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All the features that £100 can buy

Ashley Norris, Jack Schofield and SA Mathieson
Thursday August 21, 2003
The Guardian

Digital cameras

Points of view
Sony has unveiled two digital cameras aimed at opposite ends of the market. Destined to become its flagship model when it launches in November, the £900 DSC-F828 has image resolution of eight megapixels and includes Sony's latest HAD CDD, which features a four-colour filter to enhance colour rendition. Also featured is a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens, a new digital signal processor and an LCD display.

Aimed at the first-time buyer, the DSC- U50 is due in October for £230. Its new feature is a rotating lens, which enables users to take pictures of themselves. Image quality is two megapixels, and the camera can record MPeg movies.

Mobile phones

Orange SPV 2
The mobile phone network Orange has confirmed it will ship the third incarnation of its Microsoft Windows-powered smartphone, confusingly titled the SPV 2, in November. Apparently a dead ringer for the current SPV (the SPV E-100), the new model adds an integrated camera (previous models came with external snappers) and Bluetooth to its predecessor's features list. Screen resolution remains the same at 176x220 pixels. The phone will also be triple band for use in the USA as well as Europe, and features truncated versions of Microsoft applications such as Outlook and Internet Explorer. AN


All in a lather
Wave goodbye to those rubber ducks. For the ultimate in bathroom entertainment, the US company Jacuzzi has just unveiled La Scala - a whirlpool bath complete with 42inch plasma screen TV and home entertainment system. While being massaged by water jets, owners can watch DVDs, or listen to CDs or the radio. It is only available in the US, with a price tag of around £18,000, but the UK wing of the company is considering launching a similar product. If the budget doesn't stretch that far, Alba has revived an Online favourite. It has just released a showerproof, though not completely waterproof, CD player/FM radio. It is on sale now for a rather more modest £35.

Palm's up
Palm OS-based systems took 51% of the market for handheld computers or PDAs (personal digital assistants) in this year's second quarter, but the market declined by 7%, according to Gartner research. PocketPC systems running Microsoft software took 35.9% of the market by units but 47.7% by value. Dell entered the handheld market, gaining a 5.3% market share, the same as RIM (Research in Motion). Total unit sales for the quarter were almost 2.5m. Also, after spinning off its operating system division, Palm Inc is now changing its name to palmOne.


Versatile by name....
LG is launching what it is billing as the most versatile DVD burner for the PC so far. The GSA-4040 is the first of its kind that can record on to all three rewritable format discs (DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM) as well as DVD+R and DVD-R write-once discs. The GSA-4040 can also record on to both CD-Rs and CR-RWs. It is the first DVD burner not made by Panasonic to record on to DVD-RAM and is compatible with the new 3x DVD-RAM media due later in the year. The GSA-4040 is on sale now priced at around £200. AN

Broadband trains
Passengers on east-coast trains running between London and Scotland could soon be surfing the internet and checking their email wirelessly. GNER is teaming up with the Swedish mobile company Icomera to deliver a Wi-Fi network. A three-month trial will start next month, with GNER beginning a rollout across all its trains in 2004. The "broadband speed" connection will be provided by a mixture of GPRS and GSM mobile links and satellite communications. The company hasn't said anything yet about how much the service will cost and whether it intends to install electric power points in its carriages. AN

Fringe benefits
Some events at Edinburgh's festivals are selling tickets through a mobile phone system. Customers receive a bar code called a "mobi-ticket", which is checked for validity at the venue by a supermarket-style bar-code scanner. The Assembly Rooms, one of the biggest venues for the festival, said mobile sales have picked up since the festival started, but was unable to provide figures. The mobile ticketing system is built by Mobiqa, an Edinburgh-based firm, which is building a ticket-sales system for the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre. SAM

In conclusion
Glasgow University's computing department has developed software that tracks the development of arguments within documents and looks for material connected to the conclusions. "It's a way of trying to strip out the rhetoric," says Chris Johnson, professor of computing science at the university. He says the software is particularly useful for tracking material used to both support and detract from the conclusions of very large documents, such as those produced by an enquiry. SAM


Faster bubbles
Canon claims its new Canon Bubble Jet i560 printer is the fastest in its class, claiming speeds of 22ppm (pages per minute) in mono and 15ppm in colour. This is 25% faster than its forerunner, the i550. It is also the first Canon Bubble Jet that can print directly from any PictBridge-compatible camera via a USB cable. The printer also features separate ink tanks for each colour, and the tanks are transparent, so you can see they really are empty. The i560 should be available next month for around £149. JS

Think flat
Did you know there was an "aspirational designer space" in the flat-screen monitor market? Samsung Electronics not only believes there is, it has launched two brushed aluminium models to target it: the 15in Syncmaster SM152X (£299) and the 17in SM172X (£419). Both have narrow surrounds, which will appeal to people who want more than one. Samsung says the monitors "can be banked together for a reception area video wall without causing a large interruption to the overall image". The 17in model can accept both digital and analogue video signals. JS

Stat of the week: Falling through the net

Anyone who thinks Whitehall policies are bridging the digital divide will have to think again. These figures show that 68% of the lowest social classes (DEs) have no web access at all, compared with only 19% of the rich ABs.

The Nokia 3300 multimedia phone featured last week is available from Carphone Warehouse.

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