A TWEAKED AND BRIGHTENED VERSION OF THE NINTENDO DS
Nintendo raised eyebrows two years ago when it introduced a peculiar two-screened hand-held game player, the Nintendo DS. Some called it an experiment and doubted if thumb-twitching gamers would adapt to a pen-based interface.
By now all doubts have vanished -- as was demonstrated by the release in the US of the Nintendo DS Lite on Sunday. Nintendo's ugly duckling has grown up into a sleek white swan, backed by 142 software titles that use wireless game sharing, pen scribbling and speech recognition features, as well as child-friendly themes like Pokemon and Nintendogs. You can even play 900 older Game Boy Advance cartridges on the US$130 machine. By comparison, the Sony PSPs library of 149 titles slants toward traditional shooters and sports simulations.
Game play is no different on the new version, however, and all the changes are cosmetic. These include a smaller form, fatter stylus, sliding PSP-like power switch and an even smaller power plug than last fall's Game Boy Micro. The thing you notice the most, however, are the clear, much brighter screens, which Nintendo hopes will soon be illuminating darkened buses, pup tents, minivans and bedrooms nationwide.
YES, YOU CAN EDIT YOUR PHOTOS. BUT YOU NEEDN'T
There are a million ways to tweak digital photos when printing at home -- which is precisely why some people shy away from it.
For them, Panasonic made the basic KX-PX10M Digital Photo Printer. Printing a photo requires just two button clicks.
About the size of a thick novel, the KX-PX10M prints with rich color and detail on 10-by-15cm sheets that resist tearing and are nearly impervious to water.
The printer, available later this month for US$200, includes a remote control and a video cable for connecting to a TV, letting you select photos on the screen.
The system can also edit effects, like giving a photo the look of an oil painting or converting it to black and white. For enthusiastic tweakers, more sophisticated controls adjust contrast, sharpness, and color levels.
To edit, you must insert a camera's SD or MMC memory card into a slot on the printer.
Most consumer cameras use these formats, but several companies -- including Fuji, Olympus, and Sony -- use different card types. You can connect those cameras to the printer with a USB cable.
MOBILE PHONES, IT SEEMS, CAN'T BE TOO THIN
If thin is in, then the Samsung T509 could not be much hipper. This wafer of a phone -- 0.96cm thick and just under 85g -- could slip into the pocket of your tightest pair of jeans without leaving a bump.
Samsung clearly designed the T509 to challenge the Motorola Razr on its skinny cell phone turf. But T509 is made of sturdy silver plastic, not metal, so it feels like a toy until it is turned on and taking calls.
The phone can play MP3s and other music files, and its camera can take still images and video. The T509 has mobile Internet connectivity and accepts wireless Bluetooth headsets. It also acts as a speakerphone and can record short voice messages. The battery has a talk time of about three hours and a standby time of about seven days.
A welcome feature is a sliding door to hide the charging port, keeping dirt away from the works.
A PC THAT GOES BEYOND MINI AND MICRO TO LILLIPUTIAN
Those who demand standard keyboards and mice on their PCs may prefer to skip this device. Sony has miniaturized all of the usual components on its way to making the Vaio UX Micro one of the smallest portable computers in the world.