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Consumer Electronics Show Las Vegas, January 2005


So what was there that you and I can use? Well, plenty. And so what will follow will be things that I saw that I think you might find interesting and useful. Some no doubt you have seen over the years and others will be products we may see in the future. If you would like to take a look at what the folks at the Consumer Electronics Association thought were the most innovative products, check out their web site: http://www.cesweb.org/attendees/awards/innovations/rd_honorees.asp

For the Home Office

Because I have been testing the Yellow Machine from Anthology Solutions, I am naturally interested in any of the new small server appliances that have been coming out and have found at CES, there are quite a few on the horizon. You will really begin to hear a lot about Small Network Storage Devices which are part of the broader spectrum of devices called Network Attached Storage, or NAS.

Simple Tech, www.simpletech.com has enhanced their lineup of Simple Drive storage products with the SimpleShare device, which like some of these others is ideal for small office and home network users. It is a small box with a large drive inside that is attached to your network via an Ethernet port. It also has two USB drives so that you can add another drive to the device or a printer that becomes a shared printer on your network. The 250 Gig drive will be available now with a price of $399. It comes with automated data backup and synchronization and high performance media management all controlled through a simple browser menu.

Best selected computer component in the Innovation awards at CES went to an LCD monitor from LG Electronics, the Flatron L1730S monitor and I must say, it was impressive. It is ultra fast with at .12ms response time and with the built in graphics processing chip, the F-Engine improves the picture quality as you view images. Check them out at www.lgusa.com and it is only $369 at Office Depot. What I also saw that really impressed me was the Flatron Slim 19 inch monitor, the L1980Q Series. Same picture enhancing engine as well. These you gotta see.

There are a lot of options for wireless routers and firewalls and one of the better ones I have seen for the home office is from ZyXEL, www.zyxel.com in their Prestige 334 wireless firewall router. For less than $120, you get a complete unit that is very solid and reliable. You can also turn on content filtering for better control over the websites and material downloaded. A robust firewall keeps hackers out, the full implementation of wireless security keeps your network safe as well.

For a truly quiet PC, Hush Technologies, www.hushtechnologies.com has a completely silent aluminum stylish and functional computer for you but at a steep price. It was $2,689 for a Pentium IV 2.8 system I priced out from their US distributor at www.logicsupply.com but I do really like how it is put together and how they have designed the system.

Voice Over IP

Voice over IP is big this year and will only get bigger. You will soon have a lot of options when selecting a VOIP product and services and in fact, just look at the February issue of Consumer Reports and you know when they talk about it, it is heading mainstream. I have used a VOIP system for over a year now and while the systems offered by Comcast, Vonage, Verizon, and others want to bundle it with cable services and take over your home phone system, you need to watch out for the fees involved. It will be interesting how this industry shakes out but while I still use mine, with systems like these, the cost is very low where you just pay 2 to 3 cents a minute for your calls even if they are overseas. Take a look at www.skype.com for a European based system that many phones are coming out to work with.

Tao, www.taolife.com has come out with a dual phone VOIP and cordless regular phone that connects both to your home line and your computer via USB port. At the touch of a button, you use either the land line or VOIP to make your calls.

If you cover computer trade shows for the media, there is no better place for lunch than Piero’s. Pat Meier has done a great job in selecting a number of different companies to show off including a European VOIP option from VOIP Voice, www.voipvoice.com. Like the Talk Pro phone I picked up last year, they use a third party system. This one is called Skype, www.skype.com to connect you to the world at a very reasonable rate and if you call another Skype user, the call is free. With this phone, you use it like you normally would use a phone but it comes with more options and is a good quality handset. About $60 for the phone. More on this one later.

ZyXEL, www.us.zyxel.com is a maker of high end networking devices and has developed a VOIP phone that is wireless. It allows users to make and receive phone calls over a broadband network as long as they are within range of a wireless access point. This unit I looked at is the Prestige 2000W phone and what is neat is that you can configure the phone via its built in LCD screen or a web browser. $299 for the phone but the thought of being able to use it world wide from any hotspot is pretty neat.

For the Road Warrior

I won’t even get near the vast amounts of digital cameras and camcorders that were available to see, I would have needed another week. But one thing I did find, and I have been using them for years, is the Lenspen lens cleaning system by Lenspen, www.lenspen.com. It was one of those things that works so well, you forget about it and in fact, I constantly travel with mine. In short, it is a cleaning tool for your camera whether it be digital or a standard SLR or mini camera. I am confident enough in these to use them on my Canon pro lenses I have had for near 30 years. Now they have versions for Digital Cameras, Cell phones, and a mini version for small cameras, digital or otherwise. About $14.

Swissbit’s www.swissbit.com has developed with Victorinox the Electronic Swiss Army knife with a 512mb USB Drive built in. The accessory blades and gadgets, including a red LED, are from a very small pocket knife but with a removable 512mb of storage, you can truly take it with you. $129. If you want to make a fashion statement with your USB drives, look no further.

Cellboost, www.cellboost.com is a really neat way to carry portable power for your phone. Despite the fact that many companies now provide USB powered adapters to charge your phone, Ziplinq www.ziplinq.com was one I found at Comdex 2003 that was really neat, this product is the real temporary phone charger that you plug into the bottom of the phone to charge the battery. It is disposable, and instantly provides power when you need it giving you up to 60 minutes of talk time or 60 hours of standby time. Little bigger than a 9 volt battery, the company has different models depending on the phone you have. I got one to test and it works great, I just leave one in my briefcase for emergencies. They do only have a shelf life of about three years though. Available at Staples and Walmart for about $6.

One thing to remember when taking a bunch of pictures is a way to get them into your computer. Several companies including Simple Tech, www.simpletech.com have come out with devices that are USB Drives for your memory cards. I use the Bonzai USB Flash drive to easily copy my digital images or anything else stored on a SD Memory card to my computer. Easier than carrying around another cable for the camera.

USB Memory drives have been out for a while now and the next thing to see with them is the increased speeds that you get with them. Verbatim has their Store ‘n’ Go Pro drives that claim a write speed of 14mb per second. Memorex has their TravelDrive M-Flyer with a claimed speed of 17mb per second. They all require USB 2.0 but in testing with the Verbatim I have, I am impressed with the improvement. Also look for higher capacities with these new drives up to 2gigabytes in size.

Seagate Technology, www.seagate.com has come out with a new set of hard drives in the Compact Flash memory card format. Beginning soon, you will be able to get both 2.5 and 5 gigabyte drives for your digital cameras. Imagine holding 1500 high resolution 6 megapixel pictures on one device? No pricing yet. Another set of drives from Seagate are the new ST1 Series one Inch drives that weigh just 19 grams. These will also be 2.5 and 5 gigabytes in capacity and look for them in a new round of MP3 players and the like. Hitachi, http://www.hitachigst.com, also announced their “Mickey” line of 1 inch hard drives in the 8 to 10 gig capacity range. Look for them in your cell phone later this year. Expect these to be even smaller and lighter at 14 grams.

Another cool tool is The Coach, from EZ Dupe, www.ezdupe.com, which comes out with a truly portable DVD or CD copier. This very small box, about the size of two slim line DVD drives on top of each other, allows you to make a copy of a DVD or CD without having it attached to a computer. To burn content directly, it can connect to your computer with a USB port. $649.

Last time I saw Targus, www.targus.com, they had just come out with a really soft set of wheels for their roller bags that really softened the jolts you get pulling the bag along. This year, they have a new set of tote bags for women called their Ladies Signature Series, that are stylish, practical, and protective of your computer gear. Very good looking. They have also come out with a new protection system for the computers called the Dome Protection System. These are layered and modular foam circles built into the cases sides with the idea to divert any pressure and force against the middle of a case, thus protecting the sides of the case and computer inside. Look for these cases sometime in the next few months.

Music to Go.

You have heard a lot about satellite radio and it gets better all the time. Two competing systems, Sirius and XM compete for your attention with some different programming, but all offer digitally clear sound broadcast directly to you for around $10 to $13 per month. So naturally at CES, there were a number of companies with radios to show off and I did manage to get my hands on a couple to let you know about. Stay tuned. The first was from Xact, www.xactcommunication.com and I can't wait to get it connected.

What I did not get was the Tao, www.taolife.com XM2GO hand held radio that is something to see. You can get it to literally go, or to mount in your car or attach to your home system. Talk about flexibility and this seems to be the upcoming trend with both of these satellite radio systems.

Home Entertainment

What is a Consumer Electronics Show without home entertainment and there was certainly plenty in stock with everything from computer speakers to home theaters to screens to make you say wow. I will hardly scratch the surface of what was to be found as I spend most of my time focusing on computers but there were some incredible things that caught my eye.

DLink, www.dlink.com is a maker of networking products we use for years has come up with a home wireless media player called the MediaLounge. The DSM-320R is a unit that connects your network and your home entertainment center to wirelessly allow you to stream music, video, photographs, and other content from your PC and network to a television and stereo system. Because you are attached to your network, you can also be attached to the world wide web for content. With the built in card reader, you can also just pop your digital camera’s memory card in for viewing the pictures. Through the internet you can also bring in commercial free music and video for viewing on your home theater system.

I was impressed at CES with an LCD Television manufacturer that I had not heard of before but is pretty good from what my colleagues tell me. Olevia TVs are made by Syntax, www.syntaxgroups.com and they are bright, have high contrast, and tons of features for a good price. Available widely and in this area, at HH Greg stores.

Short Takes

While eBay and Amazon have pretty well defined how you use the internet for auctions and shopping for books, helping you to buy from a variety of stores has been difficult. Shopzilla, www.shopzilla.com is there to sort out the companies for you. Quite an interesting concept in that you basically look for products you want, and Shopzilla helps you to determine where you buy it from. You can easily see different pricing, shipping, and get a rating guide for the experiences of other shoppers from the individual sites. Founded in 1996, it looks like it is finally taking off.

To complete this first look at the computer show, you need to see what “interesting” things people are doing to their computers. Take a look at www.slipperyskip.com for Jeff Stephenson’s site showing how he builds computers into some very different shapes and containers. My favorite is the Humidor.

Future Trends

It looks like the LCD market is going to get an improvement in quality, brightness, and color and for an example of what it will look like, take a look at Genoa Color Technologies, www.genoacolor.com. This company has a new technology for really making screens come to life and their samples looked great. They have a proprietary chip technology they have developed called “Color Peak” that looks like it will really bring us a whole new generation of LCD screens. The sample was stunning. Another company showing off a different technology for improving LCD color is Cree, www.cree.com. Cree has a new second generation back lighting system for LCD monitors and uses Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) to change the way lighting works. Their system will bring us movie theater quality color saturation to LCD televisions. With this backlighting technology, they will exceed the color reproduction of normal CRTs which really gives you better colors and actually presents to you more of the color space as well. These are technologies to look forward to in the next year or so.

From what I saw about products to be announced later this year at CES, the trends are definitely wireless everything in the business and home, a new generation of LCD screens and televisions, an integration of sound, video, and images in the home, internet ready appliances including security and monitoring devices, and an explosion of voice over IP. We are definitely going to need more bandwidth.

And finally, for this report as there is more to come, the best press kit at the CES show goes to Lextra at www.lextra.com. These are mouse pads with irresistible color and texture. They call them Mouse Rugs and Coaster Rugs and These are totally cool. They talk about comfort, durability, and a classic beauty because each of these rugs are patterned after famous rugs you will find all over the world. The brochure lists details about each one and what inspired them. One example: “This design is inspired by the Bergamo rugs, woven in western Turkey, north of Izmir. This is the site of the ancient Greek kingdom of Pergamum, which flourished in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. The original carpet is woven from wool with classic terra cotta and deep blue colors derived from locally made vegetable dyes.” They actually license the designs. If you want to splurge $20 for something really neat, these rugs cant be beat. This was a stunningly beautiful brochure.you can see them at http://store.yahoo.com/mouserug/.

It feels good to get back to a show the size of 26 football fields. Space to roam around with 2400 exhibitors covering 1.5 million square feet. So much space that for quite a bit of it, I just zipped through and in fact, completely skipped some of the halls and venues as there was just so much to cover. For a show that specializes in Consumer Electronics, there was a ton of computer companies and I suspect much of that was because Comdex was non existent this past November. I do miss that show because I am really more interested in the computer side of life but boy o boy, was that stuff cool with the huge big screen TVs, flashy sound systems, and home theaters to make even the most picky audiophile tear up. What a quick way to fill up that $100,000 shopping list for next Christmas.

Cool Stuff at the Show

How about RCS Scenium LCD Televisions.

More Pictures from the show floor at CES !!

Robert Sanborn is a technology writer for PC Lifeline. You can reach him through the net at robert@pcll.com
& Roy Linker, Associate Editor

Copyright 2004-5 PC LifeLine
This Page Last Updated: February 1, 2005.


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