Versatile device sets the bar high on coolness

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 June, 2004, 12:00am

There are some products that are so beautiful in their simplicity that they inspire awe ... and copycats. The Carry Computer FotoBar is one such product, and is likely to be copied by all and sundry.

Carry has managed to load an 8-in-1 card reader and DVD player-cum-CD burner into a unit about the size of a medium-sized paperback.

That alone is not so special, as basically it's a case of combining two devices in one housing. Multicard readers are common these days, and DVD/CD-R/RWs are pretty much standard in all new desktop PCs - and even some notebooks.

The beauty of the FotoBar is that it renders the PC obsolete in the whole digicam to CD burning process. At the press of the Copy button (well, two presses - one to copy, the second to confirm), the FotoBar automatically burns verbatim the contents of your memory card on to a CD or CD-RW. Later versions will include a DVD burner.

The coolness doesn't end there. Not only can the FotoBar connect by USB2.0 to a PC - thus serving as card reader, DVD player and CD burner - it also has full TV compatibility. S-video jacks mean that the unit can plug into any TV, not only serving as a DVD/VCD player but photo viewer as well, allowing for a slide show back at the hotel after a long day of sightseeing. It supports both NTSC and PAL.

To really make it look and feel like a DVD player, the FotoBar comes with a fully functional remote control that communicates with the infrared port at the front of the unit.

In terms of performance and specs, there's not a lot to complain about. It supports MP3, jpeg and CD as well as VCD, DVD and DivX movie formats. If you're shooting to tiff or other file formats you will not be able to view them on screen but can still burn them to disc. A demo of the product showed a 256MB Compact Flash card burnt to CD in just 10 minutes. A detachable rechargeable battery means that AC power is not needed, and hints that spare batteries could be purchased if you're heading for the bush and won't be able to recharge.

Company reps said the battery would last 150 minutes on playback, but burning cuts that down dramatically. Now that this model is getting famous, watch for copies from the big players.

Carry Computer FotoBar


Price: Not set, but earlier versions retailed for US$180 to US$200 in the United States

Pros: One-touch copying, small, versatile, battery-operated

Cons: Cannot select files to copy to CD - it's all or nothing