Las Vegas HATES the annual Consumer Electronics Show.
Or at least that’s what I’ve always been told. More than 300,000 geeks decend on the City of Sin and spend all day and late into the evenings drooling over geek toys, spending very little time in the casinos or at the bars. No revenue from all those visitors, so they jack up the prices of hotels ($467 at the Howard Johnsons!) and invite porn stars to the town at the same time (www.avnawards.com).
So, what did I do? Well, I didn’t see a single porn star, didn’t spend a single penny at the casinos, and didn’t buy a single meal from my own money. But, I did see a TON of new gadgets. Here’s a few highlights of what I saw…
One of the biggest buzz-generators was the Toshiba/Canon SED display. Plasma and LCD are currently duking it out for dominance in the flat-panel markets of the first 10 years of the millenium, but I’d wager neither will win against the SED displays that are coming in the next year or two. SED has higher resolution, bigger size, better picture, incredible brightness and lower power/heat that the other two flat panels. The only issue I saw with the SED is a distince flicker in the bright white scenes, reminiscent of CRT TV’s 60hz displays. I definitely don’t think SED’s will overtake sales of plasma or LCD anytime soon (before 2010) but they have the potential to unseat both from a pure quality of picture perspective. Engadget has a good article about it on their site.
For the geeks reading: Toshiba showed off several prototypes in the demo. Specs: 37″, 720p versions with 100,000:1 contrast ratio and less than 1ms refresh. The first production run will be 55″ 1080p displays.
To nicely complement a brand new SED display late this year or early next year – may I suggest a Sony Playstation 3? Oh wait – what about the Microsoft Xbox 360? I recently bought a 360 and have been playing it for a week straight. It’s LOADS better than the older models of non-high-def gaming machines, and gets the backgrounds and non-human stuff quite right. Alas, the faces, hair and the really complicated stuff that make people look real just aren’t there yet, and seeing the PS3 demos at CES was no exception. I was hoping the Xbox 360 would be a great leap forward and the PS3 would blow it away. Doesn’t look like it… And since the PS3 launch will come in the spring, if the availability of Xbox 360′s is any indication – you won’t be able to buy a PS3 until Fall anyway. Just in time to mate it with your new SED is you have $10k to blow.
So what did Sony do right? Well – they innovated with their new “Reader”, an electronic text/graphics reading device that replaces the Libre. This thing allows you to read text or graphics on a screen that doesn’t use battery power to display (only to turn pages). Pretty nifty, and they claim it will last for 7,500 page turns on one charge with 10,000 launch titles to purchase. It doesn’t need any backlighting, so it works just like a book. If you can find a light source to read a book with – you can read with this thing. One caveat – the prototype had a bit gray look to it (rather than the nice crisp contrast of a white paper and black type). The engineer I talked to said this would be improved by launch.
Other winning items at CES include the announcement of HD-DVD players available in March from Toshiba for $500 or $800 with 30 movie titles. Toshiba also had a new personal media player for those households who love to take their video on the road. These devices look VERY nice compared to other iPod video competitors, and since they seamlessly integrate with the Microsoft Media Center edition – they should allow very easy, intuitive transfer of recordings to
your palm player. Also available in March.
Pioneer showed off their AVIC-Z1 car navigation (and everything else) system. This sucker was amazing. Bluetooth capability for integrating a phone wirelessly into your stereo. iPod docking to allow you to bring your music with you without having to load stuff into the car. Of course, it has a hard drive built in, in case you didn’t bring your iPod. The HD also loads up all the maps you need for driving, and the unit receives XM traffic broadcasts so you can navigate around those nasty pileups on the 405. Of course, the touch-screen GPS system is out of this world – it translates text to speech meaning you don’t have to listen to “Turn left in 5oo feet” – it will tell you “Turn left onto Rappahannock drive”. It’ll cost you to own all this integrated/converged goodness – upwards of $2k for the base system and add-on units for XM, iPod dock and Bluetooth. Not available until Spring, but I think it’ll be the unit to beat for a while.
If you don’t wanna fork over 2 dozen Benjamin’s – the Garmin offerings are starting to look pretty nice again. My personal favorite is the Nuvi. It’s a totally portable (slightly larger than a cell phone) GPS that also does text-to-speech for voice prompting ease, and touch screen. It doesn’t have a hard drive, so you have to load maps on manually, but it does allow for an interface to a traffic receiver (for a few extra hundred bucks).
Something completely off the beaten track – if you like high powered lasers and star wars, Versalaser has a $10k system that allows you to cut and etch just about anything (except glass, some metals or rock). They were taking photos of people, and then etching those photos into a ceramic tile – a very cool process. I can easily see a mall kiosk or home business around these devices.
Looking over my notes, and the length of this post – I’ll submit another post in a few days when I compile my next batch of nifty devices. In the meantime – enjoy the ideas above for this year’s gift-giving ideas for birthdays and holidays.
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