Two new devices brighten the picture

By Mark Baard
February 9, 2009
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organic light-emitting diodes
OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) have made a few appearances in recent years, mostly in nerdy watches and one or two touch-screen phones.

Until now, the technology has been too expensive and unstable for use in TVs, PCs, or mobile phone touch screens, for the most part.

Two new OLED devices are cheaper than you might expect, however, given that they come with OLED screens and other high-end features designed to rival those on Apple's iPhone and T-Mobile's G1.

The screens on the devices, the Nokia N85 and the OQO Model 2+, are probably brighter and thinner than anything you have in your pocket right now.

OLED screens (you measure their thickness in millimeters) can produce higher-quality pictures than other display technologies.

OLED manufacturers also say their technology is greener - less toxic to make and to scrap, and more efficient to operate - than LED or LCD technology.

The 2.6-inch OLED screen in Nokia's Symbian phone, the N85, should make it more attractive to gamers (N-Gage lives!) and to heavy users of maps and other graphics-intensive apps.

The N85 also comes with a repertoire of high-end features, such as a 5-megapixel camera with geo-tagging support, an FM transmitter, and WiFi.

You can find the N85 (a GSM phone), unlocked, for $400 to $500 at

You will pay a bit more for the other OLED device, the OQO Model 2+ ( $1,000 to $1,500, depending on the speed of the Intel processor you order.

The Model2+ (above), which doubles as a mobile phone and hand-held PC, has a five-inch, 800- x 480-pixel OLED touch screen. Both the N85 and the Model 2+ come with Bluetooth and WiFi.

In my experience, OLED screens can exhibit colors and contrast more fully and accurately than virtually any other digital technology. (I've spent several years with my nose pressed to the best screens money could buy: first in broadcast operations at MTV Networks, and then as a Photoshop Jock, editing the covers of PC magazine.)

The largest OLED screens will still cost you a fortune. Sony's 11-inch XEL-1 OLED Digital TV, for example, will set you back $2,500.

Z-buds make what’s in your ear crystal clear
Not all earbuds are created alike. At least that's what earbud makers would like us to believe.

I'm a "cans" man myself: I don't see the point in listening to something other than the music coming out of my iPod if I am wearing speakers.

But Zagg Audio's Z-buds, even at $80 a pair, are worth a peek:

Zagg says the Z-buds' speakers are better than what's in the cheap things you might pluck off the shelf.

They also come with different inserts, so you can find a tight fit.

The Z-buds' chords are easier to manage, too; you can wear them behind your neck, for example. When you are walking or running with a stroller or a dog on a leash, and wearing a few layers, it's great to get those wires out of the way.

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