I attend CES every year to see what trends are in store, what concepts have become realities and what really neat swag the vendors are giving away. Last year I reported that the show was so immense that if given a full day and a half extra I still wouldn’t have had enough time to spend 60 seconds at each exhibit. This year was no better.
With 1.85 million net square feet of exhibit space and over 2,700 companies, I scheduled my time to try and cover as much territory as possible and hit the highlights of our areas of interest. I failed miserably. For those of you who would like to do the math, the 1.85 million square feet I mentioned is the equivalent of over 32 football fields. It’s just too big! All that being said, I did get to see some really hot tech.
Screens, Screens Everywhere a Screen
Blocking out the scenery…. If you don’t know the song reference, don’t worry (Five Man Electrical Band – 1970). The point is, everywhere you looked there was some device with a flat panel screen.
Sony introduced its first OLED (organic light emitting diode) large screen TV. Now ‘large’ is a relative term and up to now OLEDs have been relegated to small screen devices such as cell phones.
The reasons are technical and financial but Sony has been able to overcome most of the issues to produce a 27” HDTV with an incredible picture (1,000,000:1 contrast ratio).
While this model is several years from production, there is currently an 11” model, the XEL-1 , for the tech afflicted that is being released in Japan now and may be available here in the US later this year at a price that is at least imaginable for an 11” screen, $2499.
There are many potential advantages to OLED screens such as response time and power consumption as it requires no backlight, and we can look forward to seeing it in more devices as technology and manufacturing processes improve.
Philips introduced an environmentally aware flat panel, the Philips 42PFL5603D Eco TV . This is a 42-inch, 60 Hz. 1080p resolution, flat-panel LCD with some very interesting energy saving features.
The features revolve around the concept of diminishing the back lighting output whenever possible to reduce power consumption.
One simple way they have accomplished this is with the integration of a front panel sensor that measures the available room lighting. As this light varies, so does the necessary back light in the LCD screen to accommodate the viewing environment.
A Philips representative gave us a demonstration and we watched the metered power consumption dip dramatically when ambient lighting was diminished. In an energy conscious economy, this should be a mainstream winner. Due out in March, the Philips 42PFL5603D Eco TV is expected to have a $1,399 MSRP.
There were a myriad of other types of screen based devices from phones to personal media centers to curved 3 foot wide desktop monitors (see below) and we look forward to reviewing more of these during the year.
Give it a Shot
It’s not often that you get a room full of press/media people to watch a demonstration and actually go ‘wow’, but at a Sunday afternoon press conference preceding the opening of CES, Casio managed to do just that. They introduced the EXILIM Pro EX-F1, billed as having the ‘world’s fastest burst shooting performance’.
The EXILIM Pro EX-F1 incorporates a 12X optical zoom, a new high speed CMOS sensor and LSI processor and 6 mega pixel capability. Now you may say that 6 mega pixels is no big deal in today’s digital camera market, but how many of them can take images at burst speeds of up to 60 frames per second (fps)? Did I mention that it also has movie modes that produce resolutions up to full HD? How about that in high speed movie recording mode it can capture as high as 1200 fps. That’s faster than the human eye can see and capable of some astounding slow motion effects.
They’ve also incorporated a clever prerecord function that allows users to record images even before they press the shutter button. It almost guarantees you’ll never miss that crucial moment again.
Pricing wasn’t announced at the conference, but we can’t wait to see this model when it is in production later this year.
My Big Three
These aren’t products; they’re ‘Press and Analyst only’ events. Every year, amongst all the other hoopla, the Press is treated to 3 events that are more intimate showcases of new products; ShowStoppers, Digital Experience and Lunch @ Piero’s.
Each of these events has numerous exhibitors and it gives the Press a chance to spend a little one on one time without the noise and confusion of the crowds in the main show areas. The range of products is always varied and worth the time to see. I’m going to highlight one product from each of these shows just to give you a taste of some of the cool tech we had the opportunity to preview.
ShowStoppers -Bug Labs
Have you ever played with Lego’s™? Imagine if instead of just plastic pieces, they were computer modules. Imagine you could combine them in different ways to make a phone for instance, or a camera, or a camera phone. How about if you could add GPS or WiFi?
Sound like something out of Star Trek or maybe Q’s lab in a James Bond movie? Well, this is what Bug Labs has produced and had on exhibit for all to play with (and play mix and match) at ShowStoppers. This is the ultimate geek toy and building block set and is being shipped almost as we write this. Definitely check this out.
Digital Experience - Alienware curved screen
This is one of those items that you have to see to believe. The folks at Alienware , who are renowned for making some of the most cutting edge performance systems for gaming enthusiasts, previewed their latest foray into the ultimate interactive experience.
The screen is rear projection DLP and is actually 4 screens ‘stitched’ together. The end result is astounding. It’s lit by LED’s and has a 2880x900 resolution with an almost unimaginable .02ms response time.
It’s not expected to be available until the 3rd or 4th quarter, and if I had to make a guess I would expect it to cost in the range of about four grand.
But let’s face it, you can’t put a price on love and this is probably as close as you will ever come to getting a hug from your monitor.
Lunch@Piero’s – VIA Pico-ITX Mainboard
Years ago, VIA made ‘good things come in small packages’ its mantra. They are arguably the best at cramming full PC functionality onto tiny motherboard and chipset spaces. This year they outdid themselves.
Numerous small form factor devices were on exhibit at the Lunch@Piero’s event and at the heart of them was VIA technology. I saw quite a few production and prototype pieces, but what really grabbed me was the Pico-ITX motherboard .
As the picture shows, this 1Ghz powerhouse is little bigger than a standard playing card.
I was blown away by the fact that the largest thing on the board was the VGA connector.
This board has all the pins and ports necessary to support a standard, low power consumption PC running Windows or Linux.
Having worked with VIA components before, we’re looking forward to receiving our Pico-ITX and putting it through its paces.
You Can Take it with You
Mobile devices were everywhere. I could write another 20 pages on all the different kinds of gizmos companies were touting as the next great, must have with you all the time, device. Don’t worry, I’m not going to.
Suffice it to say that every cell phone and media player company is packing more and more content delivery capability into their devices. Even the satellite providers are getting in on the action. Echostar (Dish Network), having recently acquired Sling Media, was showing off its new SlingCatcher as well as Pocket Dish devices from Archos that allow you to take your TV shows with you.
We’ll be looking at a number of these devices over the course of the next several months, and we’ll keep you up to date with our reviews and perspectives.