I Enjoy Consumer Electronics

Ah, it’s that time of year again. CES time! What’s that? You don’t know what CES is? Well, allow me to enlighten you! CES, also known as the Consumer Electronics Show, is where all (or at least most) of the big electronics companies in the world get together and show off all the wonderful gadgets and doohickies that they may or may not release in the coming year. It’s a great way to delve into all of the weird and wonderful thingies that are coming down the pipe.

Actually this topic is a little bit outdated. CES was January 6-9, so by the time this actually gets posted, it will already be over. But that’s okay. I’ll just talk about some of the things that I heard about that particularly interested me.

Truth be told, this is the first year in a long time that I’ve paid any attention to CES. When I was a kid, CES was exciting because it was where all of the video game publishers would show off all of the new video games that they had in development. But in 1993 (or so) the video game industry started their own trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 for short. So I stopped paying any attention to CES and I paid attention to E3 instead. In fact, up until a few years ago, I actually thought that CES didn’t even exist anymore.

But now I’m interested in more than just video games, so CES is back on my radar. I’ve decided to devote this blog post to some of the things that were shown at CES that seemed the most interesting. I have to admit, this is pretty much going to be limited to smartphones and tablets. Those are really the only things I’m interested in. Cameras confuse and anger me, cars are just a way to get from point A to point B, laptops are boring and complicated, and I already have a TV. I think that about covers it.

First up is the Motorola Xoom. (Yes I know that’s a terrible name.) The Xoom is a tablet that runs Honeycomb, which is the version of Android that’s designed specifically for tablets. It’s got 10.1 inch, 1280 X 800 resolution screen (compared to the 1024 x 768 resolution of the iPad), it’s got front- and rear-facing cameras, and it supports Adobe Flash, which means it can play all of the streaming video that is available on the internet. It also has a dual-core processor and will (eventually) support Verizon’s new 4G wireless network. Basically, it’s a beast.

There are a few problems though. First of all, Honeycomb is still in development. Nobody seems to know exactly when it will be done, in fact, so there’s no way of knowing when tablets that run Honeycomb will be released. Second, there was no talk about what kind of battery life the Xoom will get. The current version of the iPad gets about 10 hours of battery life on a single charge. Apple is very good at maximizing battery life, so I wouldn’t expect other tablets to get that much. But I would say that anything below 8 hours is a deal-breaker.

Finally, and most importantly, there was no mention of price. Now, the Xoom is exclusive to Verizon, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Verizon subsidizes the price a bit. Unfortunately, that also means that it will require a 2-year contract as well. Which means being locked into an exorbitant monthly fee for 2 years for a service that I can’t use because I live in the woods. So probably no Xoom for me.

The second product announced at CES that really interested me was the Motorola Atrix. The Atrix is a pretty powerful smartphone with a dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, a 4-inch 960×540 screen, and two cameras. It’s running Froyo, which is an older version of Android, but it will be possible to upgrade to Gingerbread, the current version, at some point. Nice specs, but nothing really mind-blowing. What is mind-blowing, at least to me, is that Motorola is going to have a laptop dock available as an accessory for this phone. Basically, the Atrix is powerful enough that you can plug it into this shell, and use it as a full computer, complete with keyboard, trackpad, and an 11-inch screen (I think). Pretty awesome, although, like all phones, the Atrix will require a 2-year contract, which means I won’t be getting one. Plus, there’s no word on how much the laptop dock will cost.

Finally, there is the Motorola Droid Bionic. (As a side note, Motorola apparently won CES.) It’s basically the same as the Atrix, only without the laptop dock. I guess I just like the name. Droid Bionic. Also this blog was paid for by Motorola. Actually that’s not true, but I wish it was.

There were some other things that I heard about and/or read about at CES that sounded cool. The Blackberry Playbook is another tablet (that’s actually NOT running Android) that sounds like it could provide some real competition to the iPad, which is somewhat ironic, because Blackberry smartphones are definitely not very impressive compared to the iPhone. Ford introduced a new all-electric version of the Focus that I would love to own if I lived in an urban area, but I don’t think it would cut it in the snowy, poorly paved back roads of Maine. Samsung showed off new TVs with virtually no bezel, which means that the picture goes from edge to edge, which would look pretty snazzy, I’d imagine. There were probably some other things that I’m forgetting about now.

Anyway, I could on and on for much longer about all the cool stuff at CES. I would love to be able to go someday and get to see and touch all the new and nifty stuff on display there. But until then, at least there’s the internet, so I can at least get a virtual gadget fix.

P. S. Credit for all of the product information contained in this post goes to CNET and TWiT.

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