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Intel Play Computer Sound Morpher

October 19, 2000

* Price: $49.99

* Manufacturer: Intel Corp.

* System requirements: A PC or laptop running Windows 95, 98 or ME with 32mb of RAM and a sound card.

* Niche: The Sound Morpher packages a cell phone-size digital recorder with sound-editing software, enabling kids--and their parents--to monkey around with snippets of sound on their personal computers.

* The good: The whole package is a breeze to set up and use. The hand-held recorder has an ample four minutes of recording time and it's powerful enough to pick up even faint sounds from across the room. Intel provides a full toolbox of filters and special effects to turn ordinary household sounds and voices into something alien, shimmering or just plain goofy. You also can create cartoons that sync to your sounds or paste animated lips onto a digital picture of Mom.

* The bad: The software's controls are about as responsive and precise as the brakes on an aging school bus. If you're a 6-year-old who'll keep clicking on something until it works, you won't mind. But if you're a 6-year-old who throws stuff when it doesn't work right away, uh-oh.

* Bottom line: This is a toy, not a tool, so gauge expectations appropriately. If your kids like to make funny sounds--and who doesn't?--the Sound Morpher delivers. But then, maybe you don't want them running around the house with a sensitive microphone.

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