Double Duty

A new class of cell phones is attempting to combine the multiple features of a consumer phone with the high-speed data functions of a Blackberry-style smartphone. Pantech Wireless Inc.’s new Duo (www.pantechduo.com), a double-slider unit, fits the bill.
When closed, the Duo looks like an everyday phone. Slide the 2.2-inch display up and you get the standard keypad. Close it, slide the display sideways, and you get a full, QWERTY-style keyboard; the displayed image swivels 90 degrees to match. At 3.9 ounces and 4 x 2 inches, the unit is light and compact, but its two keypads make it a thick 0.83 inches

The Duo supports High Speed Download Packet Access data networks, which provide data throughputs of 400 kilobytes to 700 kilobytes per second (kbps). Although not as fast as a 2-megabyte-per-second home cable modem, it’s much faster than a 56-kbps dial-up connection. (By contrast, Apple Computer’s popular iPhone uses EDGE (Enhanced Data Rate for GSM Evolution) data networks, which offer data speeds of 80 kbps to 140 kbps.)

The Duo uses Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 software, which has both pros and cons. It comes with mobile versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and you can synchronize your calendar, tasks, and contacts from Outlook and download personal and corporate e-mail. Unfortunately with Windows Mobile, it takes multiple clicks to accomplish simple tasks, such as starting applications.

The Duo is a world phone that can operates on GSM networks, but it lacks a GPS receiver and the display is not a touch screen. In practice, the QWERTY keyboard proved serviceable for sending short replies to e-mail messages and filling out forms on the Web.

AT&T Wireless, which has a lifetime exclusive contract with the Duo, sells the unit for $199 (after a $100 mail-in rebate) when purchased with a two-year contract.

HDTV TO GO
You’ve probably had one of those moments at the airport when you wish you could switch the waiting-area TV to something other than the screaming pundits. While you can’t do anything about that, you can escape the madness: Outfit your notebook PC with a TV tuner such as the PCTV HD Ultimate Stick from Pinnacle Systems. This one even lets you watch high-definition broadcasts (www.pinnaclesys.com).

The PCTV HD Ultimate Stick ($129.99) is a souped-up USB flash memory stick. The unit plugs into any USB 2.0 port, and the pre-installed Pinnacle TVCenter Pro software supports Microsoft’s Windows XP and Vista operating systems (no Macintosh support is available for this version). A similar program, TV for Mac HD Stick requires users to load the software first.

It also comes with a small remote control, a telescoping antenna, and additional video cabling.

TVCenter Pro turns your notebook into a television with a personal video recorder (PVR), allowing you to record or pause live TV and schedule recordings. It receives standard-definition analog broadcasts and high-definition digital transmissions. All the needed software is preloaded on the stick, which helps you get going quickly-at least, in theory.

Unfortunately, TVCenter Pro did not get along well with our test machine, a Gateway

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