- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

Juice Box from Mattel, stand-alone unit requiring three AA batteries, $59.99. Mattel tries to squeeze into the already crowded world of hand-held personal media players with a product far cooler from a technological point of view than actual application.

I’m not sure tweens need another device with a 3-inch screen to watch cartoons and a stereo headset output to listen to music, but the toy company known for Hot Wheels and Barbie appears to be certain of it.

Its wallet-size device uses micro media cards, dubbed Juiceware, that can store up to 176 minutes of video entertainment.

What stands out is not the ability to watch slightly grainy episodes of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Courage the Cowardly Dog” or Discovery Channel specials (available as separate Juiceware, $9.99 for two cartoons or around $24.99 for a full-length feature), but the unit’s groundbreaking memory system.

Mattel has teamed up with Matrix Semiconductor Inc., which has perfected multilayered, 3-D integrated circuits to introduce even lower-cost memory options into the consumer market. The Matrix-3DM-based cartridges can contain up to 64 megabytes of on-the-go music and video entertainment for much less money than current flash memory.

Although the unit also is able to store personal photographs and play MP3 formatted music, to do so Juice Box owners must purchase a starter kit that comes with PC software and an adapter to hold SD cards ($39.99, a 32 megabyte card included). That purchase pushes the once-price-friendly unit to more than $100.

Considering the functionality of high-tech hand-held devices such as the Nintendo DS ($149), ZVUE MP4 Video Player ($149.99) or GoVideo 128 MB Pocket Cinema Personal Video/Audio Player ($144), which all offer better multimedia options for slightly more money, tweens should spend as much time researching their on-the-go multimedia choice as immersing themselves in it.

Note: Apparently Mattel has heard the pricing footsteps of comparable players, and some retailers are throwing in the MP3 starter kit for free while dropping the price of the Juice Box to the $49 range.

ADVC110 from Canopus, stand-alone unit requiring computer or digital editing system, $319. Serious archivists in the family have a painless way of converting analog tape moments to a digital format with a box the size of a paperback novel and a single connection to a computer.

The possibilities of getting VHS or camcorder footage into a computer are endless with varying degrees of clarity, installation and software compatibility. However, I found the ADVC110 easily one of the best of the bunch.

Any computer with a firewire connection and almost any film editing software package can take advantage of the unit.

Basically, if users have a Macintosh with 10.1 or higher operating system they already have a free I-Movie software editing package. A PC owner with a DVD-ROM burner and Windows XP or 2000 operating system also will have some type of free package.

Users simply connect the firewire cable to the computer, connect the unit via S-Video or RCA video/audio jacks to a VHS player or camcorder output jacks and start importing video through the on-board software packages.

The device supports NTSC, PAL and SECAM standards and will even record audio tracks.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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