Friday, June 09, 2006

Philips unveils gaming screens, VoIP and music gear

Christmas comes early
Rosemary Haworth

Philips yesterday showcased the products it will be pushing in the run-up to Christmas. While a few of the items on show were from its current list of consumer items, there were new takes on some existing models and a couple of real gems.

First, Philips has a cunning deal with the soon-to-be-launched Microsoft Windows Live portal (the successor to MSN) that enables the company to offer Live Messenger IM (instant messaging) contacts lists on its dual-purpose VoIP (voice over IP) and landline telephones.

An exclusive European deal between Microsoft and Philips means users will be able to scroll down their Messenger contacts on the colour VOIP 4331 handset and quickly see who's online and whether they are available to chat. A VoIP conversation can then be initiated at the press of a button, for which no call charge will be incurred.

Alternatively, the handset can be used for standard landline calls, meaning there's no need to have two handsets for separate types of phone call. It is part of Philips' attempt to divorce the VoIP low-cost calls concept from the PC and to embrace a wider, more consumer market.

The VOIP 4331 will be onsale for around £79 within the next week or two via major high-street and online retailers. For houses with several chatterboxes, Philips will be selling a two-handset pack, the VOIP 4332, for £119.

Skype fans may prefer the £69 VOIP 3211, which is a pure VoIP offering but uses Dect technology to offer call clarity and the ability to chat from as far as 300m from the base unit. That unit connects via USB to the PC and piggybacks its broadband connection – again, meaning proximity to a PC is not required.

Gamers get to drool over a 19in LCD screen with some proper built-in 20W speakers that put to shame the weedy things found on most monitors. The 190G6 screen has a refresh rate of 8ms and a native resolution of 1,280x1,024 pixels. It comes with an accompanying subwoofer and has customisable buttons on its base to switch between music genres. Costing around £449, it will be available in around a month's time.

Other interesting product announcements included a micro hi-fi that can rip CDs and has a USB port at the front so you can immediately transfer your music collection to your MP3 player. The MCM760 has a likely list price of £170. Philips is also extending its DAB offerings with a £180 DAB micro hi-fi, the MCB700, and showed us a prototype version of its portable DAB clock radio, which it aims to launch later this year for around £70. According to the AJ5100's engineer, it will run for the best part of a week on a set of six AA batteries.

Philips will also be launching a 2GB flash-based MP3 player that looks-wise is the same as the 30GB HDD6320 MP3 and photo player launched six months ago. There were also hints that the company is looking at launching a video MP3 player in due course.

There will be additions to the line up of 1.3Mp (megapixel) webcams Philips offers, a redesigned and significantly cheaper range of Ambilight 3 LCD TVs and more choice in the digital photo frames category – which, a company spokesman told us, is now a significant market.


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