Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1

Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1

Sanyo Xacti VPC-TH1

When U.S. television switched to broadcasting in high-definition, many shows were forced to change their production design: HD images are so crisp and clear that any blemish on the set – paint jobs, cracks in the wall, the old sofa in the corner – would have jumped out at viewers right away. Hollywood's plastic surgeons, needless to say, saw a similar boost in business as Home Depot did.

Now the HD revolution is shaking up the world of home video, and while the effect on Botox sales may be hard to predict, it's certainly easy to believe that high-defintion camcorders deliver the same pristine picture quality known from HDTV. After all, "high-definition" means an image size of at least 1280x720 pixels – roughly three times as many as a standard television picture contains. "Full HD" even stands for 1920x1080 pixels, big enough to make you go "Wow!" on even the largest home-theatre screens.

Unfortunately, a higher pixel count alone doesn't mean you'll get a sharper image. In fact, the result can even be inferior to a good SD camcorder.

Xacti VPC-TH1 Outdoor video sample

Xacti VPC-TH1 Indoor video sample

I learned this lesson the hard way when I bought Sanyo's new Xacti VPC-TH1 before visiting Tarzan's old buddy Cheeta (hey, you've got to be prepared when you interview a Hollywood legend). The TH1 is a step up from super-cheap HD minis like the popular Flip camcorder, but at roughly $275 street price it doesn't burn a hole in your wallet like many rival, more ambitious consumer camcorders, such as Panasonic's HDC-TM20 or Samsung's new HMX-H100.

At about the size of an iPhone, the Xacti TH1 is a nicely compact camcorder – even though it's much more bulky, of course, than Apple's slim phone. There's a grip belt to help you hold the camera steady, and I found that the TH1 fit nicely in my hand, without being too small and fiddly or too big and clumsy. Operating the camera is fairly intuitive, with good placement of all buttons you regularly need. For navigating the menus, as well as choosing video clips in playback mode, there's a little four-way rocker on the back.

The 30x zoom starts at a film equivalent of 43mm and extends all the way to 1,290mm. In other words, you can get close from very far away. In a nice touch for this kind of camera, the focal range is open to improvement: Sanyo offers a couple of adapter lenses that can give the TH1 a wide-angle view, for example. Filters, however, are at this point only available for certain other models.

The Xacti, like many new camcorders, uses flash memory – SD cards – to store its videos. The big advantage over traditional tape is that you can copy the files to your PC in mere seconds. Also, there's no waiting for the tape to rewind while you're reviewing your shots in-camera. Some camcorders store video on hard drives, but hard drives tend to be less robust than flash memory, and they're heavier, too.

Shooting in HD means files of massive size, so all video the Xacti captures is compressed in Mpeg-4 format, specifically AVC/H.264. The TH1 has a maximum resolution of 1280x720 – the smaller HD version – and can store about 2 hours of best-quality video on an 8 GB memory card. The battery, in my experience, easily lasts this long, and my only gripe is that it needs to be charged in-camera, with a bulky power adapter and a whole lot of cables attached (see image gallery).

For video editing, Sanyo provides Windows users with its own software, called "TotalMedia Extreme". On my Mac, I could simply use iMovieHD or iMovie '09, both of which accepted the H.264 files right out of the camera. Any HD editing, however, requires a modern computer – don't try this at home if your PC can still remember the Y2K scare and has a hard drive whose size is measured in double-digits.

Sanyo brands its new Xacti models as "Dual Cameras", claiming they are equally adept at taking photos and videos. Feel free to laugh now when you hear that the TH1 takes pictures at the stunning resolution of 2 megapixels. (Yep, that's "two" – there's nothing missing.) The TH1's bigger brother, imaginatively named FH1, boasts 8 megapixels, so perhaps it can serve as photo camera in a pinch. I haven't tried it, but I certainly wish I'd spent the extra money to buy the FH1 for $500 instead of its smaller, cheaper sibling.

The FH1 does "Full HD", meaning it also features a bigger image sensor: 1/2.5-inch (1 cm) rather than 1/6-inch (0.4 cm). The difference is eye-popping. Let's compare, for want of an FH1, my smaller-chip TH1 with Casio's recently reviewed EX-F1, which features full HD video recording as well and uses an image sensor sized 1/1.8-inch (1.4 cm). While the Casio delivered mostly nice, clean videos under various lighting conditions, the Xacti often disappoints. Even in bright sunlight, artefacts of in-camera sharpening are clearly visible when you look closely. And once you start shooting indoors, image noise becomes painfully obvious.

The autofocus, meanwhile, reminded me of public transportation in San Francisco: just like buses here, it tends to come and go without rhyme or reason. In a number of cases the image suddenly turned blurry even though the camera was mounted on a tripod and the subject did not move. Similarly, the "image stabilizer" seems to have no visible effect – probably because it's not an optical stabilizer but merely a digital one.

None of this may matter to people who simply want a point-and-shoot camcorder that also does some sort of HD recording. If you find the image quality in our samples good enough, the little Xacti actually offers a lot of value for the money. Handling and battery life turned out to be a nice surprise, and the lens adapters can make the camera much more versatile. But ultimately you get what you pay for – and "high-definition" does not always mean perfect pictures. Sometimes, when you see your recordings, HD may merely stand for "Half-Decent".

TwoNav Aventura GPS Receiver

TwoNav Aventura GPS Receiver

The TwoNav Aventura GPS receiver is something special as it is able to accept virtually any kind of map without running into compatibility issues, which means you can rock to vector and raster imagery, enabling folks to access aerial photos among others. Sounds like the perfect tool for folks who want to scan and calibrate any type of map prior to uploading to the deice. The Aventura also comes with a 3.5" touchscreen display that is ideal for both handheld and automobile use, featuring pre-loaded Tele Atlas maps and topo maps for most countries where it is sold. Depending on your preference, the display can be rotated in either portrait or landscape mode. It is rainproof and powered by a SiRFStar III chipset, offering an SDHC memory card slot, an electronic compass, a barometric altimeter and up to 20 hours of battery life. Expect to pick up the TwoNav Aventura this June 1 in Europe for 599 Euros.

Sony Ericsson Aino

Sony Ericsson Aino

Sony Ericsson isn't about to throw in the towel where cellphones are concerned, and they have underlined their intent of staying in the game with the Aino - the first touchscreen slider from Sony Ericsson that stores a number pad and navigation keys right under its 3" display. In addition, it is also the first (and surely not the last) handset from Sony Ericsson that boasts tight integration with the PlayStation 3, allowing one to use the Remote Play feature in order to groove to music or watch shows from the console despite being far away from home. Other features include an 8.1-megapixel camera with flash and image stabilization, 3G connectivity and assisted GPS to help you get around. Nice to see the Memory Stick format ditched in favor of microSDHC this time round. The Sony Ericsson Aino is tipped to ship this fall for a yet undisclosed price. [Press Release]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Multifunction Digital Thermometer - More DIY How To Projects

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NVIDIA ION Graphics Processors


ION Manufacturer Nvidia

NVIDIA ION is a system/motherboard platform that includes NVIDIA's GeForce 9400M (MCP79) GPU and Intel's Atom on a Pico-ITXe motherboard designed for netbook and nettop devices. In February 2009, Microsoft certified the upcoming ION-based PCs as Vista-capable.[1] The small form factor ION-based PCs are expected to be released in the summer of 2009, starting at $299.99.

It was originally believed to be unlikely that ION systems would be manufactured en masse and were thus unlikely to pose a serious rival to Intel's Atom platform, due to Intel's unwillingness to supply Atom processors separate from the 945GSE and 945GC chipsets with which the CPUs are usually supplied.[2] While manufacturers could still buy an Atom-plus-chipset package and remove the CPU for use on a ION board, it hardly seems likely given the costs involved. Especially bearing in mind the low-cost leanings of the nettop and netbook market.[3] However, Intel later denied those claims, and a spokesperson for Intel said Intel sells Atom as a stand-alone processor.[4]

NVIDIA has announced that it will also release the ION platform for the VIA Nano processor in Q4 2009.[5]

Acer have annouced the release of the AspireRevo which is the first model to be built on the Ion.

A company called Zotac also launched 2 Nvidia Ion based motherboards. They plan to launch a total of 4.