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Definition-Defying A/V Portables Rolled Out

Portable A/V devices on display here at CES defy simple one- or two-word descriptions, but suppliers hope that won’t deter consumer acceptance.

These digital Swiss Army knives offer something for everyone in a compact package, from playing music to playing video recorded off a TV or transferred from a PC. Some add the ability to snap pictures like a digital still camera, capture full-motion video like a camcorder and record voices like a digital voice recorder.

Here’s a sample of what dealers will find:

Archos: Mockups of the new AV500 series of HDD-based portable audio/video players will be shown. Second-quarter delivery is targeted. Details were unavailable. The company already offers the AV300 series, which displays video transferred from a PC or recorded directly from a TV.

Creative Labs: The company will host a technology demonstration of its first a portable HDD based on Microsoft’s Portable Media Center platform, formerly known as Media2Go. The device reproduces music and video transferred from a PC. At press time, the company wasn’t sure whether the model that it will demonstrate would reflect the final form factor. Late-year shipments are planned.

Panasonic: In its D-Snap line of A/V portables, the company will introduce two models that boost performance and SD card memory capacity by an amount that hasn’t been disclosed. Two current models offer 32MB and 64MB.

The new SV-AV25 and SV-AV50 play MP3 and ACC audio, improve digital-camera resolution to 2.1 megapixels from VGA, and take DVD-quality MPEG-4 video at 30fps, up from 15fps. They’re due in March at a suggested $299 and $399, the latter with docking station for recording TV programs for portable playback. Both also feature 2.5x zoom lens, built-in microphone and speakers, voice recorder, and swiveling 2-inch color LCD screen.

Philips: The company plans to launch its first key ring-sized digital still camera/camcorder. The $249-suggested KEY019 boasts 129MB flash memory, 2-megapixel still camera, and ability to take 30 minutes of full-motion MPEG-4 video at 30fps. It also plugs directly into a USB port. The first-generation model lacks zoom, because of cost, and flash because of size, the company said.

Samsung: The multimedia YH-990 with 30GB 1.8-inch HDD is due in July at a tentative $499 MAP. Its color LCD screen displays jpeg pictures and DivX-encoded video transferred from a PC. The video could be downloaded via the Internet or ripped from DVDs.

It plays MP3 and WMA files and supports WMA’s DRM to play authorized downloads. It also features USB 2.0 and MP3 encoder to record CDs directly from a home CD player.

DivX is an MPEG-4 based codec developed by DivX Networks of San Diego to offer DVD-quality at 10 times greater compression than MPEG-2 files. With MPEG-4, a two-hour video would fit on a single CD in S-VHS quality, its backers have said. Consumers could store two 1.5-hour DVDs per gigabyte on the device in MPEG-4, Samsung noted.

The device also features voice recording, FM tuner, FM transmitter and 20-hour playback time on its lithium-polymer battery.

Vivitar: The DVR-200S is a digital video camera with digital-still and voice-recording capabilities. Shipping in March, it features a 2.1-megapixel image sensor for stills and records MPEG-4 video to its 64MB internal memory or to an SD memory card.

The unit features a 1.5-inch TFT LCD display and several MPEG-4 recording settings: 640 by 480 at 25fps and 320 by 240 at 30fps with or without sound. Recording without sounds requires less memory and extends recording capacity by 20 percent.

Other features of the DVR-200S include an integral flash with red-eye reduction (for digital still mode), focus-free operation, automatic white balance, automatic exposure compensation control (with manual compensation), and a 10-second self-timer. The model ships with USB and video output cables, uses two AA batteries or a single CR-V3, and will retail for a suggested $249.95.

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