Digital Gear: Ringing in the new USB drive

New features in some recently announced products make portable Universal Serial Bus (USB) drives more user friendly. Lexar Media Inc.'s JumpDrive Mercury USB drive has a built-in capacity gauge to show remaining storage space. Royal Consumer Information Products Inc.'s Royal EZVue Vista USB drive has a scrolling display that shows the drive's file names and directories. Satugo is an attractive, ball-shaped bouncing digital camera that doubles as a USB storage device and webcam. Speaking of appearances, Cybernet Manufacturing Inc.'s space-saving ZPC-9000 desktop PC uses only a keyboard and monitor, giving desks a cleaner look. VTech Communications Inc.'s feature-packed MI6879 cordless phone looks nice with a handset that displays color wallpapers and icons.

VTech's colorful cordless

VTech's sleek MI6879 cordless phone has a handset resembling a cell phone -- it has a color LCD screen that shows wallpapers in addition to icons indicating remaining battery, signal strength and unheard voice mail. Adding color to the handset is the keypad's orange backlight.

The base station is the heart of the phone -- it has a four-handset capability and allows for internal intercom, call transfers and conferencing. In addition to supporting Caller ID and call waiting, the phone accommodates 15 minutes of voice mail and stores phone numbers of 50 received calls. It has a phone-book directory that accommodates 50 names and numbers.

VTech says the MI6879 has a longer range compared to 2.4-GHz cordless phones since it uses the 5.8-GHz spectrum. It costs $119 with one handset and is available at online.

Lexar uses e-paper tech

Among the first USB flash drives using electronic paper technology is Lexar Media's upcoming JumpDrive Mercury, which has a capacity gauge showing remaining storage space. The paper-thin gauge is based on Electronic Paper Display technology developed by E Ink Corp., according to Lexar Media, which displayed the drive at last week's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The e-paper gauge doesn't require power and operates on its own without a battery, according to Lexar. The drive will come in 1GB and 2GB capacities. Lexar did not provide pricing or availability information.

View flash drive contents

Royal Consumer Information Products recently announced Royal EZVue Vista, a USB drive with a display that shows the names of files and directories stored on the drive. That saves consumers from connecting the drive to a PC just to see its contents, according to the company. The black-and-white display shows two file names at once; four buttons next to the display allow users to skip between directories and file names. The drives, which range in capacity from 128MB to 1GB, are priced between $49.99 and $149.99.

A space saver

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

The PC uses less energy than standard desktop PCs, according to the company. Including the power supply, the keyboard with all standard components weighs around 8.8 lb. Available in black and white, the ZPC-9000 costs $570.


Also at the CES, Newton Peripherals LLC displayed MoGo Mouse BT, a portable Bluetooth mouse that fits in a laptop's PC Card slot. The mouse is a cross between a standard wireless mouse and a laptop's trackpad. Opening a handle raises one side of the credit-card-size mouse, giving it the shape of a standard wireless mouse. Like a laptop's trackpad, the mouse's top surface is used to navigate and click.

It is priced at $69.95.

Bouncing photos

Satugo isn't an ordinary digital camera -- when the ball-shaped camera bounces, instead of breaking, it takes pictures. 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.

The camera takes a picture when it hits its target. The camera's rubber exterior absorbs the impact.

But this is more than just a bouncing camera. Tapping the ball activates a built-in timer, which takes pictures in the air at timed intervals. Photographs are stored on the camera's 1GB internal storage drive. The cord also connects to a PC's USB port, so it doubles as a portable storage device and webcam. The $69 camera ships later this year.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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