Digital gadgets of every stripe were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in the US this week. Many of them could make life easier and more enjoyable, but others should probably never have seen the light of day.
Following is a selection of the products and technologies announced here at the show.
-- Maxtor unveiled a mammoth 160GB external hard drive that will ship next week priced at around £300 - see News yesterday. The Personal Storage 3000 XT connects to a PC using FireWire (IEEE 1394) for faster archiving of digital video and other multimedia content. Users with an older PC that doesn't support Firewire could pick up Maxtor's £70 DV Producer kit, which goes on sale next month and includes a FireWire PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) adapter card, a connector cable and ArcSoft's ShowBiz video editing software.
-- SonicBlue launched the Rio Riot, its first digital music player with a hard drive. The device can store 20GB of music, equal to about 400 albums, and is due to ship in February priced at £300, the company said. It comes with Real Networks and iTunes music software for both PC and Macintosh compatibility, and supports the MP3 and Windows Media Audio formats. It also has an FM radio and a rechargeable battery that gives 10 hours of playback.
-- Olympus announced two digital voice recorders due to go on sale in April. Both weigh two ounces including batteries and measure about 4 inches by 1.5 inches by 1 inch. The VN-900 stores 90 minutes of voice recordings and is priced at £40; the VN-180 stores 3 hours of voice recordings and will sell for £60.
-- SanDisk announced Cruzer, a portable storage device that plugs into a PC's USB (Universal Serial Bus) port and reads both Secure Digital Memory Cards and MultiMediaCards, two popular flash memory storage formats. The device allows users to load images, music and other data from their memory cards to a PC, and comes with a removable memory card in one of four capacities: 32MB, 64MB, 128MB and 256MB. Prices vary from £40 to £140 depending on the card capacity; the product is due to ship in April.
-- Moxi Digital, the company founded by Web TV creator Steve Perlman, announced a home entertainment system that combines VCR functions with an those of an Internet gateway, allowing users to download music, video and email from the Web and distribute it around the home. EchoStar Communications, a large US satellite TV provider, said it will incorporate Moxi's software platform in its satellite receivers. The Moxi Media Center will support Macromedia's Flash animation player and Real Networks' RealOne player for streaming content.
-- NVidia Corp. announced a new chipset, the nForce 415-D, designed to boost the performance of PCs based on Advanced Micro Devices's Athlon processor. The 415-D includes nForce's Media and Communications Processor and its new System Platform Processor, intended to improve memory, networking, audio and general PC performance, the company said. The chipset will be available on motherboards later this month.
-- Compaq launched a keyboard that holds a smart card on which users can store logins and passwords for up to 50 Web sites, saving the hassle of typing them in each time. The Netissimo smart card, made by Humetrix.com, will also dial a user's ISP (Internet service provider) automatically and launch several Web sites automatically for faster browsing. The keyboard and smart card were launched Monday as a £30 option with Compaq's Presario 4000 and 8000 PCs.
-- Benq unwrapped a 17-inch flat-panel LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor with an 80 degree viewing angle, priced at around £700. Due to ship worldwide in the second quarter, the FP 781 has a resolution of 1,280-x-1,024 pixels and sits on a swivel mount or can hang on a wall.