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CES 2010: What I Saw, What I Wanted
Review by Daniel P. Dern
TechRevu Event  ISBN/ITEM#: CES2010
Date: 14 January 2010 /

The International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) held each January in Las Vegas is a great place to see all the newest techno-tools, -toys and -whatnot, whether for work or play, for home, office or mobile, and for all budgets great and small. Daniel Dern spent two days walking the show floor last week and he's come up with a list (Don't you love lists?) of the stuff he'd be happy to have from the show as well as a few not quite ready for prime time.

Between two schlepp- (walk-) intensive days on the show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, the exhibitors' room of CES's Storage Visions 2010 event, and the Pepcom, ShowStoppers, and Lunch@Piero's press/analyst-only events (CES' own "CES Unveiled" was the afternoon before I got into town), I was able to see and schmooze with a goodly number of interesting vendors, and see some of the newest products.

This year, I filed several show reports for Sears' Manage My Life site. TechRevu ed-in-chief Ernest Lilley has already put together his own CES 2010 words and pix elsewhere on TechRevu, but asked me for my own post-show thoughts.

So here's my "What I Saw, What I'd Like To Buy Or Try, And Other Thoughts" (some of which I also mention in my reports for Sears, and may expand on in my own Trying Technology blog (when I do, I'll put a link here).

TVs: All the new TVs look lovely. Including Sharp's new "Yellow is our fourth color" ones. Would they look this good where my still-working low-def non-flatscreen TV currently sits? No doubt.

As for 3D displays, ignoring the realities of my discretionary budget, it looks like there's still four or more dueling approaches, each using different types of glasses.

I'm sure I'd be happy with any of these TVs, 2D or 3D, if I won one, or otherwise found one legitimately free or way cheap.

But I don't see ponying up to buy one; my five-year-old "classic-format" non-flat-screen still works.

Netbooks and Notebooks: If you've been holding off on buying a three-pound-or-less notebook or netbook, stop holding off.

Good choices: Lenovo's new ThinkPad X100e professional-grade entry ultraportable notebook, with Win7 Home Premium or Professional, 11.6-inch HD widescreen display, and up to 4GB RAM, or Lenovo's touchscreen-enabled S10-3 IdeaPad netbook.

Ditto, good-choice-wise, HP's new 5102 business class netbook, with optional touch-enabled screen and carry-handle, or HP's stylish new consumer HP Mini 210 netbook, which starts at $299.

And if you want/need more power and a 14-inch display, there's Lenovo's new CULV (Consumer Ultra-Low-Voltage) G450, in its new for-businesses-that-buy-via-retail Edge line. Costs more than the above models, does more.

They all look sweet. For myself, based on brief touch-and-try at the booths, I'd be hard pressed to choose between the Lenovo X100e and the HP 5102; I'm sure I'd be pleased with either.

USB Turntables:. These are "done-in-one" devices, versus getting an external USB phono-preamp/sound card device for $20 to $200 to go with an existing or new non-USB turntable.) (See my ComputerWorld review of five USB turntables for more on these products.)

I liked Audio-Technica's AT-LP60-USB turntable (MSRP $229) (a refresh of their AT-LP2D-USB) and the new AT-LP-120USB (MSRP $429), which handles 33/45/78 speeds and has other features. (Note, street prices from places like J&R.com can be like 40 per cent below MSRP.) Both are automatic -- no hand-queuing for start or stop, an essential feature in my opinion.

Either should be more than sufficient for modest-budget audiophiles (the 120 also has some DJ-oriented features) who want to listen to their vinyl records through their computer, or rip them for their handheld devices.

Notebook/Netbook Accessories:

To keep the weight down and productivity up, here's three recommended add-ons:

  • Optical Drives: Neither netbooks nor most ultralight notebooks include an optical drive; LiteOn's stylish, light-weight (half-pound) eTAU208 USB 8x External DVD/CD writer clocks in at the lightweight price of $49, beating out the competition, which, last I checked, starts around $69.
  • AC power supplies: For travelers, Targus' svelte (thinner-than-most) new 90-watt Premium Charger (MSRP $139, available in February) can charge not just your notebook, but also a phone or other low-powered mobile device at the same time. The package includes a separate charger for use with auto or boat power outlets. In addition, Targus's "Tips For Life" offers power tips for new devices not handled by the included tips. And the AC prongs are, and fold down into, the mini-brick.
  • SSD Upgrade Kits: Kingston Technologies has the solution for the high cost of reliable solid-state drives, with its new 30GB V30 upgrade kit -- includes disk cloning software and transfer cable, in the $90 to $109 range. The V30 supports Win7 and the TRIM (pre-emptive performance-optimizing "garbage collection") command.

Mobile Apps Galore: GetJar.com's Absolutely Everything cross-platform app store currently has more than fifty thousand mobile apps, for the major handsets and mobile platforms. Now if I only had a mobile device besides my three-year-old "dumb" cell phone...

Cameras, Videocams, Audio: Impressively, Vivitar's got mass-market digital cameras starting at $29 for "clamshell" models, and $69 for others -- and videocams starting at $39.99, not much more than the cost of media.

For audio-recording fans, Samson's $59 Go Mic portable USB condenser mike can clip to a notebook display top or sit on a table, and switches between omni-directional or cardiod mode.

For pocket-sized video recording with high-quality audio, I was impressed by Samson's new Zoom Q3 videocam (MSRP $249), which has the same stereo microphones as Samson's popular H4 stereo handheld recorder. (You may prefer a Kodak Zi8 or a Flip videocam if video is the higher priority.)

Things That Didn't Grab Me:

Wireless chargers (using inductive grids): This looks like Yet One More Bunch of Add-Ons to buy and keep track of. I think we'd be better served by the industry standardizing on power supplies and the connector ports/tips -- like, say, to the various USB sizes.

3D TV: Yeah, it looked cool. But there's not a lot of 3D content out there -- and there's apparently four or more competing standards/approaches, which means the glasses for one display won't work for another. Yeesh!

Still Undecided:

Iomega's v.Clone software will let you create a Virtual Machine image of your desktop, and run it on another PC as a VM session, making it look and act as your own -- and you can synch changes back to the master machine. But you need to carry the v.Clone image on an Iomega hard drive. What, it can't fit on a 4GB or 8GB USB drive?

Solar and mobile fuel cell chargers. Small and large solar is here, but you've got to be where the sun do shine long enough.

eBooks. Too many choices, all too expensive and/or too limited. The Pixel Qi technology (see Joshua J. Romero's IEEE Spectrum article) sounds like it may solve some problems... perhaps making this as the removable display from netbook/notebook?

Stuff I Didn't Get A Good Look At: Included mobile phones, most of the digital cameras -- a short look isn't enough to get a sense of how good or useful they are.

"Dangdest Thing I Saw" For CES 2010: With a tip of the free trade show cap to technologist/science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle, from whom I got this notion and phrase, each show needs at least one "Dangdest Thing I Saw."

For CES 2010, in my opinion, it's Easy Energy, Inc.'s YoGen Handheld Charger, a handheld, hand-powered charger for your cell phone or other mobile device, run by repeatedly pulling the ripcord string, which is somewhere between using a yo-yo and pulling the starter cord for a very, very small lawnmower.

MSRP $39.95, scheduled to be available in the first quarter of 2010. Is this any more useful than the hand-crank chargers, like the SideWinder that I lost the phone connector cable for, or whatever else it was I got at a recent event? Dunno.

And on that note, let the wild shopping begin!

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