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A little over a year ago, I decided to lose some weight. Not from my waistline, mind you. My ever-growing collection of electronic travel essentials had been weighing me down, and on a trip to Europe I managed to slash 25 pounds worth of laptop, battery, cords, cameras, adapters, and chargers to just 10 pounds.
The rapid pace of change got me thinking: With new devices that combine functions or add features, maybe I could upgrade, consolidate, and lighten my load further. After searching around, I found seven new pieces of equipment I could carry with me instead of last year's 10. By swapping gear I use constantly and jettisoning one fairly hefty device I rarely use -- a 4.6-pound travel printer -- I took another six pounds off the package.
First, I replaced my 2.6-lb. Sharp (SHCAY ) Actius MM20P notebook computer. After rejecting a 2.1-lb. Toshiba (TOSBF ) Libretto U100 because the keyboard was too cramped, I went with Toshiba's R200 Portégé. This machine is so thin, I thought the box was empty when it arrived. Even though it was one ounce heavier than the Sharp, it offered two more inches of screen space and a built-in SD card slot to read data, pictures, or music.
The hardest decision I made was to ditch my beloved Treo 650 handheld phone organizer (6 oz.) for Motorola's (MOT ) 3.3-oz. Razr V3 phone, which also lets you browse the Web and take pictures. With the Treo gone, I had to think of another way to keep track of my contacts and schedule. That came with Apple Computer's (AAPL ) September release of the iPod Nano digital-music player and iTunes 5.0 software. At 1.5 oz., the featherweight player is surprisingly heavy on features. You can download music and color pictures from your PC and Mac and add your Outlook contacts and calendar. In part because of the Nano, I shed nearly 1.5 lb. as I dropped the Treo and Archos' AV400 pocket video recorder, a hard-drive player that let me listen to music and watch TV shows.
TV IN YOUR LAP
A quick thinker might note that the Nano, with its tiny 1.5-inch screen and 4 gigabytes of flash memory, isn't really suited to video. That's where Sling Media's Slingbox comes in. You attach this gizmo to a TiVo (TIVO ), TV, or set-top box at home and use the Web and your home network to watch programs on a PC or laptop. While the setup was not as easy as I would have liked, the technology will eventually go a long way toward lightening the entertainment components of a traveler's load.
As for upgrades, I'm happier with my new 4.59-oz. Canon (CAJ )PowerShot SD400 Digital Elph camera, which replaced a 6.3-oz. Sony (SNE ) Cyber-shot DSC-T1. The advantages: The Canon has a regular viewfinder, fewer pictures come out blurry, and its SD memory card lets me look at pictures on my laptop screen instead of on the 2-in. LCD screen.
Finally, I traded bulky Bose headphones used to block out travel noises for a Plantronics (PLT ) Pulsar 5900A Bluetooth stereo headset. It comes with adapters you can plug into MP3 players, notebook PCs, Bluetooth-compatible cell phones, and airplane sockets.
After all this, I wound up with a total weight of 4 lb., including the 11-oz. Universal Auto/Air Notebook Power Adapter kit from Targus that I kept from the last go-around. If I were paying for the items instead of using demo units, the whole lot would cost $3,338, including the Slingbox. That's $19 less than last year's tab, still a reasonable price to take some of the load off your back.
By Cliff Edwards