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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 2)

Toshiba SD-P2700
Portable DVD players may not be exactly breakthrough technology anymore, but Toshiba put an interesting new twist on the category—literally—with the SD-P2700. This Toshiba boasts an 8.9-inch wide-screen display that can swivel and pivot through a full 180 degrees. That means you can sit the unit on a table, like an open book, and watch the vertically tilted screen (like any other portable DVD player), or rotate the screen all the way around and fold it back, holding the player in your hands as a flat video panel. The video panel option is perfect when you're sitting on a train or in a car (preferably when you're not the driver, thank you very much) and don't have a convenient spot to perch a conventional DVD player.

In addition to offering a unique screen configuration, Toshiba bends over backwards to make the SD-P2700 a first-rate substitute for a standard home DVD unit, with component video and digital audio output for high-quality home theater performance, a wireless remote control and even slots for inserting Memory Stick and SD cards from a digital camera to display photos on your TV.

$500; 10.3" x 7.8" x 1.3", 2.7 lbs.; or 800-631-3811

Fossil Wrist PDA
When this PDA watch arrived in my mailbox, it felt as if I were getting reacquainted with an old friend. We'd met nearly three years ago, at the Comdex computer show in 2002, and planned to get together within the next few months. But you know how it is—plans change, people move, somebody in manufacturing realizes just how difficult it is to cram an entire electronic organizer into a two-inch case.

But now here I am, wearing a full-fledged Palm personal digital assistant (PDA) on my wrist. Fortunately, I have a pretty big wrist, since this is not a device for the delicately constructed. It's hard to visualize just by reading the specs, but suffice it to say that the Wrist PDA won't squeeze under your dress-shirt cuffs. Of course, the same could be said for a Panerai watch, and all it does is tell time in a big, honking way. The Fossil Wrist PDA displays your address book, calendar, to-do list and memo pad entries, pulling them all directly from your computer (no retyping required), has a built-in calculator, runs additional software designed for Palm PDAs, and tells the time besides.

There are a few caveats here. First, you'll need good eyesight to be a happy Wrist PDA owner. Screen resolution is fine (the same 160 x 160 found on classic full-size Palm PDAs), but that makes for small type on a wrist-sized device. Second, while there's a teensy-weensy stylus built into the watch strap, I'd count on using a separate one to poke at the screen instead (I use a Cross stylus that looks like a standard ballpoint pen; many options are out there). And third, if the idea of charging your wristwatch is just too much bother, look elsewhere—the Fossil runs on a rechargeable battery that lasts about three days.

For you digital devotees, however, this is a wonderful way to let your geek flags fly for all to see.

$249; 2.1" x 1.4" x 0.5", 5.7 oz.; or 800-449-3056

Dell Latitude X1 Laptop
The older I get, the less enthusiasm I have for lugging a hernia- inducing laptop when I travel. At the same time, though, I do live la vida digital, and wandering the earth without a screen and keyboard handy makes me very uncomfortable. The answer: this featherweight 2.5-pounder, the lightest laptop Dell has ever offered. The keyboard's nearly full-size (about 95 percent as big as a standard desktop computer), which works fine even with my big hands and fast-flying fingers. The wide-screen LCD display provides plenty of screen real estate—I can keep a word processor and a Web browser side by side simultaneously, making hotel-room research a whole lot faster. There's wireless networking built in (the nice, fast 802.11g flavor, not its pokier 802.11b cousin), hard drives up to 60 gigabytes are available, and a 1.1 GHz Pentium M processor that's fast on the draw without draining too much battery power. In fact, with the optional long-life battery, the power lasts comfortably for a full New York to Los Angeles flight. And it's all charmingly anorexic in size and weight—even the power adapter is roughly half the size of the typical laptop "power brick," a very welcome development.

What's missing? A built-in CD or DVD drive. Frankly, when I'm on the road, that's ordinarily not a big deal (how often do you install new software while traveling?). On the other hand, external CD and DVD drives are readily available and, unlike older models, these are powered directly from the laptop, so you don't have to carry an extra power adapter.

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