Device from Saitek offers an alternative to keyboard...

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April 17, 2000

Device from Saitek offers an alternative to keyboard gaming

Do you hate gaming with your keyboard? Saitek thinks you do. The company says its new GM2 gaming mouse ($49.95) "liberates the gamer from his clumsy keyboard." That's stretching it a bit.

The GM2 is a control pad/mouse combination for use with first-person shooting games. The mouse has two buttons and a mouse wheel/button, as well as a four-way hat switch on the side. The control pad fits comfortably into the left hand and is loaded with goodies. It carries seven buttons, an eight-way hat switch and a thumb wheel.

The buttons, switches and wheels are fully programmable. A simple three-dimensional interface lets players assign any keystroke, or series of keystrokes, to any button or axis on the controller.

After a brief getting-to-know-you period, I was able to use the GM2 easily. Though the controller has excellent programming software and is comfortable, solid and well-designed, it doesn't offer much improvement over a keyboard.

Gamers accustomed to keyboards probably won't find it that useful; those who hate gaming with keyboards might.

Information: www.saitekusa.com or 800-452-4377.

Chris Glassel/KRT

Downloaded music on the go thanks to Memory Stick

Anyone who likes to take music out and about will get a kick out of Sony's Memory Stick Walkman. Weighing 2.5 ounces and taking up about as much space as a small candy bar, this is one of the tiniest personal sound players yet.

The sound may lack a bit of the punch and spaciousness of the Sony Discman players, but the player won't skip tracks if rattled because it doesn't use spinning discs. Instead, it plays music in CD, WAV or MP3 formats downloaded from a computer's USB port to a special 64-megabyte flash memory card. This card, called a Memory Stick, holds up to two hours of music, depending on the bit rate the user chooses when recording.

But for something so darn convenient, the Memory Stick Walkman can also be a hassle. Music must first be converted to Sony's ATRAC 3 digital coding format -- the only format the Memory Stick Walkman can decode. Whatever merit there may be in this effort to protect copyrighted material, it can add time and extra steps to the process of loading tunes, especially if they're saved on the user's computer in the form of MP3 files.

That said, the music lover who wants an ultralight way to take music anywhere will appreciate the Music Stick Walkman. The price is $399, and extra memory cards are $159.

Information: www.sony.com/ networkwalkman or 800-222-7669.

John Hanan//KRT

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