Aiptek's pocket-size digital camera cute but not so...

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March 19, 2001

Aiptek's pocket-size digital camera cute but not so solid

Until now, pocket-size digital cameras were found mostly in spy movies. The Aiptek PenCam II VGA may change that. In fact, with this gee-whiz device, you can make your own spy film. In addition to being a digital-still camera, the device functions as a camcorder and a PC camera.

Shooting stills is as simple as it gets: point, click and upload. There's no focus or flash, and the lighting has to be just right - and the subjects perfectly still - to get clear images. The quality can be surprisingly good. Twenty-six images, at a maximum VGA resolution of 640 X 480 pixels, fit in the memory. To free up space, pictures are uploaded to a computer via USB port.

The PC camera function, in which the PenCam II VGA is connected to a computer, seems to work best for moving pictures. Untethered from the PC and powered by two AAA batteries, results aren't nearly as pleasing: Thirty- two seconds of herky-jerky motion does not a video make.

The novelty of this $99 camera outweighs its practical value. Picture quality has to be more consistent for everyday, dependable use. But what a novelty it is. James Bond, eat your heart out.

Information: 949-455-1800 or www.aiptek.com.

- Oscar Martinez /KRT

AverMedia's Firewire kit a boon as portable drive

Portable hard drives are all the rage these days, as people try to figure out how to easily transport data from one computer to the next. But many of the new drives feel like a brick in your briefcase.

Not the AverKit 2.5-inch Firewire. The 5-by-3-by-1-inch, lightweight kit is designed to take a drive for a laptop and make it an external drive for any computer with a IEEE 1394 connection, called Firewire by Apple. The AverKit works with Macintosh computers running OS 9 or PCs running Windows 98, 2000 and ME. AverMedia says the device will not support a Sony VAIO PC.

Unscrew and open the device and drop in a 2.5-inch hard disk drive. Then connect it via Firewire to your computer and format the drive.

Thanks to its use of the super-fast Firewire connection - which is speedier than a USB connection - the device is hot swappable, meaning you can plug or unplug it while your computer is still on.

The AverKit has two Firewire ports in the back for daisy-chaining devices. I plugged the AverKit into my Firewire card, then plugged a Firewire-enabled Zip drive into the AverKit with no problems.

The AverKit isn't particularly expensive at $150, although a 2.5-inch hard drive is more expensive than a regular hard drive. Toshiba, for example, offers a 12-gigabyte drive for $300.

The only real drawback for this being a great storage device is that you must have a Firewire connection, which still aren't common on PCs.

Information: 408-263-3828 or www.aver.com.

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