Over 1100,000 techies are in Las Vegas this weekend for the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where over 2,400 manufacturers are unveiling their latest products. “Today” tech editor Corey Greenberg shares his picks for the hottest new gadgets of 2004.
I see you're at the wheel of a new Jaguar? Did Santa bring you that and did you drive it to Vegas?
Panasonic has outfitted this Jag with a state-of-the-art flat-screen TV entertainment system to demonstrate what I think is one of the coolest gadgets I've seen all year -- Panasonic's D-Snap Ultra-Miniature Digital Camcorder. About the size of a cellphone, this marvel of miniaturization performs double duty as both a 2-megapixel digital camera and an MPEG-4 digital video camcorder. The removable and size-upgradeable SD media card pops out so you can instantly view your photos and home movies on any display device that accepts the widely ubiquitous SD format. A year ago this sophisticated a gadget, in a size this tiny, would've cost $1,200 -- this D-Snap will retail for only $400 when it hits the market this year. A truly amazing feat of engineering and design. www.panasonic.com
Can camcorders get any smaller?The answer is yes, and they have -- they being Philips. The Dutch manufacturer unveiled a digital MPEG-4 video camcorder the size of my thumb at CES, and they claim it can take 2-megapixel still photos as well. The catch with this Philips mini-cam is that its digital memory card is sealed inside the unit, and can't be removed or upgraded.
Transferring pictures and movies from the Philips is easy, though -- the top flips open to reveal a USB plug that goes into any computer for instant uploading. $249 www.philips.com
Plasma TVs have come down in price this year but at $4,000 minimum for an HDTV-ready model, they're still an expensive luxury item. A growing rival to plasma is the DLP (Digital Light Projection) TV, which combines the large screen size and picture-thin depth of plasma TVs with a freedom from the screen burn-in problems plasmas can suffer from if static images are kept on the screen too long. RCA's new line of Scenium DLP TVs look for all the world like high-end plasmas, but they weigh less and don't suffer from burn-in at all. DLP is also less expensive to implement than plasma at the present time, so you get bigger screens for the dollar. Prices TBA. www.rca.com
Wireless WiFi networkingWireless networking started several years ago as simply an alternative to wired Ethernet networking, but now creative companies like ROKU Labs have used the power of wireless communication to dream up gadgets for home entertainment that simply wouldn't have been possible just a few years ago. ROKU's new $499 HD-1000 High-Definition Media Player and $224 SoundBridge M1000 use your home's WiFi network to link your PC (or Mac) to your living room entertainment system, but at a much higher level of quality than earlier attempts by other manufacturers.
The HD-1000 is the only true HDTV high-definition media player that displays all of your digital photos in high-def resolution on any HDTV set -- wait till you see how great your multi-megapixel digital photos look on a plasma HDTV monitor. And both ROKUs can also stream your entire computer-based music library to your living room audio system, with any song on any album accessible within seconds via remote control.
The HD-1000 also has optional ArtPacks available of classic works of art by Monet, Picasso and other masters so your HDTV can class up your living room even when you're not watching Lester Holt and Campbell Brown. www.rokulabs.com
Flat screen TVs seem to be what everyone's talking about these days -- what's new at the show?
Does this cable look weird to you? You probably haven't seen it before, but this is the way we'll all be getting our cable TV in the near future -- digital cable HDTV, that is. Just as early cable TV customers needed to add a cable box to their TV to receive cable channels, early adopters who want digital cable HDTV will be looking to upgrade to the new digital cable-ready TVs hitting the market later this year. Panasonic will be first to market with its VIERA line of fully-integrated plasmas, the industry's first digital cable-ready HDTVs. Prices TBA www.panasonic.com
Sound quality techNEC's new ValueStar FS Media PC is an all-in-one Windows PC that looks like a Windows version of the Apple iMac, but the real kicker is that the flat LCD monitor is also the PC's speaker -- using flat-panel NXT speaker technology, NEC designed the monitor screen to vibrate and act as a speaker, even though it looks exactly like a conventional computer screen. It's like having an invisible pair of speakers, and the screen doesn't visibly move so your eyes can't tell the difference between the NEC and any other PC monitor. This amazing glimpse of a future where video and sound both come from the same thin sheet of plastic is only available in Japan right now, but NEC plans to bring the ValueStar to the US later this year. Price TBA www.nec.com
Pioneer is showing a prototype of what the next generation of DVD will look and sound like -- the Blu-Ray DVD will be the high-definition DVD capable of true, uncompressed HDTV video and 24-bit uncompressed 5.1-channel surround sound. The picture quality will be significantly better than the current DVD standard, and the audio will be for all intents and purposes as perfect and distortionless as the human ear can hear. Blu-Ray DVDs and their players will also be recordable from day one, unlike the current DVD format which launched as play-only and only later on became record-ready. Look for Blu-Ray DVD to hit the market in 2005. www.pioneerelectronics.com
Digital cameras Digital cameras have soared in popularity, but at the end of the day, peoples' number one complaint about digital cameras is that to get the pictures out of the camera, you need to plug a cable between the camera and your PC and wait for the files to transfer.
Concord is launching its Eye-Q Bluetooth Digital Camera, the world's first wireless digital camera that sends the photos to your PC totally wirelessly, using Bluetooth wireless networking. Using Bluetooth to eliminate that USB cable between your camera and your PC is such a no-brainer but Concord is the first company to bring this idea to the market -- expect all the major digital camera manufacturers to follow Concord's lead in 2004. $199 www.concordcam.com