Thu, Nov 30, 2006 - Page 14 News List

Technology Review

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A BAG WEARS IPOD BUTTONS ON ITS STRAP

Carry enough pocket-size electronic gear and you don't have much pocket space for anything else, so it is not uncommon to see backpacks and shoulder bags with small pockets to hold mobile phones, iPods and other gadgets (and, often, big pockets for laptops). But it is hard to operate an iPod inside a bag, and running headphone cords between the bag and your ears invites snags.

A new messenger bag, the Professional from G-Tech (www.g-techworld.com), is meant to solve these problems. A seemingly abstract pattern of symbols on the strap is actually an iPod remote control, built into the washable fabric. (The technology is ElekTex "smart fabric" from Eleksen.)

Also built into the US$129 bag, though not into the fabric, are thin, flexible, washable loudspeakers from NXT that leave your ears free to hear traffic and let you share your music with your friends — and, it should be noted, everyone else within earshot. A built-in connector lets you use the speakers with other music players or with a laptop; the bag has compartments for the laptop, music player and a cell phone. CompUSA and other retailers are carrying it.

If music is your bag, this might be as well.

GAMES, VIDEO AND PEACE IN THE BACK SEAT

Anyone who has survived a cross-country road trip with young children knows the value of a portable DVD player. After all, there are few things that can keep children mesmerized more effectively than a favorite movie and a pair of headphones. This holiday season there are dozens of DVD players in the US$100 range, all with rechargeable batteries and headphone jacks.

The Coby V.Zon TF-DVD 560, available for about US$105 from popular retailers, takes the concept up a notch, adding 12 mid-1990s Sega games to the entertainment lineup. The game menu includes fast-paced versions of Sonic the Hedgehog and an addictive Bejeweled-like puzzle game.

The player is designed for fitting into a lap rather than for sharing, with a smallish 3.5-inch screen. It opens like a clamshell to load discs and comes with two power adapters — DC for the car and AC for home — headphones and a carrying pouch. After you reach your destination, you can watch the movies on a TV screen using the AV port (a cable is included) or, in the case of the video games, use the unit as a clunky controller.

FOR PODCASTERs IN THE FIELD, A MORE ADVANCED RECORDER

There is no doubt that podcasts are popular. The Pew Internet and Family Life Project released new survey data this week indicating that more than 17 million people in the US have downloaded podcasts, up from 10 million in April.

All of those podcasts have to be recorded somehow. Samson's Zoom H4 is aimed at podcasters and anyone else who needs to make high-quality digital recordings with what is known as a field recorder.

Like many of its competitors, the Zoom H4 records in MP3 and WAV formats and can produce CD-quality audio. It connects to a computer with a USB cable to transfer files. The built-in stereo microphones are angled to cut down on ambient sounds when interviewing someone in a noisy environment. For the musically minded, the H4 can record two additional tracks with the help of external microphones.

The Zoom H4 is available at the usual retailers and at specialty electronic stores. Navigating the controls on the Zoom H4 is not as intuitive as it might be, but given the price (about US$300) and all those features, this is a minor problem.

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