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The official blog of Abt Electronics & Appliances

Archive for January, 2008

Nikon Clicks with New CoolPix

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Looking for a reasonably priced digital camera with style? Then one of Nikon’s six new additions to its CooPix line may be right up your aperture. The S210, S520, S550, and S600 are the latest members of the Style Series of CoolPix compact digital cameras, while the L18 and the P60 enter the CoolPix line at lower and higher ends of the price and feature spectrum, respectively.

The 8-megapixel CoolPix S210 and S520 both offer 3x optical zoom, Vibration Reduction (VR) Image Stabilization technology, and 2.5-inch LCD screens, but the S520 adds a new “Food Mode” to its existing scene modes for enhanced close-up images of  food, as well as the ability to organize images by favorites in the camera.

Both the CoolPix S550 and CoolPix S600 boast 10-megapixels, with the S50 featuring a 5X optical zoom and the S600 carrying a 4x 28mm optical zoom lens. The S550 has a new “Smile Mode,” which will automatically trigger the shutter when the subject smiles, and “Blink Warning,” which will give you a warning message when the subject blinks. According to Nikon, the CoolPix S600 has the fastest start-up time of any camera in its class, and it also features a new “Active Child” shooting mode to maintain focus on moving subjects and a new “Pastel Mode” for producing watercolor painting effects.

Even though it’s an entry-level camera, the CoolPix L18 still has some nice features, including 8-megapixels, a 3-inch LCD screen, and a 3x optical zoom. The 8.1-megapixel P60 features a 5x optical zoom lens and an extended light sensitivity range up to ISO 2000, to help you capture stunning pictures in low light settings.

Available in a variety of colors such as plum, graphite black, cool blue, brushed bronze, and ruby red, the new CoolPix cameras should start hitting store shelves in March.      –by Graham W.

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Panasonic Lumix Cameras Deliver HD Video

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

With the PMA Convention ready to start Thursday in Las Vegas (see Nikon D60 post below), Panasonic is bringing out eight new Lumix digital cameras, two of which feature HD video recording capabilities. The 10.1-megapixel DMC-FX-35 features a 25mm wide-angle lens, 4x optical zoom, a 2.5-inch LCD screen, and the ability to create in-camera slide shows with preloaded music. The FX-35 also can record 1280 x 720p high-definition video at 30 frames per second, which you can then view in all its picturesque glory on an HDTV.

Panasonic’s 9.1-megapixel DMC-TZ5 features a 28mm wide-angle lens, 10x optical zoom, intelligent auto mode, and a 3-inch LCD display. Like the FX-35, the TZ5 can record video in 1280 x 720p high-def resolution at 30 frames per second. Both cameras allow you to view your still shots and video images on an HDTV, and they are expected to be available in March in silver, black, and blue models. –by Graham W.

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Nikon D60 Features Eye-Fi Enhancement

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

In case you weren’t aware, the PMA International Convention and Trade Show kicks off tomorrow in Las Vegas and continues through Saturday. What’s the PMA? Good question. It’s officially known as PMA – The Worldwide Community of Imaging Associations, which until 2006 was known as the Photo Marketing Association International. The PMA Convention is billed as “the world’s largest annual photo imaging trade show for the estimated $90 billion worldwide industry.” In other words, this is where camera manufacturers come to show off all their cool new products each year. 

One of those camera-makers, Nikon, is introducing its new D60 10.2-megapixel consumer digital SLR camera, which has the same compact design as the current D40 model. The D60 features a 2.5-inch LCD screen and a new AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR image stabilization lens, while the In-camera Retouch Menu now allows users to adjust image contrast after capture, perform in-camera RAW to JPEG conversion, and more. 

The biggest news about the D60, however, is that it’s the world’s first Eye-Fi connected camera. The Eye-Fi wireless 2GB SD card works with most digital cameras, but what makes the Eye-Fi-enhanced Nikon D60 unique is that it will “detect when an Eye-Fi Card is inserted and automatically adjust its power timer settings to ensure that photos upload effortlessly for sharing and storing,” according to Eye-Fi.

Eye-Fi also is planning to offer users access to Nikon’s “my Picturetown” beginning this Spring. This online digital photo storage and sharing service allows users to upload photos to one of 20 online photo sharing, printing, social networking, and blogging sites. –by Graham W.

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Are You Ready for Some Football?

Friday, January 25th, 2008

If you’re planning to buy a new TV before the Super Bowl, you’re definitely not alone. According to a new survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, consumers plan to purchase 3.9 million TVs for the big game. If that number holds true, it would be an increase of more than 50 percent over last year’s figures.

The excitement surrounding the game, of course, accounts for the usual increase in TV sales around this time of year, but that 50 percent jump is probably being spurred by the surge in popularity and shrinking cost of big-screen HDTVs.

While we’re prepared for this sales increase here at Abt, we don’t anticipate it will match our totals from last year. As a Chicago-area store, our local customers created a pre-Super Bowl TV-buying frenzy because our Monsters of the Midway, the Bears, had reached the big game.

Flat-panel plasma and LCD TVs have recently been selling the best, mainly because DLP and LCD projection sets no longer have as much of a price advantage as they once did. According to Abt salesman Scott Hightower, “Since the prices are basically equal, customers now have more of a choice. Some want a flat-panel TV to hang on the wall, while others want a projection set they can place on a nice home theater stand.”

Abt has a great selection of TVs from all the top brands, along with free shipping or delivery and free technical support. To help you enjoy the high-def experience even more, you might want to check out our Blu-ray players, TV stands, wall mounts, cables, and home theater systems. You can even go all out and get some new leather seating.

So, will the Patriots be able to cap a perfect season with a Super Bowl championship, or will the Giants pull off a major upset and set off a huge celebration in Times Square? Sorry, New York, but it will be the Patriots by 17. You read it here first.

by Graham W.

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Think Pink (nano)

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

To help you get a jump on your Valentine’s Day shopping, Apple has just introduced a pink version of the iPod nano to go along with the current silver, black, blue, green, and red models. Besides the Shuffle, Apple hasn’t featured a pink model in its iPod line since the iPod mini was released in early 2004.

Pink iPod nano

The pink nano is available now in an 8GB model for $199 and, like the other nanos, allows you to watch music videos, TV shows, or movies rented via Apple’s new iTunes Movie Rentals. If you already have an iPod nano and want to turn it into a pink one, check out some of these accessories that can help you perform that transformation. –by Graham W.

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Macworld Wrap-Up

Friday, January 18th, 2008

As the 2008 Macworld Conference & Expo draws to a close today, let’s take a look at some hot Apple accessories you might not have heard about yet.

The iBoom Jukebox from DLO is an iPod speaker dock that’s shaped like a mini jukebox. It features two 1-inch tweeters and two 3-inch woofers, an RF remote that can be used from up to 100 feet away, and built-in controls on an illuminated touch strip. It is expected to ship this spring at a cost of about $200. The new PowerDock from Griffin ($70) can charge any combination of four iPod models simultaneously, and even works with the iPhone.

Belkin introduced a new line of sleeves for the new MacBook Air in a variety of colors and materials with various straps and fasteners. Not to be outdone, Web designer Jona Bechtolt and freelance science writer Claire L. Evans have created a laptop case for the MacBook Air called the AirMail, which looks just like the manila envelope Apple CEO Steve Jobs used to carry the “Air” onstage at his Tuesday keynote address. The AirMail website says it is “handmade out of durable upholstery-grade vinyl, and lined with fuzzy, soft fleece.”

The iFrogz Audiowrapz ($24.99) comes in eight colors and not only protects your iPod nano but also has three external speakers. The speakers do not draw any power from the iPod and are deactivated when you plug in the headphones. For those of you who like to mix business with pleasure, the iCarta from Atech Flash Technology combines a toilet tissue holder with an iPod speaker system. That’s Atech “Flash” Technology, not “Flush.”

Here’s a little more information about Apple TV that we haven’t mentioned yet: It allows you to buy or rent movies and TV shows directly, with no computer required, and videos begin streaming within about 30 seconds.

Special thanks to all of you who kept your fingers crossed—as we requested in yesterday’s posting—in the hopes of getting another crazy quote out of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. In an interview with CNBC reporter Jim Goldman, Jobs was asked what he thought about a statement by Robbie Bach (president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division) in which Bach said the Zune is a worthy alternative to the iPod. Well, Jobs didn’t exactly take kindly to that and asked, “Was he inebriated?” followed by, “Do you even know anyone who owns a Zune?” While this isn’t exactly the nicest thing to ask about someone, Jobs did class it up by using the word “inebriated.” I wonder if he read that word somewhere.

—by Graham W.

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Macworld Best of Show Awards

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

The editors of Macworld magazine have presented this year’s Macworld Best of Show awards to 11 products, and—no surprise here—the MacBook Air was among the winners. The “Air” (can we call it that?) was cited by the editors for being “almost frighteningly skinny. And yet it really is a full-fledged Mac.”

Also receiving recognition was Photoshop Elements 6.0 from Adobe for being quicker to launch, sporting a dramatically revised interface, and having all sorts of tools that amateur photographers will appreciate.

Macworld logo

Even Guitar Hero III won an award for letting people live out their rock star fantasies while also being great fun and encouraging more social interaction than most video games. You may remember Microsoft chairman Bill Gates being joined on stage at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show by famed rock guitarist Slash for a Guitar Hero battle.


Most of the other award winners involved new software or software upgrades that the casual computer user probably hasn’t heard of and doesn’t really need.  Beyond the awards, we didn’t really expect any earth-shattering news out of Macworld today, but we didn’t even get any crazy quotes out of Steve Jobs. There’s still one more day of Macworld, so keep your fingers crossed.      by Graham W 

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Day 2 at Macworld

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Since no really big new has come out of the Macworld Expo today, this is a good time to tell you about some interesting things that came up yesterday in addition to all the Apple product information we brought you in our last posting.

In various interviews following his keynote address, Apple CEO Steve Jobs: praised retiring Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, saying he should be honored for his contributions; revealed that before Apple settled on the final MacBook Air design, it had developed 100 prototypes; and said that while he’d love to bring the iPhone to China and other Far East countries, there haven’t been any serious discussions with the major players, despite the rumors.

Jobs with MacBook AirDon’t let me catch you reading!
(AP Photo by Paul Sakuma)

During the keynote, Jobs proudly announced that Apple has sold 4 million iPhones in the 200 days since its launch, which averages out to around 20,000 a day. He also reported that Apple has delivered more than 5 million copies of Leopard in the first 3 months, making it the most successful release of the OS X operating system ever, with almost 20% of the OS X install base having been upgraded. “Unprecedented,” he said. “We’re really thrilled by this.”

At the end of his keynote address, Jobs brought out Academy Award- and Grammy-winning songwriter Randy Newman to perform a few songs. Newman told the crowd that he roots against corporations, “But not this one. This one’s different.” It was a regular love-fest from beginning to end.

Oh yeah, one more thing. When discussing the Amazon Kindle wireless reading device after the keynote, Jobs said that people don’t read anymore. So even if you think you’re reading this, you’re probably not. Jobs is rarely wrong. – by Graham W.

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Steve Jobs Launches the MacBook Air

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivered his eagerly awaited keynote address this morning at the annual Macworld Expo in San Francisco, and even though he didn’t unveil any groundbreaking new devices like he did last year with the iPhone, Jobs did manage to thrill Apple fans with some exciting new products as well as updates to existing ones.

The biggest excitement surrounded the ultra-thin MacBook Air, which Jobs referred to as the thinnest notebook in the world—and with good reason. It tapers from just .76-inches thick at the top end to only .16-inches thick at the bottom and tips the scales at only 3 pounds, which doesn’t involve a lot of tipping. To drive home the thinness point, Jobs demonstrated how the MacBook Air could fit into a manila envelope.

Among the MacBook Air’s features are a 13.3-inch LED backlit screen, a 1.8-inch 80GB Hard Drive (optional 64GB Solid State Drive), 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB memory, a multitouch trackpad, a black LED backlit full-size keyboard, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and built-in iSight—all this for only $1,799. The battery has an impressive 5-hour life, but unfortunately battery replacement can be handled only by Apple.

On the environmental side, the MacBook Air has an easily recycled aluminum case, Apple’s first mercury-free and arsenic-free display, and circuit boards that are bromide and PVC free. Even the packaging has 50% less volume, helping to reduce the energy expended in transporting and disposing of the materials.

Speaking to a crowd of about 4,000, Jobs also announced that Apple had reached agreements with all the major film studios to provide iTunes movie rentals, including more than 100 high-definition titles with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. Users can download movies and watch them on their iPods, iPhones, computers, or even their TVs using Apple’s new TV software. Apple also has lowered the price of the 40 GB Apple TV to $229.

Other new product announcements included: Time Capsule, a wireless backup utility; a major software upgrade for the iPod touch that includes five more mobile applications (Mail, Maps, Stocks, Weather, and Notes); and an iPhone firmware upgrade that features the ability to send messages to multiple recipients at once.

At the Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas, Apple announced an updated Mac Pro computer and Xserve server, which include two super-fast Intel Xeon 5400 series quad-core processors.

The MacBook Air will begin shipping in two weeks. We’ll keep you posted on any other exciting developments that pop up this week at the Macworld Expo. –by Graham W.

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2008 CES Wrap-Up

Friday, January 11th, 2008

The 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show is officially over, so now we’d like to cover a few of the emerging technologies we had a chance to discover over the past four days but haven’t mentioned yet.

The Azentek Atlas CPC-1000 is essentially an in-dash car computer unit that combines built-in WiFi, voice recognition, an AM/FM tuner, XM/Sirius/HD Radio capabilities, Bluetooth, a CD/DVD rewriter, GPS navigation, and VOIP capabilities. If that’s not enough, it also lets you use any software you choose to run. There are ports for USB drives and SD cards, and exceptional sound is delivered through a 4-channel, 50-watt built-in amp and 24-bit digital-to-analog converters.

Motorola’s Rokr E8 cell phone features unique “ModeShift” technology that employs touch-pad controls and a backlight that changes to illuminate only the buttons needed for your current function, whether its phone, music, or imaging modes. A company called Twenty20 introduced the VholdR, which is a hands-free, wire-free, tape-free wearable camcorder that offers one-click simplicity and seamless sharing through

Here’s one that probably should be filed under Submerging Technology—the iceBar2 from a company called Ego. The iceBar2 is a waterproof iPod case that includes a set of speakers that also stay dry. The case is made of shatterproof polycarbonate and can be submerged in up to 3 meters of water.

The people in the above photo from the CES floor will probably (like some of us) be moving on to next week’s Macworld show in San Francisco. Check back here for our updates on the latest Apple announcements. –by Graham W.

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