After I got back from this year's
Consumer Electronics Show, also known as CES, a number of people asked me whether I'd had fun. "That must be a good time," a guy I know from the gym said.
Unfortunately, for those of us covering the show (cover = work), CES isn't exactly the bachelor-party-in-a Best-Buy superfiesta you'd think it might be. With the show becoming so big and unwieldy, there were just too many products--spaced too far apart in too many locations--to check out in a relatively short amount of time.
All this is my fancy way of saying, yes, we wrote about a lot of whiz-bang stuff, but though we tried hard to be comprehensive, we missed a few cool items. Admittedly, these gadgets aren't destined to have an iPod-like impact on the world, but they're noteworthy nonetheless. Here are three worth mentioning.
Coby TF-DVD500 portable DVD/CD/MP3 player
It's hard to believe I'm actually mentioning the pharmacy-favorite Coby brand in this column, but for the moment, anyway, I have a lot of respect for the folks at Coby. Here's why. A couple of years ago, I was telling every manufacturer I know, including product people at Sony and Panasonic, to create a DVD Walkman. The DVD Walkman, I said, would be essentially the same size as a portable CD player and have a small screen built into the lid, three or four inches across. It didn't have to be the best screen in the world, just good enough to watch a movie on. Price it at less than $200, and the thing would fly off the shelves, especially if it had just a smidgen of Sony styling.
Well, Coby, not Sony, did it. And while the TF-DVD500 doesn't have quite as snazzy a design (or name) as I had in mind, it's pretty close to what I envisioned--and Coby brought it out at $179. Sony, of course, is putting all its muscle behind the PSP, a portable gaming/media player that's sure to be a winner. But these days, people own and rent a lot of DVDs, and an inexpensive, ultracompact portable DVD player will find a market. True, there are plenty of no-name portable DVD players available now for less than $200, many of them with larger seven-inch screens. But there's something about the familiar, rounded Discman form factor that has great retro appeal. The unit includes a collapsible stand/battery pack, which is pictured here in the expanded position, and its ability to play MP3 CDs sweetens the deal. The only downside appears to be that battery life could be better, but that caveat may well apply to the PSP, too.
SanDisk USB-enabled SD cards
At Digital Experience, a mini trade show within a trade show in a ballroom at the Bellagio, Mike Wong, a PR manager from SanDisk, pulled an SD card out of his pocket and showed us a new product that SanDisk would be announcing the next day.
It was the company's new Plus SD card--an SD card that doubles as a
USB 2.0 thumbdrive. That's right, Wong folded the card in half to reveal a connector that would allow you to plug the card right into the USB port of your computer--the reader was built into the card--obviating the need for any additional accessories. Again, that may not be so earth-shattering, but it's a pretty sweet little convenience feature, especially judging from the number of times I've been hit up to borrow the card reader sitting on my desk. And unlike Lexar's new USB Flash Card media, SanDisk's solution has the advantage of backward compatibility with the hundreds of SD-enabled cameras, music players, phones, and handhelds already on the market.
SanDisk's Plus SD card will be available in March and priced slightly higher than standard SD cards.
Mitsubishi Pocket Projector
Home theater in a pocket. OK, it's not quite that, but this DLP microprojector, which is capable of displaying 800x600-resolution images, weighs less than 15 ounces and can operate for 2.5 hours on a single battery charge (with the $149 optional battery). Expected to be released in July with an MSRP of $699, the Pocket Projector is illuminated by three color LEDs instead of the color filter wheel, motor, and lamp in a standard-size projector. Mitsubishi estimates the LEDs will last 20,000 hours, far exceeding the 3,000-hour life of
typical projector lamps.
We're not expecting miracles from the thing in terms of image quality, but we are looking forward to seeing what it can do with a portable DVD player and an Xbox. The idea of carrying around a portable, 50-inch flat-panel set is an appealing concept, don't you think?
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David Carnoy is an executive editor for CNET Reviews.