New Products Review

Friday, July 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Product review: Sony's ICF-C253 Dream Machine alarm clock

The Sony ICF-C253 Dream Machine alarm clock is a solid, reliable piece of equipment that provides all the features you need and none that you don't. It's easy to read, easy to program and never leaves you nervously wondering whether it's actually going to go off in the morning.

The display is big enough to read without being distracting. Brightness can be adjusted. The display also indicates what day of the week it is, a handy feature for preventing those accidental Saturday morning appearances at the office.

There are five buttons you can use to preset radio stations.

However, the limited sound quality makes it doubtful that you'll be using the Dream Machine as the centerpiece of your next head bangers reunion.

On the other hand, the variable snooze setting is a stroke of engineering genius. You can regulate the snooze time in eight-minute increments to last from eight to 60 minutes. For example, hit the snooze button twice before you go to bed, and the snooze time will be 16 minutes. Setting the alarm is simple, and you can double-check the wake-up time simply by pressing a button. If you are a particularly heavy sleeper, you can set the alarm and the radio to go off simultaneously. At $30, the Dream Machine is a convenient appliance that makes a perfect gift for departing college students or anyone who has a hard time waking up. Call 1-800-222-7669 to learn more, or log on to

- Victor Godinez / The Dallas Morning News

Music player has rich features

By Walt Zwirko /

After you download some new tunes from Napster or, it's nice to be able to take the music with you.

That's the point of MP3 players like the new Rio 600 model.

The stylish plastic box, about the size of a cigarette pack, is small, it's light and has enough of a curve to it that you can't stand it on end.

The Rio 600, priced about $170, has room inside to store about one hour of music. Unfortunately, the process isn't as easy as popping in a tape or a CD.

First, you have to connect the Rio to your computer's USB (Universal Serial Bus) port using the included cable.

Although the connection is simple, the Rio wasn't recognized by the Rio Audio Manager software which I installed on a Dell Optiplex desktop computer.


I looked for some answers in the documentation which was supplied with the unit, but it was very limited in scope.

I checked the Rio website, but the 600 model is so new, the answer wasn't there, either.

Finally, by looking at the Rio Audio Manager software setup screens, I was able to determine that the software installs itself to automatically determine what model of Rio player is attached; after manually setting this parameter, it worked.

Another hurdle: transfering CDs to your Rio is a two-step process.

First, the music must be digitized and stored in a database on your PC; then you must create a playlist to copy the music to the Rio.

The good news is that the USB connection works fast; the transfer takes less than ten seconds for each song. The basic Rio 600 model will store about an hour's worth of music.

Because the new Rio model can deal with a number of different audio formats, you can even use it to listen to audio books like "The Perfect Storm," which I downloaded from the RioPort website.

Because voices can be recorded at a lower quality setting than music, you can store more than an hour's worth of reading.

If you feel limited by the amount of storage of the basic Rio 600, you can spring for extra "backpack" units, which come equipped with memory and a battery to power it.

Later this year, a new IBM Microdrive backpack is planned, which will store up to 15 hours of tunes in the diminutive unit.

Overall, a nice-looking unit which works well. I would vote for adding a belt clip, though.

Product review: Philips' NuVision 13PT30L
Good thing, small package

The 13-inch color TV my wife brought to our marriage more than a decade ago is still serviceable. I hadn't thought much about portable sets since, until Philips recently offered up the NuVision 13PT30L for evaluation.

My main thought now, particularly about the NuVision: Wouldn't it be a shame if my set suddenly quit?

The 13PT30L's design sets it off immediately from the nearly two dozen like-sized TVs at my favorite electronics superstore. The top of its light blue metallic cabinet slopes gracefully toward the back; its stereo speaker grilles are side-mounted. But the NuVision's most dramatic touch is lighting: The two front legs have small lamps inside, and the analog clock is backlit.

This is a personal TV, suitable for a bedroom, dorm or small apartment. It has a headphone input, audio/video jacks and an alarm for waking up to a pre-selected channel or the sounds of a harp, xylophone or rooster. Other smart features abound. Among them are a "surf" button on the remote for cycling through up to eight channels; a setting that narrows the volume difference between programs and commercials; and a V-chip for blocking objectionable shows. All that, plus a crisp picture with vivid colors.

Competitors I saw at the store were $110 to $280, placing the $250 NuVision toward the high end on price. Finding a less expensive set with comparable features, though, would be tough. That said, I wish it came with a DC jack and adapter for use in a car, as well as an antenna.

See or dial 1-800-531-0039.

- Rick Barrick / The Dallas Morning News

Product review: The Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Elph
The Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Elph has quickly become known among my friends as the James Bond camera because of its tiny size and ultracool design.

Weighing 6.7 ounces and about the size of a deck of cards, the $599 Digital Elph is by far the smallest and lightest 2-megapixel (1,600 X 1,200 pixels) digital camera on the market. It has a stainless steel body, a 2X optical zoom - equivalent to a 35 mm to 70 mm zoom on a 35 mm camera - and a 4X digital zoom.

The S100 is simple to set up and use. Five buttons control all functions. Menus and options show up on a 1.5-inch LCD that is also a full-frame viewfinder. Also in the box is software for Mac and Windows machines, including the photo-editing program Adobe PhotoDeluxe.

A single port allows you to hook up the camera to late-model Windows or Macintosh computers with USB connections or to your TV/VCR's RCA jack via included cables. Also included is a lithium ion battery and charger and one 8-megabyte Type 1 CompactFlash storage card. Picture quality is excellent. It's hard to see how digital cameras can get any smaller or better. For more information, go to or call 1-800-652-2666.

- Jim Rossman / The Dallas Morning News

Product review: TVWorks 250
Adding ummph to your TV's sound

Social scientists can decide whether the quest for punchier TV sound is just one more way for the "idiot box" to dull American senses. Whatever.

But there's no denying that a beefy set of add-on speakers like the new system from Cambridge SoundWorks makes watching network shows and movies more fun. In fact, once the TVWorks 250 is plugged in, returning to ordinary TV speakers is a letdown. The TVWorks 250 rests on top of a television and is designed to work with any set that has variable audio outputs. It looks like the center channel for a surround-sound system, but instead of one channel inside, it has two 4.5-inch speakers for stereo. A simulated surround switch can be used to broaden the stereo effect.

How well does the TVWorks 250 do its job?

Don't expect for the bomb that vaporizes Gene Hackman's office in Enemy of the State to thunder as if it's coming from all sides of the living room. That requires the deeper bass and multiple speakers of a true surround-sound system. Do, however, expect the TVWorks 250 to offer more sonic impact than the speakers of most off-the-shelf TVs. And do expect to pay significantly less for the TVWorks 250 than for even a modest five-channel surround setup.

Since the TVWorks speakers amplify the sound signal from a television's audio section, quality is likely to vary from one TV to another, so potential buyers may be wise to audition it first. The price is $149. Go to or call 1-877-937-4434.

- John Hanan / The Dallas Morning News

Product review: Weblink Wireless paging
Two ways are better than one

Call it two-way paging, call it wireless data - Weblink Wireless paging service over Motorola's small, feature-rich T900 pager is fun.

Best not to tap out e-mail while driving ("Wheee? Yikes!"), but this is a convenient service during meetings.

Rather than leaving to phone the office for info, a user can send a question and get the answer almost instantly. This kind of service can raise expectations for the availability of information.

Sending e-mail between friends who may or may not be present in the meeting can also relieve boredom. We won't discuss etiquette here.

Paging skeptics, and there are many, say wireless data's future is limited because cell phones can do everything pagers can do and transmit voice calls. They may be right. But pagers still work inside buildings where many cell phones don't reach, making this a good application for today's technology.

Weblink's two-way pricing plans vary widely. The least expensive package offers 125 messages of 10 characters each with local coverage only for $119.40 a year, or $19.95 a month. The pagers, which should be competition for RIM's Blackberry unit, run $179.95 and come in black - on sale now - and blue and "razberry," available in mid-July.

Call 1-800-992-0837 or see

- Jennifer Files / The Dallas Morning News