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Gadget Roundup: Innovation Is Back at CES 2009

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Gadget Roundup: Innovation Is Back at CES 2009
: The Gadget Lab crew are scouring CES 2009 this week for the hottest new toys and tools debuting this year. Companies are taking some risks with new inventions and ideas, and you never know what to expect at the booths. Here are the best finds so far. Check out's full CES 2009 coverage for the latest headlines.
Powermat's wireless power system, which goes by the same name as the company, isn't exactly wireless. The mat has a single power cord to connect to an outlet, and by placing gadgets on the mat, you can charge them -- regardless of their voltage. We won't toss our cables in the recycling bin any time soon, but Powermat's offering is impressive.
For more action from the show floor, go to Video, and get the latest news from CES 2009 as it develops.
: This 12.2 megapixel camera comes in a purse-size 16.6-mm (0.65-inch) thick form factor, has a big 2.7-inch screen for checking images and has the usual face-detection and image-stabilization features. A new Smart Auto feature detects exactly what you are snapping and picks the exposure mode. Shoot people and it switches to portrait mode. Shoot a landscape and you get landscape mode. Neat, especially as most people probably never takes the camera off auto.
Smart Albums allow in-camera storage, which groups similar images and videos. It won't let you show all the pictures with your grandkid in them, but it narrows the selection based on color, file type or date. Expect it at around $250.
: Control the 64-GB HMX-H106 using a touchscreen but thankfully, you have to hit a real red button to record. The camera will also shoot 4.7-megapixel stills and has a built-in flash.
Specs aside, people are excited about the handgrip, which swivels. You can change your grip without removing the strap from your hand. It sounds simple, and it is. The Samsung guy at the stand even said that it "probably only took around five minutes of R&D time." But, apparently, people love it.
Price? Take a guess. Samsung is waiting until these ship to see if the economy has recovered enough to allow them to overcharge.
: The new 10.2-megapixel HZ10W is a camera that gets everything right and yet fails to bring it together. It's as if Dr. Frankenstein had stitched together his monster, screwed the bolts into its neck and forgotten to hook up the lightning conductor.
The double-stabilized image works in both lens shift and in-body. Other than that you get a bright and sharp 2.7-inch LED, a 10x zoom, the Samsung standard Schneider lens and 720p hi-def video, crunched down into H.264 format.
Price is unannounced.
: The first ready-for-primetime music game involves real instruments, rather than plastic ones. We captured some footage of Disney Star Guitarist so you can see how the game is played. Check it out at left.
: This concept motion-sensing remote from Hillcrest Labs uses company software to let users to operate it much like the Nintendo Wiimote. Through a combination of sensors and accelerometers, the remote senses the users' movements and reflects them on the screen. Users can then click the right or the left button on the remote to make selections.
The design does away with the many buttons on a traditional remote and makes the remote-clicking process more intuitive. Last year, Hillcrest filed a lawsuit against Nintendo alleging patent infringement over its motion-sensing technology.
: The smallest PC sporting an OLED (organic light-emitting diode, an alternative technology to LCD) display took center stage. The luminous, crisp screen sets it apart and OQO claims it's the world's first PC with integrated active-matrix OLED display.
The little American beauty called OQO model 2+ is based on the 1.86-GHz Intel Atom processor, has 2 GB RAM and a Qualcomm chip to support 3-G worldwide. The device offers up to 3.5 hours of battery life, has an integrated touchscreen and runs Windows XP or Vista operating system.
Other key features: 60-GB to 120-GB hard disk drive storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, 5-inch display. The device weighs a pound with standard battery.
This is the second version of the OQO PC. The model 2+ will be available in the first half of 2009, with two versions priced at $1000 and $1500.
: Asus's latest 12.1-inch notebook is special not only because a cow died for it. More interesting for gadget geeks, the notebook can hold a solid-state drive over half a terabyte large.
Lined with brown leather, the S121 is part of Asus' high-end line of 12.1-inch notebooks. The notebook, powered by a 1.3-GHz Atom processor, normally ships with a hard disk drive, but Asus offers a 512-GB SSD as an optional upgrade.
That's pretty damn huge for solid state. Just a year ago, the industry was barely breaking double digits in terms of gigabyte capacity for solid-state drives. The advantage of solid state is no moving parts, so these drives are less fragile and quieter.
Asus' S101 starts at $1,650 with the default configuration. The company didn't have a price yet for the SSD option, but you'd probably have to pay at least an extra $700. The S101 ships at the end of January.
: Motorola showed off femtocells, small cellular base stations designed to boost cellphone signals, in a digital picture-frame exterior attract consumers to the trend. The CDMA femtocell 9100 Series includes a VoIP soft phone and offers enhanced phone coverage inside the home. Touching the screen activates the femtocell.
Through the screen, users can specify coverage radius, average number of walls, windows and doors, or select one or more mobile devices to optimize performance, says Motorola. You can handle device, subscriber-management and access-control settings through the femtocell frame.
Motorola will start trials of the femtocell frame in the first half of the year and hopes to have it available by the end of the year. The company hasn't finalized any deals with carriers yet, but Verizon could be the possible service provider. In Europe, femtocells are available for about 10 euros a month. Motorola hopes to ink deals that will bring similar pricing to North America.
: Plustek's $700 Reader scans books through a cool optical character-recognition tech that understands words even when they're faded or smudged on the physical page. It can duplicate books in PDF and various other file types.
But the killer app is a bit controversial -- the scan automatically creates MP3 files of books. This means you can make an audio file of any book you own in only a few steps. This might not be's worst nightmare, it might be no competition for celebrity voice-overs, but there's no way they'd like their customers to know about it.
According to the company, setting up the book scan is simple – you just place the book on the base and the machine does the rest. (The sensitive curved lamp scans every word, even in the crack of the book's spine.)
: The casing on Motorola's new candybar-shaped W233 Renew handset is pretty basic but it has solid green credentials. The phone is made of plastic from recycled water bottles. The device's small form factor takes 20 percent less energy to create than many other phones, says the company, and it comes with an envelope to send in your old phone for recycling.
The W233 Renew has 2 GB of memory and offers a whopping nine hours of talk time. It has a music player but no camera or internet-browsing capability.
: Panasonic and LG showcased flat-panel, high-definition TVs bundled with wireless systems that appear very similar. Panasonic's TC-P54Z1 television comes with an SCZT1 wireless receiver box. You'd connect devices such as your Blu-ray player or Xbox 360 to the receiver, and on top of the receiver is a transmitter that wirelessly outputs to another receiver on the TV. LG's 47LH85 wireless system (top) works the same way. And both companies say their wireless systems transfer perfectly uncompressed data up to 30 feet away from the TV.
Panasonic's shipping in June or July; LG did not have a ship date ("sometime 2009").
: Canon is saving any new still cameras it might have for the PMA show, but here at CES 2009, the company is showing its new range of Vixia camcorders. They range in capabilities and price, but the best is the HF S10. This has a large (but not as large as Samsung's 64 GB) 32 GB of solid state storage, or you can opt for an SDHC card instead.
All the new cameras have Canon's new DIGIC DV III chip, which is a step up from the – you guessed it – DIGIC DV II. This brings the magic of side-of-face recognition, which detects faces even if they're side-on or facing down.
The CMOS sensors don't just do HD video. All cameras in the range will snap stills at a respectable 8 megapixels. Prices and availability unknown.
: Struggling smartphone pioneer Palm announced a new phone, dubbed the Pre, along with a new operating system that could give the company a fighting chance against its more powerful rivals.
The new Palm Pre is a sleek black device that resembles the iPhone touchscreen and form factor. But it's no ordinary iPhone clone. It offers a clean interface, a combination of touchscreen and keyboard inputs and a curvy black exterior.
The 3.1-inch touchscreen Palm Pre weighs 4.8 ounces and comes with a QWERTY slide-out keyboard. The phone supports Wi-Fi and EVDO and has 8 GB of storage.
: The Cybershot DSC-G3 is the first camera to have built in 802.11 (b,g) Wi-Fi along with a web browser. As a camera, it's no slouch. Ten megapixels, a 10x zoom, a hi-res 921,600-dot 3.5 inch touchscreen and smile detection. There is a decent 4-GB memory built-in, but if you want more you'll have to buy a Sony Memory Stick.
You can hook up to any Wi-Fi point and using the browser you can sign in to hotspots. From there, you can upload directly to Photobucket, YouTube, DailyMotion, Picasa and Shutterfly, but, oddly, not Flickr.
The real gimmick is the browser, and it's terrible. Buttons disappear half off the screen in forms, HTML links are tiny and hard to click (hence the plastic stylus on the end of the strap) and if you think you'll be browsing your online photo collection you're dead wrong. This is strictly HTML only -- web 1.0. No Flash, no Javascript.
You'll never have an iPhone-like experience here. In fact, if you need the uploading functions, just grab an Eye-Fi card instead. Priced at $500, you can buy it now only at SonyStyle, coming to stores soon.

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