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Published: Friday, 10/22/2010

Flash-based external hard drives impressive

NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The Iomega USB 3.0 External SSD Flash Drive is an exotic piece of gear but may answer a question that few ask.

The specs of the drive — in storage sizes ranging from 64 gigabytes ($230) to 256 gigabytes ($750) — are impressive. Because the drive is flash-based, it is twice as fast as a comparable hard disk model. And because it incorporates USB 3.0 connectivity, it can transfer data at up to 10 times the speed of USB 2.0, today’s most common version.

But “most common” is the sticking point here. Only a smattering of PC notebooks incorporate the 3.0 standard, including some models from Asus and Dell. Iomega will offer expansion cards to accommodate USB 3.0 devices, but installation can be tricky.

Iomega’s drive, available in stores next month, weighs only a quarter of a pound and is just 0.35 inches thick (it is also backward compatible to USB 2.0). Bonus: The company says that it can survive without damage when dropped from a height of 10 feet.

Just like new

In the car industry, the preferred term for “used” is “certified pre-owned.” It would appear the term is becoming popular in the phone industry as well.

Sprint has announced a program that will sell previously owned phones at a deep discount. The inaugural deal offers a BlackBerry Tour for $80, a Samsung Reclaim for $50 or a Sanyo 2700 for $50. The refurbished Sprints carry a 30-day warranty, compared with one year for the same phone new. Like new phones, refurbished models come in a box with all of the accessories and manuals.

What distinguishes Sprint’s program from used-phone programs at other carriers is its flexibility. People who buy a refurbished phone do not have to extend their contract, and they retain their seniority for getting an upgrade — Sprint doesn’t reset the meter on either of these things.

It is just a matter of time before a phone salesman offers a sweet deal on a slightly used Motorola, owned by a little old lady who used the phone only to speak to her family on Sundays.

Look under the hood

The Lexmark Genesis is unmistakably a printer, albeit a handsome one. It also has impressive new technology under the hood: a digital camera that can scan documents and photos in three seconds.

A look at the Genesis in action showed it to be one of the fastest — if not the fastest — all-in-one scanners around.

Overall, the printer feels solidly built — it is not flimsy plastic like many of the inkjets on the market (and at $399, it certainly should be well constructed). The Genesis is a Web-connected printer that enables you to download documents and photos from the Web for printing. You can also immediately upload scanned photos to sites such as Picasa, Flickr, and Photobucket (Facebook uploads should be available by the time the Genesis is available in early 2011).

The Genesis has a 4.3-inch touch screen for navigating its menu. Better yet, the LCD also previews scans to make sure your document is correctly situated before you hit the Scan button — a handy feature that will save you time and money if you are prone to inserting documents upside down.

New remote technology

Two new TV products released to consumers last week represent different concepts on the future of home entertainment and different philosophies about the use and design of remote controls.

The rectangular keypad for Sony’s Internet TV sets appears intimidating — something like a PlayStation controller, upon which this one is modeled. It has more than 60 keys. Although the keys are small, they are clear to read, with a decent touch. The size is just right for two-handed operation.

The Bose’s Click Pad remote, bundled with the $5,000-plus VideoWave TV, is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Sony, with only six buttons.

It is the soul of simple: channel and volume up/down input source select, power, mute and a “go back” button. The gizmo part is a touch-sensitive navigation square, which corresponds to a display that appears on the perimeter of the TV screen. Different options appear, based on the source of the video content. Glide a finger around the panel to select a function, highlight it and voila, it is done.



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