Digital Gear: Ringing in the New USB Drive

New features in recently announced products make portable USB drives more useful--and user friendly. For example, Lexar Media's JumpDrive Mercury USB drive has a built-in capacity gauge that shows the remaining available storage space. And Royal Consumer Information Products' Royal EZVue Vista USB drive has a scrolling display that shows the names of files and directories stored on the drive.

Satugo is an attractive ball-shaped bouncing digital camera that doubles as a USB storage device and Webcam. Speaking of appearances, Cybernet Manufacturing's space-saving ZPC-9000 desktop PC consists of a keyboard and monitor, giving desks a cleaner look. VTech Communications' feature-packed MI6879 cordless phone also looks nice, with a handset that displays wallpaper and icons in color.

VTech's Colorful Cordless

VTech's sleek MI6879 cordless phone resembles a cell phone: The handset has a color LCD that displays wallpaper images as well as icons indicating remaining battery life, signal strength, and whether you have unheard voice mail. The keypad's orange backlight adds additional color.

VTech MI6879

The base station is the heart of the phone; it supports four handsets and a wealth of features including caller ID, call waiting, internal intercom, call transfers, and conferencing. The unit can store up to 15 minutes of voice mail and phone numbers for 50 received calls. It has a 50-entry phone book.

VTech says the MI6879's range is greater than that of 2.4-GHz cordless phones because it uses the 5.8-GHz band. It's expected to ship this spring with a price tag of $119, which includes one handset.

Lexar Uses E-Paper Technology

Lexar Media JumpDrive Mercury

Among the first USB flash drives to use electronic paper technology is Lexar Media's upcoming JumpDrive Mercury, which has a capacity gauge showing the remaining available storage space. The paper-thin gauge is based on technology developed by E Ink, which also provided the technology for the upcoming Sony Reader electronic book. The e-paper gauge doesn't require a battery, Lexar says. The JumpDrive Mercury, announced at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is slated to ship this spring in 1GB and 2GB versions priced at about $100 and $170, respectively.

View Flash Drive Contents

Royal EZVue Vista

Royal Consumer Information Products' Royal EZVue Vista is a USB memory drive with a display that shows the names of files and directories stored on the device: You don't have to connect the drive to a PC just to see its contents. The black-and-white display shows two file names at a time; four buttons next to the display allow users to toggle between directories and files. The drives range in capacity from 128MB to 1GB and are priced between $50 and $150.

A Space Saver

Cybernet ZPC-9000

Joining the space-saving PC fray is Cybernet Manufacturing, which displayed its Zero-Footprint-PC 9000, or ZPC-9000, at CES. The ZPC-9000 packs all its components into a keyboard, including up to 2GB of DDR RAM, an Intel Pentium 4 HT processor running at up to 3.2 GHz, a removable hard drive, a 7-in-1 card reader, an Ethernet card, a CD-RW/DVD drive, a trackpad mouse, integrated sound and graphics, and four USB ports.

The ZPC-9000 uses less energy than standard desktop PCs, according to the company. Including the power supply, the unit outfitted with standard components weighs around 8.8 pounds. Available in either black or white, the ZPC-9000 will go for as little as $570 without a monitor; monitors start at $225.

Portable Bluetooth Mouse

Newton Peripherals MoGo Mouse BT

Also at CES, Newton Peripherals displayed its MoGo Mouse BT, a portable Bluetooth mouse that, when not in use, collapses into a flat credit-card-sized form that fits into a laptop's PC Card slot for both storage and recharging.

When you're ready to use it, pull it out and open a handle to flip up a kickstand that gives the MoGo some height. It connects wirelessly to any Bluetooth-enabled notebook. The MoGo Mouse BT is expected to ship in March for $70.

Bouncing Photos

Satugo

Satugo isn't an ordinary digital camera: When the ball-shaped camera bounces, it takes pictures instead of breaking. The 3-megapixel camera-ball is targeted at people who enjoy "bouncing balls" and "taking pictures," according to designers Larsen Jacobsen and Eschel Jacobsen of Denmark.

When Satugo strikes a surface, it captures a photo while its rubber exterior absorbs the impact. You can tap the ball to activate a built-in timer, which takes pictures at set intervals. Satugo stores the images it captures on a 1GB internal drive. The camera comes with a cable that connects to a PC's USB port, so it doubles as a portable storage device and Webcam. The Jacobsens plan to ship the $69 camera later this year.

Agam Shah is an editor with the IDG News Service, based in San Francisco. Questions or comments? Write to Agam Shah.
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