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Sun 24 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Inspecting gadgets

A round-up of the latest executive gadgets, from the MacBook Air to Samsung's latest smartphone.

ACN rounds up the latest and greatest executive gadgets, from the much-discussed MacBook Air to Samsung's latest smartphone.

Apple MacBook Air

Steve Jobs certainly knows how to make a stir. His recent product launch of the MacBook Air has set the internet on fire with criticism and praise for Apple's offering in the ultra-portable laptop market.

The fact to be noted here, however, is that this is an ultra-portable - it isn't intended as a user's only PC. As such, a lot of the criticism around the built-in battery and lack of ports and drives is somewhat redundant.

In order to get the Air to its incredibly thin (1.94cm) and incredibly light (1.36kg) self, something had to go.

The lack of optical drive is common in ultra-portables and although only one USB port could be a problem for some users, that is why USB hubs were invented.

With built-in Bluetooth 2.1, peripherals like a keyboard and mouse shouldn't be a problem, and that is even if users would want them, given that there's no scrimping on keyboard size and there is a large multi-touch trackpad.

The built-in battery could be the biggest hurdle to overcome as many people carry a spare battery to extend laptop use. However, Apple is claiming five hours of battery life and the battery can be replaced by Apple when the time comes.

The ultra-portable market has plenty to offer, some of it at a much cheaper price than US$1,799 for 80Gbyte hard drive or $3,099 for 64Gbyte solid state (a price which could be higher in the Middle East).

But in the end, Jobs knows his market - those who love all things Apple and those who want technologies that look amazing, whatever the cost, will be queuing up for the Air when it is released mid-February in the Middle East.
Sony ICDUX70 and ICDUX80

While dictation devices come in all shapes and sizes, Sony has added some innovative touches to its new ICDUX70 and ICDUX80, due to be available to users for any and all recording needs by the end of January.

These recorders feature 1Gbyte and 2Gbyte storage respectively, so users won't have to rush to their computers to upload their sound bites as soon as they have been recorded.

This kind of storage size means Sony can claim up to 290 hours of recordings in long play (LP) mode for the ICDUX70 and an incredible 581 hours for the 2Gbyte ICDUX80.

The devices feature a built-in USB connection that can be plugged directly into a USB port (rather than a USB adaptor) which means no extra items to carry around and the spare storage space can be used as a flash drive.

And, of course, as this is a Sony device, that spare storage can also be used to house a user's favourite albums.

Those albums can be downloaded in the usual way from a PC but direct audio encoding from CD players is also possible. And in case users are thinking that these devices are recorders with MP3 playback thrown in, Sony has added some extras for music quality - several pre-defined equaliser settings, including rock, pop and classical.

Definitely the best feature of these devices though, is internal batteries - rechargeable through the USB jack.

Anyone who has ever owned a dictation device will be only too aware of how many AA or AAA batteries they will have to buy over the lifetime of the recorder and of how nasty that sinking feeling is - when they realise they don't have any spare batteries on them and the lecture/interview/meeting is going to start in half an hour.
Samsung SGH-i780 (i780)

This may not be the best-looking phone available, but it's not going to look out of place in any executive pocket and those who might scoff would do well to take in its impressive list of features.

To begin with, connectivity is never going to be a problem with an i780, which is a 3.5G phone with HSDPA, giving download speeds of up to 3.6Mbit/s, and if that doesn't cover it, try the UMTS, EDGE, GPRS, WiFi or, of course, Bluetooth.

The phone's OS is Windows Mobile 6 Professional, so users will be able to work with Microsoft Office documents, browse the web, play back a variety of multimedia files and read email either traditionally or with Microsoft's DirectPush technology.

The display is a 2.6 inch 320 x 320 pixel touchscreen, featuring navigation via mouse pointer with the stylus.

And with a 2 megapixel camera featuring a secondary VGA unit for video calling, and built-in GPS, there isn't much left out of the i780.

Storage comes in 256Mbyte ROM and 128Mbyte RAM, which can be extended through a microSD card.

Though the design might not light anyone's fire, it's tidy and features a BlackBerry-style QWERTY keyboard.

As well as all that, for the boring commute to work, the i780 also has MP3 and an FM radio, nice for those who might like to catch the news or the traffic report on the way to work, or just don't have the time to upload the latest music.

At the time of going to print there was as yet no word on battery life and price, although the phone is expected to be available in the Middle East by March.

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