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Creative unveils 60GB iPod alternative

Plus: LG's Microsoft smart phone

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MP3 Player

Creative has extended its Nomad Jukebox Zen line of hard drive-equipped portable music players with the Xtra - a unit that packs in not only an iPod-beating 60GB hard drive but a new display that addresses one of the key criticisms of older Zens: screen size.

Of course, the iPod has the Zen Xtra licked on looks and portability. While the Xtra is a chunky 11.3 x 7.6 x 2.2cm (4.4 x 3 x 0.9in), the 40GB iPod is a slim 10.3 x 6 x 1.8cm (4.1 x 2.4 x .7in). The Apple player weighs 175.8g (6.2oz), the Zen Xtra 224g (7.9oz).

But you can't argue with the Xtra's extra 20GB of song storage capacity. Creative reckons the Xtra's 60GB drive can hold 16,000 four-minute songs encoded at 128Kbps - over 1300 albums, we calculate. The 40GB iPod can store 10,000 four-minute songs encoded at 128Kbps. The Xtra supports MP3 and WMA audio formats.

Creative also claims a 14-hour continuous playback period - Apple can only manage eight hours. And thanks to a USB 2.0 connector, it's no slower than the iPod at transferring tracks.

Once criticised for its tiny screen, the Zen line now features a much larger, 160 x 104 pixel backlit LCD that's much closer to the iPod's 2in display in size.

The Xtra provides all the usual Creative sound technologies, including Smart Volume Management to keep the loud bits in line with quieter passages, a host of equaliser pre-sets and the EAX environmental sound tweaking system that can make Iron Maiden sound like their playing in anything from your bathroom to a cathedral.

The 60GB Xtra will ship at the end of the month for £349.99 including UK sales tax, or $400 in the US. For user on a tighter budget, 40GB and 30GB models will also be made available for $350 and $300, respectively.

Smartphone

South Korea's LG Electronics last week became Microsoft's latest licensee when it launched a handheld based on Windows Mobile 2003.

The LG-SC8000 is actually more of a wireless PDA than a smartphone. Powered by a 400MHz Intel XScale processor and equipped with 64MB of memory, the unit also offers "128MB exclusively for multimedia" - which almost certainly means it bundles a memory card of that capacity. Its specs. include a memory card slot, though of what type LG didn't say. Also present are infrared and USB ports for connecting the handset to other devices, such as a PC for synchronisation.

The device also sports a large-size display, application launch buttons and five-way navigator control. The screen measures 2.8in diagonally isn't as large as the 3.5in screens Pocket PC devices tend to offer, but an understandable compromise.

There's a full numeric pad, too, which slides down out of the handset's body. The device also packs in a 1.1 million pixel digicam.

The phone is to be launched initially in Korea around the end of the year. ®

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