THE LATEST CROP OF TECH DEVICES

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LAS VEGAS - The plastic and silicon mountains of gear at the
Consumer Electronics Show last week seemed impossibly high and wide at
times, but they yielded more than a few products and services worth
talking about.

Many products heralded the mainstream arrival of home networks for
all types of personal and entertainment content - photos, music, and
movies among them. One such product is the Prismiq MediaPlayer/
Recorder, which manages all that content for the well-entertained
homeowner. Input can come from local sources such as the family's
digital camera and from a wealth of broadband sources, including
television, video on demand, and Internet radio.

Prismiq has its own TV receiver and, when combined with storage
space on a networked PC, becomes a digital recorder, a la TiVo or
Replay TV (without having to buy one of those, of course). For playback
of recorded shows or any other content, Prismiq can send media to any
device on the network; the interface is on a TV screen. Prismiq has a
suggested sale price of about $200.

Products such as the Prismiq are an example of convergence, the
long-predicted unification of devices into one multifaceted unit. CES
2004 provided evidence that the phenomenon has gone from being a
concept to actually crossing the threshold and entering the home. Or,
you could say, entering the office. The way devices are coming
together, the question of whether a product is for home or office is
becoming passe.

Look at the Tek Panel 300, for example, which is touted for
government, business, and home use. A 5-inch deep LCD screen that
includes a computer, television tuner, DVD player/recorder, and Bose
sound output affixes to the wall. It's operated with a wireless
keyboard and mouse and appears suitable for uses ranging from
PowerPoint presentations and surfing to gaming and home theater.

The 30-inch-screen unit sells for $5,800, and a 37-inch version
sells for about $8,000. It seemed on first reaction to be a lot of
money, but for those attracted to such an all-in-one solution, it would
replace several other devices. The package includes a Pentium 4
processor, 512 megabytes of RAM, and a 120-gig abyte hard drive.

Another class of products, exemplified by the Archos AV320, promises
to do for multimedia what iPod did for music: take it all on the road.
It will hold or record MPEG-4 video and play it back either on its own
3.8-inch color screen or on a standard-size monitor. It also records
audio - from FM radio, CDs, or other sources - and plays it back. It
stores digital still images, and with an optional module it can take
them as well. With other modules, it can download images from smart
cards or other media so they can be wiped clean and reused without
connecting to a laptop or desktop computer.

Though it has the weight and size of a still camera, the AV320 has
20 gigabytes of storage - enough for about 80 hours of video - and a
company representative said that 40- and 80-gigabyte models are on the
way. The retail price is $549; the camera module is about $200.

To hear several sources tell it, the impending arrival of HDTV in
the typical home has been a CES topic for several years. Just as with
home networks, that discussion is finally over because HDTV has clearly
arrived. Projectors and flat screens pumping out high- definition
content were everywhere, and several companies boasted that they were
on the verge of releasing HD recorder/players. One of these is LG
Electronics' LGXBG420, which is to retail at somewhere shy of $3,000
when it's released in the summer.

It will rely on Blu-ray, an optical-disc technology that uses a
blue-violet laser instead of a DVD's red one, allowing discs to hold 27
gig abytes, compared with less than five for DVDs. It will also have a
200-gigabyte hard drive, huge by today's standards. The drawback of
Blu-ray devices is that they won't read DVDs, meaning that enthusiasts
will have to keep both types of players on hand or buy their DVD movies
again in the new format, much as music listeners did when CDs replaced
vinyl.

It is matters such as these that kept the hum at a high pitch during CES's four days.