Portables sizzle at FOSE

If this year's FOSE show is any indicator, mobility is hot and sitting at a desk is not. In addition to the latest and greatest notebooks and tablets, vendors at the conference, held last month in Washington, D.C., introduced products that take mobility to a new level. Ruggedized handhelds, portable flash memory secured with a fingerprint and a headset that can seamlessly switch you from your office phone to your cell phone were among the new devices.

One trend that emerged is the addition of integrated fingerprint scanners for portable products such as notebooks and tablets. Two new notebooks that represent this trend are the TransPort X3000 from MPC Computers LLC and the 450+ from Gateway Inc.

TransPort X3000

The TransPort X3000 is one of the only new notebooks on the market to incorporate three spindles and retain legacy ports — features the government has been asking for. A three-spindle design allows use of an optical drive and a floppy drive simultaneously. The floppy bay also accepts a second battery.

Other notable features include quick, tool-free hard-drive removal and an integrated smart card reader.

For security you can use a fingerprint biometric to replace all passwords and even encrypt data. Notably, this product is the first series of TransPort notebooks to feature a sweeper fingerprint scanner.

Instead of placing and holding the fingertip on a capture window, the finger is swept vertically over a small rectangular window that scans it in sections. The scanning process creates a sequence of horizontal image frames that are reconstructed into one fingerprint image. One advantage of this type of scanner is that it can read more data than a traditional capture window because it scans more of the fingertip's surface area.

The TransPort X3000 comes with an Intel Corp. Pentium M processor, memory expandable to 2G and a hard drive up to 80G. (The processors' speeds were not available at press time because the notebook's official release is April 19.)

The display is available in two sizes: the 14.1-inch model features 1,024 x 768 resolution and the 15-inch model features an impressive 1,400 x 1,050 resolution. The ATI Technologies Inc. Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics solution comes with 64M or 128M of memory.

For audiophiles, the notebook comes with AC'97 stereo sound with 3-D effects and an SPDIF-out port. SPDIF — Sony/Philips Digital Interface — is an audio file transfer format that allows the transfer of digital audio signals from one device to another without conversion to an analog format, which can degrade the signal.

Ports include two USB 2.0, parallel, serial, PS/2 with a Y-adapter for simultaneous mouse and keyboard use, VGA, S-Video, RJ-11, RJ-45, microphone in, audio in and FireWire.

Retail pricing for the X3000 starts at $1,900. Customers who don't need three spindles can purchase another model, the T3000, starting at $1,800. Aside from

the number of spindles, they are identical.

Gateway 450+

Gateway's latest offering is a revision of the company's popular 450 platform that includes an integrated fingerprint scanner, dual pointing devices — both a touch pad and a pointing stick — and a 15-inch UXGA display with a magnesium back.

The fingerprint reader software supports multiple users and can replace Microsoft Corp. Windows and Web-based passwords. It can also store encrypted data in a special system folder.

Other features include 802.11a/b/g wireless capability, a composite National Television System Committee/phase alternating line port for TV out and memory expandable to 2,048M. The ATI Mobility 9600 graphics solution comes with either 64M or 128M of video memory.

Ports include FireWire, two USB 2.0, parallel, serial and two Type II PC Card slots.

The 450+ is available with either a 1.5 GHz or 1.6 GHz Pentium M processor, and pricing starts at $1,799.

ViewSonic Tablet PC V1250S

In the tablet arena, one new offering is ViewSonic Corp.'s V1250S, a convertible model that offers 802.11b/g wireless.

The V1250S features a 12-inch display with automatic brightness adjustment, 1 GHz Intel Pentium M processor, 256M of memory expandable to 768M and a 30G hard drive with a shock protection device. The tablet also comes with integrated 802.11b wireless and a FireWire port. Expansion slots include a Cardbus Type II and SD/MS slot.

Audio features include two stereo speakers, mono voice recording and MP3 file playback.

For security, the tablet offers multilevel password security on the BIOS and BIOS-level signature

authentication.

Pricing for the V1250S starts at $1,895. For $2,299 you can buy the tablet with an optional accessory package that includes a docking station, external DVD/CDRW FireWire drive, an extra battery and two extra styluses.

Tacter R-PDA

This rugged handheld from Talla-Com Industries Inc. is a sheep in wolf's clothing. The company has taken a Hewlett-Packard Co. iPaq, treated the innards with special coatings and encased the unit in an aluminum chassis.

This handheld was designed for applications such as situational awareness, remote radio control, military medical uses and field computing. Its modular design allows an operator to reconfigure the hardware and software for specific missions.

For example, you can snap different modules onto the back of the unit for functions such as a Global Positioning System, bar coding, wireless wide-area networking, biometrics, radios and cameras.

The GPS Back comes with an integrated, commercial, 16-channel wide-area augmentation system, an external antenna port, a PC Card slot or CF Card slot and an additional 3,600 mAh battery.

The Scanner Back can scan one- and two-dimensional bar codes and grayscale photos, and it comes with a single PC Card slot or CF Card slot and an additional 3,600 mAh battery.

An optional expansion pack comes with two PC Card slots and an additional 1,800 mAh battery.

The R-PDA is available in several versions. The baseline model contains a 400 MHz Intel XScale processor, 64M of SDRAM and 32M of ROM. It runs the Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 operating system and features a touch-sensitive transflective thin-film transister LCD display with 240 x 320 resolution.

Interfaces include a serial, USB, audio input/output and infrared ports. Bluetooth is available as an option.

A second model, the R-PDA-51, is based on the iPaq 5100 series and comes standard with integrated Bluetooth, 128M of RAM and 48M of ROM. It costs $1,595.

The R-PDA-55, another model, is based on the iPaq 5500 series and comes with integrated 802.11b wireless, Bluetooth, 128M of RAM and 48M of ROM. It sells for $1,795.

BioStik

If you regularly use different computers in different locations, a portable flash memory device makes it easier to take your work with you. One problem with this type of device, however, is that it's relatively easy to lose due to its small size. And if the data is not protected, anyone who finds the device could access your files.

This is where the BioStik from Index Security Inc. comes in. It protects your data with a fingerprint, which, unlike passwords, can't be forgotten or hacked. The fingerprint scanner is integrated into the unit and protected with a plastic cover when not in use.

The USB 1.1 device is available with 128M of memory, but a 256M version will be released soon.

The 128M BioStik sells for $170.

GN 6110 wireless headset

Another handy device that eases the transfer from the office to the outside world is a new wireless headset from GN Netcom Inc. This unique product is simultaneously compatible with landline telephones and Bluetooth wireless phones. The company calls the technology DuoLink. Even better, the headset automatically detects which phone you're using and connects you to that one.

Another smart feature is that the volume controls automatically orient themselves, depending on which ear you're using, so that the volume-increase button is always at the top and the volume-decrease button is at the bottom.

The headset's range is 33 feet and talk time is four hours. It's also worth noting that this is one good-looking headset. The black and silver styling has a contemporary look, and when the small boom is folded the entire headset is simply a disk that fits easily into a pocket.

The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the GN 6110 is $299.

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