After years of having its butt kicked by Iomega in the removable drive Market, SyQuest has released its Zip killer - the SparQ 1.0 Gigabyte cartridge drive. The new $200 drive stores 10 times as much as the popular Iomega Zip drive but costs only a few dollars more.
The SparQ comes in two flavors: a parallel port external model and an EIDE internal version that plugs into your hard disk controller. The external model is a bit taller than a Zip, has an oval window on the top, and is colored a stylish black. What's especially appealing about the SparQ is the low cost of the media. One-gigabyte cartridges are $33 each in packs of three. A gig's worth of Zip cartridges would cost you $130.
There are some cautions and drawbacks, including accounts on the Web of bad SparQ drives and disks, not to mention conflicts with other hardware. The SparQ's claimed 12-millisecond access speed may also be an overstatement. But it's still a good option for cheap, high-capacity storage device. The SparQ is available for PCs only. For information call 800-245-2278 or surf to www.syquest.com.
For control freaks
If you're tired of multi-remote control frustration, give the Home Theater Master SL-8000 a try. This $100 gadget controls )) up to eight stereos, TVs, VCRs, set-top boxes, satellite receivers, and other devices. It can even be programmed to operate room lights and other switches (if your home theater has such high-end features).
Despite a poorly written manual, programming the SL-8000 isn't hard. Advanced features let you set up "macros" that execute up to 10 different commands in sequence with one button (turn on the TV, turn on the VCR, turn on the stereo). A backlit LCD screen tells you what mode you're in and helps guide your programming.
One design flaw: you need to keep a set of batteries nearby and be ready to change them when the low battery message appears. You have 10 minutes to switch batteries before losing your programming.
For information, call Universal Remote Control, Inc., 800-901-0800
The UltraQ, made by QSound Labs of Calgary, Alberta, is a simple device on a solitary mission: It works with inexpensive multimedia speakers to create the illusion of enveloping 3D sound.
Measuring 7.25 inches by 6.25 inches by 3.4 inches and weighing just over a pound, the handsome black case looks like a chunk of nautilus shell. It plugs in between an audio source (computer, CD player, game console or VCR) and a set of powered speakers. Using QSound's patented 3D sound processor, the UltraQ expands the "image" of the sound, creating the illusion of a 3D environment.
You can get better sound by spending a couple of hundred bucks on fancy satellite speakers and a subwoofer, plus another to $100 on a sound card upgrade. But the UltraQ makes sense for those who can't afford a full-blown audio upgrade. For information call QSound at 403-291-2492 or point your Web browser to www.qsound.ca.