The Philips MC235 Micro HiFi System won't fit in your shirt pocket, doesn't come with earbuds, has no hard drive or memory-card slot, and...

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The Philips MC235 Micro HiFi System won’t fit in your shirt pocket, doesn’t come with earbuds, has no hard drive or memory-card slot, and its color palette runs out of options at silver, with a dash of blue.

Hope that doesn’t spoil your day. Now give it a look: The MC235 won’t be enrolling in any how-to-be-cool classes this fall. This little three-piece system with the body beautiful has a motorized, see-through CD door and a porthole LCD display illuminated in icy blue that dazzles on the main unit. The two detachable speakers, covered in fine silver cloth mesh, each have an exposed tweeter — how sexy! — mounted in a circular well protected by a silver crossbar.

With the speakers connected to the main unit, the MC235 looks like a laid-back metal-and-glass sculpture (just don’t look too closely, though, because it’s all plastic). Though the MC235 looks like a million bucks, its price ($79) makes this a micro for the masses.

It doesn’t sound half-bad, either, for something that costs as much as filling up a Hummer with regular unleaded. Unless, of course, you’ve burned a CD of your favorite drum solos: The MC235 doesn’t hit the real low notes.

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Yet it’s one of the few all-ages electronic gadgets. It’s cool enough for young teens, slick enough for college students and young professionals, sophisticated enough for older, and the oldest, citizens. It’s also ridiculously easy to use, even soothing to watch as the disc spins round and round.

The upper reaches of the main unit allow easy access to on/off, open/close door and volume buttons. The remaining controls converge below the glowing blue display and the CD’s home. When you press the open/close button, the motorized door rises slowly, exposing a tiny mechanism that locks in the CD.

The MC235 plays most CDs, including CD-R and CD-RW discs you’ve burned on your computer, but not DVDs. It stores up to 40 of your favorite AM/FM stations, has a clock/timer feature that turns the MC235 into an alarm clock, and can connect to another device, even an iPod. A thin-mint-thick remote keeps the MC235 under control wherever you roam.

Though detaching the speakers and spreading them a few feet creates a more believable stereo image, the MC235 looked so good as a one-piece unit that I didn’t have the heart to break it apart for long. Whatever the configuration, the MC235 could sound overly top-heavy — too much treble, not enough bass.

Now, what about reliability? Anything that sells for less than $100 these days, sadly, should be considered a throw-away. If it breaks — or, really, when it breaks — out it goes. Some MC235 users have reported problems, but I experienced none.

In fact, I invited trouble by putting in a CD, setting the MC235 to repeat play, and letting it spin for 24 hours straight. If a new device survives that stress test, chances are good that it should last.

The MC235 is still spinning. It’s sure going to last a lot longer than that full tank in the Hummer.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 camera


About $1,000 (available in November)

Sony boosts the odds of snapping a spectacular picture with the debut of a 10.3-megapixel camera.

Equipped with a 24 mm to 120 mm (35 mm equivalent) Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T zoom lens, the Cyber-shot DSC-R1 can capture wide-angle shots of landscapes and large gatherings or zoom in to photograph someone in the distance.

Using its electronic viewfinder, you can preview exposure, color renderings and other scene conditions on the 2-inch liquid crystal display (LCD). The speedy camera delivers a one-second shot-to-shot time, three-frames-per-second burst shooting and a shutter release time of 7.5 milliseconds.

Images can be stored on Memory Stick PRO, CompactFlash and Microdrive media. The camera goes on sale in November for about $1,000.

— Deborah Porterfield

Gannett News Service