Sharp Mebius Muramasa CV50

Whitemebius$1750

The lowdown
Forget the Sony X505, forget the JVC Mininote, this is the smallest laptop out there. So much so, that it’s probably more accurate to call it a sub-notebook. Those that remember the old Psion Series 7 will have a good idea of what to expect.

What’s good?
It looks great. The stormtrooper-white shiny plastic casing won’t suit everyone, but we were sold. The lovely clear screen helps to keep your mind off how tiny it is, while the inclusion of a touchpad (instead of a pointing stick) – and such a usable one at that – is a big bonus. There’s also two separate slots for an SD and a CF card and wireless.

What’s bad?
Having the full version of Windows XP is all well and good, but since everything’s shrunk so small that you can barely see it, it really does limit your use. The keyboard is also too small to use properly – you’ll be limited to two-finger typing.

Do you need it?
We could live with the keyboard if the screen was just a little bit bigger. If you can afford it, it will make a nice little organiser and word processor with added functionality. For anyone else, there’s more practical laptops to spend your money on.
6/10

www.icube.us

September 27, 2004 in PCs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Group test: Budget PDAs

Photo_zire72
The winner is...
Palm Zire 72
£219
The lowdown
Replacing the popular Zire 71, the consumer-focused 72 has lost the neat camera-concealing slide mechanism, but gained a bit more room for other features.

What’s good?
A 1.2-megapixel camera housed in a very slim, appealing shell. Bluetooth, increased memory capacity, faster processor – pretty much everything is an improvement on the original.

What’s bad?
Everything, that is, except the newly plastic stylus. Also, the “soft touch paint” finish may feel nice, but it also peels off far too easily.

Do you need it?
It gets our vote. Nicely put together, with some good features at a decent price.

Specs
Processor: 312MHz Intel PXA270
Operating System: Palm OS 5.2.8
RAM: 32MB
Expansion: SD(IO)/MMC
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Screen: 16-bit colour
Size: 75 x 116 x 17mm
Weight: 136g

8/10
www.palmone.com

Acer N30
£169
What’s good?
Unique central loud speaker supplies surprisingly good sound. Decent specs for the price, including Bluetooth.

What’s bad?
For this price? Not much – unless you’re particularly attached to the five-way joypad that you usually get on PPCs.

Specs
Processor: Samsung S3C2410 266MHz
Operating System: Pocket PC 2003
RAM: 64MB
Expansion: SD(IO)/MMC
Connectivity: infrared, Bluetooth
Screen: 16-bit colour
Size: 71 x 118 x 13 cm
Weight: 130g

8/10
www.acer.co.uk

Mitac Mio 339
£210
What’s good?
Pleasantly lightweight and very slim. VGA still camera with flash is unusual. Good software extras.

What’s bad?
Lack of “big name” branding may bother some people, as might the lack of Bluetooth.

Specs
Processor: Intel PXA255 400MHz
Operating System: Pocket PC 2003
RAM: 64MB
Expansion: SD(IO)/MMC
Connectivity: infrared
Screen: 16-bit colour
Size: 72mm x 122 mm x 14mm
Weight: 130g

7/10
www.lowestonweb.com

Dell Axim X30 Standard
£161
What’s good?
Attractive chassis that’s well made, compact and light.

What’s bad?
Bare minimum of features - just 32MB of memory – and not much in the way of extras.

Specs
Processor: Intel PXA270 312MHz
Operating System: Pocket PC 2003
RAM: 32MB
Expansion: SD(IO)/MMC
Connectivity: infrared
Screen: 16-bit colour
Size: 76 x 115 x 15mm
Weight: 140g

7/10
www.dell.co.uk

Palm Zire 31
£109
What’s good?
Very affordable, decent looking handheld with good enough specs for entry-level users. SDIO compatible expansion slot.

What’s bad?
The STN colour screen is rubbish compared to a proper 16-bit TFT screen, but it’s still usable. The excellent Tungsten E is just £40 more and you get a superb screen and proper metal casing.

Specs
Processor: 200MHz Intel ARM
Operating System: Palm OS 5.2.8
RAM: 16MB
Expansion: SD(IO)/MMC
Connectivity: infrared
Screen: 16-bit STN transmissive display
Size: 74 x 112 x 16mm
Weight: 116g

7/10
www.palmone.com

Mitac Mio 338
£130
What’s good?
Nice price and a decent software bundle

What’s bad?
It feels a bit cheap and the specs are outdated.

Specs
Processor: Intel XScale 200MHz
Operating System: Pocket PC 2002
RAM: 40MB
Expansion: SD/MMC
Connectivity: infrared
Screen: 16-bit colour
Size: 77mm x 122 mm x 12 mm
Weight: 120g

6/10
www.lowestonweb.com

September 26, 2004 in PDAs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oregon Scientific MP120

Oregon£100

The lowdown
While swimming might keep you trim, ploughing through the lengths can be boring. Oregon Scientific claims to have the solution in the £100 MP120, the first pool-friendly player, compatible with MP3 and WMA files.

What’s good?
While not the last word in high fidelity, the MP120 delivers a reasonable rendition of MP3s and radio stations via its FM tuner. Bizarrely, it seems to sound better underwater than above it.

What’s bad?
The downsides were that it does not play loudly, and to keep the earbuds in place I had to adjust the goggles' strap every few lengths.

Do you need it?
The MP120 isn't the iPod with water wings - it only has 128MB (two hours of MP3s) of storage - but for serious swimmers, it is £100 well spent.
7/10

www.oregonscientific.co.uk

September 14, 2004 in Personal Audio | Permalink | Comments (3)

Motorola RAZR V3

motorola_v3_review
£from £75 to £500

The lowdown
If it’s true you can never be too thin or too rich, then perhaps you should be spending all that money on something thin enough to be seen with, like the newly announced Motorola RAZR V3.

What’s good?
It’s a catwalk model among phones, anorexically just 14mm thick, and made from magnesium and aluminium, so it’s light and tough. Motorola stresses that it’s using aircraft-grade aluminium, whatever that means in the real world, but certainly it feels great and looks even greater. There are two screens, shortcut keys for the Internet and messages (they're engraved on the metal so you can't change that), and the usual configurable softkeys.

It's only recently Motorola has got round to putting its call and end call keys in the right places - that is, like the rest of the industry - but thankfully it was in time to prevent the V3 from having a fatal flaw. Despite the fact that it has an internal antenna, there’s also room for a camera (VGA with digital 4x zoom) and Bluetooth.

What’s bad?
Not everyone will get on with Motorola’s notoriously user-unfriendly interface.

Do you need it?
it’s by far the most opulent phone out there (the titanium of the Nokia 8910i notwithstanding) unless you include the Vertu. And this, at least, will cost thousands less.
8/10

www.motorola.co.uk

David Phelan

September 14, 2004 in Mobile Phones | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sony HMP-A1

sony_hmparound £500

The lowdown
This music player has just launched in Japan. We managed to get hold of a sample complete with English menus.

What’s good?
It's actually a pretty decent model. Screen size is only 3.5 inches but picture quality from various MPEG4 sources (Terminator, Bad Boys etc) was excellent. Other good points included two headphone sockets (but no external speakers), a video output for hook-up to a TV and, so were are told, native MP3 playback (though whether that will be the case for the UK model remains to be seen). There's also a USB input for connecting up a digital camera etc.

Menus are pretty easy to navigate around (icons are provided for pictures, movies and audio) with neat left/right, up/down arrow keys to the right of the screen. Sound quality is also much better than from an iPod with the video display automatically switching off as soon as an MP3 is played to preserve battery power

What’s bad?
Now for the bad news. Storage capacity is way too small (just 20Gb), sound from the video clips was lacklustre and there isn't any DivX compatible as yet.

Do you need it?
Still, it's better than we thought and might do quite well here if there's enough MPEG4 video content and enough storage capacity to make it worthwhile.
7/10

www.sony.co.uk

September 14, 2004 in Personal Audio | Permalink | Comments (0)

iRiver H340 40GB

ihp340£360

The lowdown
iRiver's digital music players are held in fairly high esteem by MP3 enthusiasts who praise them for their excellent sound quality and innovative features. IRiver has added what is certain to become a key facility on rival models: a colour screen. Uniquely, it can also connect via USB to devices like digital cameras.

What’s good?
The device now moonlights as a reasonably good quality picture viewer, displaying JPeg images. Another neat feature is that you can connect certain digital cameras to the player via USB to transfer the images over - a lifesaver when you are on holiday. Like its predecessors, the H340 offers playback of MP3 and WMA files, a voice recorder and FM tuner, and battery life of 16 hours.

What’s bad?
The 2in display doesn't make it any easier to find your way round your music collection - iRiver needs to work on the interface. Its key flaw is its size: it is both bulkier and heavier than its key 40GB rival, the Apple iPod.

Do you need it?
In spite of its bulk and UI, the H340 is an innovative player at a reasonable price.
7/10

www.iriver.com

September 14, 2004 in Personal Audio | Permalink | Comments (1)

DM Tech AV-10

dm_tech_av10£289

The lowdown
One of the year’s coolest-looking products is the DM Tech AV-10 personal multimedia player which is being sold in the UK by online retailer Boys Stuff.

Technology seers reckon that pretty soon you’ll be ditching your iPod for a device that not only plays back music but also displays images and videos on its integrated LCD screen. You’ll also be able to record TV programmes on to it for viewing while you are on the move.

What’s good?
This is one of the classiest looking gadgets on sale. It is slim, light and boasts a good 3.5inch LCD screen. It is simple to use too and coped with all the video, image and MP3 music files we threw at it. Recording programmes from the TV was simply matter of running a cable between the two and pressing record.

What’s bad?
Trouble is these devices require large capacity hard disks to store all those huge video files. So we can’t quite work out why DM Tech is offering a player with just 128MB of flash memory – enough space for a rather pathetic 35 minutes of video. You can of course add higher storage cards, but this ramps up the cost to the level of rival hard disk players which have 20 times more storage.

The only other real criticism we could level at it was the lack of an external speaker.

Do you need it?
Now if only it had a hard disk
6/10.

www.boysstuff.co.uk

September 10, 2004 in Personal Video | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fusion Digitec Digifusion FVRT 100

fusio_fvrt_100£250

The lowdown
Two years on from the launch of the Sky + satellite decoder/hard disk recorder and bizarrely there still isn’t an equivalent unit for digital terrestrial (Freeview) viewers. That’s because while Sky offers two week’s worth of easy to access on-screen listings, there isn’t a similar universal listings guide for Freeview.

Fusion Digitec aims to change that with the Digifusion FVRT 100 Freeview decoder/hard disk video recorder. It uses its proprietary Multi Guide to deliver seven days worth of programme info to the screen, which users can easily browse and then earmark programmes for recoding.

What’s good?
Like Sky + the FVRT 100 can store up to 40 hours of programming on its 40 Gigabyte hard disk pause, rewind, and forward live TV and let viewers watch one programme while recording another.

What’s bad?
While it is fairly simple to use and operate overall the FVRT 100 lacks the simplicity of the Sky+ box, and especially its rival’s remarkably intuitive remote control. Also unlike its satellite equivalent, viewers can’t play catch up by watching a programme from the beginning while they are recording it. When it comes to recorded programmes, picture quality isn’t quite as good as its rival.

Do you need it?
For the time being though, the FVRT 100 is the closest digital terrestrial viewers are going to get to a Sky + of their own.
6/10.

www.fusiondigitec.com

September 10, 2004 in Digital TV | Permalink | Comments (45)

Samsung Yepp YP-55

yepp_yp55£99

The lowdown
While this might not be the smallest MP3 player in the world (that accolade goes to the BenQ Joybee 102, apparently) there's no doubting the 128MB Samsung YP-55 is tiny. Smaller than most cigarette lighters and small enough to sit on - though thankfully it's quite a robust little fella.

What’s good?
We tested the 128Mb unit down the gym and were impressed by the sound quality. Even at fairly low volumes you can drown out the sound of irritating MTV presenters on the gym's TV screens. Toggling between tracks is relatively simple using the top of the player which forms a sort of forward and rewind button and the player is also compatible with both MP3 and WMA formats (it can also record MP3 tracks directly from an external source, though we haven't used that function yet).

What’s bad?
Our only real gripe is that some of its functions are extremely difficult to use. The FM Radio is virtually impossible to access (the badly written instruction manual throws little light). And we wouldn't recommend trying to view the LED display (which shows album and track information) when you're on the treadmill - unless you want to take out the person behind you doing warm up exercises!
tasteful.

Do you need it?
Small may be beautiful but not if it means you can't access half the functions.
6/10

September 10, 2004 in Personal Audio | Permalink | Comments (0)

BT Voyager

bt_mediaplayer £160

The lowdown
The easiest way to pipe MP3 tunes and internet radio stations round your home is to tether a laptop to a wireless connection. If you want a cheaper option, there's BT's Voyager. It's a mini hi-fi device which, apart from an integrated FM tuner, has no direct music sources. Instead, via an FM transmitter plugged into a PC's USB socket users can stream music from a computer/the web (MP3, CDs, internet radio stations) to the Voyager that can be sited anywhere in your home.

What’s good?
It works reasonably well, too, with the on board speakers just about loud enough to cover the background FM hiss.

What’s bad?
Operating the Voyager is, however, quite tricky. Both the PC software and the device's interface are intimidating and there's no easy way to access or search for MP3 tunes on the player.

It may be the cheaper option, but the Voyager is not especially tasteful.

Do you need it?
Overall, the Voyager is worth a punt if you have five or six net radio stations you'd like to hear elsewhere in your home.
6/10

www.voyager.bt.com/mediaplayer/prodinfo.htm

September 10, 2004 in PCs | Permalink | Comments (0)