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August 2004 Gadget Roundup

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Alexander Grundner filters through all the new gadget product announcements to bring you hottest picks of the month.
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Another great month in gadgets, with a couple of surprise portable media player announcements from Apex Digital and Archos. Consumers can also prepare themselves for a myriad of network media devices that allow users to stream digital videos, music, and photos from their PCs to a media adapter connected to a television or stereo.

This new segment, which is known as the "digital home" lifestyle, is one of the fastest-growing consumer electronic markets in 2004 and will most likely remain that way for the next few years.

Pinnacle ShowCenter 1.5 with PVR Functionality

Pinnacle Systems has just updated its Pinnacle ShowCenter media adapter to version 1.5, which can now handle Internet radio and personal video recording (PVR) functions (see Figure 1). However, since the ShowCenter media adapter itself doesn't have an internal hard drive, it will actually communicate your TV programming commands to a networked PC for storage and playback.

Figure 1Figure 1


Here's an excerpt from Pinnacle Systems' press release:

ShowCenter 1.5 enables users to benefit from PVR features such as time shifting, to pause live television, watch instant replays, and skip through a recording in progress; as well as easily program their PC to record their favorite programs. Recordings are stored on the PC's hard drive and are accessible from the ShowCenter TV-based interface. Users can also archive recordings by burning them to CD or DVD in MPEG 2 format. The ShowCenter 1.5 PVR features are compatible with the PCTV Stereo, PCTV, PCTV Pro, and PCTV USB2.

With ShowCenter 1.5, users can also listen to their favorite Internet radio stations. ShowCenter 1.5 supports Internet radio stations compatible with the ShoutCast standard. ShowCenter 1.5 [also] includes numerous usability enhancements such as volume control via the ShowCenter remote, photo thumbnail view of albums and slideshows, photo rotation, pan and zoom-in, and color correction. Both the ShowCenter Player and the ShowCenter PC application now support an even wider range of MPEG4 formats.

ShowCenter 1.5 is expected to be available this summer and will sell for around $299. It's also interesting to point out that ShowCenter 1.5 will be the first media adapter to market with PVR functionality. PRISMIQ has one in the works, but no release date has been set.

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