1991 Gadget guide -- Five essential devices including the Sony Video Walkman, the Canon 8 MM Camcorder, and the Denon Portable CD Player

By Glenn Kenny
Updated March 15, 1991 at 05:00 AM EST

Vacations are supposed to be a change of scene and pace — but, gee, is it really necessary to get away from it all? Would it be some sort of holiday heresy to have a little home entertainment away from home? Electronics companies (if not spouses) are all for it, and they’ve come up with some ingenious innovations that make the latest portable VCRs, music systems, and video game gear smaller and more sophisticated than ever.

This combination VCR-TV set (GV-300) is a vastly improved successor to the first Video Walkman (GV-8), introduced last year. The screen size has been upped from three to four inches, and the picture is much brighter (important for a TV with an LCD screen). The GV-300 even offers Hi-Fi sound and a built-in decoder to pick up stereo TV. (Its twin headphone jacks are a cute idea, but the screen isn’t big enough for comfortable à deux viewing.) And the whole gadget is no larger than a thick paperback, since it uses tiny 8 mm cassettes rather than the standard VHS. ($1,400)

Pint-size camcorders in both the 8 mm and the VHS-C formats sometimes give up features to achieve their breathtakingly small sizes, but Canon’s 8 mm E08 is one model that skimps on nothing. Its unusual shape gives the two-pounder a good center of gravity and a hefty feel — absolutely essential for avoiding overly shaky pictures. The E08 produces high-resolution pictures with 8 mm cassettes, and its in-the-viewfinder indicators help make it an advanced machine that’s easy to use. ($1,549)

The DAT (digital audio tape) format is not yet widely established, but it sounds just like CD audio — and it allows you to make your own tapes. The first machine of its kind, the TCD-D3 can digitally record up to four hours of music on a cassette (which, in this format, is about half the size of the cassette commonly used today). As for prerecorded tapes, Sony has already released a large number of digitally recorded titles from its Sony Classical label on DAT. ($850)

This is a hand-held video game system with a double life. Unlike other companies’ portable game equipment, NEC’s TurboExpress accepts the same cartridges as its home system, TurboGrafx-16. Moreover, it can be transformed into a portable color TV by use of the optional TurboVision tuner. The sophisticated graphics make for some knockout game action; the system utilizes 16-bit technology (until recently unavailable). But watch out: Some of the games can give you a headache when played in shrunk-down form. ($299; with tuner, $399)

While earlier portable disc players had a tendency to jitter if you so much as tapped them, the Denon DCP-50 has a new ”shock- mounted” disc transport that assures skip-free music when you’re using it on the go. (Even so, you still can’t jog with it.) When you’re indoors, you can hook the one-pound player to a home stereo system — and it comes with a 19-key remote control. ($250)