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Traveler's Tech

We test the best portable gadgets for the streetwise
Steve Morgenstern
From the Print Edition:
Michael Jordan, July/August 2005

(continued from page 1)

HP Photosmart 375
Why wait until you get home to print out your travel snapshots? This compact printer cranks out beautiful 4 x 6-inch prints and you don't even need a computer—just slip a memory card into one of the provided slots (all the major formats are supported) or connect it to your camera with a USB cable, and you're good to go. And speaking of "going," you can run the printer off an optional rechargeable battery ($80) or car adapter ($40) for maximum portability.

To make computer-free printing that much easier, the Photosmart 375 includes a flip-up 2.5-inch LCD screen that simplifies picking your pictures for printing. You can also perform basic photo-editing functions right on the printer, including cropping, red-eye elimination, image sharpening and brightness/contrast adjustment.

As for print quality, I have yet to meet anyone who could detect whether the photos I shared were printed at a professional lab or on my portable printer. And according to HP testing, your Photosmart prints should outlast commercial photo lab output—not a big deal for most of us, maybe, but your biographer will thank you.

$200; 8.7" x 4.6" x 4.5", 2.59 lb.; or 888-999-4747

Sony PlayStation Portable
Video-game advertising may target scruffy teenage boys with barely suppressed acne and raging attitude, but that doesn't mean grown-ups shouldn't enjoy a nice round of virtual golf or some recreational ogre bashing in their spare time. Just look at Sony's latest portable pleasure machine. The polished black design radiates sex appeal: sleek, slender and subtly curved, with a brilliant 4.3-inch wide-screen LCD. Who dares say video games are for geeks when you can play them on Darth Vader's PDA?

This is a device that plays games with nearly the same quality as the industry-leading PlayStation 2 home console, and does it in a 10-ounce package that fits neatly into a backpack or briefcase. That impressive screen is backed by enough processing power to provide consistently smooth animation even in fast-action sports and racing titles. Controls on a portable gaming device are notoriously tough to get right (ever try playing an action game on a cell phone?), but PlayStation Portable nails it. Under the hood there's built-in 802.11b wireless networking to let multiple players compete head-to-head in the same room or, with a Wi-Fi wireless hotspot, over the Internet.

The first round of games for the new system is impressive if not terribly original: solid sports titles like Tiger Woods PGA Tour and NBA Street Showdown basketball, lots of driving games, and a few standouts (the puzzle game Lumines, a distant cousin to Tetris, has already consumed far too many hours of my life). Most important, all the major game publishers are behind the new device, so the future looks bright indeed.

But you'll have to take Sony's claim that this is the great all-in-one multimedia device for the new millennium with a grain—no, make that a good five-pound sack—of salt. There's no hard drive, so you're limited in storing your own music, photos and video clips. The software provided for playing back songs and photos is unacceptably basic. And while the first million PlayStation Portables shipped with a free copy of the movie Spiderman in the system's proprietary UMD disk format, only about two dozen other movies are available, few of which hold any interest (anybody want to buy a copy of Hellboy?). What's more, a UMD movie costs as much as a DVD, with none of the DVD's fun extra features, and neither Blockbuster nor Netflix has plans to make rentals available. Makers of iPods and portable DVD players have nothing to fear.

That said, when it comes to killing time on a train or plane, filling time between meetings or keeping busy while your wife watches "Extreme Makeover," the PlayStation Portable is a very entertaining digital playmate.

$250; 6.7" x 2.9" x 0.9", 9.2 oz.; or 800-345-7669

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