Blu-ray TV Tops November's Wish-list

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What a difference a year makes. This time last year few people were thinking about buying a Blu-ray Disc player because the battle with HD DVD was still going strong but that all ended early in 2008 and now Blu-ray Disc is making strides into the consumer electronics mainstream.

So what better time than for Sharp to come out with its first flat-panel TV set that includes a Blu-ray Disc recorder? The TV, which should be welcome to anyone after a simpler living room, comes with an extra surprise: the price. It retails for a premium of just ¥10,000 to ¥20,000 on an equivalent Sharp LCD TV without a built-in recorder making them something of a bargain for consumers looking to buy both a new TV and Blu-ray Disc recorder.

Sharp LCD TVs with Blu-ray Disc recorders

It had to happen. Sharp is first with an LCD television that contains a Blu-ray Disc recorder. The DX-series models will be available in 26- to 52-inch screen sizes and include dual digital tuners, so owners can watch one channel while recording another. The embedded recorder supports the more efficient MPEG4 H.264/AVC digital encoding format, which means up to 5 times more video can be recorded on a standard Blu-ray Disc. They're out now in Japan and should hit the U.S. before the end of this year and launch in Europe in 2009. Prices for the TVs will range from ¥500,000 (US$4,900) for the 52-inch set to ¥170,000 for the 26-inch set.

Toshiba NB100 Netbook

With netbooks becoming so popular among consumers the time has come for market leaders like Toshiba to wade into the low-cost end of the market with a product of its own. The NB100 is, like almost all netbooks, based on a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and has an 8.9-inch display. In Japan a single version is available, running Windows XP Home and with a 120G-byte hard-disk drive but overseas models will also be available running Linux. It costs around ¥50,000 in Japan and will retail for a similar price in Europe. U.S. launch plans have not yet been decided.

Sony's rockin' Rolly gets renewed

Sony is updating its innovative Rolly digital audio player with new software options and a fresh coat of paint. The Rolly -- in case you don't remember -- is an egg-shaped device with speakers on either end that can twist and turn in time to music on two large rings that circle its body. The new SEP-50BT Rolly comes with the ability to control it over Bluetooth via cell phone. A cell-phone application can be used to turn up and down the volume, change tracks and stop and start the music player by sending the commands over Bluetooth. The original Rolly included Bluetooth but such control wasn't enabled over the link. Sony said it is planning to release a software update in early December that will add Bluetooth control to the earlier model. The new model will be available from Nov. 21 in Japan and will cost ¥40,000 (US$427). Overseas launch plans haven't been fixed.

Samsung upgrades the Omnia for South Korea

Samsung's domestic customers in South Korea weren't the first to get their hands on its Windows Mobile-based Omnia phone but Samsung still had a little present for them when it launched there. The Korean version has an upgraded screen resolution of 800 by 480 pixels - that's four times the resolution of the model sold elsewhere. Also included is mobile digital TV alongside 7.2 megabit per second HSDPA data, WiFi, GPS and a 5 megapixel camera. There's no word on when the upgraded version might be available elsewhere.

Canon Hello Kitty photo printer

Printing photos is pretty cool and it doesn't get more fun than when you have a printer adorned with the image of Japan's famous Hello Kitty character. Canon has just such a device, the Selphy CP770. It comes in pink, of course, but is only available in a limited production run of 3,000 so get on down to Akihabara as soon as possible to secure one! It costs around ¥15,000.

Sanyo small IC recorder

Sanyo has added three new voice recorders to its Diply range. The new devices include the ICR-S300M, which Sanyo says is the smallest and lightest SD Card voice recorder available. It has stereo microphones and records in MP3 at up to 192k bps (bits per second). That works out to about 11 hours of audio on a 1G byte SD card while using a single AAA battery. In Japan it will cost about ¥10,000. Look for it overseas soon.

Supercent vacuum-tube CD player

Tokyo-based Supercent is fusing old and new technology together with a vacuum-tube powered CD player and radio. The device, which is still a prototype, even includes a jack that Supercent used to connect an iPod for a fusion of cutting edge digital audio technology with 50-year old amplification technology. It's been built into a wooden case designed to look like an old-style radiogram. A large grill covers the front of the player, which is about 60 centimeters long by 27cm high by 29cm deep, and it sits on four thin silver legs. Touch-sensitive buttons are inlaid along the top of the player but aside from these very basic controls the entire unit is devoid of anything more significant. Supercent, which showed the prototype at an event in Tokyo, hasn't yet finalized the price or specific launch plans.

Super-slim OLED screen

Regular readers of this column should recall Sony's cool little OLED TV and its millimeter thick prototype panel. Now a Taiwanese display maker has gone one-better and matched the Sony's thickness but at a much larger size. Chi Mei EL has developed a 25-inch screen that's less than a millimeter thick. Previously, Chi Mei EL's thinnest prototype was 3 mm thick, but the company managed to slim this down by adopting a new production method. The screen was unveiled at a display industry event in Japan and attracted a lot of interest from visitors. There's no word on when it might become a commercial product but it's appearance is yet more proof that flexible, full-color, high-resolution displays can't be that far away from our lives.

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