Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2003

Have a merry gizmo

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Sony Expo's offerings were a statement on the state of high-tech holiday giving — trés cool and, usually, trés, trés expensive.
It starts like this:


Pearl City resident Derek Nguyen is cradling the new Sony DCR-DVD 300 DVD Camcorder as if it were a new-born bird, gently raising it to eye level as a smile widens across his face.

He shoots a hopeful glance at his wife, Joy, his eyebrows jumping up and down like a pair of thin hairy fish out of water.

"Babes," he says again, though Joy is clearly ignoring him. "Christmas, Babes."

Here's hoping that Nguyen was a very good boy this year — say, $1,100 worth of good.

That's about how much Joy or Santa or whoever will have to shell out for Nguyen to get his Christmas wish.

"Boys and their toys," Joy says, surveying the landscape of new-to-market electronics and rapt, mostly-male perusers at the last month's Sony Expo at the Ala Moana Hotel.

The expo's offerings were a statement on the state of high-tech holiday giving — trés cool and, usually, trés, trés expensive.

One school of thought holds that the ideal Christmas gift is more whimsical than practical, more sentimental than pragmatic, above all more timeless than transient.

The latest crop of high-tech toys from Sony and other electronics houses doesn't score especially well on any of those accounts — particularly the last, given the current pace of technological innovation — but for short-term smiles, they're all snowflakes and sugar cookies.

Take the Sony camcorder that Nguyen is gaga over.

This oh-so-logical progression of the traditional camcorder allows users to record directly to 3-inch DVDs that can be played on most home DVD players and PlayStation2 consoles.

The camcorder itself is DVD-based, so users can do basic editing with the camera, skipping to desired segments without rewinding or fast-forwarding. (Thumbnail images of the video are created at the start of every recorded scene.)

The camcorder, with a 3.5-inch swiveling LCD monitor, also shoots still images. It uses a 1.0-megapixel imager for video and still-image resolution up to 1,152 x 864 pixels.

And if you have no idea what this means, don't worry, your dearest tech-head will.

Another popular item at the expo was Sony's tiny, powerful Cyber-shot DSC-P10 ($450).

The 4 1/4-by-2-inch digital camera offers 5.0 megapixel resolution with a 3X optical/4X Smart Zoom lens and a host of "intelligent" autofocus features. It can also take mpeg movies and record voice memos. A USB 2.0 interface allows for speedy transfers.

"It's cute," Joy Nguyen says.

Apple's iPod series of digital music players has been around for a couple of years, but consumer interest has only really begun to spike.

The original iPod could hold about 1,000 songs. Amazing, at the time. The new 40 GB model ($500), released in September, can hold up to 10,000 songs (enough music to be played continuously for four weeks, Apple brags) and thousands of digital photos. It also works as a personal voice recorder.

For serious home-entertainment afficionados, Toshiba's SD-H400 Digital Media Server is a networkable DVD player, TiVo Series2 digital video recorder (DVR), and 80GB media server in one.

The SD-400 is the first digital video recorder to feature free bundled TiVo Basic service, which can be upgraded for expanded service.

The TiVo Home Media Option premium feature allows consumers to connect to a wired or wireless home network to integrate TiVo Series2 DVRs, digital music, photo, and video streaming from a PC, and remote scheduling through an outside computer browser.

For teens, the new have/have-not distinction may be who has a camera phone and who doesn't. The distinction extends to their parents: Those who have already bought their teen a camera phone may actually be enjoying a moment of peace.

LG's VX6000 phone (price varies with plan) for Verizon Wireless features a built-in camera with zoom control and three resolution adjustments. It also has Internet, messaging and other expanded capabilities.

Nokia's popular 3650 phone ($300 without service) features an integrated digital VGA camera and video recorder (for short clips, Internet capability, voice dialing, multimedia messaging and an array of PDA-like features.

And finally, for people with deep pockets and a desire for maximum TV gratification, a staggering array of Jumbotron-like plasma television sets are on the market this Christmas.

There are several 42-inch models, including the Samsung 4235 ($4,000), the Panasonic TH42 ($4,000), the Akai PDP 4290 ($3,000) and the Sony KE42XBR900 ($9,000) — all suitable for hanging.

Or you can trade in the mini-van and get yourself the world's largest high-definition plasma monitor TV, Samsung's monster 63-inch HPN6339 model ($20,000) — mostly likely through special order.

If all of this is too rich for your blood, not all technology purchases require a credit check.

JBL Creature Speakers, which look a bit like Star Wars storm-trooper helmets, are compatible with PCs and Macs and feature touch controls and a powerful subwoofer. They're about $125.

Perhaps it would be easier to ask Santa for an ATM.

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 535-2461.