BEST OF CES 2009: EDITORS' PICKS
January 13, 2009
By Samuel Axon
After a week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we came home exhausted and overwhelmed - but kind of in a good way! There weren't any earth-shattering new technologies or products at the show, but that meant we had the time to enjoy some of the smaller and more unusual selections. We're not just talking about the extravagant or silly exhibits at some of the booths (like the above-pictured Delorean), we're talking about actual products you can experience for yourself!
After the break we Obsessable editors (two of us, anyway: Barb Dybwad and Samuel Axon) each pick our five favorite things from the show, so if you haven't had time to read every little bit of news, you can come here to start your quest for amazing new stuff in 2009. Enjoy!
* Eye-Fi wireless storage: While not an entirely new device, this year the wireless SD card will gain a video upload feature over WiFi. This relatively low-cost gadget works with any camera and makes your media quickly available to share with friends and family, plus simplifies the process of getting images, and soon video, off your camera as swell.
* Palm webOS: It looks like Palm is back after a long slump with little innovation in evidence. The new phone operating system looks extremely slick, and a new mobile application store puts Palm on the map with similar offerings from Apple, Google and RIM’s BlackBerry. The new OS will debut on the Palm Pre sometime in the first half of this year.
* Powermat: I’ve been waiting for this wireless charging solution to come to market for a while now: the company says it’s finally here in 2009. Imagine doing away with that tangle of wires, dongles, and power adapters in your home, home office, or while travelling. Like Eye-Fi, Powermat is another one of those life simplifying devices I probably won’t be able to imagine living without after having one (or likely, several).
* iriver P7: Admittedly I’m a bit of a portable media player nut, but anyone looking for good value and simple, elegant style in a new MP3 and video player should keep an eye on the iriver P7, expected to come to the States later this year. Its solid and clean design married to an uncluttered and intuitive user interface are reminiscent of the aesthetic of a certain other favorite PMP we know and love.
* Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3: Maybe I love it because I write for the web and want everything to both happen instantly and be socialized to my friends, or maybe I just love it because just about everything should totally have a built-in a web browser. Nevertheless, I think lots of folks will fall in love with the ability to upload photos instantly from their cameras, as well as browse and show off older archives of images they’ve sent to the web.
* Yahoo! Widget Development Kit: I’m going to cheat a bit by throwing a #6 into my Top 5 that isn’t even quite a gadget to boot. While almost every major HDTV manufacturer was showing off some flavor of internet-connection built-in to the TVs themselves, supporting content delivery from popular internet sites including YouTube, Picasa, Amazon, Netflix and others, I think the most interesting offering is Yahoo’s partnership with Samsung, LG, Sony and VIZIO to deliver internet applications to HDTV. With the release of the WDK, web 2.0 truly meets HDTV where third-party developers will be able to create internet widgets for the television set.
* Toshiba TV prototype with Cell processor: I'm not convinced this will be affordable enough for the mere financial mortals of the world, but I have to admit I thought the idea of watching four 1080p videos at once on the same television with no loss in quality in any of the images was pretty neat. It's not something you'd have much practical use for, but it would definitely be a way to impress your friends.
* Sony Vaio P: According to Sony, we're not supposed to call this thing a netbook. Fine, I'm willing to play along. It's a "lifestyle device," and to be honest, that's what we're all about here at Obsessable. We don't care about arcane technical classifications, we just care about what the device does for you to keep you informed and connected, and the Vaio P will help with both of those things. Did I mention it's sexy? When I held this in my hands, I knew I had to get one. If only it weren't $900, right?
* INQ1 social media phone: Speaking of what a device can do to connect you to other people, this U.K.-made phone will bring mobile connectivity to people who wouldn't have been able to experience that otherwise. That is, if it finds a good carrier in North America (it's already available in the U.K. and Australia). If you want an easy-to-use Facebook, MySpace, or Skype application on your cell phone, you usually have to spend hundreds of dollars for an iPhone, BlackBerry, or comparable other smart phone. The INQ1 drops the hardcore features that drive prices up but keeps all those social options, and with a two-year contract the price should be somewhere around zero dollars. I hope INQ finds a U.S. carrier, because everyone should be empowered to communicate with loved ones no matter where they're at or how much money they have.
* ZooZ Beat for iPhone and Nokia N95: Sweet, cheap fun — that's what this music-making cell phone app is. It only cost $3 on the iPhone app store, and I played with it for an hour and a half waiting in the Vegas airport for my flight back to Chicago to start boarding. There are a lot of music apps for the iPhone, of course, but this one lets you play the music motion-sensitive Wii-style, and that's all kinds of fun. I haven't used the Nokia N95 version myself, but we saw one of the developers playing with it (video behind this here link) and it looked just as entertaining.
* NVIDIA 3D Vision: There were at least four different 3D technologies at CES. Everyone is trying to make this the next big thing. Frankly, I wasn't impressed with the 3D TV options. The fake depth perception looks less real to me than not having any depth perception at all, and it was very distracting with real-world footage. But I absolutely loved it in PC video games. They don't look real anyway, right? I played Left 4 Dead using this tech, and I couldn't get enough of it. It's too bad that it requires a 240 Hz monitor; mine is only 60 Hz, along with most other LCD displays. But if you own a old CRT monitors or one of those newfangled 240 Hz LCDs, you're really into games, and you have a couple hundred bucks to spare, you should consider checking this out.
* Intel / Yahoo! Widget chip for TVs: I have to agree with Barb on this one. It was on at least seven different devices I saw on the show floor — everything from TVs to Blu-ray players. It's nothing that will totally alter your world. It's not high-powered computing. But it's so smooth and well-designed, and the prospect of a wide variety of companies developing useful and fun widgets is just exciting. I'd go so far to say that this was the best thing at CES. Or at least that it was the best thing at CES that's sure to see widespread adoption