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Gadgets and Geeks Invade Las Vegas

by Theano Nikitas
Making the trek to Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show is a post-New Year's habit that's hard to break. The mecca for gadget geeks was smaller and more somber than previous years but that didn't stop more than 27,000 exhibitors from touting new products including tiny laptops and digital camcorders to full out car audio devices and everything in between. Of course, the coolest mini laptop was HP's Vivienne Tam special edition that made its premiere during Tam's Spring 2009 runway show at the tents. Tam recently designed a special sleeve for the mini laptop and HP now offers a matching mouse. Sony, Asus and others also showed their versions of these super compact computers--great for mobility although most aren't equipped to pull the weight of heavy-duty programs like Photoshop. Still they're worth the (relatively) affordable price for networking on the road.

There were lots of new camcorders, too--some as small as a Blackberry--from companies like Kodak, Sony, Creative and DXG. High Definition was everywhere and Canon even had a special section set aside for an HD gallery. Of course, HD displays were everywhere and attendees even got some sneak peeks at 3D displays of the (not too distant) future. With so many booths to cover, CES should have given its attendees GPS navigator units. Sometimes I felt as though I spent more time trying to find my way around than looking at products. But if you're looking for a unique digital SLR, check out the limited edition Pentax K2000, now available in all white (black is also available); it looks good in winter white and it's an excellent camera, too. If point-and-shoot cameras are your thing, check out the Pentax P70 and E70 affordably priced at $199 (P70) and $139 (E70).In conjunction with companies' “green” initiatives, there were a number of solar chargers at the show including those from Lenmar, iGo and Energizer. While solar charging is a good idea, most of the products I saw were small and took at least 10 hours of sunlight to charge a battery, which is not very practical for when you're out in the field or camping. But it will save some energy costs over time if you use them at home (they also are USB-compatible for when there's no sunlight). Lenmar also had a couple of interesting products including a $6 PowerPort Clip that can chage any 3.6V Li-ion battery via a computer's USB port. The company also showed a PowerPort Mini charger & battery with tips for charging multiple devices like iPods, Blackberrys and other mini-USB compatible devices. For about $60, Lenmar also offers a great organizational charger that offers USB ports and multiple arms with interchangeable tips. Lenmar had interesting solutions for keeping all your devices charged and, of course, some of them were offered in various colors.

And for all you DJ's, or DJ wannabes, check out the Pacemaker--it's a portable DJ setup with two “turntables” and special mixing software. It's very cool, although at around $700, it's not exactly low cost. But if you want to rock the party without a lot of gear, this product definitely deserves a look. www.pacemaker.net.

Fortunately, there's about 6 weeks between CES and PMA (the big photo show, also in Vegas). That will give us enough time to rest up a bit before we head back out to Vegas for the PMA show and the next round of new photo products.