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Sony to ship portable video, MP3 player next month

Yes, really MP3

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Reg Kit Watch Having admitted this week that Apple beat it to offering the "Walkman of the 21st Century", Sony is fiercely fighting back to recapture the title.

Earlier this month we reported on its first Vaio-branded colour portable music player, the VGF-AP1. Today, Sony unveiled a second machine, this time pitched even more as an adjunct to a home PC, but this time with still photography and video playback functionality.

And in a rare move for Sony, the player supports MP3 rather than the company's own ATRAC audio format.

Sony HMP-A1 video player

The second model, the HMP-A1, contains a 20GB hard drive, the contents of which are listed on a front-mounted 3.5in, 320 x 240 colour LCD - larger than the VGF-AP1's 2.2in display. The new unit is larger, too, and heavier: it's 13 x 7.6 x 2.2cm to the first model's 11.5 x 6.3 x 1.7cm. The two machines weight 250g and 195g, respectively.

The HMP-A1 plays back MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 files. Its software allows it to handle MPEG 1, AVI, WMV and DVR-MS, but these are converted to one of the MPEG video formats when they're downloaded from a host PC to the player.

Likewise, BMP, GIF, PNG and TIFF files are converted to the JPEG files upon transfer.

Not only does the HMP-A1 support MP3 natively, but Sony will ship it with MusicMatch's Jukebox software.

The unit will ship with a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery capable of providing up to four hours' MPEG 2, six hours' MPEG 4 or eight hours' MP3 playback. Sony provides an AC adaptor, but the HMP-A1 can also charge off the host PC's USB 2.0 bus.

The unit has an earphone socket, but it also provides all the ports punters will need to connect it to a hi-fi and TV.

Sony GigaPocket PCVA-HVP20 video playerPrimarily, Sony expects it to be used on the move. Indeed, it's pitching the product as a way to carry TV shows you recorded on your PC with you when you're out and about. While you might think the Vaio-branded model was intended simply as an adjunct to a home PC, Sony appears to be targeting the HMP-A1 at this kind of role, and the Vaio VGF-AP1 at a broader range of consumers.

The new model also appears to be a follow-up to the GigaPocket PCVA-HVP20 portable video player (right) it announced last November

The HMP-A1 will go on sale in Japan on 26 June for around ¥63,000 ($563/£310). ®

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