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The SV-AV30 is the latest addition to Panasonic's e-wear line of all-in-one portables. The device combines the basic features of a digital still camera and camcorder, an MP3 player, and a voice recorder with personal-video-player (PVP) capabilities, which enable playback of TV shows and movies.
Functionally, the AV30 differs little from the original e-wear product, the SV-AV10. The new model uses the same bare-bones MPEG-4 camcorder, with its paltry 320x240-pixel resolution and its fixed-focus, fixed-focal-length lens. Photos remain at 640x480 VGA resolution, but you also still get the helpful built-in flash and the easy, intuitive interface. You'll barely need to consult the manual except for the more-advanced options, such as manual white balance. The capable MP3 playback and voice recording are also back with no changes.
While not revolutionary, the SV-AV30's improvements are worthwhile. The clamshell design is somewhat squarer at 2.4 by 1.1 by 3 inches, so you can pocket the unit as easily as a cell phone. The USB jack on the body precludes the need for the separately bundled SD-card reader that the SV-AV10 required. And the new docking cradle provides easy recording and playback of MPEG-4 video on any standard TV. For $60 less, you can get the SV-AV20, which ships without the cradle but is otherwise identical.
The PVP features are a nice addition to the SV-AV30's bag of tricks. With its 2-inch screen and flash-based storage, the Panasonic can't compete with the larger, hard drive-based Archos AV320, but it was still cool to watch a TV show on the subway. Movie lovers, beware, however: The SV-AV30 respects Macrovision copyright protection, so you won't be able to record many of your DVD and VHS flicks.
For all its improvements, the SV-AV30 shares many of the original e-wear model's shortfalls. The included 64MB SD card stores barely an hour of music and only eight minutes of highest-quality video. Panasonic would do well to include higher-capacity media. Furthermore, the lens desperately needs a cover to protect it from the smudges and the scratches that will inevitably threaten it during everyday use.
This jack-of-all-trades can't replace even budget camcorders, digital cameras, and PVPs. But gadget freaks looking for an ultraportable device that can record and play small, Web- and PC-friendly video files may find the SV-AV30 a nice toy. We won't use it to shoot our vacation movies or family photos, but we had fun with it.