs.

Fast forward just a couple of weeks after CES and Sharp has shown its first commercial sets and is preparing for an aggressive launch schedule of March in Japan. With the speedy move Sharp, which was the first TV maker to fully embrace LCD technology, is determined to get a lead on the competition.

That this all happened in the space of six months is impressive to say the least, and points to the fast pace at which new technologies are appearing on the market. Sometimes consumer will put off purchases a few months to wait for a particular feature to come to market but all too often when the desired feature is finally available there's another even better feature just around the corner.

It's how companies are getting us to spend money and replace products faster than ever before. For example, back in the 70s and 80s TVs lasted 10, 15 or 20 years but can you imagine keeping an LCD TV set for 20 years today? The set might work fine but will look hopelessly out-of-date after just a few years. When it comes to buying technology it pays to remember, there might never be a good time to buy but there's also never a bad time to buy.

Sharp thin LCD TV

Just a few months ago Sharp impressed with prototype LCD TVs that were just a few centimetres thick. Now they're products and coming to Japan in March. Sharp's new X-series models come in 37in, 42in and 46in screen sizes and are just 3.44cm at their thinnest point and fatten slightly to 3.85cm at the thickest point.

That's less than half the thickness of sets in two other product lines that Sharp has also recently introduced. Sharp has also separated the tuner unit into a VCR-sized box thus furthering helping keep the TV thin.

Prices will range from $3,299 (£1,650) for the 37in set to $4,520 (£2,260) for the 46in. Sharp will be putting thin sets on sale overseas but it doesn't have a concrete plan at present, it said. Appearances will be further improved with the use of an optional wireless video transmitter than means just a power cable needs to be fed to the set. The wireless kit, which includes a transmitter and received, will cost $850 (£425).

Sharp LCD

NEXT PAGE: More of February's coolest gadgets, including a handheld TV from Sony and Sumsung's mobile phones aimed at women


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