June 2008's 9 coolest gadgets

iPhone killers, Wii for Windows and huge TVs

With summer finally upon us, the sunshine's (sort of) beating down. The weather's getting (a bit) hotter, and so are the gadgets. Here's our top nine products announces in Japan this month.

This month in we've seen a number of classy gizmos emerge from the Far East: from the HTC Touch Pro smartphone — the business-oriented sister handset of the Touch Diamond — to Asus' Wii-like motion-sensitive control. There's even a few TVs for good measure.

Hands-on with HTC's Touch Pro

The strongest impression I took away from HTC's Touch Pro was of the bright, crisp screen on the Windows Mobile 6.1 handset.

From the front the HTC Touch Pro looks much like the Touch Diamond that was launched last month but with the two in my hand it was obvious that the Touch Pro is thicker. The reason is a slide-out Qwerty keyboard that appears from the back of the phone and makes for much easier typing. Each of the keys is beveled so that there's an obvious distinction between each one — a handy feature on a keypad that's relatively small.

In spite of its small size, the well-contoured keyboard and predictive text input system meant that the first sentence I typed on the Touch Pro came out perfectly, something that can't be said for every smartphone I've tried.

The keyboard has been improved from previous models with a fifth row of number keys above the main keyboard. Personally, I hate having to hold down a shift or function key to tap out numbers on smartphones, so the number row is a welcome addition.

The phone felt solid and well-made and the phone's body slid smoothly when the keyboard was pulled out. It wasn't so heavy that it weighed on my hands when typing, another occasional problem on smartphones that restricts use. HTC said it weighs 165g. The 2.8in LCD screen was a pleasure to look at. It has VGA resolution (640 pixels by 480 pixels) so the images appear very sharp and text looks superb. Strong colours enhanced the screen image.

The HTC Touch Pro should be available from August in major markets worldwide. No price was announced.

HTCTouchPRo

Samsung slow-mo HMX20 video camera

Samsung has launched a high-def video camera that can also snap high-resolution digital photos and take smooth slow-motion video.

The Samsung HMX20, which was shown as a prototype at CES in Las Vegas in January, can manage 1080p full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) video and 8MP images. It's also capable of snapping pictures while video is being recorded, a feature that is becoming popular on cameras but is still not standard.

A special feature is the 300 frames per second (fps) shooting mode for slow-motion video. Video is usually recorded at 30fps and becomes jumpy when slowed down, but by recording at 300fps it can be slowed down by as much as 10 times and still appear smooth. Data is recorded on to the internal 8GB of memory or SD or MMC memory cards. Priced at around £428, the camera will initially be available in South Korea.

Launch details for other markets have not been set.

SamsungHMX20

Asus Eee Stick

Taiwan's Asus is bringing Ninetendo Wii-like wireless gaming to the PC.

Eee Sticks are a pair of motion-sensitive controllers that gamers can use to bowl, slash swords and play other games on a PC.

Initially, Asustek plans to bundle the controllers with its popular Eee PC low-cost laptops, and the desktop Eee Box that will be available in mid-August.

Next year, the Eee Sticks will be sold in packs with five to eight games for around £33 to £41. So far, Asustek has only inked licensing agreements with a handful of game companies for their games can be used with Eee Stick.

The company plans to talk with more game developers, including Electronic Arts, to expand its offerings.

EeeStick

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Martyn Williams

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