New Gadgets: Solar Battery Charger

While electronics products are getting more and more energy efficient, there’s certainly a long way to go before some products can be considered a technological advance on the power front. Just look at plasma display panel televisions. They might be thinner than old cathode ray tube models and might provide a better picture, but in many cases they are using up more power than the sets they replaced—hardly a step forward when it comes to lowering the amount of energy we use.

With that in mind, take a look at Sanyo Electric’s new Eneloop solar charger. Sanyo is doing a lot for energy efficiency; it’s already one of the world’s largest makers of rechargeable batteries and solar panels, and now they come together in this product. It’s truly a way to get green energy and just the thing to power the array of portable gadgets in all our homes that seem to eat through disposable AA or AAA batteries.

Sony Vaio G

Pick up the Sony Vaio G laptop and you’ll be in for a surprise. At just 898 grams, the machine is much lighter than you’d expect from looking at the 12.1-inch screen-equipped machine. Sony says it’s the lightest laptop of its class in the world, and it’s probably right. The secret comes in part from a Carbon body. Sony has also employed Carbon in the heatsink for the processor and graphics chips to reduce the size and weight. The machine will work for about six hours on a fully charged standard battery and will survive a drop from a table without damage, said Sony. There’s also a light AC adapter that is the same thickness as the computer so it won’t cause a bulge in a bag. It will be available in Japan in December and is aimed at business users. Sony hasn’t disclosed plans for an overseas launch. It will cost between 215,000 and 245,000 yen (US$1,830 and $2,085), depending on configuration.

Visit the Sony Vaio site. (Japanese)

Samsung SGH-X830 Cell Phone

Is it a phone? Is it a music player? A quick look at Samsung Electronics’ SGH-X830 might make you think of the latter, but it’s closer to the former. The phone, which bears a striking resemblance to a certain well-known music player with display screen and scroll wheel, will be available in Europe in late November and in other Global System for Mobile Communications markets during the following months. It has a 1.3-megapixel camera, 1GB of built-in memory, and support for a host of popular audio and video formats. Price will depend on carrier subsidies.

Visit the website.

Samsung Q1 Ultra-Mobile PC

They don’t look any different from the outside than the launch model, but the latest two versions of Samsung’s Q1 ultra-mobile PC pack new processors and new prices. They are the Q1-Pentium, which runs an Intel Pentium M 723 1GHz processor, and the Q1b, which is based on Via Technologies’ C7 1GHz processor. The original Q1, which was launched with great fanfare at the Cebit show in Germany in March, ran an Intel Celeron M 900MHz processor. The Q1-Pentium has a 60GB hard-disk drive and 1GB of memory, while the Q1b has a 40GB drive and 512MB of memory. The latter configuration is similar to the original model. The Q1-Pentium is priced at about US$1,250 and the Q1b at around $900. They’re now available in the United States.

Samsung’s website can be found here.

Sanyo Eneloop Solar Charger

Rechargeable batteries have just gotten more environmentally conscious with the debut of Sanyo’s Eneloop charger. The charger makes use of the company’s own solar cells and also includes three Lithium-Ion batteries. The solar panel charges up the Lithium Ion cells and then they can rapidly charge one to four AA- and AAA-sized Eneloop batteries. It is also possible to mix AA- and AAA-sized batteries in the charger and charge them at the same time and there’s a USB power connector to charge up USB devices. It will be available in Japan in mid-November for about 20,000 yen. Sanyo is also planning to put on sale an Eneloop hand warmer in December. The hand warmer, which promises to be just the thing for cold winter mornings, also contains Lithium Ion cells.

See the website.

Elecom iPod Charger

Several more hours to go on that long cross-country journey and your tunes are gone because the iPod battery is flat? If you carry one of these iPod portable chargers from Elecom, you’ll be able to juice up your iPod on the go with a pair of AA batteries. Similar to the emergency cell phone chargers that you can now find in any convenience store—at least in Japan—they’re cheap and just the thing when you run out of power. They go on sale in Japan for 1,980 yen in mid-November and are likely to be on sale in other countries through other distributors.

See Elecom on the Web. (Japanese)

Sony Walkman S700 Series

Sony is packing its new Walkman digital music players with noise canceling and other audio enhancing technology in its latest attempt to challenge the dominance of Apple Computer’s iPod. The system uses a microphone built into the headphones—so it will work only with the supplied earbuds—and is tuned to cancel out the low frequency noise often present on trains, aircraft or cars. Two other features, both of which are headphone independent, include "clear stereo," a system that better separates the left and right channels and stops audio bleed between channels, and "clear base," which improves the bass response. The players have a battery life of 50 hours and can display album art on a small color organic light-emitting diode display panel. They are available now in Japan and in other markets later this year. The S700-series will come in versions with 4GB, 2GB or 1GB of memory and cost between 29,000 and 18,000 yen, respectively.

View the website.

R&D Corner: Chi Mei High Definition Screen

Flat-panel maker Chi Mei Optoelectronics is looking ahead to a day when high definition is even better than it is now. The Taiwanese company has developed a 47-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) panel that has 1,440 horizontal picture lines (current high-definition TVs have 720 or 1,080 picture lines) and plans to put it into production in 2007. Support for 1,440 line video is included in the new HDMI 1.3 specification and could be used by computers or future television broadcasts or as a way to show a full-HD broadcast with additional information around the edge of the screen. Look for it in displays starting late next year.

By Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)

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